Thursday, 14 July 2016

Switched off

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.


Demetrius said...

These days I suspect I am more switched off than on, except while listening to music in the evenings. What is on the TV is used as "wallpaper" with the sound off. Golf can be quite restful, at least I have learned to tell a birdie from a bogie.

Anonymous said...

As I grow old and grumpy I have found I distrust:-

enthusiasm, convictions, ideology, newspapers, the BBC, politicians and leaders, almost anything. In fact I find the rule, '99% of everything is crap' fits well. AK excluded.

After the recent hoopla Mrs May will look to serious matters - getting re-elected. Meanwhile Brexit will throw up all manner of inconvenient costs and difficulties and expose all those matters that have been neglected for years. Election will take precedence, Brexit can wait.

Never mind, Boris has a secret treasure map written in strange runes, that will see us right, if only I believed it.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - switching off from mainstream blather is bound to be a good thing because we can easily find better sources of comment and opinion. A birdie sounds better than a bogie to me.

Roger - I agree, Brexit can wait so it will. We'll probably end up with some fudge which isn't much different to the consequences of not adopting the euro, in other words where we were in the first place.

James Higham said...

Energetic brain. Y-e-e-e-s-s-s-s.

A K Haart said...

James - so much to say and never enough time :)