We’re at a point in human history when civilisation is changing faster and in ways that will leave it different forever. It only follows that the people must be changing too. During the long soulless hours of isolation I’ve found myself asking:
Am I changing for the better or worse?
There’s no other way to describe these times other than terrifying. Societally and as individuals we’re being forced into making decisions, and ways of living, that we’ve not been prepared for. The structure and order of our societies had to be rebuilt out of the wastelands of World War II, this structure and order is being threatened. If you’re unable to see the pachyderm at your drinks party hitting on your spouse, let me make this easier for you; we are looking into the abyss.
Pandemic, collapse of the global economy, unemployment leading to an inevitable global depression; reduced manufacturing, oil scarcity, reduction in the capacity of food production resulting in famines that the Bible would consider hyperbole; civil disorder, racial tensions, the continuation of eternal religious conflicts, environmental collapse, and energy crises. If just some of these happen as a result of COVID-19, we’re in trouble. If most of them happen, as I am compelled to believe the may well, we’re on for a global reset.
According to the ancient Chinese Book of Change, The I Ching, the symbol of the Tao, dates back to at least 200 BCE. A circle divided in two halves, yin and yang. The symbol intends to represent the oneness of man and the surrounding cosmos. The two halves representing the complimentary pairs of male and female. The I Ching, as it’s name infers, The Book of Change, tells us that mankind has been attuned to fluctuations between moments of chaos and order for thousands of years. Taoism is a religion based on the impermanence of the cosmos and that limitless shifts between hope and despair, life and death are the norm. It proves that such events are an immutable part of the cosmic order. And it’s reasonable to say, that one such event is happening now.
Current circumstances tell us that in our area of the cosmos chaos has taken dominion over structure and order. It is inevitable that under such an existential, and environmental uncertainty, that many of us feel heightened levels of anxiety. (I’m freaking terrified right now, and it’s the reason I’m writing this.)
Even though it might feel as if we have wandered into a metaphorical, valley of darkness, my purpose in writing these two posts, is to help reduce some of your suffering and put some love back into that sad, scared, and lonely heart.
It’s nothing new for suffering to play a part in everyone’s lives, the world’s major religions use this foundational message at the core of their beliefs. But what feels unprecedented is the universality of the suffering in the world. As a person who doesn’t subscribe to any faith, I’m uncertain of this being the actual apocalypse, but I’m keen on it being so. Some Christians might refer to their mythology and believe these times are the apocalypse. Christianity anthropomorphises the apoclypse through the symbolic Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Right now, maybe you’re thinking that this is nothing more than another blog promoting fear-mongering. Such a thought is understandable, even inevitable for many of us. Fear porn, along with actual pornography are the most prominent genres of material to appear on the internet. It’s my purpose to help you understand the gravity of the current situation. But it remains you’re choice, whether you ignore the warnings I’m about to set out. You always keep the right to ignore the elephant in the room.
COVID-19 and Religions
The spiritual texts of the Abrahamic religions have achieved an unprecedented level of success in their ability to remain valid. Even after two thousand years, they continue to influence and retain cultural relavence. It is the paragon of ignorance to deny this fact. I’m agnostic, but I’m very comfortable acknowledging the profound hold these faiths have had, and continue to have on our world. But how have they achieved this?
They achieved this because of one simple but profound reason, they contain ineluctable elements of wisdom that are fundamental truths of nature of the human condition. That might not sound so simple, basically these books tell us: who we are; why we behave the way we do; how it’s desirable for us to behave; what we desire; virtues (good habits); and sins (bad habits). As well as generally encouraging us not to behave like complete dicks. They’ve provided the rules and laws that enabled humans to start living in ever bigger communities. And ever bigger communities generated greater wealth.
Earlier I listed the types of upheval and chaos that I expect COVID-19 to have and cause. And I genuinely see the potential for each of them occuring to a variety of degrees. But there is one area of society that upon which all other areas of our societies depend.
Economic failure will result in the systemmmic failure of our societies as we know them. Should our economies fail, the rule of law, public order, claims to property, food, healthcare, sanitation, medicene, the list is endless, but each of these will to some extent lessen, or cease to exist.
Economic Collapse Post COVID-19
Whilst I am certain that the consequences of COVID-19 will be far reaching in both their space and time. At the moment, COVID-19 is affecting almost every industry and community around the world, and it’s likely to continue doing so for many, many, years to come. I’m thinking more in the terms of a generations ‘ball park’. Denying a generation the hope of upward mobility and prosperity, and replacing it with decades of poverty is going to profoundly affect the lives Once the hope of upward mobility, and prosperity is denied to a generation of people.
Modern society is one that was built around the combustion engine and the burning of fosil fuels. The Baby Boomers grewp following World War II in the most prosperous generation, for the masses, in history. The world needed rebuilding, there was a population explosion there to build it. More people than ever before were in employment, producing more goods, buying more things and paying more tax. Land was affordable, they bought houses, the value of which they saw ascend on a never ending escalator. Baby Boomers worked hard, but the conditions for their economic prosperity were optimal.
Thre’s nearly always a correlation in the relationship between the potential prosperity of an individual and the actual prosperity of their society. It’s now become obvious that anyone aged betweeen 15 and 30, the younger Millennials and start of of Generation Z, that their prospects are going to be worse than both their parents, and their granparents, Genrations X and the Baby Boommers. Generation Z will become the second consecutive generation to inherit a period generational economic decline. The question that needs to be asked is: how do we expect these people to live lives of diminished hope?
This is important because it flouts a rule that is embedded in our evolutionary psyche. Nature determines whether species live or die, flourish or struggle. Because humanity’s prospects are so tightly bound to their economy, it’s becomming abundantly obvious to anyone aged betweeen 15 and 30, the younger Millennials and start of of Generation Z, that their prospects are going to be worse than both their parents, and their grandparents, Genrations X and the Baby Boommer generation to . Indeed, Generation Z will become the second consecutive generation to inherit a period generational economic decline. They are two generations for whom it’s realistic that they will endure significant periods of unemployment. Will be employed in a number of jobs that have unrelated skills. Two generations that will in all likelihood see reductions in worker’s rights. When unemployment is high people don’t tend to care how they’re treated, as long as they have a little bit of money to show for their effort. Temporary contracts, limited healthcare, maternity and paternity rights are realistic scenarios when unemployment s high.
Today’s quality of life is almost a reflection of societal systems underwritten by an economy which is man’s greatest work of fiction.
Why Economic Collapse Is Inevitable
This is an area I’ll actually cover in more detail at a later date, it deserves a more thorough explanation than I have the room for here. Here I’ll give an overview of the collapse, leaving the finer details in part II.
Understanding Definitions is paramount if we’re to understand the severity of this current situation. When I refer to economic collapse I am referring to the end of our fiat based economies. Fiat economies are ones in which the government prints currency. It is then believed that this currency has a value that can be used in exchange for goods and services. I believe this to be quixotic fantasy, no less foolish than building castles on the sand. For further, more in depth information, I recommend reading the work of Dmitry Orlov.
New Yorker, reporter, John Cassidy wrote in a recent article:
Cassidy suggests that, Carney, and the Bank of England became aware of high risk economic practices on Wall Street that haven’t undergone the changes necessary to prevent the exact same thing happening as in 2008. The essence of his article implies that the Bank of England was aware, and concerned about a decline in the lending standards in corporate debt markets, is almost the exact equal of the sub-prime debacle
If you’re still reading this I assume that you’re in agreement that the economic fall out of COVID-19 is going to be signifiicant, but may be reluctant to agree with my prediction of a complete collapse of the fiat system, bringing an end to currency as we know it.
Okay, what does your more optimistic scenario look like? We know that there’s going to be enormous recession/depression fueled by unemployment. In turn, this triggers a reduction in taxes received, resulting in sub optimal funding of public services. The unemployed will have to find money by fair means or foul, so an increase in crime is inevitable. The reduction in public funding means the police needed to deal with the increase in crime, will not exist. Poverty, results in poorer diets leading to obesity, diabetes, or other health complications. It causes stress which is known to heighten the risk of developing cancer. And if you’ve been lucky enough to survive all that, you have a proclivity to fall into drug and alcohol addiction, be at a greater risk of depression and according to a, 2003 study by a team of New Zealand doctors, proved that people between the ages of 18 and 64, who are unemployed are between two and three times more likely to commit suicide. If history’s taught us one thing, it’s that poverty sucks.
Ploughing the Fields of Hopelessness
And when one of these people do get a job, they’re so grateful that they’ll work till they drop to make enough to feed themselves. They can’t afford aspirations to improve their lot, for fear of appearing ungrateful. Read, Steinbeck’s, Grapes of Wrath. Mass unemployment and a depressed employment market erodes hope. And hope isn’t just a word you expect to see appearing in the inscriptions of Hallmark cards. Hope can be is also a noun, and a verb. The noun names the feeling, whilst the verb is the feeling. To be robbed of the ability to feel hope is a desperate state of affairs. Hope is an emotion that has survived millions of years of natural selection. Hope and evolution has interested psychologists. What purpose does hope play in maximising our abilities to survive, procreate and pass on our genes?
Rats, Religion and the Power of Hope
Let me warn you that psychology experiments conducted soon after World War II are notorious for their ignorance of ethics.
The purpose of Richter’s morbid interest, to compare how long domesticated rats survived compared to their wild counterparts. Richter discovered that the domesticated rats, despit not needing to swim in their day to day environments, far out performed the wild rats.
The explanation given is that the domesticated rats were used to being helped by handlers and were writing to be saved. While being far superior swimmers, the wild rats drowned sooner as once they had understood that there was no escape they gave up.
If you’ve read all and been left to feel that has lingered in each and every sentence, you have started to understand what’s about to happen. To have any chance of making good decisions over the next twelve months, it’s imperative to understand the scale of the events that are resulting from COVID-19. Hope is essential in the challenges that lay ahead.
in Part II I promise hope, chicken soup for your soul.
