My recent thoughts on this idea of narratives, taboos and slothful induction have turned in the direction of what is driving this slothful induction – what is it that is so powerful that it causes people of average and above-average intelligence, educated in the West, to ignore, wilfully, the evidence before their eyes and to neglect, wilfully, to draw necessary implications from that evidence?
I think I can conjecture, safely, that the people affected by this slothful induction are of average or above-average intelligence. They are most often found in intellectual-type occupations – journalism, politics, the upper reaches of the civil services, and the universities – which by their nature select out those who cannot meet the intellectual requirements of the work.
So there’s nothing wrong with these people’s frontal lobes – it’s not stupidity causing them to fail to put two and two together.
So – what is it?
The question, and its answer, are important, because on it depends my ability to forecast for how much longer this state of affairs (I had originally written ‘madness’, but I corrected myself) is going to last.
Unfortunately, as yet I don’t have an answer. The closest that I have come to an answer is ‘ideology’. That is, there is a mindset among these people which is so strong that the usual effects of a widening gap between strategic assumptions and tactical indicators – effects such as asking oneself ‘Um, that shouldn’t be happening – what’s gone wrong?’, and reassessing one’s assumptions – aren’t taking hold.
As well, it seems to me there is also a counterpart to this mindset which reinforces it, and causes the defensive (belief preservation) and offensive (confirmation bias) behaviours that it fosters as it goes on seeking to make sense of the world using its outdated assumptions. This I think is plain pride, the will not to have been shown to have been wrong, to have been made a fool of by one’s own beliefs. Pride, and its manifestation as destructive pig-headedness, is default behaviour for democratic politicians and social groups, whose places in the political system depend to a great extent on not having been seen to have made mistakes – and especially mistakes on the scale of what is currently unfolding in Europe.
Thus, in the aftermath of the mass rapes which took place on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, we find this sort of reaction among the policymakers:
However, there was no official confirmation that asylum seekers had been involved in the violence. Commentators in Germany were quick to urge people not to jump to conclusions.
Heaven forbid that anyone should use their native skill with inductive reasoning to draw a reasonable conclusion about who the perpetrators might have been!
As the author of that blog-post writes:
It’s hard to imagine that anyone really believes the approved narratives are going to hold together for much longer. The orchestrated media-political conjuring operation is already stressed beyond its functional tolerance.
I agree with the author’s second sentence – the narratives have morphed from reassuring nothings to some kind of sick joke. But for the first sentence, as much as I wish it were true, I’m just not sure. The pro-immigrant, anti-nationalist mindset has shown itself to be sufficiently strong thus far to ignore plain evidence, and eschew basic inductive reasoning – why should it change now?
If mass murder on the scale of September 11, 2001, and Paris on November 13, 2015, and mass rapes on the scale of Rotherham and Cologne, haven’t been sufficient to remove the sloth from the induction, what on earth would be sufficient? As this photo of protests in Cologne following the rapes shows, the usual suspects are still targeting the usual suspects – on which they have based their whole narrative, a narrative which favours the people carrying out the rapes:
The evidence seems to be that what is happening is not a change in belief among the elites – that just isn’t happening. What I think is happening, is a growing refusal of the lower and non-political classes – those with below-average intelligence, and those of average or above-average intelligence who make a living outside of the political system – to accept the narratives and mindsets which the political classes have demanded they accept, and according to which they have constructed policies for the whole of their societies.
This would appear to explain the popularity of Donald Trump in the US, and of UKIP, of Front Nationale and of PEGIDA and Alternativ fur Deutschland in Europe. These are the groups which are challenging the prevailing mindset. The rational ignorance which works most of the time create a division of labour which keeps society running smoothly, efficiently and safely is, in the face of the failure of the narrative, no longer an option. The reaction to which of the political classes is to dig the narrative in deeper, to double down, and keep repeating the same tropes (for example: ‘Rapes in Cologne? Gegen Sexismus! Gegen Rassismus!’)
The problem they have is, that large and important groups in society aren’t listening to them. Those citizens outside the political system have seen enough and can no longer be bullied by the criticism implied in the ‘Gegen Rassismus!’ slogan directed at them, while those committing the crimes simply aren’t, and never have been, interested in the ‘Gegen Sexismus!’ slogan directed towards them. The population isn’t playing ball anymore.
Thus, all the incentives are for the political classes to do what they do, if not best, then most readily – tack with the wind, take the path of least opposition, articulate a new narrative more in line with what is democratically popular, and shape policy accordingly.
But they aren’t doing it. And this goes to the heart of my question – why not? What is holding back their induction? What force is so powerful that it has tied them to a narrative that has broken down, and which keeps them from following their instincts as politicians?
To me, nothing, no example of behaviour, can come close to this episode in illustrating the power of the mindset over the mind, and thus over the human organism, its behaviour, and the behaviour of human groups.
It is astounding.
And not in a good way.