John Gray Talk: Beware Fascism
Thursday May 07, 2009 13:03 by Anarchist606
Reverses can and do happen - and fast...
I went along to see the political philosopher John Gray give a talk yesterday at the Watershed. It was a very illuminating talk with lots of interesting points. His main point is that regardless we admit it or not, many of us have an idea of political 'progress' as a cumulative thing.
What he means is that science and technology are cumulative - as in, once we solve one issue or problem, we can build new knowledge and technology on the back of that. As our knowledge about the world gets greater and the technology we can develop also grows. For example, as our ability to understand micro-technology grows we have been able to progress that knowledge further and further so we can each have a personal PC that is many times more powerful than the one NASA used to send people to the moon in the 60s.
Gray says we all tend to fall into the trap of applying the same ideals to political progress. There these is a big narrative to history; be it religious or secular - that we think history has a direction. So once universal suffrage is gained, that's democracy sorted and we can progress to exporting it (e.g. Iraq). Those (like the Neocons) who aims for impossible gains (spreading democracy via the gun) always end up sacrificing other people's lives on their alter of progress. He suggests this is foolish, that while the progress made is a good thing (he cited women's rights, ending slavery etc as good things we should protect) that when the sit hits the fan these can(and do) get reversed very quickly.
In his 2003 book 'Al Queda and What it Means to Be Modern' he does predict the economic collapse. In the talk he pointed out that tens of thousands of practising economists failed to. What does that say about the system? It says reverses can and do happen and the happen fast. Prior to this fall he suggests the hubris was that we thought we could control risk. We could not. He now predicts that we are in the first stages of a longer collapse and that reverses will happen - that groups of humans will blame other groups of humans and turn on each other. He also predicts the return of the racist right as part of this.
Looking at the predicted gains of the BNP, even the Evening Post's acquiesce to casual racism against travellers, it seems his predictions are coming to pass. Gray suggests things like resisting ID cards are worthy because while the government may claim benign reasons for it, almost all knowledge and technology can be used for ill, and as reveres happen fast, we should not empower the state with this data.