At the End of the Day

Homo sapiens is unwell

I often wonder what the first philosophical debate ever was about. I suspect the front-runners would be:

  1. “These crouchy folks up the hill with the big chins don’t c0ntribute a whole lot do they? I hear they taste pretty good. Should we eat them?”
  2. “It smells in here. Who thinks we should move the toilet further away?”
  3. “It’s the only language they understand. I think maybe they were born like that. Or maybe we should invent social workers….whaddya think?”

It’s the last of these that has most intrigued me during my life. By and large, conservatives tend towards the “take ‘em out and shoot ‘em” view, while progressives think it’s almost certainly not their fault and they need love. The Right thinks ‘they’ are to blame for pretty much everything, and the Left believes ‘they’ need the State to take on the responsibility of doing the thinking for them. The reactionaries are passionate believers in nature and individual will. The liberals think a dysfunctional nurture is to blame, and some folks just weren’t around when the willpower was being fitted.

Kop-out as it may seem, every one of these views will be right, and every one wrong, depending on the individual. Families, communities and societies are nothing much more than an aggregate of individuals, all of whom will be the product of natural wiring and environmental influences. This reality highlights the flaw in both the major democratic political views of the world: but whoever is in power, the deadly One Size Fits All inevitably results.

It explains why Cameron drivels on about his Big Society, why multinationals are convinced that big is better (and brainwash their employees into holding identical views), why Big EU can’t get beyond a decision about which socks to wear, and why for thirty years now, market researchers and social commentators like Peter York have been obsessed with big social groups: Yuppies, Sloanes, Dinkies, Sun Readers, Silver Surfers – you name it, and somebody wants to group it under yet another banal, easily digestible load of archetype tosh.

Unfortunately, the real world consists of 6 billion individuals whose thoughts and actions are driven by cerebral chemicals, physical build, societal influences and congenital inheritance. And even more unfortunately, there isn’t a Government Party in power anywhere on the planet that both recognises this, and/or plans socio-economic policy on the basis of it.

You cannot, of course, build a cohesive pack by (a la Life of Brian) yelling “We are all individuals!” Nor can you base taxation and welfare strategy on that iron truth. But it is time that, somewhere, somebody decided to stop treating electorates as 60 million people deserving of license to misbehave at one extreme, or as vote-fodder drones at the other.

Wherever we look – in political Parties, large corporate environments, sports, the media, car production, TV schedules, and above all education – the drive for uniformity is readily apparent. It is, literally, an overpowering force which, except for the odd maverick able to mull and wonder differently despite peer-group pressure, winds up frustrating innovators, creating gang cultures, but above all stifling independent thought.

What makes individuals content is, on the whole, membership of a pack within which they feel comfortable – and where an equal opportunity to realise personal potential seems to be on offer. The idea that something called The Big Society could accommodate that search for maximum realisation and individual excellence is preposterous. (I actually think, too, that the Prime Minister’s espousal of this oxymoronic idea has finally set him apart in the Conservative Party as somebody who, quite simply, isn’t a Conservative).


That introductory bit above is mainly throat clearing before getting into my central thesis for this essay: that Homo sapiens is unwell….perhaps even in six billion different ways.

It’s perfectly possible to argue that, ever since moving on from erectus to sapiens, we have been congenitally unwell; indeed, I would largely accept that idea…and point out, as the most specific problem, a species learning difficulty in some left brain areas, along with an overactive anxiety synapse somewhere in the right cortex. Nothing else could explain the behaviour of stock markets.

However, I also think (and I am talking primarily about the West as we know it here) that the decline in cultural values, the invasive power of the media, the miniaturisation of technological stuff, and the growth of big ‘social’ States worshipping material wellbeing, have all contributed to a qualitatively different nurture over the last sixty or more years. And this nurture has exacerbated all the original nature cockups that started in the species factory.

We are, almost all of us, showing signs of being unwell. We consume more anxiolytics and anti-depressants than ever before. We have created anti-societies in which one’s own room, pair of headphones, meTV, virtual worlds and social netw0rks have replaced a great deal of family life and normal social intercourse. As a female friend in France remarked to me recently, “I don’t know anyone under 30 who ever rings a friend up for a chat any more”.

And yet alongside this increasing retreat into the internal self, we see the growth of exhibitionism once the engorged ego finds form as outward expression. Talent shows like The X-Factor are a classic example of this – as is, let’s face it, blogging in its original definition. Email has lost out massively to Facebook and Twitter. But any and all forms of this bizarrely public private life are watched, noted and exploited by marketers, tax offices, welfare investigators, security agencies, employers and every form of dangerous criminal or con artist. Big Brother no longer needs to watch us: we’re yelling for his attention day and night.