Prepare Yourself to travel the road less traveled, and prepare for that road to be long. Prepare for a second wave of infection, economic, political and social chaos.
We are a part of a physical universe, one determined by cause and effect. As causes go, COVID-19 has been the mother-load and will go on to reaping unprecedented effects on our development as a species. This might sound dramatic, I hope so, but the truth is even more extensive and frightening. The road we chose as individuals and as societies will determine the future of humanity.
A greater than 20 per cent reduction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at it’s most basic, means that there’s 20 per cent less cash, an economist will try telling you it’s more complicated than that, and I know they’re right, but they will agree it it means that we’ve all got a shed lot less money. This in turn might lead to societies losing confidence in the value of their money, causing either hyper-inflation or deflation, and the economic collapse of some currencies.
It’s difficult to explain how profound a 20% drop in GDP is, but let’s give it a try anyway. Less money for people to buy things equals less tax revenue, this results in a degradation of society’s infrastructure and services. Meanwhile causing a dramatic increase in unemployment, (In the United States unemployment through march and April, has been at 14%, a total of 21 million people, but here’s the catch, 15 million of these are recorded as short term unemployed. Meaning that when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they should be returning to their old jobs. Entertaining the idea that everyone will return to their old job is infantile at best. A percentage of those 15 million will return to their old jobs. That percentage is a critical variable, because it’s unemployment that is the key to how long this depression lasts.
Unemployment will be the engine that fuels this economic collapse. Unemployed people go from tax paying citizens contributing financially to the state, to citizens on welfare taking money out of the state. Looked at as a number on a spreadsheet, an unemployed person goes from being an asset to the state, to an economic liability. The reduction in wages being paid, leads to less money being spent on goods, services and taxes, is, likely to drive the prices of things down, based on the simple premise that demand will be so low in non essential items. Essential items, i.e. food and medicines, could see dramatic inflation as supply lines have been so disrupted that demand will come close to, and in some cases might, out strip supply. So things you don’t need, luxury items, will become cheaper. Things you need to live will become more expensive. So, from what I can tell ,,in the future millions will die of starvation whilst immersed in an alternative universe projected by their iPhone X50 Deluxe. This leads to a rabbit hole question scenario:
If I die of starvation in the four dimensional reality I’ve lived in thus far, does my avatar go on living as meaningless an existence as I did?
How the West Was Lost
Why are western countries finding it much more difficult to get COVID-19 under control, compared to the majority of the world, and particularly East Asian countries? The amount of UV is a scientific hypothesis under review, but I’m well aware of fundamental societal issues that are having an impact.
I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for almost twenty years. I’m acutely aware of how western, and by western I’m referring to European and North American countries, have approached handling COVID_19 when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam and Thailand.
The most obvious difference with the Asian countries is their capacity to mobolise their citizens at a moments notice. In Thailand, the government often declares that its people should wear a black shirt the following day in respect of someone significant having just died. That order could come late on in the day, but I can assure you that the next day 80% of people will be wearing black shirts.
This mentality to follow orders is out of respect of the hierachal structure; right down from village communities with the headsman, up to Kings, presidents, or prime ministers. Conformity is respected. It’s regarded as having respect for others and foments a strong sense of community. Wearing face-masks, social distancing, isolation, shutdown, and implementing systems of contact tracing, has been easy in these countries where the community is regarded as more important than the individual.
During COVID-19, I’ve seen Western leaders repeating themselves with the same requests. Eventually their message attains a critical mass within the consciousness of the population, but this doesn’t result in compliance. The next stage of public reaction is to start asserting your individual liberties, a perception that your government can’t demand that you do anything. Hence we’ve seen the most bizarre reaction to governments asking their citizens to adopt wearing face-masks.
The contrast between western ideology of liberty, and eastern collectivism has gone unnoticed since the collapse of communism. But the United States, which is predicated on an ideology of liberty, individual freedom, has struggled to get its citizens unified to fight the common viral threat. In many of these countries when a leader tells their people to do something the people ask, why?
It begs the question of western democracy, why elect a representative who you will only go on to ignore?
The Ship of State – Demagogues, Democracy, and Socrates
In his book, The Republic, Plato defends the virtues of democracy to his teacher, Socrates, through what has become known as, The Parable of the Ship.
Plato describes society as a ship, with the electorate being represented by the ship’s owner who must decide who captain’s the ship. Each of the able seamen lobby the owner, making their case for why they should captain the ship. Plato even acknowledges the fact that it’s reasonable to expect the candidates to get the owner drunk, or offer bribes. But one of these men must be chosen by the ship’s owner. As the people in a democracy, the people must chose a leader.
Socrates disliked both the idea of democracy and his student’s analogy. Socrates feared that such a system leads to demagoguery:
As with the economy, change doesn’t mean polar opposite, but to make different. There are many things that are perfect with democracy, it’s just that as times change, so do means.
COVID-19 is likely to necessitate changes to our economy, such a moment in history makes it only obvious that we reappraise our democracies. Many countries have seen the standards onboard their ships of democracy degenerate, and start to resemble the conditions of , The Raft of Medusa.
Economic Recovery or Renaissance
If you say that today’s economic system is unjust, what some people hear is, “I’m a Marxist, wealth is evil and can only be achieved through exploitation and the theft of other people’s hard work.” but there is a middle ground. There are ways to make our economies work more justly for everyone. (As soon as you use the words ‘economy’ and, ‘everyone’ in the same sentence, somewhere, somebody’s Marxist alarm gets triggered.)
While I do say that today’s system is unjust, I’m more opposed to Marxist philosophy solving the problem. We can’t be so black and white, so absolutist in our rhetoric. The former Soviet Union and numerous eastern European countries provided us with categorical evidence that communism is an economic system that doesn’t work. Meanwhile, the 2008 global financial crisis made it pretty clear that capitalism has its failings too. Think of adjustments as opposed to complete change, or reversal.
At the very start of Part I, I asked myself a question about these challenging times:
Am I changing for the better, or worse?
We’re being asked to confront challenges of a nature no human has ever had to confront. Don’t rely on others to deal with those changes for you. Don’t expect someone else to come to rescue you. You alone are responsible for yourself and your dependents. It’s your duty to protect them. Ask yourself, are you changing for the better, or worse?
You will get through COVID-19, but the question is how will you get through it? Remember, Noah didn’t begin building the arc when it started to rain. Be smart, consider situations, be critical about the information you receive. There will be suffering, but how much you suffer is down to you. Are you changing for the better, or worse.
These are trying times, and they’re likely to be time of great social change. It’s when things are most difficult that change and progress happen. When we are tried, we become inventive. Adversity often brings out the best in us.
Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.
These days will pass, what we become might not be what we were, but that can be a positive. Although change comes with feelings of uncertainty, it always has the potential to be change can be for the good. But don’t look to others to make your changes for you. You are your own work of art, and you are the sculptor. How you change, and what you become; you decide.
Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.
You could be forgiven for thinking these unprecedented times would provide even the most unimaginative person something to write about. But not me, despite race wars, and existential pandemics I’m writing about a poem. And like that, 95% of my readers disappeared. The truth is that I’ve been unable to make sense out of the chaos. I’ve been unable to find a perspective that could either offer comfort, or justify somebody spending their time reading what I have to say. I’ve been waiting for a way of contextualising this event. And after two months I’ll make my contribution to these interesting times.
As a rule I’m not a big fan of poetry. Its proclivity for self indulgent wallowing, its use of abstract symbolism and imagery. And that it nearly always focuses on the topics of love, unrequited love, and existential angst. But when I do find a poem I like, I often find it to be profound. Ozymandias came to mind as a poem that can help us to make sense of these transformative times.
I’m going to give some backstory to the poem, I do this as it helps to establish the context in which the text was written, but it also helps me to look like I might know something of what I’m talking about.
Ozymandias is a sonnet, I studied it each year with my grade twelve high-school students. Written by Percy Byshee Shelley, in 1818, (Shelley, expelled from Oxford University for having published an essay titled, The Necessity of Atheism. The essay printed in the coastal town of Worthing, in 1811. Having spent two years living in Worthing I find this to be unbelievable. I was unaware that people Worthing could read. The fact that they were responsible for printing an essay written by one of the greatest authors of the second wave of the Romantic poets, blows my mind. That’s just lost me all my Worthing readers.
Shelley was an atheist at a time when such ideas actually meant something. A time when such having such a belief got him expelled from the University of Oxford. Today’s academic atheists commercially capitalise on peddling their godless, freethinking, common sense to impressionable students as though it were all their own idea, when in truth it was people like Shelley who paved the way. Unlike Richard Dawkins, Shelley suffered for his ideas. Whilst Dawkins has amassed a wealth estimated at $10 million for essentially repeating the same message, just using things like biology, evolution and evidence based reasons. If Shelley were alive today he’d be kicking himself, or more likely he’d be kicking Dawkins. I rather suspect that he’d struggle coming to terms with the fact that he died almost penniless, but would go on to be studiedextensively for the next two hundred years, while Professor Dawkins would go on to become a tenured professor at the university which expelled him. I guess times, ideas and values change and looking for the hypocrisy in history is but a fool’s errand.
Expelled from Oxford, but making waves in the social circle of atheism, Shelley eloped with, Mary, the daughter of William Godwin, one of England’s most prominent eighteenth century atheists. Thus she became Mary Shelley, author of the greatest romantic Gothic novel, Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus. The strong atheism of her father and husband appear through out the story.
Mary Shelley’s father is of interest as it is common knowledge that Godwin once had dined with Thomas Paine. One can only guess what they discussed, but can be sure that it was all Common Sense. In case you missed it, that was an absolutely brilliant literature joke with overtones on the American Revolution. Maybe some of this will come up in a pub quiz one day. You remember, the pub, back in the days when we would go outside, a place where people would socialise?)
