Saturday 22 June 2013

Assuming bad intentions


The Western ruling elites could be basically decent, well-meaning people who want good things but - through lack of knowledge, personal greed and other types of selfishness, short-sightedness etc. - end-up doing (and trying to do) mostly evil things...


They could be basically evil people whose strategic goal is to destroy good things wherever and whenever they have the opportunity - but who are somewhat restrained from doing so with maximum long-term efficiency by defects such as laziness, cowardice, spite and short-termist comfort-seeking; plus being hampered and confused by that fact that they are not wholly evil and residual good elements will sometimes divert the motivations and sabotage the plans of the primary evil components.


We are agreed, therefore, that the secular Left politically correct leadership of all Western nations and all major institutions have done and are doing great evil, and are planning and propagandizing to do more great evils; and will not listen to anyone who points-out the facts, but rather the opposite: they will ignore, sideline, lie about, exclude, suppress-by-whatever means the truth - will violate common sense and call it sophistication, and will outlaw anybody learning from their own personal experience...

This we know.

But people retain considerable uncertainty about the basic set-up leading to this situation.


The mainstream secular Right continually try to explain the bad things of modern life by a kind of Marxist analysis which purports to demonstrate that although most people are damaged by policy X, the political leadership will benefit from it - and this is (it is argued) why they are doing it.

For instance it is common sense and personal experience to know for sure that mass immigration will lead to the destruction of any society sooner or later; and the fact that the secular Leftist elites aggressively promote this policy is obvious; but the usual explanations focus upon ways in which the elite leadership will benefit (personally and in the short term) from this policy (cheap labour, cheap servants, getting elected etc).

But this type of analysis and explanation assumes that the key opinion formers are basically good people, who want good things, but who have been corrupted by short term selfishness into pursuing policies which are harmful to more people and over the longer term...

(It is also to assume the primacy of Marxist analysis: the primacy of economic motivation. A double error.)


This is certainly not self-evident. Indeed common sense and personal experience suggests that the opposite is likely - that people are naturally very reluctant indeed to do anything which benefits them personally and in the short term when it obviously leads to the destruction of their society - including the world in which they will themselves live during old age and their friends, family and own children will have to live-in.

What this economic analysis is actually assuming is that the ruling elites are basically decent in the motivations, wanting the same things as everyone else, but seduced into the pursuit of selfish and short-termist behaviours about a few specific bad things like mass immigration, simply because they have been corrupted by power.


This does not make common sense.

On the one hand, the economic (secular Right) analysis assumes that the ruling elites are essentially good-motivated people who have been corrupted by power into long-termist (strategic) pursuit of their own short-termist selfishness

(for example mass immigration is being promoted now because will lead to cheap labour and electoral dominance in 5, 10 or 20 years)

- and yet, on the other hand, somehow, the predictable long-term massively destructive consequences to themselves and their friends and families of sustained mass immigration do not affect their policies.


The standard secular Right explanation for the wicked policies of the elites therefore assumes that the ruling Western elite are long-termist about achieving benefits but ignore inevitable long term harm; that they think strategically about economics, but about nothing else.

In a nutshell: the mainstream secular Right argue that the  dominant Leftist elites are strategically short-termist - which is an oxymoron.

This analysis does not make plain sense - of course it can be tortured into a semblance of sense by the addition of complex qualifiers; but that amounts to the same as saying it does not make sense. 


The actually-existing Western ruling elites are not like normal people

Therefore we should not judge them as if they were like normal people.

Especially we should not assume that they are motivated like normal people.

In particular we should not assume that their motivations are 'basically good'.


Some significant and dominant proportion of the Western ruling elites are basically evil in the sense of strategically seeking the destruction of good and good things, wherever and whenever they are found.

If they see a good marriage, or a happy family, an innocent child, or a beautiful building, or encounter a man of honesty and integrity - then their response is to hate it and want to deface it or destroy that goodness: break-up that marriage, pop-the-bubble of that family and rub their noses in filth, tattoo that child, demolish and replace that building, and corrupt that man of integrity into acts that violate his conscience.

If they encounter an argument which proves conclusively that their policies will certainly be widely destructive of good things and promoting of lies, ugliness and vice; they will inwardly nod, think 'thank you', and proceed with even greater determination having heard confirmation that this is a valid plan which will achieve its objectives.