Yes indeed, we are unwell. We drink too much, eat too much, shop too much, take offence too much, get involved in violence too easily, and, well, don’t think about anything much any more. We read piffle in the media, and fail to analyse, criticise, or even care. We do things and accept policies without so much as a moment’s thought being given to the ramifications and dangers. We ridicule those who point out the Emperor’s lack of clothes, and resent those whose far-sightedness has enabled them to escape the consequences of being brain-idle. We award ourselves the suffix ‘sapiens’, but blithely enjoy the sowing while denying the likelihood of reaping.

The word ‘consequences’ is absent from the lexicon of politicians and other senior public officials. They live only for the next meeting, soundbite, interview, split, blackmail, crisis and election they will have to face. The rest of us have learned from this, applying the same Live for Now strategy to our domestic economics, sexual behaviour, ethical decisions, pension arrangements and voting apathy.

We are unwell in a way that transcends the definitions ‘physical’ or ‘mental’; but broadly, it is a form of fear we tend to deal with through denial. It matters little whether this be the EU pretending it isn’t flat broke, Americans hailing more good times just around the corner, talent show contestants insisting they actually have talent, or security legislators appeasing Islam. Denial of the consequences is another way of saying Fear of the Future.

Somewhere along the line – perhaps from the welfare State, perhaps from medical advance against disease, perhaps from the lack of a major war for 66 years, perhaps even from the genetic malfunction that seems always to follow imperial decline – the British have lost the inquisitive ‘voyager gene’. It has been swapped for Health & Safety, and a media set crammed with half-baked, cod advice about how to live forever. There is little in the way of obvious courage anywhere today: foreign policy, health provision, economic diversification and genuine entrepreneurial risk have all fallen victim to the tinkering, directionless compromise of ‘new’ Labour and ‘Coalition’ Conservatism. Fear of the future is itself an alternative term for Fear of Failure.

We are unwell because the very fear that leaves us frozen in the face of emergency leads to aggression in the face of warnings. David Cameron became so angry about criticism of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks in the end, he stopped listening to any of it. He did so because he feared the vengeance of Rupert Murdoch should he heed the advice. Sarkozy took the same attitude towards French bank stupidity in 2010, Obama towards Wall Street in 2009. Angela Merkel is in the process of ignoring sound judiciary and central banker advice as I write. Sarkozy again snarls at Cameron for no other reason than British doubts about the euro have been proved correct.

Much of the previous paragraph leads back to the frightened emotionalism of the right cerebral hemisphere, whose over-activity evokes first denial and then aggression. In other circumstances, however, there is the broad issue of why we are prepared to elect a macho Russian nutcase who never misses an opportunity to rip off his shirt, a sex-addict who can’t resist Lolitas, a third-rate movie actor with infantile economic ideas, or a vulgar dwarf with only an ego between his ears.

For myself, I put this down to a failure to evolve beyond admiration of muscled might, and widespread left-brain atrophy in the population at large. This atrophy in turn has occurred, I suspect, as a result of various factors – but has probably been led by an addiction to the effortless media of television and computer games, Friedmanite insistence on rapid ROI, and the liberal determination to enforce uniformity of thought in education. The contagion has spread first to action movies, and then to formulaic live theatre. It displays itself most commonly now in blog comment threads, where much of the time any ability to assemble an argument has been tossed aside in favour of starting an argument. Trashing the other side with a bombardment of insults has replaced civilised debate. The Nazis used this technique incessantly as a means of wearing down opposition in the Reichstag during the early 1930s. After that, Germany became unwell for some years too.

Perhaps most significantly of all, our species illness presents as a rejection of science, and a reversion to the mystic and the fluffy, polemic rigidity and religious superstition. Steve Jobs attraction to mumbo-jumbo health treatments killed him. I hear otherwise highly intelligent people all the time talking in awe of everything from crystals to aural wax treatments. Practically all of Harriet Harman’s feminist beliefs are based on a form of behaviourism proved empirically wrong nearly thirty years ago. Islam justifies the most appalling denigration of women (alongside a nice easy time for the blokes) based on interpretations of the Koran which are insane. A great deal of organic food, climate change and conservation theory is utter bollocks.

Sometimes, fearful denial works the other way round. Oddly enough, a remarkable confluence of thinking between neuroscience, Buddhism, cognitive behaviour therapy, meditation, homaeopathy and even nuclear physics does add up to some coincidences of conclusion so spooky that, unsurprisingly, GPs, therapists and counsellors have been meeting priests, neurosurgeons and sub-atomic theorists to try and arrive at some explanation as to why this might be.