So, what’s this got to do with COVID-19 you might be asking? And you should be asking this question by now. Being the inquisative reader I know you are, I’m sure you’re asking yourselff, what has a piece of early nineteenth century poetry got to do with a pandemic, and the brutal murder of a black man by the police? If you’re not asking this, then I really wouldn’t bother reading any further.
So here it is, with no further ado, or fanfare, because let’s face it, fanfares are prone to being anticlimatic when used in prose; Shelley’s Ozymandias:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Did you enjoy that? Are you with me in its profundity? Do you appreciate the lens it provides us with, through which we can view our new world of hell? Well for the sake of giving me something to write I’m going to have to assume that you don’t.
Without wasting time on such nonsense as the rhyme scheme, enjambments, and the differences between a Petrachan and English Sonnets, I’m going to give it to you straight; Shelley’s Ozymandias is foreshadowing the collapse of the British Empire.
Now that might not seem like much today, but at the time it was profound idea. The British Empire of Shelley’s time resembled the Empire from Star Wars, and makes the United States of today look like a less cute, more obese version of the Ewoks. Suggesting to people the imminent collapse of the British Empire would’ve been met with the sort of derision reserved for those who said there wasn’t a god.
But does Shelley go even further? Some think that he is being more philosophical about the nature of existence itself. All things change, all things must come to an end come to an end. Shelley’s decision to use Ozymandias as a symbol of impermanence is done for a paradoxical effect. Ozymandias is the name the Greeks gave to the pharaoh, Ramses II. Ozy, meaning air, and mandias, from the word mandate, meaning to rule, thus ruler of the air we breathe. That’s power. Shelley uses the juxtaposition of great power and collapse to demonstarate that everything gives way to the passage of time. As those Christians say, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That might have helped me keep some Christians reading.
It’s from Shelley’s choice of symbolism that we can apply some meaning to today’s chaos. Shelley was something of an iconoclast, strong enough in his atheistic convictions to lose his place at Oxford, it isn’t surprising that he held reservations on the validity of monarchy. Shelley moved in the sorts of social circles that affected how societies were being run. On one known of occasion his father in law when kept the company of Thomas Paine. If you’re not sure, Thomas Paine was a very influential dude regarding America gaining independence from Great Britain.
Shelley’s sonnet falls into one of a triumvirate of interpretations. Taken at its most literal it talks of a collapsed statue that symbolises the passing Eygpt’s greatest pharaoh, and the end of the Egyptian Empire.
Losing the colonies coupled with domestic instability led King George III to be known as the Mad King
There’s good reason to interpret the sonnet as a satirical effort to ridicule the reigning monarch, King George III, whose empire was humiliated after losing the colonies just years before Percy Shelley’s birth. Indeed the losing of the colonies was interpreted by some as the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Something that shelley symbolically parallels with the fall of Ozymandias’s statue.
History suggests that Shelley kept the company of, or those who were the associates of people that were instrumental in securing the colonies their liberty. The greatest suspicion of this rests with how well Shelley, and Thomas Paine were acquainted. Paine wrote the influential pamphlet Common Sense, advocating the thirteen original colonies declare independence from Great Britain. Paine published Common Sense in 1776. Paine met Shelley’s father in law at a dinner in 1791, although it is said they thought little of one another, their mixing in the same social circles can’t be ignored.
Shelley eloped with Godwin’s sixteen year old daughter in 1814. It’s not unreasonable to infer that Shelley wasn’t in favour with Godwin, and that perhaps their differences included their respective opinions of the monarchy. It is interesting to note however, that Shelley was an admirer of both the works of Thomas Paine, and Mary Wollstonecraft, Godwin’s wife, the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Mary Wollstencraft would have been his mother in law, but died giving birth to Mary. This is all supposition, but the association of Paine, Godwin, and Shelley, at the very least derives intrigue insofar as the influence they had during their lifetimes and their legacies after them.
Three lines standout as possibly drawing attention to Shelley’s cynicism of King George III:
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
As the sculptor is a statue’s creator, so is Shelley the creator of this sonnet. These lines suggest that the inevitable immortality of King Ramses II is outlived by the artist’s creation. Is it possible Shelley is making the same allusion to King George III?
The use of the word mocked is of particular interest because of its dual meaning. Mocked could mean to make, or create the sculpture, or to mock can be interpreted as the artist making fun of their muse. But the possibility chance of Shelley not having deliberately chosen ing this word is ridiculous.
Finally it’s reasonable to view this sonnet through the lens of Shelley’s atheism. There is one line in the sonnet that screams that Shelley may well have been refering to his belief in the inevitable collapse of Christianity. Line ten: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: is where Shelley’s most notably mocks Christianity and Jesus. Numerous times the Bible refers to Jesus as, “Lord of Lords”, but inn the Bible’s final book of Revelation 19:16 reads:
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
The similarities between these two lines are too obvious to be worthy of drawing comparisons, but they are a clear reference about how Shelley perceived the Christian faith as being comparable to a powerful ruler which will ultimately collapse and be forgotten.
So, What Shelley Is Saying to Us Today?
These three interpretations of Shelley’s sonnet are pretty much the standard fare regurgitated by English teachers in classrooms throughout the United Kingdom and North America. And they’re perfectly acceptable, but what makes a work of art immortal is if it can transcend time, and Ozymandias is perhaps the most apropos example of this. Just as Shelley’s wife’s book, Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus is a cautionary tale of unfettered scientific progress, Ozymandias is a cautionary tale of the imperative and inevitable collapse of things. Be they great things on the macro scale such as kings, countries, empires, law and order, economies, philosophies, down to our most micro unit, ourselves. Change is always happening, nothing escapes the clutches of time. The Greek, Egyptian, and Roman Empires lasted for far greater periods than the United States hegemony. Empires and all that comes with them, sooner or later come to an end.
The public reaction to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of those responsible for upholding the law, is shaking the foundations of the country, and so it should. In a land where all are born equal, there shouldn’t be a need to repeat the cry of, Patrick Henry:
“Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Many of us are wondering what will be left of our society after COVID-19, and the murder of George Floyd? But, keep in mind that a more pertinent question might be not what’s going to collapse, but what’s likely to be left standing?
Heavyweight boxing hasn’t been so loaded with talent since the 1960’s. Wilder, Joshua, Fury, Ruiz, Jospeh Parker, Dillian Whyte, Aleksander Usyk, and Daniel Dubois, have all been title holders, or are all contenders. Wilder Fury 2 promises to kick off what should be the most interesting and dramatic year in the history of the heavyweight division.
It’s my opinion that while both fighters stand to gain the same if they win, if they lose Fury will suffer the greater setback. Wilder has accumulated a record of 43 fights, 42 wins, 41 by knock out. This record pretty much guarantees Wilder’s next fight to be a title fight if he loses. For Fury it’s different, because of his inability to build a record during his three years away from the ring. A loss for Fury would leave him with a record of 1 loss in 31 fights, good but not as attractive as Wlder’s.
At thirty-four years of age, Wilder must be looking to take the fights that the public want to spend the money for on pay per view. For either of these fighters this is can be a career defining moment. A Wilder win would build add to his legacy and lead to a big fight with Usyk, or Joshua. A Fury win will elevate his status to the number one heavyweight, and build on the enigma that is, Tyson Fury.
What’s Happened Since the First fight?
One thing that isn’t in doubt is the difference in the quality of the competition Wilder and Fury have fought since the first fight. Both have fought twice, with Wilder making two title defences against opponents with a combined record of, 51 wins and 2 losses. The losses coming in title fights against Wilder and Anthony Joshua.
Fury’s two fights were against opponents with a combined record of 46 wins and no losses, but his opponents have never had title fights, nor fights against world title contenders.
Wilder scored two brutal knockout victories while Fury, against unarguably lesser opposition, won by technical knockout and a unanimous points decision. If quality of opponent has an effect on the outcome of this fight, Wilder is far superior.
Away from the Ring
The Wilder, Tyson brands are big business. Deontay Wilder is worth an estimated $30 million. For his last fight against Luis Ortiz, he was paid $3 million. For this fight Wilder and Fury will split their share of the pay per view money 50/50. With each pay per view costing $80, it’s reasonable to expect both fighters to be earning upward of $10 million.
But there’s more to both these fighters than their extraordinary wealth. Wilder became a father at the age of nineteeen. His daughter, Naieya was born with the debilitating condition spina bifida. In order to cover the extensive medical bills, Wilder took up boxing.
Fury’s greatest challenge is himself. After winning the world championship against the Ukranian, Wladimir Klitschko in November, 2015 Fury wouldn’t fight again for nearly three years. Fury has stated that he suffers from a version of Bipolar, and during his three years away from the ring became addicted to alcohol and cocaine and contemplated suicide. To say Fury was out of shape would be a gross understatement at his heaviest he is reported to have been 385 pounds. When he fights Wilder on Saturday he’s expected to weigh around 270 pounds. Fury is an enigma, a larger than life loquacious character that has helped to make the heavyweight division the most interesting in boxing. When asked about his depression Fury said:
“I have been so dark that everything was pitch black. Before, every single day for me was a grey day. And some people might not know what I am talking about when I say that, but every day shouldn’t be a grey day. Because life is a blessing. And now I know that every day is a rose-coloured, sunshine day. Which I appreciate. I appreciate every second, every hour, every day, because life is so very short.”
Fury and Wilder are both unusual for boxers because they have both laid bare their troubles away from the ring, and in doing so they have perhaps engaged more fans than ever seen before in the sport.
Knockout, or Decision?
Popular opinion sees this fight having only two outcomes: Wilder knockout; or points decision for Fury. Few believe Fury will knock Wilder out, and I’ve not heard anyone thinking, Wilder will win on points. Even another draw seems more likely than these last two outcomes. But, which is the most likely, Wilder by knockout, or Fury by decision?