The Western ruling elites will and do pursue evil policies even when they know that these policies will surely harm themselves, their families, and be destructive of everything they value and indeed love.

In fact it is not a case of 'even when' they know the policies will be destructive of good, it is 'because' the policies are destructive of good: that is what evil means.


And it you ask how it is possible for a person to be active in pursuit of evil, then I advise you to read the Old Testament (or Tolkien) for numerous examples.

Such people are not so much to be regarded as the ultimate origin of their own evil, but in the grip of evil; consenting to and embracing evil by an act of will which feeds upon itself.

But don't ever expect acknowledgment of truth from evil. It is characteristic and intrinsic of evil to lie.


People ask which is most likely "cock-up or conspiracy?" - incompetence or active planning?

Un-ask the question, these are not the options. Things are much worse than that.

The options are basically good people accidentally doing harm or purposive evil deliberately destroying good.

And it makes a big difference which is true; because if you treat purposive evil as if it was accidental harm, you will not stop it, but make matters worse.

When the destruction of good is actively (albeit covertly) being sought via policy; then starvation, disease and violence are seen as a feature, not a bug.



Robert in Arabia said...

I work with several of these people.

Bruce Charlton said...

Me too - Not work-with directly, but I mean that I have met some of this type in the institution as a whole.

Samson J said...

I find it so hard to understand. Not that I disagree with you, mind; just that I don't get it why anyone could or would hate beautiful things like a family, an innocent child, moral integrity...

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - I'm sorry to say that I don't find it hard to understand - I know what it is like from experience to have this *kind* of negative reaction to good - at least in *some* of its aspects. I suppose that may be my function in this business, that I can recollect what it is like to be essentially on the wrong side; not just in practice but in principle.

baduin said...

I do not see where the difficulty is.

Our elites think that the West is evil and should be destroyed. (see eg Nietsche, Heidegger, Foucault, or any postmoder writer). That destruction is their long term purpose.

At the same time, their actions must benefit them in short term, or they would stop being elites, and would be unable to do their duty, ie destroy the West. In addition, human frailty requires that they benefit from the destruction, or they would become dispirited and ineffective. But they say persistently what their true motivation is: the holy duty to destroy the West.

I too think that the modern West is evil and should be destroyed. I am not in a position to do anything about it, so I do nothing. In addition, I do not have anything ready to replace it, so I prefer to think things through before doing something.

In fact, from what you write, it seems that you also thinks that the modern West is evil and should be destroyed.

The necessity of this destruction seems to me so obvious that any intelligent and observant man must agree with it.

JP said...

Samson, if you are a Christian, the answer is obvious -- such people are under the influence or control of demons.

Ted Swanson said...

Bruce, do you suppose it is essentially revenge? They have lost their innocence, they have lost their integrity, therefore they must even the score and actively work towards ensuring that others will lose theirs as well? Basically, "if I can't have her no one will." They no longer dream, therefore no one else can dream either.

Bruce Charlton said...

@baduin - "In fact, from what you write, it seems that you also thinks that the modern West is evil and should be destroyed."

Ok - but let's be careful here! The elites want to destroy The Good - not The West as such, but only the Good things about it. In fact they want to preserve and expand the bad things about The West, ideally - although they are so Hell-bent on destruction that they cannot in fact be strategic at all.

So it seems I want the opposite from the elites! I want to preserve The Good even if it entails the destruction of The West; the elites want to destroy The Good, even if it means the preservation of (some aspects of) The West.

As you say - weakness means that they must benefit from the destruction of Good in the short term - and this is precisely what prevents them from being long-termist about what benefits them.

In sum: the elites are benefiting themselves in the short term as much as they can contrive; given their primary, overall strategic pursuit of the destruction of Good (and also the destruction of all the bad things that they value) in the long term.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ted, as I said in my book Thought Prison, I think a major motivation is the desperate, all consuming need for distraction and micro-motivation in a world understood to be meaningless, purposeless and indifferent to us. Hence the necessity for change, and when change is primary then destruction is almost inevitable and is developed as an inversion of Good, which is then unleashed in its own right.

Simon in London said...

You are right. Of course they redefine Good as Evil, making their destruction of the real Good into what they call Good. They find manifestations of real Good repulsive and disgusting. Most see themselves as Good, even as they work to destroy the real Good. A minority of sophisticates see themselves in more Nietzschean terms as beyond Good and Evil.

a Finn said...