There is little doubt in my mind that Time, the human brain, and its perceptions of the Universe are at the core of this mystifying phenomenon….but that’s the point: it is a phenomenon. Buddhist monks do slow down their heart-rates to 50 beats a minute and far less. Pets do respond measurably to some homaeopathic remedies. The human brain does dilate Time. Sub-atomic reactions do sometimes mirror bits of alternative medical thought. The irony is that, in this example, it is the scientific community itself that denies the existence of anything requiring explanation. A most, if I may say so, unscientific attitude….built on fear of the New.

The emergence of conspiracy theory to a level of mass worldwide fascination is another feature of our preference for the fantastic over the facts. Every experienced blogger knows that a new theory to explain the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is worth at least 10,000 hits – the size of hit count normally being inversely proportional to the credibility of the theory. The ridiculous idea that the Americans faked the entire space programme from 1965 to the present day is one of the global favourites. The existence of a Zionist plot to rule the world is another, the certain survival of Elvis another still. Despite the overwhelming DNA evidence that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia, thousands of books continue to be written about the possibility that she was. Millions of Islamics throughout the world deny the existence of Nazi extermination camps recorded on thousands of feet of Allied and captured SS film.

A handful of conspiracies throughout history have turned out to be true. Tests for arsenic in Napoleon’s hair showed fairly conclusively that he was poisoned to death. The long-denied Ekaterine massacre by the Soviets has now been proven beyond much doubt. There is disturbing evidence that, at some time during 2000-2001, rogues within the Blair Government did indeed discuss a deliberate policy of flooding Britain with vulnerable immigrants in order to create a permanent Labour majority. And like it or not, some of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and incarceration of Dominic Strauss-Kahn earlier this year do require some explanation.

But most are absolute nonsense, appealing only to those whose ability to extrapolate significance will stretch to any sequence of events, however banal and circumstantial. Which is a frightening thought really, because such fantasies engage and fascinate millions of apparently normal people throughout the world.


What is normal any more? Homosexuality is seen as normal, although statistically, by definition it isn’t. For a while in the 1970s, the madder end of Labour’s lunatic fringe considered paedophilia to be normal. Many parents today think it normal to sexualise their children from the age of six onwards, but use the same cerebral apparatus to conclude that paedophiles are everywhere, and anyone taking pictures 0f a junior soccer game should be disembowelled.

The British Establishment think it is quite normal to pass laws antithetical to equality of opportunity, allow tiny minorities to dictate certain legal procedures, have Courts hear evidence in camera on the basis of a threat that is non-existent, and continue to allow immigration levels based on the beliefs of a trading Group that 75% of the population wants to leave. I become hysterical (in all senses of the word) when I realise that it is normal for the State broadcaster to dismiss the wishes of most normal people as abnormal.

As Orwell posited in his novel 1984, sooner or later the State decides what is normal; and the abnormally controlling State insists that everyone show their loyalty to it by agreeing with every last aspect of the definition.

But then, everyone in charge of Airstrip One in Orwell’s seminal work was meant to be seen as….unwell. Muammar Gadhaffi is certainly dead, but before that he was unwell. And yet, he stayed in power for 42 years. I think Harriet Harman is unwell, and I’m absolutely certain that Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch are unwell. Mahmood Ahmadinnajhad is unwell, this diagnosis being based on the same study of symptoms applied to Adolf Hitler: flecks of foam, eyes like chapel hat-pegs, and derisory nonsense pouring forth from a yelling gob.

In short, put unwell people in positions of power, and pretty soon the abnormal will be seen as normal. This applies even to Tony Blair, whose lies on occasion were breathtaking – my favourite being his insistence that he saw Newcastle football hero Jackie Milburn play. The slight problem with this statement is that Milburn retired when Blair was eighteen months old. Gordon Brown was unwell in so many ways, he became cringe-making to watch. Louise Mensch’s grip on reality is disturbing too. John Bercow is the British Sarkozy.

Could it be, then, that we elect those who are unwell because – being unwell ourselves – we feel at ease knowing that somebody as potty as us is in the top job? That’s not entirely seriously meant, but I think that those who help ‘create’ the image of our leaders – the media – are chock full of folks who show many signs of being on the wrong side of the asylum fence.

Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail strikes me, whenever I see the bloke or hear him speak, as being bonkers in a scrupulously honest sort of way. Littlejohn just seems a screw loose in that repetitively loud way nutters on buses have. So too at times does Simon Heffer develop social theories in his columns that others might find bizarre. Alan Rusbridger has ideas that border on the delusional, and Polly Toynbee – while a very decent human being in many ways – is truly light years away from reality. On BBC News, Robert Peston – a member of Common Purpose, he – whines on about financial news as if it might be entirely normal to experience mass figment hysteria.

