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Simple Scientism Says ...
“The [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] is definitive, Reality is frequently inaccurate” - Douglas Adams in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Socialism is the secular variant of Christianity. Socialism's economic ideology is largely the same as Christianity's – the redistribution of economic surplus to those who are unable or unwilling to earn it from those who are. In both systems, the driving force is faith based. For Christianity, it's because a divine power has written it and it's read and implemented by pious men (and latterly women) in golden vestments. In socialism that divine power is replaced by ideology and it's interpreted and implemented by impious dear leaders.
Judaeo-Christianity demanded total subservience to God, to His moral commandments, and to the divine right of Kings and the political and social hierarchy that flowed from that. Everyone knew their place in that ordered society. Sometimes it was cruel or unfair or murderous but people were in general comfortable with it. That's why it lasted a thousand years.
During the decline of absolute monarchy a few hundred years ago, capitalism became the driving force of the economy. The free market replaced the rigged market of serfdom. The free market is a powerful creator of economic wealth but it has no interest in those who don't wish to partake. This is not because capitalism is evil or wicked, it's simply that Christian ethics and capitalism are independent of each other and complementary. The free market is amoral, not immoral.
Everyone seemed to understand this and they simply kept up their Judaeo-Christian religious beliefs to complement their market behaviours. Those beliefs filled the ethical void that had arisen when the direct link between man and God through the monarch was broken.
Eventually, the rise of scientific – which is to say rational – enquiry, starting in the renaissance and culminating in the European Enlightenment, opened people's eyes to new political alternatives – like representative democracy - where before they had been closed.
There are numerous problems with new ideas such as ‘acting rationally’ (by which we mean throwing away any hypothesis that doesn't match the evidence).
The first problem is seeing past the current set of ideas which are typically deeply embedded within the psyche of large groups of people. For example, the idea that divine powers are responsible for the operation of the world held sway for almost the entire span of humanity. What makes the thunder and lightning? Thor, of course. Why did farmer Jones's cattle die last winter? It must have been Satan. Enterprising individuals spring up to reconcile the true causes of 'unnatural' events with the prevailing world-view so we got witch-hunters, clairvoyants and the Inquisition.
The second problem is communicating the new ideas, assuming they are worth anything, to a large audience with a mindset that's oblivious to them. It's clear that science has fallen at this hurdle. Almost everyone has heard of science but few understand what it is. What was touted as the inalienable truth during the Covid catastrophe was a view that was eminently dispensable, even on the evidence that existed at the time.
The anthropomorphisation of natural events and its successor, Christianity, have now been replaced by a different religion sometimes called scientism: the views of a credentialed subgroup are taken by the remainder to be the gospel truth. The truth is what a man in a suit says it is, provided he's a professor. See, we don't even need golden vestments now.
Simple Scientism says that you are too stupid to understand the sacred texts and rituals of science. These must be interpreted by the priesthood and their acolytes in the media who will tell you what it all means in kindergarten language.
The Enlightenment has failed to communicate its basic principles. It has been a marketing flop. As a result we have entered a new age of philistinism, or perhaps I should say we have never moved away from the old one.
We live in an age of extreme surplus. The surplus has come from productivity improvements that have been introduced over the decades by the application of reason over religion.
This wealth and well-being has accrued to the general population as a consequence of those very principles that we have conspicuously failed to sell to them. Instead, most people have become blasé about their responsibilities to reality. They think that all the problems of life have been solved and dealt with by the 'expert class'. In our convenient and comfortable modern lives we've felt we can dispense with the inconvenient chores of diligence and critical thinking.
This failure has been spotted by those same sharp-eyed, smooth operators who we thought we had managed to ditch along with the kings and robber barons of yore. And they haven't sat on their hands.
Our beat here is to offer some backing for an alternative way of running our affairs. One which doesn't require everlasting wars, constant pandemics, ersatz political conflict and name calling.
I can't help but think that if a fraction of the time and effort that is put into selling the latest Hollywood blockbuster were to be committed to selling the simple values that would benefit everyone, we'd be in a lot better position.
The Case of the Pious Prologue
I recently watched the Jungle Book with my granddaughter on Disney+.
Before the movie started, a stern notice appeared on the screen, it read
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe. To learn more about how stories have impacted society visit: www.Disney.com/StoriesMatter”
It was strange to see a fictional tale from 1894 about a boy raised by wolves and then adopted by a bear and a panther described as 'stereotyped', let alone see any harmful impact. The website attempts unsuccessfully to elaborate with some examples (but not for the Jungle Book' unfortunately). For Peter Pan it says, next to a cartoon depiction of a stern Indian chief with Peter and Tiger Lily, “The film portrays Native people in a stereotypical manner that reflects neither the diversity of Native peoples nor their authentic cultural traditions.” Perhaps a graphic description of the slaughter of a bison by these nomadic hunters from the plains of Asia would have been a more accurate depiction for small children.
Perhaps instead the warning was referring to the Nobel prizewinning author and poet Rudyard Kipling who was born in India when it was run by the British. Disney of course had adapted the characters a little to be more accessible to his audience but it seems unlikely that that was what the writer was referring to.
In another time, the prologue might have read something like 'this movie is dedicated to the Glory of God who saved a little child from the horrors of the Jungle'.
Dull as Ditchwater
“I like dull. It lasts.” - Terry Pratchett in Soul Music
Movies are obviously something that we all enjoy. A whole industry exists to entertain us and we pay its most successful creators mega bucks to do just that. And there’s always the gossip value in shows that bomb at the box office.
By contrast, panocracy is a pretty dull subject – it's just a couple of rather obvious ideas with a whole lot of ramifications. Like enlightenment, it's a difficult sell. Who wants a considered, thoughtful, unemotional administration when they can have, at least for the moment, a pantomime of impulsive, colourful, demented or licentious political personalities?
Not many people would pay a day's wages to watch a lecture on James Clerk Maxwell's Equations of Electromagnetism. However, they'd happily spend that kind of money watching two people whack a ball across a net at each other for a couple of hours.
Of course I don't mean that we should all be forcibly schooled to reject 'authority' a la enlightenment! For practical reasons, education is almost entirely about accepting authority. It's hard to see how to get to a broadly based “take nobody's word for it” mentality starting from where we are.
So the question remains as to how to market panocracy to the masses. If there were, God forbid, a Nobel Prize for marketing it would be won by someone who could do that.