Wilder might be the most one dimensional boxer in heavyweight history, but when that one dimension happens to be one of boxing’s greatest punches, it doesn’t matter. This, like any Wilder fight, is all about Wilder’s right hand. If Wilder lands a clean right, he’ll win. If Fury can make the fight go the distance, he’ll have out boxed Wilder and will win on points. It’s almost impossible to see an outcome outside of these two possibilities.
The fight comes down to one question, can Fury avoid Wilder’s hand for thirty-six minutes? Wilder’s record of fort-one knockouts in forty-three fights suggests not. Their first fight also highlighted Fury’s vulnerability to the power of Wilder. Styles make fights, and this is a classic case of the boxer versus the puncher. Such style match ups can produce classic fights: Benn versus Eubank, Ali versus Frazier, but invariably they end up going in the favour of the boxer. Fury is without doubt the most mobile and ring smart heavyweight Wilder has ever faced. Fury should be faster than in their first fight. That said, the law of averages seem to lean in favour of Wilder. The odds are against Fury going twelve rounds and not getting caught by a big right hand. But, if Fury can avoid one of boxing’s greatest punches, he will have deserved to win. I can’t see it happening and expect Wilder to win by technical knockout in the ninth.
Having spent nearly two decades as a teacher and having studied psychology at university, I feel that I have some authority to speak about this topic. I, and a number of my colleagues, have long suspected the possibility of a link between narcissism and the teaching profession. It’s a suspicion that’s developed through my observation of both other teachers, and myself. It’s also a hypothesis that has gained traction in mainstream psychology, as Dr. S. K. Whitbourne writes in her article, The Need to Be Admired Can Make Narcissists Great Teachers.
As a teacher I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced many fantastic moments that I’ve shared with both my students and fellow teachers. But the classroom isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, the classroom is a highly unique environment presided over by one teacher who acts as the godhead, responsible for giving out praise and rewards in return for their students good work, and respectful behaviour. During my twenty years of teaching I’ve become aware that this classroom dynamic can be toxic, nurturing a teachers’ narcissistic traits. It’s a phenomena that I’ve only been able to talk about with teachers I’ve gotten to know well, and we’ve generally agreed that the classroom environment often acts as a catalyst drawing out a teacher’s narcissistic character traits.
Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
Exaggerate achievements and talents
Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
Take advantage of others to get what they want
Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
Be envious of others and believe others envy them
Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
Dr. S. K. Whitbourne’s article in Psychology Today suggests that narcissism can be a positive attribute for teaching. She bases this suggestion exclusively on the research of, Benson et al. who investigated whether people with a high narcissistic need for admiration have tendencies to affiliate with certain people in a group setting. From this hypothesis Whitbourne considers it logical that teachers high in narcissism will identify and associate with successful students. Benson et al. go on to state that people high in narcissism feel poor performance of their group reflects poorly on them, which will result in them disassociating from the members of the group, and may be enough to eventually motivate them to withdraw from the group entirely if it continues to be unsuccessful. In a school environment this is equates to a situation when a teacher is assigned a class that performs well below the standard for their grade. It’s not uncommon for a teacher in such situation to not form as strong a bond as they would with a more capable group. Research has shown that low achieving classes are commonly assigned to the most inexperienced teachers and that a large percentage of such teachers go on to quit the profession within the first few years. In fact this is a pattern that extends beyond achieving classrooms to low achieving schools where teacher turnover is considered a serious cause of low achievement. This creates a chicken and egg situation: are the teachers leaving because of the low achievement of students, or is the low achievement of students caused by high teacher turnover? In truth it’s both, but is it fair to conclude that the teachers leave because of narcissistic character traits?
Benson et al. might try and claim that Ingersoll supports their hypothesis, but anyone with experience of working in the types of schools to which Ingersoll’s study is referring I expect would be quick to disagree. In fact Ingeroll provides us with an example of people leaving a poorly performing group not for narcissistic reasons, but for self preservation.
A Need To Perform
Teaching is unlike any other profession, I can’t think of any job that requires the skills and mindset unique to teaching. During my career I’ve taught classes ranging from eight students to seventy, all of whom expect to learn something from me everyday, all of whom I expect to listen to my every word.
Good Teachers be able not just to perform but to engage their students in the learning process.
Dr. S. K. Whitbourne
I know teachers always say this, but teaching is a tough job. In a world where every students mind is stimulated to whichever hedonistic kink it desires with a touch of a button, through the medium of the internet, getting students to listen to you and learn the virtues of trigonometry, or the processes of soil erosion, has never been more of a challenge. In my experience teachers are meeting this challenge by finding ways to perform and entertain their students, it shouldn’t be like this. Education shouldn’t be reduced to some cheap vaudeville entertainment, but if a teacher is going to have any chance of engaging their students and getting them to learn something, they have to perform. I’ve experience of teaching kindergarten, high school, and university students, and they’re all alike in their need to be entertained. At the end of each semester I’m left to feel like an abused, denuded party clown, bereft of all his tricks, knowing that he needs to get a new act sorted out before the next semester begins. This pressure to perform, entertain, engage your students is simply do, or die. Insofar as today’s metrics are concerned, good teachers do entertain, bad teachers fall by the wayside. But this pressure to perform comes at a cost, it foments, and rewards a narcissistic character.
Friedman’s research refers to the concept of ‘healthy‘ narcissism, an idea attributed to psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut (1977). Kohut believed that ‘Healthy narcissism is expressed by adults through behaviours including creativity, humour, and expressions of sympathy towards others, personal and professional pride, and a desire to be considered good. The need to be recognized by others for being good at what you do is considerde by Maslow (1943), in his paper A Theory of Human Motivation, as Esteem Needs, in his Hierarchy of Needs
Hartman (1964), proposes the term, ‘normal’ narcissism, which he defines: a person’s investment of energy and drives within themselves, to heighten others perceptions, real or imaginary, of themselves.
When considering both Kohut and Hartman’s definitions of ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ narcissism, I acn’t help but feel that they’ve got it confused with self-confidence. Narcissism is a psychological condition condition much like a physiological illness, saying you can have ‘healthy’ narcissism sounds as much of a contradiction as saying a good disease.
The Reflective Practitioner
Teaching is probably no different from any other profession in that it has its own vocabulary and phraseology which it manipulates them to have a meaning specific to the profession when used in the context of that profession. And it’s ironic that a profession beset with narcissism chooses the term ‘reflective practice’. If the teaching environment doesn’t already lend itself to fostering narcissism, then encouraging teachers to look at themselves seems about as responsible as giving a pyromaniac a can of gasoline and a box of matches. just like Narcissus himself, teachers are encouraged to look at themselves, and their practice. The last thing you want to be encouraging a narcissist to do is look at themselves, because as the story tells us, they’ll only end up seeing whatever it is they like to look at. If the teaching practice was truly reflective it would acknowledge the propensity for it to develop narcissistic personalities and do something to address it.
Criticism of the Healthy Narcissism / Teacher Dynamic
Narcissism is normally always framed in the pejorative, but the truth is that some
One of the greatest weaknesses of the discipline of psychology is its inability to define its terms and to have everyone using terms as agreed. Narcissism provides an excellent example of this, Kohut (1966)coined the phrase ‘healthy’ narcissism, Hartman (1964) invented the phrase ‘normal’ narcissism. What they both describe as being ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ narcissism, I’d describe as something more simple, self confidence or self belief. My understanding of narcissism is derived from the Greek myth, it is a significant personality disorder that has a negative impact on the life of the person suffering the disorder and those they come into contact with. When Narcissus spends his life staring in admiration at his reflection, that’s a serious condition, it goes well beyond glancing at yourself in the mirror and being comfortable with your appearance. When Whitbourne talks of narcissism being beneficial to a teacher, what she’s actually referring to is self confidence, but self confidence is pretty much beneficial in any given situation so to get more attention the title becomes, The Need to Be Admired Can Make Narcissists Great Teachers. Narcissism is no more healthy, or normal than alcoholism. There’s a vast difference between having a drink, and being an alcoholic. Just like there’s a vast difference between self confidence and narcissism. The term ‘healthy’ narcissism is no less an oxymoron than say, ‘healthy illness’.
This grey area has been encouraged since the advent of psychoanalysis, by practitioners such as Paul Federn and his work, On the distinction between healthy and pathological narcissism (1929). Like I’ve mentioned already, there is no healthy narcissism.
Narcissism is recognised by the DSM-5 as a personality disorder. Narcissism can be no more healthy than any of the other nine recognised personality disorders. Nobody would suggest that there’s a healthy level of schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive behaviour. What gets called a ‘healthy’ level of narcissism goes by the far less dramatic name of, self-confidence. It’s my belief that the practice of psychoanalysis has unnecessarily blurred the distinction, although, Dr’ S. M. Spain argues this point in his article, Healthy Self-Esteem versus Healthy Narcissism.
When does self confidence become narcissism?, It’s a grey area in a domain of behaviour for which their are no definite measures. What separates self confidence from narcissism is a fine line, but where that line is exactly is a subjective interpretation. What’s wrong with wanting to associate with the successful group? In fact I rather think that associating with the stronger group has been pivotal in seeing my genes having been passed as far as they have, a necessity of, survival of the fittest. What’s wrong with striving for and acknowledging success? If a teacher didn’t demonstrate these traits what sort of example would they be setting for their students?
From being a teacher for the last twenty years I have little room for doubt that the classroom is a toxic dynamic when it comes to developing a teachers narcissistic character traits. Character traits that would have most likely lain dormant had they pursued any other profession.
I’m a teacher. I write a blog. I mean, how much more narcissistic can a person be.
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing. But the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.”