Power stretches well beyond politics and the media. I have felt for nearly a year now that Bob Diamond is mentally ill. I’m reasonably confident that Lloyd Blankfein is tonto as well. Northern Rock’s Adam Applegarth was obviously certifiable, as is Fred Goodwin.

We could go on like this all night, but it’s getting late already….and I insist on having my extra hour of sleep.


In summary, Homo sapiens is unwell above and beyond the genetic faults with which it started. The influences upon (and thus, I suppose, causes of ) this environmental condition seem to revolve around an inability to evolve much beyond the Ug approach to social arrangements.

Ug consists chiefly of an injudicious mixture of can’t be arsed, and admiration for decisiveness. This brings mad people into the picture, and they in turn develop – as you’d expect – a mad definition of normality. The most commonly expressed insanities are liberal social tolerance of everything dysfunctional, and conservative economic insistence that there is no alternative to clap-trap.

At any and every sign that citizens might go off-message on barminess, the mad folks discourage independent thought from kids, MPs and the media.

Down this road lies little beyond sefdom, with the truth being buried below ever-deeper layers of bonkers twaddle.

So the only question outstanding is whether there is any known cure. There is, but it falls into that group of cures known as Stop Doing It. More specifically – and, I hope, constructively – I think the key catalysts to reversal of this seemingly inexorable process are as follows:

1. Economic hardship restoring a sense of importance and perspective.

2. The encouragement of independent thought and a thirst for knowledge in education.

3. The demolition of the controlling oligarchy that is our existing Party system.

4. The encouragement of open minded and courageous leaders to  replace what we have now – viz, the fear of all different ways of doing things in the Future.

5. In terms of governance, putting the social cart firmly back behind the economic horse. That is to say, turning genuinely entrepreneurial wealth creation into a thoroughbred racehorse pulling those prepared to make a real contribution to family, community and social contentment. What we have now is huge, faceless and corrupt corporate carthorses kicking a cart full of wasters, while complaining that, as it doesn’t move, we should ditch the cart and let the horses really get into into sixth gear.

6. The setting of clear ‘ideal’ goals based on reality, with a perpetual cycle of testing to ensure that those goals are still viable and desirable. Not the search for the guilty we have now, but rather the acknowledgement of mistakes as being the only way to learn…and this make things better and better for the social pack as a whole.

I apologise for the lengthy nature of this essay: it really should be in a book, not on a website. But I don’t apologise for an exercise in per adua ad astra. Radical realism, as I keep trying to define it, is essentially the application of empirical measurement techniques to worthy and realistic social  aims….aims that recognise at long last how all onside for one goal is vastly preferable to one size fits all.

42 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Common sense, Joined up thinking, Very much less short term accounting and economics and an almost cessation of banal “Bling” advertising filling the media. Then to finish it off a lot more people actually doing as opposed to making sure they are seen as doing and and it being reported at infinitum

    I can but wish for adding value rather than just large unit profits


  2. JW- Please don’t ever apologise for what I (at least) consider to be one of your best essays yet. Incredibly well thought out and quite profound. In my humble opinion the start of the decline of our society was the huge expansion of Social Services, which I personally think was the ‘Blight of Britain’. This department single-handedly drained the coffers, to no good end, as they started out by encouraging people to think in a certain way and have ended up removing the ability, for a huge chunk of the population, to think atall. This has culminated in Secret Family Courts, where demi-god judges rule implicitly, without fear of challenge and lives are ruined. This totally pc nanny state, overrun by legal and illegal immigrants, which we’re all encouraged to embrace as idealistic, multi-culturalism or else we’ll be at the mercy of the European Court of Human Rights, individually or collectively. Whichever, we are drained of our resources, which we’ve all worked so bloody hard for, no wonder prescriptions for anti-depressants are at a record high. I don’t have any immediate answers but closing the borders and pulling out of Europe would be a good start.


  3. The advent of the moving image as the dominant form of human communication has played a role in the demise of thinking. You can’t expect people to think if they don’t have to imagine.


  4. As ever, this all starts with the family upbringing.
    The moment that indecision as to who actually wears the trousers crept in , the western authority started to decline.
    Women outside the home has made a sick society.
    Just look at the rise of China, and ask where was woman in this story?


  5. Heyho…..the sun came up again today :-). Walking along the Thames early this morning, things looked just fine.

    As for culture: well, I can guarantee there will be Morris dancing aplenty next May.

