Poetry – The Crest of the Zeitgeist

The Crest of the Zeitgeist

We’re riding the crest of the zeitgeist,

Madly careering along.

It’s into our minds,

Into our thoughts

Leading us a merry song.

It’s great when the spirit is positive,

Filling us with its joy,

But when conmen get busy

With fear and lies

They play like it’s their little toy.

It’s time for us to take charge of the zeitgeist,

Wrest it back into our hands,

To counter the lies

Fill it with hope

And spread truth back through the lands.

Opher – 9.10.2020

I wrote this as I was on my walk yesterday. I was just thinking how the Brexit campaign and Donal Trump’s election was so based on fear, hate and lies.

They used the spectre of mass immigration, terrorism and threats to our way of life to strike fear and generate hate. They played on racism, xenophobia and nationalistic patriotism.

It is so easy to do. It has been the tools of unscrupulous politicians forever.

The fall-out from 9-11 was fear and uncertainty. Exactly what the terrorists wanted.

They wanted us to go to war and stir up more hate. They wanted us divided and for allies to fall out, blocs to crumble.

Well with Trump and Brexit they got everything they wanted – division, war, hate, breaking up of power, disintegration of the very fabric of society, uncertainty, loss of belief in politicians, experts and scientists.

They undermined the entire West.

Looking back to pre-9-11 it was a stable, happy time. Looking now, it is a time of racism, division and violence.

Time to move on.

The cycle is changing.

Dump the liars. Start dealing with the real problems – climate change, biodiversity, world population, pollution, inequality, poverty and war.

There’s a new era of hope blossoming. I feel it.

4 thoughts on “Poetry – The Crest of the Zeitgeist

  1. Emotionally, Opher, I’m with you on this. Yes, the current political system is kaput. Yes, we’re now getting quite close to the point at which enough people will be awake to the issues that we can start doing something about them. And yes, I’m working on it. But I can tell you that it won’t be easy.

    The big issue for me, though, is that however much we might agree that a change of zeitgeist is overdue – and it’s already happened at least twice in the last 550 or so years, with the Renaissance and the Enlightenment – you and I disagree quite fundamentally at the next level down. Even on what the problems to be solved actually are, and on what the ethos of the next wave should be.

    Let me take your list of problems from the end forwards.

    War – we’re agreed on this one. War is built into the current political system. Which means that, to get rid of war, we have to get rid of the current political system, and replace it by a better one.

    Poverty – for me the problem is undeserved poverty. Those that want to depress the economy, or want to make it less free, or want to exclude certain groups or types of people from the market, or want to make themselves rich by stealing from innocent people, don’t deserve to be anything but poor. It should be, as I like to say: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his deserts.” Only one word different from Louis Blanc’s aphorism, as picked up by Karl Marx – but what a difference!

    Inequality – this one is probably the nub. The way I look at things, the most important kind of equality is moral equality. As I like to put it, “What is right for one to do, is right for another to do under similar circumstances, and vice versa.” We don’t have that today – the powerful can make whatever “laws” they like to bind us, and they don’t have to keep to them themselves! And that, of course, is an example of political inequality – a kind of inequality we really do need to get rid of.

    But most leftists go much further, and want one or another level of economic equality. They want to re-distribute wealth from those who earn it, to themselves and to whoever their favourites happen to be – and to do that, they need political power, and so political inequality. As Friedrich von Hayek put it, “A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.” This is not to say that I don’t see certain denizens of the financial world – Big Money, as I call them – using financial (and political) power to enrich themselves and to harm other people. The irresponsible gambling bankers, the disruptive investors like George Soros, the pharmaceutical companies dishonestly seeking gazillions in windfall profits, the subsidy cravers like Elon Musk – all these are criminals just as much as the politicians are, and they deserve to be brought down. But people who genuinely earn good things must be allowed, first, to earn them; and second, to enjoy the fruits.

    Pollution – this, to me, is a matter for restitution. If you cause pollution, and it harms someone or their property, you owe them compensation. (If it doesn’t harm anyone, or their property – including, of course, their animals – why is there a problem?) But that compensation must be assessed objectively; and given the huge progress we have made in this area over the last 50 years, the actual “social cost” of the pollution most individuals cause is piffling in comparison with the benefits. It is far lower than the costs of bad, restrictive laws that take away people’s freedoms in the name of lessening that pollution.

    World population – I really don’t understand why you have such a bee in your bonnet about this. I don’t feel that I have a right to tell someone in Mali, say, that they mustn’t have any more children.

    Biodiversity – I’m still waiting for some hard evidence that I am causing, or have caused, such a problem. As I’ve said before, if you like a particular species or group of species, help to conserve them – as the people at Slimbridge, for example, do.

    Climate change – I’ve written so much about this that I won’t repeat any of it here. But I’m still waiting for a clear statement and justification of the accusation, that will convince me that if the accusation is true, the problem is real; and for hard evidence (not e.g. media hype or computer models) that proves beyond reasonable doubt that the problem is real, and that I am significantly contributing to it.

