Brexit: Common sense, playing games, and nomads
We live in a scientistic, computer-worshipping age where calculation and technocratic analysis are given Delphic authority over our lives.
To defy this technocratic system is considered by its supporters as not merely a dissident political position, but is akin to madness.
What the model hath decreed is law, or to paraphrase Hegel: What is modeled is rational and what is rational is modeled.
One fractal in the contemporary political divide is the tension between the scientistic world-view, which uses scientific jargon and computer assistance to parse the world.
In this camp an analysis is not useful unless it emanates as a pronouncement from a respectable university department, a respectable economist or a respectable media source.
What is unexamined is what is meant by “respectable”, and how such pre-scientific concepts guide human thought.
These are the people who join the Facebook group “I Fucking Love Science”, who adore Stephen Fry, and understand (or so they think) quantum physics through nursery coloured television documentaries fronted by Brian Cox.
What they do not know is what they do not know. And they also think they know they do not know.
This divide is one reason for the mutual incomprehensibility between Remain and Leave voters. This incomprehensibility is the age old separation of head from heart, a lack of integration pointed by CG Jung and his followers.
Common sense is what is known through life experience, through holding in the hand, through grieving at a funeral, through using a ladder on a building site, through drinking in the pub and cannot be reduced to a computer model.
It is, as Nassim Taleb noted, what your Grandmother told you.
And it is just this knowledge which is rejected as knowledge by scientism — nay condemned as reactionary, oppressive knowledge.
Human beings play games, and arguably every human activity from love making to war to writing articles about politics is a game. And, as Zen Buddhists teach, it is when we begin to take our human games too seriously that bad outcomes occur. A neurotic is a person who plays any game as if it was more than a game and so is continually disappointed in work, love and life.
So Nietzsche recommended that our maturity lies in a our ability to go about our work with the seriousness of a child at play.
But there is another sense in which humans “play games”, and this is a more destructive way.
What I heard from people when I visited Great Yarmouth, the area that had the highest vote for Brexit in the country, was that the people there felt that political “games were being played” but in a sense what they meant by this was the opposite: A game was not being played.
What does this paradoxical statement mean? I suggest that local, national and class politics in Britain is a game governed by explicit rules, and an unwritten code. So long as the game is played — the unwritten and explicit rules play by — then there is a degree of harmony.
That is not to say there is justice, equality or fairness — but people who are treated roughly know why this is happening.
When “games are being played” the game has been abandoned. The globalist, scientistic, and deracinated Remain voters no longer play the national game.
Property prices too high in London? Why not fly to Ecuador for a few years. Aren’t those racists in Great Yarmouth unsophisticated? I loved the Polish builders who worked on my second house, and what would I do without Maria, my darling nanny from Manila?
This a game that most Leave voters cannot play. It is not the old working class, middle class, upper class “I know my place” game.
And when we cannot play a game we feel gamed.
What the new game retains from the old game is middle class reticence and working class frankness. The middle classes quietly sneer at the dirty proles from behind idealistic statements about love for communities, refugees, and the global community. The working class openly bark, and snarl.
And both sides feel contempt.
Where do I belong?
My Facebook profile says London today and Singapore tomorrow. My mother lives in Western Australia and my father lives in Hampshire. That’s because they are divorced, and my step brother’s Chinese wife has taken a job in Israel. They talk on Skype a lot.
The above paragraph is one story, a story I confected from a dozen or so similar stories I have seen. I am tempted to counterpose it with the rooted Leave voters, but this would not be true — for Leave voters are often connected internationally, though in a different way to
Humans have long been split between nomadism and civilization. The feudal aristocrats descend from violent men on horses who took what they wished from sleepy, weedy farmers.
But now our nomads are technological, products of civilisation. And the question is whether they are destroying civilisation or achieving a unity between these two sides of humanity.
The IT technician who flies from Kuala Lumpa to Jakarta to Delhi to Oshkosh to Bristol to Cologne has more in common with a refugee from Syria than a Great Yarmouth fisherman who leaves town once or twice a year to see London.
And the fisherman has more in common with a fisherman in Muscat than the IT technician.
A sticker on a lamp post likens refugees to migrating birds. Birds are beautiful, birds migrate, birds are free — refugees must be free as a bird!
This reverses the old Nazi propaganda where the outsider, the Jew, was depicted as vermin — a cockroach or rat.
But now propaganda uses animal imagery and metaphor to idealise rather than demonise.
What is not asked is whether our new nomadic, migratory civilisation is not reducing humans to the animal level. Nomads have always been feared by the settled — and for good reason. The nomad is a warrior.
Further, if we are to depict refugees as birds — beautiful, ideal — then are we not destroying their humanity as surely as demonising them by comparing them to cockroaches or rats?
To recognise another person as fully human one must recognise their capacity for good and evil. A refugee can be a saintly doctor, or a nefarious rapist — and perhaps the saintly doctor is also a nefarious rapist…
Rootedness does not always mean war and nationalism, though often it does. Nomadism does not always mean peace and cosmopolitanism — ask Genghis Kahn.