We’ve been forced to wait a very long time. Not since the early 70s, with fights like The Rumble in the Jungle, and The Thrilla in Manila, has heavyweight boxing been this entertaining.
The last golden era in the division occurred during the career of one man, Muhammad Ali. An era which saw Ali take on fighters like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Floyd Paterson and Larry Holmes, each of whom would have been good enough to dominate in any other era.
On Saturday, December 7th, Andy Ruiz will defend the heavyweight boxing titles he took from Anthony Joshua 6 months ago, in a rematch. Ruiz’s win was one of world championship boxing’s biggest upsets. Not since, 1990 and that night in Tokyo, when James ‘Buster’ Douglas knocked out a then undefeated, and what looked like an unbeatable, Mike Tyson. Ruiz’s win was a shock, there can be no doubt about that. Before the fight bookmakers had him at 9-1 against, ridiculous odds in a sport with only two competitors, and where one punch can end a fight. But those odds reflected the chance public opinion gave Ruiz when he defeated Joshua, at the beginning of June, in Madison Square Garden. The, Ruiz – Joshua rematch will formally kick-start a golden era in the heavyweight division, some might argue started already when Deontay Wilder fought a dramatic draw against Tyson Fury. There are, at the moment, five legitimate contenders for the title meaning that all of them will be less likely to cherry pick easy fights and forego a big payday. It really is a case of make hay while the sun shines, except in this case substitute hay for money, and sunshine for punching your opponent in the face.
Heavyweight title fights have historically been held in the United States and on occasions in Europe, fights outside of these two locations are very uncommon. But holding one of sports biggest prizes in an out of the way, exotic location from which neither boxer originates is not new. Such fights do, somehow, capture the imagination as well as huge piles of cash. These locations have been decided purely for the financial benefits to the boxers and the potential for generating positive publicity for the hosts. In some instances this has seen the blending of sport and morally bankrupt ideologies, which for a time are forgotten until several weeks after the fights conclusion.
January 22, 1973, The Sunshine Showdown, Kingston, Jamaica. When Foreman annihilated Frazier, knocking him down six times before scoring a technical knock out with one minute and twenty-five seconds of the second round still to go. Foreman achieved this despite going into the fight a 4-1 underdog.
October 30, 1974, The Rumble in the Jungle, Kinshasa, Zaire. Both boxers were paid $5 million. To put this into context, Joe Louis, world heavyweight champion from, 1937 to, 1949. Who made a record twenty-five consecutive defenses of his title, never made $5 million throughout his entire career.
February 11, 1990, A fight that was expected to be so one sided that nobody bothered to give it a name. What was certain is that nobody in America was willing to pay for the right to host Mike Tyson to destroy James “Buster” Douglas inside of three minutes. With now mythical odds of 42-1 against, Douglas achieved the impossible inside the Tokyo Dome, Japan. 42-1 against. When Foreman beat Frazier twenty-seven years earlier it was considered a shock with Foreman overcoming odds of 4-1. Tyson was paid $6 million, Douglas walked away undisputed heavyweight champion and $1.6 million richer.
April 21, 2001, Lamely given the moniker Thunder in Africa. Obviously rumble in the jungle was the beginning and end of any catchy rhyme and wordplay when it came to fighting in this continent. With Rahman a 20-1 underdog, this was thought to be such a one-sided affair that no Las Vegas casino was willing to pay the amount South Africa was, to stage the fight, Rahman being paid $1.5 million, while Lewis made $7 million. In similar fashion to Buster Douglas, Rahman shook the boxing world, knocking out Lewis with a straight right driven through the sloppy guard of the champion in the fifth. Compare this fight to the Ali fights, nearly thirty years earlier and you appreciate how Ali captured the world’s imagination and generated the extreme revenue necessary to justify his purse.
December 7, 2019 In the crazy cash sports era of today Joshua will earn at least $40 million, Ruiz will take away $9 million, and both will have an agreed cut of the pay per view revenue, details of which I haven’t been able to find. Needless to say, they’re both walking away rich men.
The history of heavyweight boxing in obscure locations is colorful and littered with upsets. Ruiz, Joshua promises to be a far closer fight with no heavy underdog. In fact it’s much in debate as to who the underdog is.
Why Ruiz Will Win
Styles are said to make fights, it might equally as well be said that styles break fighters. Ruiz’s style couldn’t be any more awkward for Joshua. On paper, and to the eye, Joshua would win every time, but Ruiz has the box of tricks to beat Joshua. Ruiz’s main strength is his hand speed and accuracy. What this crudely translates into is, Ruiz’s fists spending more time connecting with Joshua’s head and face. Ruiz’s movement is also deceptively good, and he has proven that he has durability having been knocked down by Joshua, then coming back to destroy him. Joshua’s strength will always give him the ‘puncher’s chance’, but Ruiz is likely to throw and land more punches. Meanwhile Joshua hasn’t convinced when under pressure of a high volume puncher. AJ was floored four times by Ruiz, ans was knocked down once when he fought Klitschko. Ruiz’s style of throwing quick combinations is AJ’s Achilles heel.
What AJ has in size and strength, he lacks in speed and skill. That’s not to say Joshua is slow and without talent, it’s just that up until now it’s been his size and strength that have been most telling in the fights he has won, Ruiz has the skill set to neutralize Joshua’s attributes.
One of the more amusing things about the fighters is that they have both been criticised for their physiques. In the past, Andy’s figure has been on the adipose, rotund end of the conditioning spectrum. Joshua meanwhile has been criticised for being over conditioned. AJ has some glaring similarities to Frank Bruno, he carries too much muscle bulk which ultimately makes him powerful, but slow. It’s been said that Joshua is looking to address this matter, but how quickly and how successfully he can reshape his physique is a question that remains to be answered.
While it looks impressive, too much muscle slows a boxer down
pkt5282-394323 FRANK BRUNO BOXER It was too much to expect the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is heavyweight boxing for the big bucks after all. But when the manager of Lennox Lewis said there waws absolutely nothing bad aboiut Frank Bruno’s performance, at least he had the good grace to do so with a smile and ask: ‘Is my nose growing?’
It’s difficult not to support Ruiz, and I’m British. Ruiz is only getting 25% of the purse, and despite cutting weight still bares a striking resemblance to British comic Johnny Vegas, a man whose act centres on him being drunk and unhealthy, but who doesn’t love Johnny Vegas?
They do actully look like each other.
It’s not just that they’re both fat.
In the future, out of Ruiz, Fury, Usyk and Wilder, I can only see Joshua beating Wilder. The other three have far higher boxing IQ’s, far better movement and hand speed. It’s the hand speed, combined with questionable durability that makes me believe that Joshua would succumb to any of , Fury, Ruiz or Uszyk.
Twenty-twenty, might be a format of cash fueled cricket, but it will also be remembered as the year of the mega fights in heavyweight boxing. The year that should see the Fury-Wilder rematch, Uszyk fighting one of these four, and Wilder fighting Joshua or Ruiz. Be cause the division has five huge talents it’s difficult to see how these fights can be avoided, and the huge pay per view revenue any combination of these fights would make should be too tempting to resist. Twenty twenty is the year that will stay long in the memory of boxing fans around the world. And my prediction as to who will be king of the hill,
The talent of Oleksander Usyk will ensure that the heavyweight gold rush of twenty-twenty will sustain itself for a few more years, with any combination of huge fights. The countries that these fights end up being hosted in, and for what cause, remains the most difficult thing to predict.
“Once, every village had an idiot. It took the internet to bring them all together.”
Colonel Robert Bateman
I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter is probably the most god forsaken place on the internet. But being an atheist, maybe I should say, truth forsaken. Understanding that I’m an atheist, a libertarian atheist, is essential if anything that follows is to make any sense. Howevever, even if you do happen to remember that I’m a libertarian atheist, there still remains a fairly high chance that what follows still won’t make a whole lot of sense.
Instead of one tribal drum communicating one message, giving everyone access to a unified source of knowledge, it’s given everyone a voice, irrespective of their knowledge. Rather than democratizing knowledge, it’s democratized the right to express ones opinions, no matter how unqualified the person might be expressing it. Essentially it’s armed every village idiot with a megaphone, while forcing everyone else to wear hearing aids, making their uninformed opinions hard to ignore. (The secret to the internet seems to be in substituting the metaphorical hearing aids for metaphorical ear plugs.) Where as historically these idiots were spread evenly geographically, say one in every village, the internet has enabled them to band together. If McLuhan were alive today, I wonder, might he be tempted to amend his title to, The Global Village Idiot.
The Twittersphere, the internet as a whole, works as a monolithic soap box, immense in its size and capability of spreading half baked beliefs that can be turned into truths at the blink of an eye, a touch of a button, or just by clicking, ‘like’ (see my previous post, Echo Chambers, Memes and Brain Viruses). The internet has facilitated the spread of bad ideas, and extremist opinions, more than it has benefited mankind with the passing on of knowledge. Bad ideas, and extremism fester, and incubate inside echo chambers, a phenomenon I discussed previously in, Echo Chambers, Memes and Brain Viruses – Weaponizing the Internet. Because of this, it should be of no surprise that the stupidity of groups like, flat earthers, and the irresponsibility of, anti vaxxers have managed to gain such strong foothold in, what was already an already, a neurotic society. The internet is the perfect device for spreading and magnifying mankind’s neuroses. And if the internet has proven anything to us it’s that people are only too happy to offer opinions on things they have little, or next to no knowledge about. This has made the internet the universal melting pot for global ignorance.
