Monday, October 20, 2014


How stupid are we as a race? 
How illogical can we behave? 
Are we cleverer and more aware now than we used to be? 
Have we learned life’s most important lessons? 

When people in the future read about us in history books, fifty years from now, enlightened though we are, will they still laugh at our behaviour as we laugh at some of the beliefs of those from ancient cultures?

Let’s laugh at some people…

Ancient Egyptians spent a great deal of time preparing for death believing that their bodies needed pyramids etc in order to physically get in to an afterlife - grave robbers kind of exposed at least the physical side to their errors in their spiritual belief. Fortunately for our available real estate nowadays, graveyards don’t take up as much space as they did back then. Silly Egyptians!


In Hitler’s Reich, it became easy for millions of people to believe that Jews were an inferior race. There were of course plenty that didn’t and plenty that were just forced into the behaviours of the resulting actions - but there was an expanding number of people, driven by the evil few, who truly believed that Jews were despised lesser humans. People whose wrong opinions were shaped and fuelled by a mass collective denial of reality. Many of those in Germany that survived the war, who jumped on the anti-Semitic bandwagon during Hitler’s tenure, would have had to deal with their misguided opinions in later years as the paradigm shifted. Surely not all the people that believed this in 1939 or thereabouts started off hating and requiring the subsequent extermination of Jews. It took a mass indoctrination of altered and prejudiced belief.

In case you think that this was too long ago, or that it was more of a forced and controlled behaviour rather than an actual belief. In case you are of the opinion that people are much more socially and morally aware nowadays, then look to the political / racial stance of South Africa as recent as the 1990s. Yes, it’s crazy to believe… but it’s actually true - in my adult life, I witnessed an intelligent government of a developed country impose a national system of apartheid on millions of people. Black people were inferior, second rate citizens… and even though the racism that dominated this core belief was defined, legitimately destroyed and ruled out of every other country in the world, it continued to be official policy in South Africa until 1994.


So these are my first two examples of collective denial and how intelligent people like us can, with the right manipulation around us, fall into an existence which, when viewed in history in years to come, will appear utterly illogical. How could we have been so stupid? We are not talking about an ancient culture of primitive beings - this is us NOW.

Now that we are in this mindset, let’s stop and think a minute longer. If us clever and aware people have fooled ourselves to this outrageous level in the recent past, what are we currently doing that we are unaware of? Is everything okay now with you? This is a post modern, secular, pluralistic, developed society. Informed, connected and enabled. Surely now, more than ever, you can identify collective stupidity at the colossal kind of level and deal with it before it even begins.

But how uneasy would you feel if I told you now that you were actually living a life in ridiculous denial - at the same level as those in recent history that we all so vehemently abhor?

But you see, that’s what denial is. It simply means that something is happening that you don’t want to face up to - so you just block it out. 


Here is another modern day example of a denial.  

How many environmentalists did you know in the 1970s? Not many. It wasn’t a term I heard used in domestic context until about 1989. An environmentalist used to be a mysterious white coat profession. It was what some distant earth scientists did in laboratories. We normal people were onlookers rather than participants. You might read about an environmentalist sometimes - and some study they published. Though we understood a collective responsibility for the future, it felt too far away and too wishy washy a concept for something to actually respond to at a domestic level. Before around 1989, whilst adopting this hands off approach, we all simultaneously believed these “truths”:

1. that oil would eventually run out
2. that we are fully reliant on oil
3. our thirst for oil is a backbone to our banking system and is often the main cause of modern wars
4. that the burning of it is irreparably destroying the planet
5. that we would need to find something else to replace it with as a resource

Twenty four years later, I look at these statements and I see that we have since learned that we are all environmentally aware and responsible and our children are educated in all the areas that are designed to address these issues. 