The higher elites have many parts in their views. They pursue short term gains at the expense of others, producing lots of negative externalities to others, this is obvious.

Elites are not individually long termist, but they are collectively long termist in bizarre way. As they mostly lack any real religion, the only worthwhile large scale collective endeavour is global power, and self-worshipping their power. Power is their pseudo-religion. It is always in what they do; in the air around them; in their thoughts, at least implied; in the resources and substances they govern and direct; in their speeches and ideologies; in the bombastic spectacles they arrange; etc. Self-worshipping their own power is a form of vitalism philosophy and mindset. They don't need endurance, long term thinking and views, tenacity, consistency, etc. because the surrounding political and ideological atmosphere is always directing them towards global power. The long term power goals seamlessly and effortlessly merge with they daily short term activities and goals, in the same way that organizations goals blend into the activities of low level employees, but more forcefully, more consciously and more goal-orientedly.

Higher elites are also spurred on towards global power by "facts" and "reality", ie. artificial reality and artificial facts. They have arranged societies in general, information processing, economy, schooling, social obligations, organizations, rules, work, research, statistics, etc. in such a way that it always produces "realities" and "facts", which demand that the elites strive more towards global power (in extremely simplified and stupid way to reflect the lack of information processing capability of large complex organizations in relation to the complexity of reality).

Higher elites are optimists. Power increases optimism and inflates false beliefs about own capabilities and abilities. Elites think they can do, achieve and govern much more than they in reality can. Their pseudo-religion inflates their false beliefs further. Power increases selfishness, and their pseudo-religion enhances it further. Power increases stereotypical thinking (if they are not specifically instructed to avoid it), so the world seems to them simpler and more homogenous than it really is. Their peudo-religion raises that to higher levels.

Continued ...

Bruce Charlton said...


"So when something goes wrong in their plans, in the system, e.g. immigration causes problems, they tend to think optimistically, that eventually somehow in some way, things will be all right. And if not, they are wortwhile sacrifices citizens (not elites even in the long run, elites think) make for the global good, the world humanity, human rights, equality, etc. In essence, in this optimistic mindset elites can not do anything wrong.

Higher elites know that their whole business is at bottom a selfish racket. But they don't want to hear that. Elites want to think they are good people, genuine benefactors and the respected and pompous fathers of the whole humanity. So they have created ideological echo chambers to surround them, to tell them how good they are. When bureaucracies rapaciously robs more resources from the people to harmful purposes, it is because elites are following "sublime international human rights" principles. When elites give international big bankers thousands of billions of tax payers money when bankers have fraudulently and recklessly caused tremendous losses to themselves and others, it is because they "care so much about citizens, employment and economy".


Etc. It is psychologically much easier to do evil, when everybody around you tells you you are doing good and sublime things.

Liberal ideological word universe is designed to manipulate, lie, distort, obfuscate, etc. in such a way it enables and increases unobstructed and selected flows of the system, and strenghtens and increases the entities of the liberal system, and prevents or reduces other flows and entities. Every word is directly related to state or private bureaucratic power; international human rights, [...], democracy, racism, tolerance, individual choice, equality, etc. E.g. racism - tolerance word dipole is designed to create psychological and societal pressures and incentives towards tolerance which enables immigration and multiethnic society, which gives cheap labor, bureaucratic clients, local market clients and political clients to the system. This makes the elites richer, and gives them more power and more work opportunities.

Also, ideological word membrane serves as a protective layer. People direct their attention and expend their energies fighting against or for words like human rights, racism, [...] equality, etc. and thus the system, the large complex organizations, and elites can peacefully function and work under the surface. Bureaucratic organizational functions are the essence of the system, not liberal ideology. The teeming action of civil society is directed to harmless and/or useful predetermined channels.

All these factors cohere with each other and strengthen each other, and create, among other things, the mentality of the elites.


a Finn said...

I am a bit perplexed by these edits. E.g. I am not against individual choice as such, but as a liberal repressive ideological principle, which can be used to e.g. dictate ways of operating to non-liberal organizations. Oz Conservative, among others, writes regularly about individual choice as a distorted liberal principle:

Also, are all links banned, or were there other reasons for their disappearance? They were matter-of-fact in their content.

Bruce Charlton said...

@a Finn - As a blogger under my own name and address in a hostile polity - I need to hold comments to the same level of abstractness and non-specificity as I must myself abide by.

I didn't have time to check the links you provided which is why I did not include them.