Initially marveled at how the internet would communicate ideas, what we failed to recognise was that humans have far more bad, or meaningless ideas, than good ones. The internet is a perfect example of a GIGO system, Garbage In Garbage Out. GIGO is one of those tech acronyms thought up by a mind that’s been over exposed to programming languages and underexposed to fresh air. GIGO simply means that if you put garbage into a system then it’s only garbage you can get out. The internet itself can’t make us more intelligent. It’s a perfect reflection of the mental-states of the people that put things onto it. Volume wise, the internet is of overwhelmingly poor quality, this blog included, but good information can be found, although as David Mitchell recently described the internet as:
…making truth and lies indistinguishable. It’s like a huge haystack of things that may, or may not be true, and the truth is just a piece of hay just like the others, it’s not even a needle.
Recently, whilst floating aimlessly through the Twittersphere, I encountered an unusual advert. It was unusual due to the fact that I read it. I really enjoy deleting adverts on Twitter. I have this this belief that as I’m deleting them one at a time, that one day I will have finally deleted them all and so live in an ad free environment, at heart I’m fantasist. The advert grabbed my attention because it was asking for donations to enable its cause to close schools. Being a teacher seeing an advert that seeked contributions to close my means of employment, cut a little too close to the bone. So rather than deleting the advert, I jumped down the rabbit hole, except it wasn’t really a rabbit hole, it was more of a humanist hole, but the wisdom of our ancestors is in the metaphor and it’s not my place to disturb it. Whatever it was, like most internet misadventures, imagine it as being towards the abstract end of the figurative spectrum.
After reading this advert, I responded with my belief , that people should be afforded the choice between faith schools and secular schools. I pointed out that the aim of Humanist UK is not to get funding to build new secular schools, but to close and replace faith schools. And after they’ve achieved this what do they move on to, the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques? There followed a flurry of predictably defensive ripostes.
The last time somebody quoted chapter and verse at me was when they were quoting from the Bible. There are many parallels between religious faiths and the followers of Humanist UK. Like religions Humanist UK is funded by charitable donations. Both believe they have the definitive answer to the question of what happens after we die. And both have their poster boys, god or some derivative thereof, and Richard Dawkins. Some followers of Humanist UK have merely substituted a belief in god and his book, the Bible, with a belief in Richard Dawkins and his book, The God Delusion.
As a person who actually attended a faith school, I can say from personal experience that there is no greater recruiter to atheism than faith schools. That said at my school I never remember Darwin’s theory of evolution being denied, creationism was never pushed as being the only explanation for our existence. We studied other faiths Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions. I suspect Humanist UK seem to believe that all faith schools do is teach students how to use AK47s and make explosive vests, they would be so disappointed if they took the time to discover the truth. My faith school also consistently out performed the local secular schools in both the GCSE and A-Level examinations. As well as it being morally dubious to shut down faith schools it might also be counterproductive from an academic perspective.
Libertarian Atheist Vs. Secular humanist
Like two blind men challenging one another to a duel, never discovering that we were standing in separate fields. Humanists UK and I commenced battle with all the finesse of a bumblebee with a machine gun.
As a libertarian atheist my philosophy is simple, I am resolute in my belief that there is no god, I’m equally assured in my belief that all people have the freedom to choose, and make whatever of their lives, under the condition that it doesn’t disable another person from doing likewise. Therefore people have the right to choose a faith.
Humanists UK appear to be fighting out of the secular humanist corner. With a complete intolerance towards anything said to exist beyond the physical realm of nature. Anything claiming to be knowledge that can’t be supported scientifically, isn’t knowledge. As schools are places of knowledge, all supernatural references and explanations should have no place in them. I’m not arguing against this reasoning. To me it’s perfectly logical, where I am circumspect is empowering myself with the mandate to shut down, and thereby removing the option.
For me though, the libertarian and secular humanist opinion are in conflict insofar as the idea: freedom of, and from religion. That’s why I would contribute to the building of new secular schools but not the closing of faith schools, it’s a subtle, but crucial distinction.
The Ultimate Failing Inherent in …isms
The greatest short fall undermining any ism is it’s inflexibility, the absolutism of its nature. Isms have a necessity to be seen as the one true way in which to perceive the world, as the suffix denotes:
My mix of libertarianism and atheism, is no different than a blend of secularism and humanism. Both soon become entrenched in the a mindset reflected by many faiths, one that fervently believes that they are the enlightened ones, when if we’re to be honest, none of us really have a clue. So I go back to my libertarian humanism, and I say live and let live. Let’s forego the philosophical word salad, and ask ourselves one final question; what kind of asshat goes around shutting schools anyway?
Pressure had been mounting on Prince Andrew, and if we’re to believe what we hear, it’s not just been pressure that he’s been mounting, to explain away his relationship with, Jeffrey Epstein, disgraced financier, convicted paedophile, and lately the victim of a brutal suicide.
With the reputation of the monarchy being dragged through the mud, and on this occasion no Sir Walter Raleigh on hand to lend his cape, a historical reference for royal nerds, Prince Andrew was forced into making this decision. But, being from the world’s most wealthy, influential family it was safe to assume that his advisers would’ve guaranteed that there would be no incriminating disclosures. If that’s what the advisers guaranteed, it would appear that Andrew had other ideas.
I’ve not cringed so much since the first time I watched The Office. In fact, there were times I expected Ricky Gervais to appear from out of shot and offer the Prince advice on how he could come across more uncomfortable and less sincere. It would appear Prince Andrew’s team of advisers thought it would be best if the prince conducted the interview whilst attempting his best David Brent impersonation. An impersonation so accurate that, if he eneterd a contest to impersonate David Brent, Ricky Gervais would come second.
My favourite Brentism was :
Maitlis: I’m just trying to work this out because you said you went to break up the relationship and yet you stayed at that New York mansion several days. I’m wondering how long?
Andrew: But I was doing a number of other things while I was there.
Maitlis: But you were staying at the house …
Maitlis: … of a convicted sex offender.
Andrew: It was a convenient place to stay. I mean I’ve gone through this in my mind so many times. At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honourable and right thing to do and I admit fully that my judgment was probably coloured by my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.
“…my tendency to be too honourable but that’s just the way it is.” now that is pure David Brent. The Prince, a la David Brent, mentioned all the work he did for charity, and in particular the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. As he mentioned his charity work it was clear that he was at odds with his own humility. But anyway, as Prince Andrew said, he’s just too damned honourable not to hang out with convicted sex offenders.
To put it into context, many historians are saying that it’s the biggest Royal blunder since King Richard suggested that he and his army should go for a picnic at Bosworth Field.
Until seeing this interview, I’d always assumed that only a centipede could shoot themselves in the foot that many times. Staying on the theme of multiple feet metaphors, there were times when I felt as if the prince only opened his mouth in order to change feet.
Maitlis: July of this year, Epstein was arrested on charges of sex trafficking and abusing dozens of underage girls. One of the Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts, has made allegations against you. She says she met you in 2001, she says she dined with you, danced with you at Tramp nightclub in London. She went on to have sex with you in a house in Belgravia belonging to Ghislaine Maxwell, your friend. Your response?
Andrew: I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever.
This is another Brent moment. There is clear evidence of him being caught with his hand in the cookie jar, or around the girls waist for now. Andrew can’t deny having met her, so to maintain some level of deniability he claims he can’t remember meeting her. Well what’s sauce for the goose is good for the gander. I’m going to claim that I never remembered receiving an electricity bill, and that I have no recollection of having not paid my taxes. It’s a cunning move Andy.
Maitliss states the scenario clearly and accurately to the Prince.
Maitlis: He threw a party to celebrate his release and you were invited as the guest of honour.
Andrew: No, I didn’t go. Oh, in 2010, there certainly wasn’t a party to celebrate his release in December because it was a small dinner party, there were only eight or 10 of us I think at the dinner. If there was a party then I’d know nothing about that.
Maitlis: You were invited to that dinner as a guest of honour.
Andrew: Well, I was there so there was a dinner, I don’t think it was quite as you might put it but yeah, OK I was there for … I was there at a dinner, yeah.
Andrew: But I was doing a number of other things while I was there.
Maitlis: But you were staying at the house …
Maitlis: … of a convicted sex offender.
The prince tries to make it sound like Maitliss is framing the situation in the pejorative, when the truth is she’s just stating where and when he was with Epstein, which alone could only be stated in the pejorative. Clearly it’s Mailiss’ fault, putting filth into viewers minds.
So, What’s Next? Where Do We Go from Here?
More questions are being asked than will ever get close to being answered. For me one of the greatest suspicions hangs over the close friendship between His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Sir Jimmy Savile, celebrity who posthumously was discovered to be one of the country’s most prolific paedophiles.
The conspiracy theorists will go crazy over this, and I’m not saying that they don’t raise interesting questions. I was told by one such person that Hillary Clinton just happened to be visiting the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle just before the interview was to be broadcasted. If it’s only a coincidence I feel sorry for the Clinton’s and Windsor’s because it makes them look about as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo.
As for the future, this story has already had immense consequences, if the monarchy can’t succeed in slowing the unraveling, and if Brexit splits the union, then I can see Queen Elizabeth II being our final monarch as head of state.
The best case scenario is that this interview is a damning indictment of how out of touch the British Royal family are with their subjects.
There’s a saying in chess that describes a position whereby the player whose turn it is
can’t make a move that won’t lose him the game, such a position is called, zugzwang. In British politics similar situations are called Brexit.
How did we get here?
Google images with a search for, “Brexit Timeline.” It results in an array of graphical representations and psychedelic colours of confusion illustrating just how the UK will negotiate their way through the eight levels of hell. Each timeline is different and every timeline is about as accurate as a bumblebee with a machine gun, leaving me to deduce that nobody has the faintest idea what is going on.
Just look at the timelines, it’s madness I tell you!
The Brexit Timeline – How Did We Get Here?
2010, Conservatives win a general election without a clear majority. The Conservatives form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
2015, In an attempt to win an outright majority, David Cameron pledges a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU), despite the fact that he was pro-Europe. The Conservatives win an outright majority.
