So the Brexit shock begins to dissipate. The boat has been rocked and now it rights itself as the passengers settle down for the long row back to more familiar shores and the job of achieving as little as possible as busily as possible. Is it time to switch off yet?
How many of us have driven to work and on arrival we find we can’t remember the journey? It seems to be a common experience - as if we are switched off by the routine familiarity of it. What actually switches us off though? It can’t be voluntary and that is surely something to dwell on.
How about being switched off by tedious meetings? Or unimaginative TV shows, banal chatter, media headlines on a dull day, football, athletics Wimbledon or any other sport with too much exposure and too little variation? There is much to switch us off in the modern world but we tend to focus on causes rather than the effect.
Moving on to another angle - some people work hard, others don’t. Some people work hard physically, some mentally, some both and some neither. It all goes to shape what we are – in every sense. Our brains work and in so doing they use energy. How much energy seems to vary widely if behaviour is any guide.
An energetic brain often seems to suppress the energy of other brains within the same social orbit. It probably does so for reasons of social efficiency. It is more efficient to follow leaders and leaders' narratives than it is for individuals to go off doing their own thing. Followers switch off and allow leaders to make the mental effort. Or rather they are switched off by those leaders.
So rather like commuting to work, followers seem to have their brains partly switched off. Even when waving their arms around, even when apparently consumed by passion they are not alert to alternative possibilities, not fully switched on. It is tempting to dismiss them as dim, but perhaps more accurate to see them as dimmed.
The leader with the energetic brain seems to dominate those with less energetic brains by reducing their mental energy, their ability to promote alternatives to the leader’s line. Even if the leader is bonkers, this effect continues until he or she dies or fails to deliver social benefits in some vitally important way. Keeping the inner circle satisfied is crucial.
If so, then this may be why devoted followers come across as so extraordinarily obtuse when justifying their need to follow. No doubt the degree of suppression varies from individual to individual, but as long as a majority of followers have their mental energy suppressed, then leadership is viable.
Obviously some followers do think critically about what they are doing but are wary of articulating their criticism unless leadership change is in the air. Yet many followers seem unable to think critically at all. They can’t, their brains don’t seem to have the energy.
That’s the spooky aspect. Rather like biology diagrams, people with convictions seem to show us a shadowy glimpse of natural laws underlying what we are. Not only do they refuse to think critically about their allegiances, but it is usually obvious that they can’t. They are switched off and elites know how it is done.