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Adapt is the message

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“The hooligan,” pursued Thorndyke, as we walked briskly across the silent square, “covers a multitude of sins, ranging from highway robbery with violence and paid assassination (technically known as ‘bashing’) down to the criminal folly of the philanthropic magistrate, who seems to think that his function in the economy of nature is to secure the survival of the unfittest.

R. Austin Freeman – The Red Thumb Mark (1907)

Many of us probably know that we may not survive in a brutal, dog eat dog world. Not a remarkable assumption because we not adapted to that kind of world. Guardian readers may think they have been forced to adapt because of capitalism, but loons merely reinforce the point. Most of us would even struggle to survive in eighteenth century England for example – in spite of our superior knowledge of climate change, gender politics and diversity.

It is worth pushing this a little further because it is clear enough that even as supposedly free citizens in an enlightened world we cannot shake off the basic survival urge. How could we? A likely consequence is that many of us are clearly not afraid of handing over that freedom to an all-embracing managerial class. This is the class now engaged in taking away even our most basic freedoms and our ability to make our own decisions. All we appear to be offered in exchange are virtue, emotional massaging and a sense of belonging.

Of course the virtue is mostly fake, the emotional massaging is demeaning and the sense of belonging is akin to serfdom but that doesn’t seem matter to a surprisingly large number of people. In other words the exchange works and the managerial class now knows for sure that it works even if they didn’t know it before. The coronavirus debacle has hammered the lesson home very firmly indeed.

Modern survival angst may have been stimulated by familiar aspects of modern life. Professional sport, celebrity culture, racial tensions and a pervasive, constantly evolving confusion sowed by political correctness all make their not inconsiderable contributions.

I’m not a celebrity, not rich, not outstanding at sport… not outstanding at all.

Ironically, mass inadequacy is the starkly obvious message, rammed home every single day of modern life. An all-embracing managerial class is bound to have mass appeal if it merely projects a comfortable sense of belonging, especially if it reinforces that sense of belonging by the intrusive management of daily life. It works too. We see it all the time and mainstream political parties have already adapted to it.


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