    Did you see the latest RSA piece on left brain-right brain?

    Actually, their whole series is a useful complement (and sometimes counterpoint) to this blog.


  6. How to discredit genuine concerns and the scientific investigations of visible evidence in 3 easy steps. 1. Call it a conspiracy theory. 2. Link it to crazy notions such as sightings of Elvis. 3. Invoke the Nazis. [A fourth option might be to declare such investigation illegal, but this is not – yet – the case in the UK.] John manages at least 2 of them in this silly rant.


  7. Indeed…but.. Right Piddock..
    ”While some major sectors–such as banking, steel, telecommunications and electricity generation–are still essentially state-owned, a sizable chunk of new wealth being created comes from entrepreneurs working hard in a variety of fields such as real estate, retail and consumer goods”…
    Government and Infrastructure are a no no for the fairer sex. Too risky..


  8. Thats not cricket John. You bowled a googly, and fooled some of the regulars. Takes me back to the days of Dennis, and Leslie Compton.


  9. The basic theory, that humanity is unwell is not that new. I think that Arthur Koestler, in Ghost in the Machine from 1967 should get some credit. And wasn’t Napoleon’s arsenic in the nice green wallpaper?


  10. Methinks it has always been thus, allowing for ups and downs. Bear in mind that many of us have grown up in the period after WWII and have enjoyed a blip period in mankind’s evolution where things were running swimmingly and democracy ruled.

    Due to a decline in natural resources and growing political mal-administration, the days of milk and honey are fast ending and mankind is returning to its standard model of grab what you can and look after No.1. aka the law of the jungle. I believe even those who are unable to articulate this have an inner feeling about what’s happening.

    Thus, faced with a need to marry their outdated political dogmas to the new world of growing socio-economic problems, the political elites don’t know what to do. This state of affairs is putting immense pressure on the (already) flawed system of democracy and accountability.


  11. Oh thats scary, I was just about to start my latest blog post and popped across to the slog to read todays offering. And contains a couple of grown up descriptions of what I shall be discussing. Great minds and all that.


  12. Bankrupt Taxpayer.
    I think you nailed the nub of the problem when you said “The political elites don’t know what to do”
    No, they absolutely don’t. I find it a bit like someone thinking there is something seriously wrong with them and being afraid to go to the doctors to have it confirmed. They would rather wait and see, which, I think is happening now in Govt. There is something seriously wrong in society and they don’t want it comfirmed.


  13. I remember reading somewhere that our bodies burn more calories whilst looking at a blank wall rather than watching the tv, it’s apparently down to having to use our imagination when looking at the wall.


  14. Yes, that’s a good analogy. As has been discussed here for a while…the conditions are ripe for the emergence of a strong leader who is not in denial and claims to know what to do. Obviously Cameron is not that man and Red Ed is a joke.


  15. Now that I’ve popped a couple of small white pills I feel much better. Thinking about our state of unwellness though, I am still glad that I have lived in this time of unwellness than other time of unwellness in our recorded history.
    Maybe we are less unwell than we have been in prior times but are more frustrated that our expectation of progress towards being well is still slow and strewn with obstacles by those more unwell than us at this time.
    My greatest concern is that as a generalisation we recognise fewer life changing challenges to our individual being and are happy to retreat to our individual and comfortable coccoons. This means that a few of the organised more unwell exert a greater influence than they should.
    That I see as the great challenge to the less unwell i.e. get out of their cocoons and get involved.


  16. When worked in radio that was a premise we always used. Theatre of the mind. With Radio, you make the pictures in your head. eg. If I was on radio talking about “waves lapping gently at the shore with seagulls crying plaintively overhead”. you aren’t thinking of Canvey Island.


  17. “perhaps even from the genetic malfunction that seems always to follow imperial decline – the British have lost the inquisitive ‘voyager gene’.”

    Perhaps we used to promote a certain type to power and authority on the basis, partly, of their personal moral qualities. So a hospital matron was appointed on the basis of her wisdom and judgement and allowed to sack lazy or cruel nurses. If you had ‘the right stuff’ you got promoted (at least to a certain extent) and were given authority and influence.

    But there is another subsection of the population that sees such people as the enemy. They have now taken over. Think how they have made the term ‘superior’ into a derogatory term. So the superior matron is out and equality and diversity is in, and the poor and old suffer neglect and cruelty in our hospitals as a consequence. Thus showing that their claim to be ‘caring’ is a false claim. Their motive is hate.

