George Hay: What to Do Next

Systematic ideology having reached the stability of self-identification (see “What’s Wrong with S.I.?” in IC 48 [and also in this present issue, Ed.]) it would seem to be time for some market-research on “the product,” some testing in real-time situations.

Hindsight applications are still not all that plentiful; we need more of them. As one example of what can happen in a community lacking complex ideological structure one could cite the example (perhaps apocryphal) of the Pacific island whose community ceased filially to exist as a result of ingrown misogyny: the males simply refused to mate with the women and, with no input from neighbouring islands – who wants to mix with people like that? – children stopped appearing. Our analysis here would point out that a rather larger community might have avoided this fate by developing enough ideological complexity to include some of the more socially-oriented and scientific groups, able to perceive the danger in advance and head it off. As things were, any tendency towards such development got suppressed, finally and without appeal.

With the French and Russian Revolutions, while the actions of those on the fundamental (and most numerous) ideological level were decisive in the long run (as they consistently are), they were influenced in the short term by the actions of brilliant paranoids exploiting social theories devised by equally brilliant – if misguided – theorists and supported by conservatists, military men and the chattering classes higher up the pyramid. As with our Pacific islanders, any real precisionists were over-ridden – ‘la Republique n’a pas besoin de savants.’ The resulting destablilisations were not just of France and Russia but of Europe and, ultimately, the civilised world.

One could produce enough such case- histories to fill a book and, indeed, it is to be hoped that readers of IC will start submitting these to the editor with a view to the production of such a volume – preceded, perhaps, by a widely-based conference. However, as I have said, this is all hindsight. What is now called for is a series of disprovable predictions, preferably in the relatively short term, predictions on which one could perhaps place bets.

In this context, it is worth taking note of the remarkable shortage, over recent decades, of cognitive tools such as s.i. and, equally, the resistance of our educational and intellectual systems (if, indeed, one can justly so style them) to any such tools as might have appeared, and might be judged at least worthy of testing out on the chalk-face. Long-term predictive methodologies such as those of Decline of the West (Spengler), and Social and Cultural Dynamics (Sorokin), have been suppressed to the point of censorship. (I once proposed to the former’s British publisher that they put out a paperback, and was put down very much ‘de haut en bas.’) One might guess, too, that no attempt has been made to draw systematic conclusions with predictive capacity from the insights of such individual commentators as Wyndham Lewis, D. H. Lawrence, Jacques Ellul, etc. Again, there are methodologies about not actually intended for predictive use, but perhaps capable of it, e.g. Korzybski’s General Semantics. Finally, there is what one may call the school of Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong et al. One fair-sized exception here, discussed by McLuhan in his last book, The Global Village, is the attitude taken in telephone developments by the AT&T and Bell companies, though this seems rather partial and haphazard. More important in scholarship and cognitive-innovation terms is the development, at the Toronto Centre for Culture and Technology, of the tetrad, seen as a replacement for the syllogism:

as an exploratory probe, tetrads do not rest on a theory but a set of questions; they rely on empirical observation, and are thus testable. When applied to new technologies or artefacts, they afford the user predictive power; in this sense as well they may be viewed as a scientific instrument. (McLuhan & Powers 1989 The Global Village, NY: OUP).

So how do we start on our short-term predictions? Well, let us follow Charles Fort: “one draws a circle, beginning anywhere.” The Western political-social systems are those with which we are most familiar, so it might be best to start there. At the moment of writing vast struggles are taking place in British and American politics, with recessions on the one hand and revolutionary changes in the media cultures on the other; McLuhan, for example, has said that the school system as it stands will have ceased to exist by the year 2,000, due to the effects of new technology. Those of an Aristotelian bent believe the new barbarism to be already upon us, sweeping ‘civilisation as we know it’ into the dustbin. Information-age enthusiasts, however, believe that the individual, in terms of power of choice, has never had it so good, and it has to be said that the cries of woe which assail our ears come oddly from those ‘deprived’ sections of our community who cannot wait to buy new high-definition technology TV or go on packaged holidays to Japan. Whichever viewpoint one holds, it is hardly possible to deny the speed with which the globe’s inhabitants are becoming homogenised. If asked to put my own money on the table, I would say that by the end of the century we (the West) will be well into the condition which the late John Campbell, finest of science-fiction editors, used to call a hyper-democracy, a state of affairs where the inhabitants of the bottom of the pyramid have minimal standards which no past Emperor could have imagined, but are ever more dissatisfied at sight of the conspicuous consumption available to those higher up the ladder, while intellectuals of all sorts consider themselves helpless victims of a covertly oligarchal system sweeping each day nearer to the rapids. Readers of Gibbon and Spengler (and for that matter readers of Jeremiah, and probably of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs too) may feel they have read this somewhere before… I should add, too – even at the risk of seeming to be weaselling out of my bet – that a well-planned and executed development of outer space might well avert, or at least postpone, the final explosion. But such a development implies firm control from above, and it seems to me that, in s.i. terms, the pyramid is too fat at the bottom to allow of that, at least without enormous growth pains In any event, my personal views here are incidental and beside the main point of this article, ,which is to urge other readers to start putting their predictions to the Editor, and getting reactions from the introduction of them to their own publics. S.i. is of course still incomplete and growing, but it is complete enough that it can now be made real.

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FEMININITY: “Kali, with her garland of skulls, drinking blood … “[1] “the savage Female principle whose appetites cannot be sated even by the blood of her own young.” [2] Less dramatically, but also with point: “To a common male, with his bemused conception of female ‘gentleness,’ women officers often appeared to show an unexpected and disconcerting ruthlessness towards their own sex.” [3] [1] Gita Mehta 1980, Karma Cola, London: Jonathan Cape, 78; [2] Ibid. 158; [3] E. S. Turner 1956. Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British officer 1600 – 1956. London: Michael Joseph, 335.

CONNECTIONS between science and nonconformist religion sometimes appear unexpectedly. Officers of the Army’s first scientific branch, the Royal Engineers, were said to be “mad, married or Methodist.” (Turner, ibid. 81).

JULIA Carlson has edited Banned in Ireland: Censorship and the Irish writer (London: Routledge). The book reports interviews with seven writers. Reviewing it, Dennis Donoghue quotes four of them saying they would favour censorship of this or that and comments that if all seven had their way a new and rigorous Censorship Act would be required; yet all seven claim to be opposed to censorship as a matter of principle. (TLS 7 Dec).

DEVALUATION of the pound? The Chancellor has said no. It used to be that when the Chancellor swore on his honour, “cut my throat if I tell a lie,” that they would never, ever, devalue, this meant they were about to do so; Callaghan was the most recent example. But can the old securities still be relied on? (Sunday Times 30 Dec.)

DON’T drink and drive; a sudden stop will upset the glass.

from Ideological Commentary 50, March 1991.