June 2016, Britain holds a referendum to decide whether it’s to remain a part of the (EU). Despite all media predictions, a majority of 51.9% of people vote to leave the EU. Within 24 hours David Cameron resigns as prime minister and like a leader of a banana republic, goes into exile on the French Riviera, where he settles down to write his memoir, also known as his excuse, the memoir fails to mention performing any sexual acts on the severed heads of pigs.
“David Cameron announced he is stepping down in the wake of a vote, which should make me happy, but it doesn’t. It’s like catching an ice cream cone out of the air, because a child has been hit by a car. I’ll eat it! But it’s tainted somehow.” – John Oliver
June 2017, riding Following the departure of David Cameron, Theresa May mistakes a wave of national euphoria for what is actually a burgeoning sense of scorn, ridicule and contempt towards her. Failing to recognise this
March 2019, the Conservative Party tire of Theresa’s inability to make progress on brexit.
July 2019, members of the Conservative Party elect Boris Johnson as their leader and next prime minister.
Despite promising the nation that, he’d rather die in a ditch than fail to leave the EU on
October 31st, 2019, Boris Johnson delivers on neither Brexit, nor corpse in a ditch materialise. I wasn’t fussy, I’d have settled for a drain, trench, even a gutter. But no, the fat, flatulent, shaggy haired mop head lives on, and after what must have taken minutes of thought, decided to throw the decision back to the public in the form of a general election. Appealing to the same electorate, who in recent times has shown a proclivity to vote for the most chaotic scenario possible. I ask myself, why’s that trend going to stop? Leadership isn’t delegating the problem to everyone else, that’s scapegoating.
Boris hopes the ball lands on, erection.
Following the roulette disappointment, Boris disposes of his blond wig and thinks really hard about holding his erection.what to o next. fear of overheating his brain, Boris takes of his blond wig and decides whether or not to call an election.
Clowns to the Left of me, Jokers to the Right
So, come December 12th, who do you vote for. American cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead famously said:
If you went to a restaurant, and the only choice you had was between a turd sandwiches or Jellied moose tongue, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to go looking for somewhere else to eat. Elections in the UK are like this, they offer no choice that you can enthusiastically endorse, just a choice of the lesser evil.
Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people. A system that is apathetic, in fact, to the needs of the people it was designed to serve. …’
It’s at this stage that people can get angry with the abstaining from voting argument, they remind you of how lucky we are to have a democracy. They’re quick to inform us that voting is the only time the poor have as much say as the wealthy. And if they’ve still failed to convince they’re likely to trundle out, the very old and very tired, it’s a civic duty; which it’s not. Jury service is the only the only civic responsibility in the U.K. No, democracy isn’t being asked to choose between two groups of equally incompetent people who will inevitably balls things up, just in slightly different ways.
Perhaps journalist, Heydon Prowse most accurately explains the trend in the results of recent elections and referenda in the west”
…vote, revolt, “turn voting into a protest too”
We live in a system where only one of two political choices ends up running the country, but people now understand that neither does anything to make their lives any better. The underprivileged will remain underprivileged, the under paid won’t become better off, in fact relatively wages have stagnated for twenty years, and the uneducated, and unemployed will continue to seek solace by watching reality television.
In reality there’s only two choices:
Don’t vote, because none of the candidates are capable of doing the job; or
Go all in with Margaret Mead and choose the lesser of two evils in the hope that the one you pick might be capable screwing things up marginally less than the other choice.
The exhilaration what western democracies promise us.
So Who is the lesser of Two Evils?
It’s an interesting question, it comes down to choosing between an egotistical, nefarious, dishonest, man who can’t keep track of how many children he might have fathered, and a man who looks like he’s just crawled out from beneath your compost heap at the
bottom of your garden, and then preaches anachronistic left wing dogma to your vegetable patch. For years I’ve given Corbyn the benefit of the doubt, thinking that he can’t possibly prescribe to the tenets of Marxism the media claim he does, but he’s never clarified just how far his socialist beliefs go. Might he turn into an English Pol Pot, force everyone to work in allotments as he engineers his agrarian utopia? It sounds stupid, but then again, nearly everything that’s come out of Westminster for the past five years has been stupid. But the peculiarities of the Labour party don’t stop with Corbyn, in fact it’s only the beginning. Corbyn’s shadow home secretary is Diane Abbott, a woman so spectacularly incompetent that she takes a calculator to bed so she can count the sheep. To appreciate how dimwitted Diane Abbot is, the video below shows the most spectacularly embarrassing interview by a senior politician that I’ve ever witnessed:
So with Boris Johnson’s only opponent, resembling a cross between Lenin and Worzel Gummidge, and seemingly focused on winning the allotment vote of the UK, and with his sidekick displaying the mental faculties of sub-optimal kindergarten student, you would think that all Boris needs to do to win this election is stay alive until the morning of December 13th. If only it were that simple.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson
Yes, that really is his name, dePfeffel. If it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, then it must be an even greater superficial objectification to judge a person by their name, but what the hell is a de Pfeffel? Sounds like a catastrophe in a patisserie in which the pretzel dough and the waffle batter got mixed together and spawned the Antichrist of pastries, a de Pfeffel. No, it’s actually something far more sinister. The von Pfeffel family, after narrowly missing out on starring in, The Sound of Music, is a German, Bavarian, family of considerable historical wealth and influence. Finding out any more about them is difficult, but doubtlessly you have a neurotic, conspiracy theorist friend who’ll soon get you up to speed.
If only Boris’ problems stopped at de Pfeffel. He’s a renowned Islamaphobe, homophobe, adulterer, racist, and outright liar. In fact, he is quintessentially the British Donald Trump. The more ridiculous he behaves, the more support he gets. Johnson appeals to a disenfranchised electorate, as he appears to them to be a break from the norm. Let’s look at some of the most infamous dePfeffel moments.
In August 2018, Boris remarked that Muslim women who wear burkas resemble letter boxes. Note, that at the time he was Britain’s Foreign Secretary, a role requiring awareness of cultural nuances. Look I’m all for a joke, but… What kind of mind could consider that an appropriate thing to say?
Boris Johnson is a survivor, he’ll say whatever it takes to climb the greasy pole, irregardless of what he says being true or not. You can’t get a more blatant example of his lies than the time he wrote one on the side of a bus. He was right in saying that the UK pays the EU 350 million pounds a week, but it takes into no account how much money the EU sends the UK per week, and how much money the UK saves with free trade with the EU.
Vote for Me – Righting the Wrongs
My manifesto is somewhat limited but at its core is righting wrongs through revenge. Essentially I would achieve this by displaying David Cameron’s head on a spike after it had been inserted into his own bottom. Whilst I freely admit that this does little to resolve the Brexit issue, I do believe it would give the country a much needed boost to morale.
The End Is Not Nigh
As an expat who’s lived outside the UK for almost twenty years, personally, I don’t care who wins the election and goes on to form a Rabelaisian government of idiots; I learnt the word Rabelaisian recently and I’m rather fond of it. I just hope that there’s something positive in this for everyone, which of course is impossible. I still firmly believe what I thought the morning after the referendum; that Britain will never leave the EU. If the powers that be wanted to leave, then Britain would have left by now. Whomever wins this election is unlikely to win a majority, leaving the UK with a fragile coalition goverment once again. One thing I’m certain of, we can’t keep standing in the middle of the road, because when you do that you get hit by traffic from both directions, or worse, you could fall off your horse and cart.
In conclusion, this election will conclude nothing.
This is an attempt to contextualise the protagonist of the latest DC movie, Joker, using the personality theory of the Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung. For readers with an interest in psychology, I hope that you can provide your ideas on the work of Jung relative to the character. For those of you who are fans of the Joker, I hope you can provide details of his character that can help support or dispute these ideas.
The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. Aleksandr Solzhentisyn – The Gulag Archipelago
More than any other comic book, the characters from DC’s Batman are by far the the most grounded in our psychological understanding of the development of personality and behaviour. Through the advent of psychoanalysis in the early part of the twentieth century, the ideas of how symbols, archetypes and the unconscious, influence personality were beginning to be recognized. Batman, Joker, Riddler, Harvey Two Face, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, all serve as archetypal reflections of the unconscious mind. They are all alter egos, all serve as characterizations of Freud’s Id overcoming the Superego, or Jung’s Shadow taking control of a persona.
Arthur Fleck’s shadow.
Persona – the wearing of masks
It’s worth taking this moment to explain the appropriateness of the term, persona, when discussing these characters. The word persona derives from either the Greek, or Etruscan, for mask. Jung was well aware of this when he chose to use it in his theory of personality. Jung identifies the persona as the mask we wear in certain social situations. It’s possible, and often necessary, for a person to have a number of personae depending on their surroundings at any given time. We would think it completely natural for a father of a young family to act differently when he’s at home to how he does working as a policeman, or prison guard. Although this example is extreme most of us can identify with adapting our persona to a situation; to wearing different masks. Jung’s acknowledgement that a persona is not stable, but a dynamic reaction to its environment, serves as a central theme that runs through many characters of DC Comics, and it’s fundamental to the plot of the most recent incarnation of the Joker.
Of all the DC characters it’s the Joker who most effectively transcends the world of comic books. This is due to the character being an archetype that’s rooted deeply in both the psyche of the individual and the collective psyche of society. Whether we start by looking at Cesar Romero’s initial performance in 1966, go on to look at Nicholson’s 1985 portrayal, Ledger in The Dark Knight, or Phoenix’s latest interpretation, the role of the Joker has evolved. This evolution of the Joker over time, serves as one of cinema’s greatest examples of art imitating life. Each metamorphosis of the character is a reflection of American society at the time it was made. That is why audiences relate to him, and that is why the most recent film is so disturbing. Phoenix’s Joker, beguiles and enthralls, because he’s the symbolic embodiment of the chaos and nihilism found in western society at the time of this latest manifestation. It’s for this reason that we are either appalled, or fascinated by the character, but if we’re honest, we all know the character is not just a reflection of our society, but it’s also deeply embedded inside all of us, and that’s what makes the Joker accessible and terrifying. We’re shocked by Phoenix’s Joker because we don’t find it repulsive, which we should do if we’re the moral beings we would like to think we are, because we find it so easy to identify with him. The underlying reason for this appeal might be explained through the Jungian terms of archetypes, and the shadow persona.