    So a new subsection of the population, who have always been with us, has taken over from the previous subsection. And the new subsection now ruling us hates better types, including hating the very country that provides them with their comforts. They can often be very intelligent, but they are the types who, like many judges, are pro-crime, or, like many teachers, seek to prevent schools from expelling violent bullies and bad influences.

    What factors lead to one subsection of the population taking over from another subsection?

    The main factor must be our wealth. In the past you had to be a butcher or baker or candlestick maker, but now our wealth means anyone can follow their calling and this has allowed a certain type to gravitate to certain professions (education, media, politics) where they can act on their hate and exert far more influence compared to their proportion in the population as a whole.


  18. Pets do respond measurably to some homaeopathic remedies.

    Sorry John, but this is the biggest, hairiest and most pendulous load of bollocks I have ever seen on this blog.

    And the pet explained that it felt better after it had been given a sugar pill? I think not. I very strongly suspect that the pet owner (probably also stupid enough to be fooled by “memory water” or some other mixture of ineffectual claptrap) said something like “….my Rover is feeling much better now after he took that nice homeopathic pill”.

    I read your blog for knowledge and insight, not for this kind of medieval quackery.


  19. Crikey Nigel, one sentence in an entire Essay can make all the difference!
    So not a fan of Homeopathy then? I went to have a look at what it actually was and this is what I found ‘The collective weight of scientific evidence has found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo’
    I am disappointed to learn that the many prescribers of this treatment, who are often found in Kaftans, are merely snake oil salesmen of the modern day. Who would have thought it? ;-)


  20. Eh up, Nigel.
    Dogs can’t talk: correct.
    Dogs having had a cerebral episode lie like a tiger-rug in the kitchen, looking blank.
    Pet owner administers h-path remedy.
    40 minutes later, dog picks itself up and starts to eat food again.
    ‘medieval quackery’?
    Like leeches you mean…now back in general use.
    See articles various about reversal of dilution effect at the sub-atomic level.
    It’s your call. I don’t make this stuff up.


  21. You are correct, I have a real problem with that quackery called homeopathy. I actually meant the reference to dogs feeling better after a sugar pill was “….the biggest, hairiest and most pendulous load of bollocks I have ever seen on this blog”, but now I re-read the paragraph I am at odds with most of it. For example “…..The irony is that, in this example, it is the scientific community itself that denies the existence of anything requiring explanation. A most, if I may say so, unscientific attitude….built on fear of the New….” Now this is also a huge set of hairy nads. The bollocks surrounding homeopathy has been very well documented and deconstructed by the Science Community (Several times in the Lancet over the years). Homeopathy is as good as a sugar pill, and two sugar pills are better than one, EVEN WHEN YOU TELL THE PATIENT HE IS TAKING A SUGAR PILL (the Placebo effect is indeed a very strong effect, but is seriously not due to the efficacy of homeopathic concoctions)
    When you consider ALL of JW’s posts and the knowledge and insight hundreds (probably tens of thousands) of people benefit from everyday, little spurts of pseudoscientific bollocks should be pointed out, bollocks deconstruction etc…
    Incidently, if you have a little vial of “magic homeopathy water” (about 50cl), the active ingredient cannot be detected. Apparantly the water it is diluted with “remembers” (honestly!!) the molecular structure of the active ingredient. To detect the active ingredient at the rate of dilution used you would have to have a sphere of water with a diameter the distance of which would run from the earth to the moon. And that would only detect one molecule. It really is bollocks.


  22. In medieval times leeches were used as they were thought to suck the badness out of the blood. When in actual fact all they do is suck blood, which is why they are used nowadays in operations, to aid the surgeon to be able to see what he is doing without all the blood sloshing around


  23. Oh, and which Veterinary Journal did you pick the “Tiger Skin” dog at deaths door report from? Or was it just something in the “Take a Break” mag you were reading in the airport whilst waiting for your plane. A most unscientific approach, to paraphrase.
    C’mon John, you should be de-constructing bollocks like this, not re-constructing it.


  24. Homo sapiens is unwell….perhaps even in six billion different ways.

    Apparently from today that should be seven billion.

    Despite the issues raised in this essay its seems to me that as time goes on we, as a species, get ever more polarised. By that i mean we have the coexistence of opposite trends which separates people into ever more disparate categories. One example is the oft quoted gap between rich and poor which gets wider. Another would be how obesity and lack of exercise has its opposite trend, namely altheletes who continually extend world records in all areas. Lack of imagination due to TV, computer games, etc in the general populace has not stopped scientists & engineers continually coming up with ever more sophisticated ideas and technologies. And so on. I know in many of these examples its a relatively small group which is at the positive end of the spectrum but their continual existence is still something to be at least slightly cheerful about.

