In one sense I have multiple personalities...
What I mean is that I can be both pessimistic and
Shut up - it depends on which aspect of a situation I choose
to look at.
An earlier post
on the demise of politics may sound
pessimistic, but I think there are a number of other trends suggesting optimistic
possibilities too. Sometimes I think human intelligence whatever it may be, is
increasing. I jibbed at the idea to begin with, but then I asked the simple and
apparently rhetorical question – why do modern politicians appear to be so dumb?
Well maybe they are dumb and that’s all we need say about
them, but I think there is something else going on here.
We may be getting smarter.
Yes. Maybe it’s the effect of mass communication over a
number of generations. An incomplete social change kicked off by the invention
of printing, pushed along by cheap books and now coming into flower in the form
of the internet.
Okay, so part of me thinks we really are dumbing down as so
many have claimed, but a more optimistic part of me thinks the opposite. We
appear to be dumbing down for a very simple reason.
We have caught up with the elite.
No we haven’t, the
cunning bastards are way ahead of us.
Maybe not. Universal education may have played a part, but
in my view the main thrust has come from free access to information.
It’s why so many of our leaders appear to be insanely
ambitious dullards, why so many business leaders come across as absurdly greedy
spivs and why so many of our institutions are little more than sinecures for
the upper middle classes. They haven’t changed – we have. We know the score –
we are not so easily gulled by social pretensions.
The elite classes have tried to disguise their social
pretensions by dressing down. No more top hats, walking canes and cut glass
accents for example. Language is now roughened by glottal stops, slang and a
prissy determination to be the very epitome of a reasonable chap while spouting
the most absurd drivel.
But it isn’t working.
Yes it is you
blinkered optimist. I was going to say blind optimist but...
To my mind it is connected with assent. Spinoza saw assent
as our route to a kind of free will where assent to ideas or we don’t. Often we
don’t show active dissent, we merely withhold assent.
Have you ever been in this kind of situation for example?
What, being ignored by
a blinkered optimist?
No this one.
Someone in a small group raises the subject of royalty by enthusing
about the latest royal baby. Nobody else in the group feels inclined to jump up
and down in a republican rage, but nobody offers their assent either. After a few
stilted moments the subject closes and the discussion moves on.
Or this one?
You have to attend a course on motivation which requires a
minimal degree of active involvement because the presenter simply zings along with
a mildly infectious if somewhat artificial enthusiasm. So you go along with it
without showing much in the way of dissent even though to you it is all water
off a duck’s back.
Agree with you there -
can’t be bothered with motivation.
Quite, but I’m sure there has always been a huge amount of passive
dissent in our society and many hints encourage me to think it is on the
increase simply because we are smarter than we were. Not much and not
dramatically, but it’s there.
Nobody really believes in apocalyptic global warming caused
by CO2, I’m sure of it. Not even climate scientists. There are no cars tootling
along the M1 at 55mph to save fuel, no indications whatever that anything but
price matters when it comes to energy policy. It matters to the elite and a tiny
minority of activists, but that’s all.
This is an informed yet passive withholding of assent by a large
number of people and I think the number is growing. Not rapidly and not all that
obviously because it is merely passive dissent, but we may be smarter than we
were and something may yet come of it.
No it won’t.