Mindfulness for Capitalists

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There’s a fabulous long read in the Guardian today giving a wonderful view of a left-winger’s attitudes towards Mindfulness. It’s written by a chap called Ronald Purser, who I’d not heard of before. Apparently he is a Professor of Management at San Francisco State University and likes to write culturally critical articles. He’s written a book called ‘McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality’.

The long and the short of the article (as you might guess from the title of his book) is that Mindfulness is a load of baloney because it makes you think about yourself and therefore makes you selfish and a Capitalist. And because lots of people are practicing mindfulness, society is collapsing because we are all becoming selfish and Capitalists, when really we should all be preparing for some great revolution (presumably based on his design) because society is completely broken and if we’re all gazing at our navels, then we aren’t out there bringing down the horrible Capitalists.

I’m guessing he’s not actually tried Mindfulness, because if he had, he’d probably know that by being mindful of your surroundings in the present moment and not following the incessant chatter of the neocortex (which mostly focusses on inane predictions about the future or wallows in useless nostalgia of the past), you tend to become more aware of other people and your relationships with them, not less, because at that point you’re looking out, not in.

It’s when you become mindful, that you tend to have moments of clarity about bigger issues, because it allows the subconscious to present you with ideas that are complex and interesting, which your chattering brain normally tends to drown out with it’s mundane rubbish.

I must agree with him that the whole eating slowly thing is a bit spurious, but that is just a small part of Mindfulness, usually a beginner’s exercise to encourage the practitioner to become more aware of their surroundings and to train the brain to actually see what the senses are presenting to it, rather than what it expects the senses will probably pass to it and ignore (see Prediction Engines).

Alas, in his eagerness to present Mindfulness as a “bad thing”, Mr Purser somewhat misses the whole point of it.

We Are History

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It always amazes me when people of a more left-wing persuasion sneer at historic traditions, such as those seen this week during the state visit of President Trump. I’ve heard several disparaging conversations around London this week in which the word ‘pomp’ has been spat out, almost in disgust.

This, to me, is a very cold-hearted attitude to take to the wealth of history that exists around us and we take for granted each day. It’s not only built into the fabric of the cities and towns we live in, it’s in our culture and our language. It is very much the core of the extended order, and it influences us on a daily basis. Yet so many are blind to this, more concerned with how they appear to other people, too keen to dismiss the rich history around us as somehow embarrassing.

Barely seven years ago, when London hosted the Olympics, there was a great outswelling of national pride, buoyed, I think in great part by Danny Boyles’ incredible opening ceremony, which brilliantly demonstrated the great diversity of our nation’s history. For a short while, people believed in the country, not just the conservative types.

Alas, the show moved on and we returned to our myopic ways, our hearts shrinking back to being two sizes too small. It’s a shame, but such is the cynical (and hypocritical) heart, I believe, of the left (despite the constant proclamations that they are the only ones who care).

So, when you’re next out and about, rather than staring at the phone in your hand (and getting in my way), look up and around you and think of the people and the history that surrounds us, those millions of interactions and relationships and decisions and ideas that occurred through history so you could be there, at that moment, marvelling at the view. Perhaps, then, our hearts will start to grow again.

What’s next?

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Nigel Farage writes in the Telegraph today that he believes people no longer identify as left-wing or right-wing, but rather as Remainers or Leavers.

It’s an interesting stance to take, but I’m not convinced it holds much water. In the short term it does; all the time there is the chance Brexit could be stopped, conservatives (small c) that wish to keep things just as they are, will do all they can to preserve the status quo.

Mr Farage identifies these people as un-democratic, and focuses his party on ‘restoring democracy’. Obviously, this is a populist stance. It’s easy to paint the government as patently anti-Brexit, particularly with its pervading liberal authoritarian viewpoint. But Brexit is convoluted and complex. Most of the current MPs voted for Article 50; they all agreed we should leave. Since then though, they’ve become hopelessly divided over exactly how to leave. Simply reducing it down to ‘we haven’t left yet, democracy is broken’ might be a little bit disingenuous. Yes, the likes of Letwin, Cooper, etc. have tried to take control of the situation to ‘stop the process’, but they could only do that because of the division about the way forward and lack of leadership from number 10, not necessarily because the system was broken. Indeed some people went along with them as they saw it as a way to break the deadlock, particularly with the indicative votes.