    As to solutions to improve those in the negative groupings, well that can only come when we start to dismantle the networks of moral hazards which largely underly the problems. For example we need to deal with a free health service that doesnt penalise those (via higher insurance costs) who drink, smoke and eat too much junk food. Also the tax, employment legislation and social security regime which collectively reward the slothful and irresponsible whilst hammering the industrious and risk taking entrepeneurs. Such things are still not politically possible and until they are we are just rearranging office chairs in the twin towers.


  25. Didn’t Einstein say that one of the first signs of madness is when people go on doing the same thing yet keep expecting to get a different result?
    This would therefore be the explanation as to why the same old useless politicos keep getting elected into parliament. So the Brits really are very unwell, or even – mad!
    And all these years I’ve been thinking it was me out of step with almost everyone I know!
    Seriously though, an excellent article. So glad to know it isn’t me that’s abnormal.Why is it that Mr.Ward isn’t the PM of our benighted country, instead of the venal & insincere twat who is?
    Perhaps if & when they(the gov’t),
    run out of money, the mesmerised & cowed, superior subsection of the population of our country will wake up & seize control? I live in hope.


  26. Brilliant essay John! (jon is jealous) If I were at your home, a standing ovation would be in order. okay enough gloating… did I read correctly you dismiss me as a ‘crazy’ for not believeing AMERICAN’s actually landed on the moon? shoorlie not I say.

    The 1% and their paid protectors (Governments and civil servants) are unwell … they continue to make us all SICK.

    The problem with many people, and you have described brilliantly many, is that they lack self confidence,self belief,have an unrealistic measure of their talents and others over enthuse about their… well ‘talents’ it is all to do with CV AND HR interference in the Employment arena. I will give you two examples. 1 A Talented, gifted manager who had 15 years experience in a civil service Department had many promotions denied, so he stopped applying, he was then accused of being ‘not a team player’ no actual details were produced, it was more of an ‘observation by an unamed person’. a few months later, he was invited to apply for a similar NEW post, as his post was about to be removed due to departmental restructuring.ahhh well, you guessed already- he lost out and was forced to accept early retirement. He was replaced by a hard working Polish person, who had no experience-no working knowledge of the Welfare system. The new post saved the taxpayer 15 thousand pounds. ( child benefit actually decreased this amount, not to mention DLA for her sick mother who had to accompay her here)) 2. Five dedicated medical staff are working in part time waitressing jobs, due to there being no demand for their skills. Ward sisters report that new staff seem to be comming from outside the UK. (?) John THESE instances are bringing about change, peopel see for themselves the reality of being robbed of their dignity,rights, and money to fund hair brained Ideas. The revolution is a comming! bring it on- realism for the masses!

    ps I find most of your ‘rants’ inspiring….AND that is saying something, as I am not easily Lead.

    Apologies in advance to Jon for typos and spellos. :0


  27. You actually believe in that old chestnut? Who wears the trousers? two people create a child- both are responsible for upbringing. Or are you one of those dead beat dads?


  28. Interesting take on conspiracy you got there. And an interesting list to go with; more interesting than that it includes than for that which it precludes!

    Let me offer this quotation by way of riposte, with apologies for its lengthiness:

    “The very label [conspiracy] serves as an automatic dismissal, as though no one ever acts in secret. Let us bring some perspective and common sense to this issue.

    The United States comprises large organizations – corporations, bureaucracies, “interest groups,” and the like – which are conspiratorial by nature. That is, they are hierarchical, their important decisions are made in secret by a few key decision-makers, and they are not above lying about their activities. Such is the nature of organizational behavior. “Conspiracy,” in this key sense, is a way of life around the globe.

    Within the world’s military and intelligence apparatuses, this tendency is magnified to the greatest extreme. During the 1940s, […] the military and its scientists developed the world’s most awesome weapons in complete secrecy… […]

    Anyone who has lived in a repressive society knows that official manipulation of the truth occurs daily. But societies have their many and their few. In all times and all places, it is the few who rule, and the few who exert dominant influence over what we may call official culture. – All elites take care to manipulate public information to maintain existing structures of power. It’s an old game.

    America is nominally a republic and free society, but in reality an empire and oligarchy, vaguely aware of its own oppression, within and without. I have used the term “national security state” to describe its structures of power. It is a convenient way to express the military and intelligence communities, as well as the worlds that feed upon them, such as defense contractors and other underground, nebulous entities. Its fundamental traits are secrecy, wealth, independence, power, and duplicity.

