We are fighting an asymmetric comms war against the 1% – a war which, if lost, jeopardises not only society as we know it but also the environment which sustains us.
Dangerous Globe are featuring a series of articles by Luke Andreski, looking at the weapons needed to fight this war.
This is the last in the series.
We’ve talked about the enemies of our civilisation and biological world:
- the corporations
- the growth economy
- the oligarch- or state-controlled media
- the greedy and power-hungry 0.1%
“Enemies in terms of endangering social cohesion and environmental sustainability?”
Yes, in precisely those terms – the enemies who’re endangering us all.
But then we moved on.
“It wasn’t great having so many enemies, was it?”
It wasn’t… 0.1 percent of eight billion people… That’s a lot of enemies.
So we looked beyond ‘enemies’ to the ideas that drive them.
“Like putting a virus under the microscope instead of just inspecting the rash…”
Exactly. And we discovered something important.
“I got there first.”
You did. And you helped me catch up.
It became obvious, the closer we looked, that we’re living in the disinformation millennium – an age of propaganda and lies. We saw that behind the people and organisations which we’d come to think of as our enemies there was something more subtle at play: something using people as sock-puppets, taking them over, making them act against their own interests and against the interests of our species as a whole.
“Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”
Yes just like that.
“Or David Icke’s lizards…”
Like that, too. But not lizards.
Ideas. Malign, viral ideas. They’re the body snatchers.
Eco-destructive and socially divisive ideas.
They’re the lizards.
Dangerous ideas have infected our society. Harmful narratives and concepts are driving the environmentally damaging and species self-harming behaviour that we see all around us. Cognitive algorithms are undermining our autonomy and disabling or subverting our morality. These ideas and algorithms harm us, and they prevent many of us from even recognising that harm.
These malign ideas replicate themselves in our minds and then we share them with others.
They’re a virus. They’re an infection with the potential to destroy our world.
But we can defend ourselves.
“We’ve found vaccines, haven’t we?”
Yes: a shield of values; a wall of truth. Vaccines that protect our identity, our cognitive autonomy. The ideas can still get through to us, but they’re harmless because we see them for what they are.
“And we didn’t stop just with vaccines.”
“We identified cures, too.”
We did. Because a lot of people are already infected. For them, it’s too late for a vaccine.
We found antivirals like these:
- The Socrates Bomb
- Chaplin’s Stiletto
- Kate’s Garrotte
- The Truth Grenade
- The Alternatives Ambush
These antivirals attack the ideas which make up the mind plague, questioning them, ridiculing them, making them irrelevant.
“That’s the best approach, isn’t it, in the end? Making the bad ideas irrelevant. Simply growing beyond them, leaving them behind?”
I think it is.
It’s been quite a journey.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute.”
I have, too. It’s been important for me, in a very special way. As we talked it felt as if something changed inside my mind. I felt somehow less divided, somehow more complete.
An epiphany which you shared with me… Yes, that’s exactly how it felt.
I’ll always love you for that.
It’s hard to put into words how precious it was, that moment when I stopped thinking of people as enemies.
It was as if – as if a tremendous weight had lifted from my shoulders – visceral and real. I felt a sense of unburdening, of lightness. I’d hated those feelings of hatred. Who wants to hate other people?
“It hurts on the inside.”
It does. And it’s psychologically unhealthy. It’s a kind of self-harm. You can sense that, can’t you, when you experience hating? – That it’s best to avoid hating other people if you possibly can, that it does you no good.
Ideas, on the other hand… Why would you hate ideas?
Sometimes I feel repugnance for them.
Hate has almost no traction on ideas at all.
Interpretation, analysis, understanding, deciphering, unravelling, explaining. Those are the tools you bring to bear against ideas. Ideas need to be explored, justified, proven, tested, evidenced… and, if unjustified or unevidenced, dismissed.
Ideas are our enemy. They’re the root cause behind the chaos of our calamitous age. They’re the virus behind the pandemic of lies…
But they are, in the end, only ideas.
And the ways they can be challenged, the techniques for assessment and understanding, they’re techniques we can share.
Anyone in the world, at any time, in any place, if jolted into thought, can use the vaccines and antivirals we’ve discussed. They can use scrutiny, clear thinking, integrity, honesty. They can use the Socrates Bomb, questioning an idea’s evidence, logic and language. They can use Kate’s Garrotte, Kate’s Scythe and Kate’s Flail, determining if a narrative or concept is encouraging us to be moral. And they can use the Alternatives Ambush to show that there are better ideas waiting to replace those which are doing our species so much harm.
An inner calm
As I went through this transition – from seeing people as my enemies to seeing ideas as the issue – I felt myself grow calmer.
“I did, too.”
I began to breath more deeply.
I found a centredness and purpose which my anger had taken away.
“I did, too.”
It was something we shared – a parallel evolution: the recognition that ideas are endangering the human world, that ideas are fuelling climate change, that ideas are bringing about the sixth great extinction event, that ideas are supporting and enabling racism, misogyny, homophobia, inequality and our system of global unfairness and waste. It’s a truth that seems obvious as soon as you see it – that bad ideas, a Frankenstein’s monster birthed by human genius, are now dragging us towards the edge of the precipice.
A better idea
And yet they’re just ideas.
That’s all they are.
Archaic, stale, recycled, unevidenced and unjustifiable ideas.
Ultra-capitalism, neoliberalism, nationalist conservativism, authoritarianism?
They’re just slack-jawed, counter-productive and harmful ideas.
And we can do something about the mind plague that’s infected our society.
We can do something about these malign ideas.
We can expose them for the nonsense they are.
We can out-reach them and out-shine them.
We can replace them with better ideas, with sustainable ideas, with humane, compassionate and generous ideas.
We can replace them with ideas that actually work.
Luke Andreski is a founding member of the @EthicalRenewal and Ethical Intelligence collectives and author of Short Conversations: During the Plague (2020), Intelligent Ethics (2019) and Ethical Intelligence (2019).
His new book Short Conversations: During the Storm is out now.
You can connect with Luke on LinkedIn, https://uk.linkedin.com/in/luke-andreski-ethics, on WordPress, https://lukeandreski.wordpress.com/, or via EthicalRenewal on Twitter https://twitter.com/EthicalRenewal.
For the previous articles in this series see:
The mind plague
Everyone needs a shield of values
The wall of truth
The Socrates Bomb
The Truth Grenade
The Alternatives Ambush
With thanks for the stunning sunrise image to Herbertkikoy, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. The words ‘My epiphany’ have been imposed on the original.
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