Carl Gustav Jung was a student of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. As with any student teacher relationship, the student goes onto support some of their teacher’s ideas while ejecting others. The influence of Freud’s ideas on Jung is clear to see. Both identify a boundary between the conscious and unconscious self. For Freud, the id represents our unconscious animal instincts, lusts for sex and desires. These are suppressed by the ego which acts as our usual persona, moderating between the animal instincts of the id and the aspirations of the values desired by the superego. For Freud, repressed desires would be the cause of a person being stuck in one of the stage of psychosexual development.
For Jung, the shadow is a part of everyone’s personality, functioning in a way similar to Freud’s id in that it is buried in our unconscious, but unlike the id, and as the name suggests, the shadow contains the darkest aspects of human being. Jung’s approach to psychoanalysis differed from Freud’s in one fundamental aspect as Jung attempted to integrate a spiritual dynamic. Jung encourages the individual to acknowledge their shadow, to fully understand the evil that each of us is capable of. It’s only once we understand and can control our shadow that we can go on to achieve self-actualization, or what Jung refers to as the individuation process. Unfortunately for Arthur Fleck, he can’t control his shadow, but is instead overwhelmed by it.
“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”
C. G. Jung
Jung’s representation of persona, ego, self, and shadow.
Feud’s representation of the ego, id, superego, and unconscious.
The Evolution of the Joker Archetype
Archetypes are the unknowable basic forms personified or concretized in motifs such as the quest or the heavenly ascent, recognizable character types such as the trickster or the hero, symbols such as the apple or snake, or images such as crucifixion (Biddle, 1989: P. 25).
Jung proposed twelve archetypes of personality, Jung also believed that these archetypes operate on two levels:
Firstly they represent patterns of behaviour on a personal level; and
Secondly, archetypes act as cultural images and symbols which affect us all on a subconscious level.
To really understand the Joker it’s necessary to look far back beyond his birth in the pages of DC comics. The Joker’s legacy extends back through several thousand years, and is more commonly referred to in folktale lore as, the trickster. Jung identifies the trickster as:
An archetypal psychic structure of extreme antiquity.
In his clearest manifestations,“ he is a faithful reflection of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to a psyche that has hardly left the animal level.”
C. G. Jung
Jung identifies the god, Loki, as the embodiment of the trickster archetype, appearing in Norse Mythology over a thousand years ago. As Jung describes through his use of the word, persona, Loki is a shape shifter; a character at ease with changing their identity; a wearer of masks.
Professor of literature, Joseph Campbell claims that the archetype of the trickster is very much evident in the god of the Old Testament, Yahweh. Through his actions of the flood, and destroying the Tower of Babel Campbell identifies the propensity for mischief associated with the trickster.
In Chinese culture the best example of the trickster archetype is, Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King. This character is remarkably like the Joker, rampaging around the spiritual realm causing chaos before the Buddha incarcerates him in a rock for five hundred years. The story is based on a real life Monk from dating back to the 7th century.
In Celtic mythology, and English folklore the trickster is represented by the sprite, demon, fairy, Puck, most famously immortalized through his misdeeds in Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although apparent in Celtic mythology and English folklore, it’s thought that his origins might be Norse, and that he might be a descendant of Loki. Like Loki, Puck is attributed with the ability to change form as required. It’s believed that he’s been a part of Celtic and pagan oral tradition for over a thousand years.
In Native American Indian mythology the coyote is commonly used for the role of trickster. It is a role that has consistently been used in the narrative of stories ever since humans first started to tell stories. As such it is a character deeply embedded in individual minds, across cultures and time. Joker is the quintessential archetype.
If we chart the evolution of the character’s portrayal starting with the television show of the 1960’s, we see an anarchic, psychedelic, but pretty harmless Joker. Nicholson’s Joker, played in an era of American wealth and domination, was mostly pantomime with some dark undertones. There was little emphasis on a decaying Gotham. Heath Ledgers interpretation of the character shifted the dynamic of hero and villain in a subtle but crucial way. Up until Ledger, the Joker was always the nemesis of Batman, with a desire to carry out a plan. Ledger gave birth to a nihilistic villain, one who isn’t limited by a plan, one that is only interested in destroying everything, or as Michael Caine says:
There can be little doubting that Ledger’s interpretation enabled the Joker to become the most complete incarnation of the trickster archetype, to date.
In the character’s most recent incarnation we see the Joker’s sexual desires. An aspect that was hinted at briefly in the characters played by Nicholson and Ledger, but the most recent character clearly displays an emotional need towards sexual contact and to be part of a functioning relationship. This sexual, emotional desire lends Phoenix’s Joker greater credibility by showing his underlying humanity. Things then go very Greek for Phoenix’s Joker discovers that his childhood rivals the dysfunction of Oedipus, with a mentally ill mother, and a father whom he believes denies him. This origin story of the Joker clearly paints him as the victim of a cruel society, failed by his parents, failed by health services, and assaulted by the children of the city. Nothing is his fault, he’s a product of society. In the Jack Nicholson version, Joker was created as a result of being dropped into a vat of acid. In the Joaquin Phoenix version, the Joker is created by being dropped into society. This message might be disturbing. It sets the example that the Joker had no alternatives, he was a result of a declining society, in essence his free will was usurped by his environment, all of his actions are attributable to the declining society. This message resonates so strongly throughout the movie, and at a time when many feel their society is declining it’s easy to see people adopting this excuse at the expense of personal responsibility.
What seems apparent is that incarnation of the Joker serves to capture the zeitgeist of societal nihilism. Each incarnation moves closer to what’s, as Jung describes, “wrapped up in the archetypes that reside universally in the subconscious”.
As an origin story the plot serves as an explanation of how the character evolves from being a slightly dysfunctional, enigmatic loner, someone Camus might call, ‘a stranger’, in to an anarchic nihilist. The movie charts his fall using a path similar to that identified by Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey, the difference being that Joker never returns from what Campbell refers to as the the, special world or sometimes the, underworld, but what Jung would unquestionably call his shadow. You will quickly notice a number of similarities between Jung’s model of the psyche, and Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey. Campbell himself admits to Jung’s work being a fundamental component of his work on the mono-myth. Where Joker departs from Campbell’s path is at stage eight. We clearly witness the death of Arthur Fleck when he kills his mother, and his rebirth as Joker. The difference being, Joker doesn’t to complete his journey to be reintegrated into society, instead he becomes grounded in the persona born out of his shadow, the underworld.
Are We Born Evil, or Are We Made?
The movie treads a fine line explaining the reasons that cause Arthur Fleck’s transformation into the archetypal trickster and sociopath. Although not in keeping with the general feel of the movie, it’s explained in a conservative manner, failing to commit to either side of the nature, nurture debate. Instead a politically correct explanation attributes Arthur’s fall as being equally attributable to a morally corrupt society, childhood abuse, and the genetic predisposition of his mother towards mental illness. The nature of his own condition is never disclosed, although we do discover that his mother suffers delusions and was a patient in a mental hospital. This all plays into the realm of providing Arthur with the biological disposition for a personality disorder that could potentially manifest into something of the magnitude of the Joker.Add to this the withdrawal of Arthur’s psychiatric medication, and you have both nature and nurture conspiring against Arthur, and what ultimately leads to his being overwhelmed by his shadow. This explanation for the Joker’s origin draws more from reality than a comic universe. We are left to believe that Arthur’s fate was decided by society. That Arthur was denied the free will to escape the fate of becoming Joker. The movie makes Arthur out to be a stereotypical, clichéd victim. This is the trick behind the movie, making the audience sympathize with the Joker, creating cognitive dissonance and unease in the audience. But in order to achieve this they must abnegate Arthur of all personal responsibility in his becoming the Joker.
Possibly the most infamous example of social conditions influencing behaviour was produced by American psychologist Philip Zimbardo, a topic looked at more closely in, Contagions of Madness and Evil, in his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, in which Zimbardo coins the phrase, ‘not a rotten apple, but a rotten barrel, as a way of explaining the behaviour his experiment uncovered. The movie clearly depicts Gotham as the rotten barrel causing a rotten Arthur. Zimbardo supports the the importance of the environment on behaviour, but doesn’t go as far as using it as an excuse.
The reason for the impact this movie has had is that the trickster archetype has beguiled and taken over declining, modern western democracies. Whether they’re making promises that they’ll, “drain the swamp,” or threatening to restructure a nations economy without a clearly defined plan, the trickster offers hope through the annihilation of the system that the masses have come to recognize as having failed them. The Trickster exploits an opportunity to create chaos, taking control of a legitimate grievance and using it to control the people. These are exactly the circumstances that allowed for the rise of fascism throughout Europe in the 1930’s. The Trickster is an exponent of populism, appealing to the desperate who can be easily motivated upon hearing the rhetoric and empty promises they’re so desperate to hear.
In Jung’s Psychology and Literature, one of his essays found in the collection, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, he suggests that what influences the artist can not be separated from their creation. The artist’s creation, no matter how much they try and disguise it, is a reflection of their own mind, which in turn reflects the society that surrounds it. When looking at this latest incarnation of the Joker, through this lens provided by Jung, is it surprising that we find both obvious and subtle depictions of our world today throughout the movie? These are times of unprecedented change, economically, politically, technologically, and socially. It’s because of this that no literary archetype represents our current society better than the trickster.