Apologies for this, but as someone who uses a pseudonym you will know why.

Valkea said...

Is this more suitable version of the chapter, which can be published?:

"Power's psychological effects can be activated by having actual power (Anderson & Berdahl, 2002), by recalling a time when one had power over others (Galinsky et. al. 2003) or by being exposed, even subliminally, to words related to power (Bargh et. al. 1995; Zhong, Galinsky, Magee & Maddux, 2009).

Higher elites are optimists. Power increases optimism and inflates beliefs about own abilities. Elites think they can do, achieve and govern more than they in reality can. (Anderson & Galinsky, 2006; Gruenfeld et. al. 2009) Their culture (or pseudo-religion) inflates these false beliefs further. Power increases selfishness and using others instrumentally (Gruenfeld et. al. 2008, Zhong et. al. 2009), and elite culture enhances it further. Power increases stereotypical thinking. Elites tend to process information differently from others by focusing on global rather than on local features of stimuli; concentrating on big picture instead of details (if they are not specifically instructed to avoid it), so the world seems to them simpler and more homogenous than it really is (Guinote, 2007b; Milliken, Magee, Lam & Menezes 2008). Their culture raises this to higher levels."

I also wrote this chapter more clearly:

Elites are not individually long termist, but they are collectively long termist in an unusual way. As they mostly lack any real religion, the only worthwhile long termist collective endeavour is global power, and self-worshipping their power. Power resembles to some extent religion to them. It is a long tradition, originating in it's modern form in various secret or semi-secret societies of intellectuals and elites in the 18th century, from where it spread to larger and more public elite circles. It is almost always fused in one way or another to what they do; implied or explicit in their thoughts; in the way they govern and direct resources and collectives; in their speeches and ideologies; in the bombastic spectacles they arrange; etc. It is self-evident, effortless and natural culture to them, like a certain language and customs are to us in our daily life. Thus they don't need *individual* endurance, long term thinking, tenacity, consistency, etc. The surrounding political, economic and ideological atmosphere is always directing them towards global power. The long term power goals seamlessly merge with their daily short term activities and goals, in the same way that organizations goals blend into the activities of employees, but more forcefully, more consciously and more goal-orientedly.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Valkea/ a Finn - I think I understand your argument, and it is coherent - but I don't think it is ultimately correct.

The idea that elites worship power as a religion seems arbitrary and does not ring true with my experience.

I believe the ultimate 'motivation' of Western elites is negative - rejection of Christianity; and this leads, incrementally, to a submission to purposive evil (i.e. Satan, the Devil, demons...) .

It is (I believe) purposive evil which provides the long term motivation.

The elites are deceived and 'led by the nose' to serve this long-term goal of destroying The Good (which will inevitably lead to the annihilation of the elites, both collectively and individually) by short term incentives and threats.

For example lyingly promising and offering for the short-term whatever-it-takes to make them do whatever-is-necessary (sexual lures, the lure of comfort, diversion, power fantasies, non-specific hopes of ultimate enlightenment, threats of mockery ostracism violence... whatever-it-takes).

a Finn said...

It is possible that there are differences in Finnish elites and British elites, and thus our experiences are different. Finnish elites have traditionally been out of central power, and British elites have been in the center of power, hence the elite traditions are different. In Finland, excluding the nationalistic period, elites have traditionally fantasized about power/status/position that is somewhere else, in a far away fairytaleland, almost paradise, where everything is perfect. Today the paradise for the Finnish elites is Eu. One generation ago it was Soviet Union. They revere and worship Eu power in such child-like, uncritical and submissive ways, that is embarassing and disgusting to outside observers.

Together with this goes their hatred of Finns (excluding themselves to some extent, but also self-flagellation is common). You don't hear engineers or psysicists or physicians or such persons hating Finns. The more worthless humanistic education an elite member has, or the more vain or harmful his state, private or media job is, in general the more he hates Finns. They also complain how they are not valued and understood properly, and alternatively either threaten to leave Finland or dream intensively about the fairytaleland somewhere. The truth is of course that they are as useless and harmful abroad as they are in Finland, nobody wants them or needs them. It would be great relief if they would genuinely be capable of leaving. The original tragedy was that they were educated to such unnecessary jobs and not some practical and better paying jobs. Also, one suspects that certain negativistic, defeatist (masochistic), constant complainers and such personality types concentrate disproportinately to those said fields. When Finnish elites negotiate with Eu or work there, they get objectively the worst deals and terms, highest net payments, lowest Eu investments, etc. Other elites exploit the reverence and submissiveness of Finnish elites, and they are assigned to helper-boy positions and eating crumbs falling from the tables of big players. Because of these reasons elites are likely hated more and valued less in Finland than in any other European country, perhaps excluding those European countries where there are big acute crises.