    If you asked me to add a few to your list, I might add: Violations of human rights (not just property, but things like privacy, freedom of association, freedom from harassment, freedom of speech and the right to publicize your views by all means available. Lack of justice – in the sense in which I use that word; that “individuals should be treated, over the long term, in the round and as far as practicable, as they treat others.” A sham called “democracy,” in which there is no-one worth voting for, and the new king seems always a bit worse than the old. Bad laws. Heavy taxes and out-of-control fines. Political lies. Media bias, lies, hype and spin. Political correctness. Hypocrisy. Rampant dishonesty. Singling out of individuals and groups for bad treatment. Police misconduct and brutality. An ever-expanding state; and its incorporation into ever more remote and less accountable super-states (EU) and an ever more interfering and less controllable prototype world government (UN). Kow-towing to destructive and arguably terrorist groups like Extinction Rebellion. Failure to deliver Brexit as explicitly promised, despite a clear instruction from the people. Making deep green policies that are both destructive and authoritarian, and can never work to the benefit of good people. Incompetent handling of the coronavirus, mis-representation of the statistics, and never letting a good crisis go to waste in their desire to kill our freedoms. …And those are just a start.

    And one last small thing. You talk pejoratively of populism and populists. Now, when I look up “populism,” the dictionary tells me: “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.” What’s wrong with that? (At least, if the populist is sincere…)

    1. Hi Neil, let me see if I can deal with a number of the issues you’ve raised.
      First – populism – by definition I would agree with you, except that we all know the way the term is really used. Populist politicians merely pretend tomeet the concerns of ordinary people. In practice they prey upon their fears, stir them up, use racism, immigrants and minorities as scapegoats, make outrageous promises they can’t keep, lie, manipulate and divide – as with Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro. The pattern is perennial.
      Secondly – pollution. You do not seem to care a jot for the natural world – just people. The effect on animals and plants is inconsequential to you. Has there ever been a pollutant that did not do damage? By definition that’s what they do. Oh – and we are part of that ecology – part of the natural world and utterly dependent on it.
      Overpopulation is the driving force of the expansion of this crazy capitalist nightmare. It is the reason so much natural habitat is being destroyed. It is the reason for pollution, overfishing and the destruction of our planet. I have never suggested that we control people. I say that this is the most pressing problem facing mankind. We need to find ways (incentives, education, pensions, health care, illness subsidies) in order to keep our population sustainable and in balance with the natural world. The plants and animals have as much right to live as we do.
      As someone who deals with data I would have thought you would have understood the massive impact we have already had on this planet. Global warming and depletion of species diversity are real. We desperately need to act. I see the evidence all around me every day. We are systematically destroying nature.
      Inequality is a massive problem and one that will increase with A/I. We have created a system where a tiny elite have more wealth (and power) than they can cope with while a huge number of people live in abject poverty and disgusting conditions through no fault of their own. It is not only wrong but it powers the corruption and creates the system we live in. They are perpetuating their wealth and power at everybody elses’ expense. We are all being exploited. The Trillionaires have made a killing out of Covid, Brexit and war. They are morally corrupt. It’s time we created a fairer system. BTW – I am not in favour of rewarding scroungers or not rewarding effort or brilliance – but nobody earns a million an hour.

  2. Populism: Yes, that’s pretty much what I would have said, too. They preach populism, but don’t live according to it. Hypocrites. But that’s just as true on the left too.

    Pollution: Just calling something a pollutant doesn’t make it a pollutant. (Carbon dioxide is the classic example – it’s actually the gas of life for plants!) Proof of negative effect is required.

    Yes, I do care about my own species – at least, those that live up to human standards like truthfulness, honesty, integrity, good faith, and respect for human rights and freedom. My attitude to other species (and individuals therein) is that if they are friendly to me, I’ll be friendly to them; and if they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them (unless they’re edible, of course; but then, all species do that).

    Of course we’re part of nature. Moreover, we have a nature. And our nature is to build civilizations, and to take control of our surroundings. Indeed, politics is a perversion of our nature; they (the political class) seek to take control over us (human beings). Politics is to human nature as slavery (or, for the really bad ones, farming) is to free trade between moral equals.

    You can say “we” are doing bad things to “nature” all you want, but to me the question is, what (if any) bad things am I doing? This is, I think, the fundamental difference between your thinking and mine. I look at things bottom up, from the point of view of the individual. Only in a few circumstances (such as when you have a child, or take on a management job) does one individual take on responsibility for the actions of others. Whereas, you look at things top down. You say “we” are doing all these terrible things, and “we” need to act. To which I say, physician, heal thyself. Looking back 200 years, the difference between our thinking is very much like the difference between early socialists and early anarchists. (Who were on the same side for about half a century, of course).

    As to inequality, I think I put my case reasonably well last time round. Big Money is a big problem; but honest business people or true “capitalists” are not.

    If you look back to the very early days of socialism, you’ll find that people like Saint-Simon put company bosses (and, presumably, managers and skilled workers) in the “working class” as against the “idling class.” (Rightly, in my view). But then, Marx moved the divide to a different place, and turned the workers against people who should have been their allies against the political ruling class. That guy has a lot to answer for. And then, there were idiots like Babeuf, whose idea of “socialism” was to abolish private property altogether. If you wonder why people like me, although anti-establishment, are so leery of socialism, it’s because socialists almost never make it clear which of these three strands it is that they believe in.

    1. I’m a socialist – I believe in fairness and justice. That recognises bosses as well. I think they need rewarding for their efforts, skills and risk – but only in line with their workforce. To my mind bosses that cream off huge profits are either exploiting their workforce or the public. Nobody deserves inordinate sums. Likewise for sportspeople and musicians. It should be in proportion.
      I’ve said before – the big problem with your premise of claiming you are not responsible so it is none of your business and nobody should be in control is that, without control, the big businesses are free to exploit, kill and pollute. They need controlling and they are doing a tremendous amount of damage that will certainly come back to bite you or your descendants.
      I value nature greatly. It is us that is the problem and we are no more worthy than any other creature. It’s time we all became responsible.

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