I do of course understand that the reason we all still burn oil every day despite these truths is only partial denial. We know we’re killing ourselves with this system, but we have no viable way we can all reverse our “progress” and de-industrialise together. People are too different, too selfish - endemic in the human condition of short sightedness - and the overall reach of the problem is manifest in 99.9% of the world’s population. We believe the next generation will find a way out that will solve the problem - quality life will continue somehow. This is not an emergency. Our grandchildren will be fine. If we thought otherwise then we would all turn off our central heating, electricity and leave our cars in the driveway. Or would we? Can you spot a measure of collective denial? Are you worried? What are you going to do? Is a procrastinator the same as a denier? Is the fact that you feel helpless as a single individual a real excuse?


You think it’s understandable to buy your iPhone from a UK distributer. But the product that ends up in your hand actually owes its patronage to an impressively international array of countries, places and supporting organisations. Apple is an American company that uses people, products and resources from around the world in order to design, build, distribute and support your phone. You do of course already know this.

You are totally used to buying Christmas crackers that are made in China. You think nothing of buying shampoo on Amazon which actually got imported from Thailand. Even the thought of getting New Zealand lamb is not too ridiculous for you to consider. 

The burning of fossil fuels and the cost of doing so certainly permits and steers this international behaviour, but think again….. why use a workforce in China? Because they have a lower standard of living than we do. It’s cheaper to use poor people to build luxury items….. to build anything at all in fact…. and let me remind you, you do already know this.

So, if you are aware of the current economic set up, how sustainable does it look to you? - I’m not a social scientist, I’m not an economist, I’m not a international businessman or a politician, but I can see that we no longer tend to make our cheap plastic products in Japan or Taiwan. That’s because they now have a higher standard of living in these countries than they did in the initial post war boom of industry.

Manufacturers using the system of cheap labour have to keep moving their factories around to find people poor enough to work for “buttons”. Every time industry settles in a cheap district, the standard of living starts to gently increase. I’m sure that wages are kept as low as they dare, and there will doubtless be systems in place to try and stop an air of betterment and hope amongst the workers to contain growth and expectation. But as soon as someone gets better, faster, more productive, perhaps they are offered incentives over those less so. Just like in the western world, the system of capitalism creates higher standards of living and ups the cost of doing so.

Meanwhile, the world’s population has increased to seven billion people.

Collective denial sits in the middle of this, and no one appears to be challenging this status quo. Why not?

Throughout all history, what happens when something gets overcooked is a natural correction. For the human race, the way to level out the peaks comes from our old friends - War, disease and famine. These three things have a very good reputation for redressing population spikes.

So all you need to do in order to ensure a melt down, is dramatically increase the world’s population and suck hard on all the earth’s resources whilst keeping one group of people artificially high in luxuries supported by those who are kept artificially low in order to make it affordable.

Anyone looking at this in these simple terms would derive that this is an untenable system that is heading at breakneck speed to an inevitable and apocalyptically huge collapse. Yet we all sit in it and do nothing. If there’s one thing us humans are exceptional at - it's self destruction.... whilst of course simultaneously pretending it isn’t happening.


We need to redress the selfishness. We need to stop investing in the Far East. We need to build a new banking system that is sustainable within our home markets, peoples and systems. We need to stop burning fossil fuels and we need to reverse our betterment obsession where “easier is better”. We need to all become farmers again and we need to gently reduce the world’s population by using a conscience led variant of the Chinese “one child” rule.

Knocking a few billion people off the planet by careful control (IE using birth control) would stop an epidemic adjustment that will doubtlessly occur in a far more dramatic way if we were to just leave our societies to their natural conclusions.


But you and I both know this is too idealist. It will never happen. Despite the fact that we are clever and although we have the skills to learn from the past, this is not one of these things that we will ever be able to control.

Collective denial kicks in and we await the inevitable. A meltdown of epidemic and majestic proportions. If civilisation survives - those that look back in years to come will see the foolhardy way we approached the impending meltdown. They will shake their heads at our stupidity. We’ll be dead…. which is probably for the best! 

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