This disparity of consensus is also showing up in the leadership race. Each of the 5 million candidates has a slightly different take on how to do the Brexit thing, from Hard-No-Deal Raab through to Second-Referendum Gyimah.

The thing is, ‘we haven’t left yet, democracy is broken,’ is a nice simple concept for people to wrap their heads around. It’s also emotive. It ticks all the right boxes to get the old brain chemicals firing and stir up a bit of conflict in the old grey matter.

But what happens once Brexit actually happens (and it should do, most MPs agree with that)? We’ll move on, some people will be disgruntled, others vaguely happy something got done, but maybe not so happy with the eventual compromises I think we’ll have to make (even No Deal is a sort of compromise). What does a Leaver or a Brexiteer stand for once we’ve left? These are the messages that the Brexit Party need to focus on, I think. Some of the conservative leadership candidates have cottoned on to this, like Boris with his UBI-lite school funding.

It’s about time the Brexit Party started defining more of what they would stand for post-Brexit, and show how they will unite the likes of Fox and the Widdecombe. There is plenty to talk about, I’d just like to hear it.

The Future

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Continuing on from yesterday, I mentioned that, for the most part, we aren’t aware of how our instincts shape our conscious thoughts and actions, and how they drive our decision making. For example, if it is the case the the Conservatives are driven by an instinct to preserve things as they are, which includes theoretically preserving the status of the elites over the rest of society, it’s not necessarily true to argue that results (good or bad) of such activity are through ‘deliberate attempts’ to achieve them.

The difference between right and left-wing thinkers is down to rationalism. The left-wingers’ ‘fatal conceit’, as Hayek calls it, is that they will instinctively rationalise. It’s something we all do to a degree. The difference is at what point you stop. Those of a more ‘right wing’ disposition (but not necessarily all right wingers) are happy to leave things unresolved, content not to know all the answers; accept that they cannot know everything.

In the real world, outside of politics, lefties and righties mingle, all bringing useful viewpoints, attitudes and ideas to the table. Certainly, I work closely with people who see the world very differently to me, and I’m always learning from them and appreciative of their different viewpoints.

I wonder if the future of politics doesn’t lie down this more less combative, more collaborative route? I guess a lot in politics would have to change, but it’s interesting that the Brexit Party, united by the narrow focus of the potential derailment of democracy by the current Parliament over Brexit, have left wingers such as Claire Fox working with ex-Tories like Anne Widdecombe.

Could we, in the future, be governed less by those focussed on left vs. right and more by those united by greater ideals, taking the the best of left and right, libertarian and authoritarian?

Revolution

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I keep going back in my mind to one of the points Andy Beckett made in his ‘long read’ in Tuesday’s Guardian. My initial reaction to the idea that Conservatism developed as a way to preserve the power of the elites, was one of, ‘huh, typical paranoid leftie rationalising things too complex and coming up with random conclusions.’

But the more I think about it, the more I think he has a point, one that can more than likely be backed up by simple historical proof, should you need it.

Now, before you think I’m veering off to the left somewhere in my thinking, I’m not. I’m no fan of egalitarianism in its purist form. Forcing everyone to be equal would destroy the economy, stagnate design and development and generally make the world a worse place to be. I cannot in any way see this as positive, even if it feels on the surface like a nice thing to do.

On the other hand, it does feel to me like the Conservatives are in a bit of existential pickle. As I argued on Tuesday, if, since Thatcher, the Conservatives have taken Libertarian values to their core, when it fundamentally can’t work with them, then a party that is set up to maintain some kind of status quo where the ‘elites’ keep their power base, won’t help the situation, as these elites are the ones who wish to maintain society in their favour and keep those from the ‘lower classes’ in their place.

This might have worked well enough in the pre-digital age, but it’s not sustainable today. In a fast moving world where people can make large sums of money with their digital products, the whole power base is shifting.

So, the question is, if we should have ‘elites’, who should they be? I have no great truck with the class system, despite the British obsession with them. Perhaps it might be the entrepreneurs, the risk takers prepared to put their soul on the line to bring the next great products? If we were to let evolution take its course, various options may present themselves over time.

I suspect such a social revolution is probably already happening – and has been for some time. What Andy Beckett identifies merely as conservatism failing and a societal swing to the left might actually be something much, much bigger.

