“At first I wasn’t gonna join, but how could anyone resist that name?”
From San Diego to Shanghai, measurable human behaviour is teaching anyone who’ll listen that you can’t base an economic system on skitty narcissists
The collapse of the Shanghai index in China was artificially halted this morning as Beijing’s automatic closedown system came into effect to stop a 7% slump. Commentators are fingering poor economic data for the near-tank, but I don’t buy that. I think three other factors are at work.
The first is that traders have been trade-starved and had time to absorb just how bad things are economically and geopolitically; the second is the Saudi Arabia vs Iran relations meltdown which, if it gets any hotter, does threaten to affect energy supplies. And yes, I know that in a global slump when nobody wants oil anyway that doesn’t make sense, but my view for decades has been that bourses very rarely make sense. Exchanges don’t like instability, and the Middle East now is starting to look like underwater rugby without the ball. The Eurostoxx, Dax and FTSE are all well off, and I’d say its that situation among Muslim sects and energy gangsters that lies behind it.
But looking only at China, I’d say that the third (for me, anthropological) factor is that this new circuit breaker – including a trading suspension clause – only came in this morning: I suspect a lot of traders decided to get out of positions before it was too late. In other words – like most State interventions – it was self-defeating…designed to patch a crack in the dam, it evoked a major attack from 617 Squadron.
The Chinese are still novices at this game, but I’ve been saying for years now that neoliberalism in general and an overdependence on bourse-raised funds for business are about the best way dreamed up thus far to destroy genuinely entrepreneurial capitalism forever. Having said that, a new study has just emerged adding grist to the commonsense arguments against neolib growth mania and its privileged megamillionaires.
Far from being put out by some obscure Hard Left University in Venezuela, the study is a major feature in the current issue of Time Magazine. Written up with engaging prose by Maia Szalavitz (a neuroscience journalist), it adds greatly to the arsenal trying in vain to bomb the nonsense put out by the Greedies.
When Scott Fitzgerald told Hemingway and others that “the rich are different”, Irish author Mary Colum responded by saying “Yes they are, they’ve got more money”. But in the ninety years since then, lots of us have wondered whether they got rich because they’re different….or they got rich and then became different”.
Ms Szalavitz tackles the question head on in the best way – by bringing to light cleverly designed fieldwork to monitor the attitudes and behavioural patterns of the rich. This work and that of others is particularly germain to the myth of ‘trickle-down wealth’, in that recent studies suggest wealthier people are more likely to cut people up in traffic, and behave unethically in simulated business and charity scenarios.
Further, last year, statistics on charitable giving revealed that the poor donate a far higher percentage of their meagre incomes to charity than the rich do. Far from giving them a sense of duty to give back and help, the new study suggests, the rich feel they deserve the level of privilege they enjoy. In fact, five separate experiments led researchers to record much higher levels of both narcissism and entitlement among those of a higher income and social class.
I turns out not to be clinical narcissism disorder (from which I’m sure Julian Assange suffers) because this gets in the way of success, given such people positively repel cooperation rather than attracting it. But it does suggest a kind of overweening confidence which becomes more insufferable still once they’re rich….and once their offspring have in turn chosen to decide they must be special too. It is pretty clear I think that Cameron, Osborne, Hunt, Hannan and Fallon all display this outcome to a tee. And so too, of course, do Tony Blair and Harriet Harman.
Ultimately, it all comes back to my Page One pet-hate: privilege. The attitude and behaviour it engenders I would describe as “Well, I’m here so I must be good….and people treat me as somehow special, so obviously I am”. This can apply equally to the Lord Snooties of this world as it does to the Dianne Abbotts. Wealth, rank, special treatment, private education and the ability to jump every queue while evading any law merely solidify the delusion. See also Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Piers Morgan, and Boris Johnson.
The good news is that, when forced by the piercing of their bubble to listen to those with other lives, developing narcissists do very rapidly begin to behave rather more sensibly: Szalavitz concludes:
‘Psychologists emphasize, however, that being able to see the world from other people’s perspectives — empathy — is critical to fighting narcissism…..The wealthier certain segments of society become, then the more vulnerable communities may be to selfish tendencies — and the less charity the least among us can expect’.
In other words, Friedmanism, Reaganism, Thatcherism and Camerlot’s Big Society are complete and utter bunk. But – and it’s a very big but indeed, not say a pain in the butt – this change in their behaviour from uncaring materialist self-styled Superman isn’t going to “just happen”. Only the likes of Peter Jukes hammering away at Newscorp, Jan Cunliffe fighting to bury the law of Joint Enterprise, Nicholas Wilson refusing to drown the HSBC’s bottomless ocean of lies, and WASPI’s refusal to accept that they should pay for the elite’s broken promises will make a difference.
Doing nothing will still be the default position for most citizens. If that continues, it will be too late to do something….because by then, the trail of violence will be globally viral: and the real extremists will take charge.
There is no such thing as NVE – non-violent extremism. But there desperately needs to be a lot more NVRR – non-violent radical realism.
Joint digital action and the abandonment of ideological tribalism is absolutely central to achieving this: Socialists and crypto-Marxists still stuck in ‘One More Heave’ mode need to get real, do their psephological sums, and join others of decently socialised bent.
Only then can we make life peacefully impossible for those who act as paymasters to the Greedies….and bring down a Government still supported by only a quarter of those entitled to vote.