    Nearly everything of significance undertaken by America’s military and intelligence community in the past half-century has occurred in secrecy. The undertaking to build an atomic weapon, better known as the Manhattan Project, remains the great model for all subsequent activities. For more than two years, not a single member of Congress even knew about it although its final cost exceeded two billion dollars.

    During and after the Second World War, other important projects, such as the development of biological weapons, the importation of Nazi scientists, terminal mind-control experiments, nationwide interception of mail and cable transmissions of an unwitting populace, infiltration of the media and universities, secret coups, secret wars, and assassinations all took place far removed not only from the American public, but from most members of Congress and a few presidents. Indeed, several of the most powerful intelligence agencies were themselves established in secrecy, unknown by the public or Congress for many years.

    Since the 1940s, the U.S. Defense and Intelligence establishment has had more money at its disposal than most nations. In addition to official dollars, much of the money is undocumented. From its beginning, the C.I.A. was engaged in a variety of off-the-record “business” activities that generated large sums of cash. The connections of the C.I.A. with global organized crime (and thus de facto with the international narcotics trade) has been well established and documented for many years. – Much of the original money to run the American intelligence community came from very wealthy and established American families, who have long maintained an interest in funding national security operations important to their interests.

    In theory, civilian oversight exists over the US national security establishment. The president is the military commander-in-chief. Congress has official oversight over the C.I.A.. The F.B.I. must answer to the Justice Department. In practice, little of this applies. One reason has to do with secrecy. […]

    A chilling example of such independence occurred during the 1950s, when President Eisenhower effectively lost control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The situation deteriorated so much that during his final two years in office, Eisenhower asked repeatedly for an audience with the head of Strategic Air Command to learn what America’s nuclear retaliatory plan was. What he finally learned in 1960, his final year in office, horrified him: half of the Northern Hemisphere would be obliterated.

    If a revered military hero such as Eisenhower could not control America’s nuclear arsenal, nor get a straight answer from the Pentagon, how on earth could Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon regarding comparable matters?

    Secrecy, wealth and independence add up to power. Through the years, the national security state has gained access to the world’s most sophisticated technology sealed off millions of acres of land from public access or scrutiny, acquired unlimited snooping ability within U.S. borders and beyond, conducted overt or clandestine actions against other nations, and prosecuted wars without serious media scrutiny. Domestically, it maintains influence over elected officials and communities hoping for some of the billions of defense dollars. [including scientists, universities, etc.]

    Deception is the key element of warfare, and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. When taken together, the examples of official duplicity form a nearly single totality. They include such choice morsels as the phony war crisis of 1948, the fabricated missile gap claimed by the air force during the 1950s, the carefully managed events leading to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution… […]

    The secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world, that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo.

    [S]keptics often ask, “Do you really think the government could hide [anything] for so long?” The question itself reflects ignorance of the reality that secrecy is a way of life in the National Security State. Actually though, the answer is yes, and no.

    Yes, in that cover-ups are standard operating procedure, frequently unknown to the public for decades, becoming public knowledge by a mere roll of the dice. But also no, in that … information has leaked out from the very beginning. It is impossible to shut the lid completely. The key lies in neutralizing and discrediting unwelcomed information, sometimes through official denial, other times through proxies in the media.

    [E]vidence [of conspiracy] derived from a grass roots level is unlikely to survive its inevitable conflict with official culture. And acknowledgement about the reality of [conspiracies] will only occur when the official culture deems it worthwhile or necessary to make it. Don’t hold your breath.

    This is a widespread phenomenon affecting many people, generating high levels of interest, taking place in near-complete secrecy, for purposes unknown, by agencies unknown, with access to incredible resources and technology. A sobering thought and cause for reflection.

    From a historical point of view, the only reality is that of conspiracy. Secrecy, wealth and independence add up to power. …Deception is the key element of warfare, (the tool of the power elites), and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. Secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world, that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo.”

    — Richard Dolan, author of “UFOs and the National Security State”


  29. The other thing – regarding the “unwell” folks – there is an increasing body of literature on the prevalence of psychopaths in the upper echelons of pretty well all hierarchical organisations. They climb easily higher due to their superficial charm, manipulating ways and the ruthlessness engendered by lacking any form of conscience. Almost human indeed.

    Having no sense of danger, they are usually eventually exposed by their gross risk-taking and frequently outrageous lies. Several public figures discussed in these pages come readily to mind. Even then, those closest to them usually have a hard time believing the truth in the face of all evidence.

    Goes some way to explaining the world we see around us, I think.


  30. My feet disagree too – scabby rotting things that they sometimes are – and I don’t believe in it either – except for that one particular “stops my foot rot” remedy :)


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