Zombies!

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Yes, I know I said I thought they were rubbish, but I’ve just finished reading an interesting article by Andy Beckett in the Guardian, “‘A Zombie Party’: The Deepening Crisis of Conservatism”, arguing that Conservatism is dying and that the Left is on the rise, and it’s rather got me thinking.

I have to say that I agree with Beckett to a point, yet as ever with left-wingers, not necessarily for the same reasons.

I felt that Beckett got the fundamentals of Conservativism muddled with the fundamentals of Libertarianism. He argues that the Hayekian free-trade, low taxes, small government of Thatcher and Reagan were Conservative fundamentals, and that they’ve never really worked. Admittedly, many Conservatives think this way too looking at what some of the candidates vying for the PM post are saying, but I’m starting to think that while many Conservatives consider themselves Libertarian, Libertarian values are fundamentally at odds with Conservative values.

Libertarian values are rooted in the Extended Order, which is almost a kind of magical spiritual realm (at least in mine and Hayek’s minds), and more ‘Liberal’ in its operation than Conservatives would feel comfortable with. It will morph and change in a progressive fashion as society evolves. Certainly, I think this is the core of Hayek’s essay, ‘Why I am not a conservative’. The Extended Order will take the best of society, and run with it, the bits that don’t work falling away. It may drift to the ‘right’ or ‘left’ in the process, but ultimately it transcends both.

A central tenet of Beckett’s argument, which I think is right, is that Conservatism is a holdover from the days when the Elites where trying to fight the rising tide of the masses gaining power. I’m not sure this means that if society drifts more to the left (which it certainly does in London) then Conservatism is dead, nor that people under 45 today who are more liberal in attitude, will stay that way as they grow older (and not go all conservative, as they have traditionally done). That said, they might do, such is the wonderful way of the world, that’s the point! It will possibly never go the way you expect it too, it’s all so com-per-li-cated.

The Extended Order is fundamentally about evolution and change, something the liberal left claim to be for, and the conservative right against. The problem is that the magical nebulousness of the Extended Order is anathema to left-wing rationalists, who need facts and figures to justify what’s happening in society, something that can only ever be sought in hindsight, and usually too late as society has moved on before the data can be found to prove it. And data is notoriously slippery at best. Just look at the climate change debate, or read Foucault’s Pendulum.

And yes, I still think Zombies are daft.

Capitalism vs. Greed

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The newspapers love to make a splash about greedy capitalists, who have overstepped the mark, got carried away with their wealth and abused their ‘power’.

Many, particularly on the left, like to pick on the immoral capitalists, lumping most business people into this rather broad brushstroke.

I do think that they are, as ever, labouring under false assumptions. There seems to be an almost puritanical basis the idea that anyone who tries to make a living as an entrepreneur is somehow evil and not to be trusted. Another message that falls neatly into the emotional argument camp.

Yet, I would argue that while socialism is an ideal that can, should you wish, be sought after, the assumption that capitalism too is an ideal, is patently wrong.

For me, capitalism – the desire to make enough money to provide for your family and, if possible, work within the wider community to share your talents to bring growth and prosperity to all – is nothing more than the result of humans simply doing what humans need to do to survive and, if left alone, would just do anyway without any zeal or guidance to pursue it. It evolves over time, always flexible enough to cope with the changes the arise in life.

Left-wing thinking is fundamentally the attempt to control that process. The intellectual observes many facts (but never all) and concludes that the extended order of our society must have a some kind go guiding hand. It would be illogical to think otherwise. If you reject God from the equation then, rationally, it must be humans controlling things.

And so the intellectuals look for the underlying structures, find some that look promising, and start to tinker, without the means or the full understanding to really appreciate what they are doing. When they see people actively chasing money or power as a cause in itself, they assume that this activity must be an underlying principle of capitalism, when it is nothing more than misguided fools abusing their success and authority.

These fools may be motivated by greed or selfishness, yet they are really no different to those more socially minded types who try to control society. These greedy fools often use the authority of their wealth and status to coerce people to do their bidding, much as the power invested in the structures of socialism is rife with abuse. These are not the motives of the average person, who simply wants to get by, live their life and see their family and friends prosper, the main driving force behind the extended order.