Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hubris of Humankind 18

Section 8: Mesmerism and the New Economy

In this great section Gray is at his perceptive best. One can only wholeheartedly agree with him that the world is ruled by suggestion. Emotions can be whipped up among people at an alarmingly quick speed. Information is shot about the world almost instantaneously now and consequently emotions of anger, pain, hatred, success, failure, pride, joy and happiness can be created there and then. As Gray so succinctly puts it: “The Internet confirms what has long been known – the world is ruled by the power of suggestion.

These days, now that the mythic Celtic Tiger has come to be little more than a vanished dream, we are well aware that the Irish banking system is gaining a dreadfully poor reputation on the international front, because the perception is that nothing has changed in the top echelons of that profession in this country. Our financial reputation is being ruined on an almost daily basis by unthinking and immoral bankers. Irish readers, especially, do not need to be reminded of the truth of Gray’s perspicacious views (penned in 2002) that:

Financial markets are moved by contagion and hysteria. New communications technologies magnify suggestibility. Mesmer and Charcot are better guides to the new economy than Hayek or Keynes. (Op. cit., 171)

I might point out here that the French doctor Charcot was the founder of modern psychiatry and working on a foundation laid down by the famous, or infamous, Mesmer, he popularised the process of hypnosis.

Section 9: A Theory of Consciousness:

This paragraph comprises two sentences only, the import of which is that consciousness is a side-effect of language.

Section 10: Memories in Stones:

In short, the tenor of this piece is that cities represent humankind’s yearning for a settled existence. The great stone buildings and the streets and boulevards themselves outlive humankind who are mere fleeting shadows among those stones.

Section 11: The Myth of Modernisation:

Modernisation wears many masks indeed. All of the following count as being Modern (where technology is in the driving seat): (i) Positivists of the nineteenth-century, (ii) for Marx and the Webbs it meant an economy without private property, (iii) Nazi modernism meant racism and genocide, (iv) the future lies in secularism alone. Once again, Gray succinctly argues:

Theories of modernisation are cod-scientific projections of Enlightenment values. (Ibid., 174)

Section 12: Al Qaeda:

An entire view of the world was changed on 9/11, 2001 when the Twin Towers were destroyed by Al Qaeda. In one (or two) fell swoops the capitalist myth of interminable progress was well and truly vanquished. The modern western world would never be the same again. “The terrorists were foot soldiers in a new war of religion.” (Ibid., 175) Before 9/11 most people thought that free trade had made war obsolete. Now that myth itself was debunked.

Above a picture I took in March 2008 of two wonderful horses - our animal relatives!

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