These negative elites are mostly middle level elites, proxies, but the problem is they are in a symbiotic relationship with the higher elites, and actively or tacitly encouraged by them. Higher elites in general don't seem to care about the philosophical and existential questions of the middle level elites, but practical questions. And because of the way the liberal system is arranged, higher elites get advantages by destroying middle level and independent social structures, so that in liberal final ideal optimum, there would be central bureaucratic power, and freely flowing atomistic individuals, who are collectivisticly regulated by central power. The atoms flow and function according to the needs of large complex organizations without any social, religious, ethnic, nationalistic, cultural, language, sex, sexual orientation, family tie, etc. reason preventing, obstructing or slowing the flows and functions of the liberal system. This is the higher elites' self-interested practical reason to be so destructive. This kind of global power is harmful to the humanity and in the long run to the elites also.

That they evil in biblical manner, yes I agree ...

Bruce Charlton said...

@a Finn - Very interesting - thanks.

baduin said...

I live in another marginal EU country and I must confirm that this kind of colonial thinking is common here, too.

However, EU is at best the secondary centre. The true fairyland of modernity was and remains in USA. USA is the source which legitimizes all those minor countries and progressive movements there.

It is as if Eden or Heaven was a country on Earth and you could go and visit it. It is not surprising that there are very few unbelievers.

Luqman said...

The secular right does not believe in the Enemy and so are unable to see him. They come close, but will ultimately resort to unsatisfactory reductive and materialist arguments. It is the Godless who most easily come under his grip in various guises. Always starting out good, or well intentioned, and turning into evil.

George Goerlich said...

What could possibly go wrong?

ajb said...

Re: population curve,

The current rate of global growth is not increasing exponentially, it is slowing - contra the impression given in that graph.

The global marginal baby cohort decreased from 2010 to 2011, and is projected to continue decreasing. This is the beginning of global population contraction - given current trends, it will take about 40-50 years for absolute global population (following what is already happening with marginal cohorts) to begin to decrease.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - I think we have discussed this before; but while the rate of population growth may be slowing, and of course nothing can increase exponentially for very long once it becomes large - the population in some places is certainly increasing fast.

The population of the UK is not being accurately measured (although, of course, to do this would be facile - which means it is deliberately being underestimated - for example numbers and whereabouts of illegal immigrants/ asylum seekers are not available) - but the growth is clearly very rapid in terms of incoming numbers of people - something like 400,000 a year over the past decade plus, probably more sometimes. The US population is also increasing fast. Some parts of Africa have seen population doublings every 15 or so years for long enough that the median age is mid-teens. And so on. SO there are a lot more people, and of course the people being born are very different from the people dying of old age.

In sum, we are in the midst of one of the most profound demographic transformations in human history - both in terms of the size but even more so the composition of the population of the world.

Yet this is barely mentioned.

Proph said...

Samson's question is apropos. The left's hatred of the good really is mysterious. So is Satan's hatred of God. So was the hatred of those who crucified Christ. And actually "mysterious" isn't really a good word, since a mystery is something which has an ultimate answer or explanation and this really doesn't. It's "irrational." You have to be content with the fact that there is no rational explanation for why people hate beautiful architecture, happy families, etc. It doesn't make sense.

At least not distally, but maybe proximally. Eric Voegelin wrote about it and I experienced a minor crisis recently that helped me to make sense of it. Christianity as a whole, "the good" as a whole, is a terribly difficult thing to accept and embrace, and the payoff seems so minor and insubstantial to those without the eyes of faith, and easy to lose sight of even with those who have them. For a sufficiently holy soul it may well be easy to persevere in the faith, but getting to "sufficiently holy" requires a real act of the will for which many people just aren't cut out. In the process of getting there it is easy to experience holiness as an insufferable burden, to hunger for something (seemingly) more solid and substantial, then to make choices that favor and advantage those things over holiness -- and then to have to make choices that help you to rationalize those earlier choices -- and then you are committed to the course, and repentance becomes progressively more difficult.