The Bitter Pill Problem
In modern policy and futurological analysis there is an increasing contamination by ideology, which right now manifests as denialism. This is now one of the most corrosive problems in western modernism. Of course denialism has always been a problem, but increasingly it has become a mindset in so many people that it destroys dialogue, problem-solving and proper science. We are as a modern society increasingly unable to accept what we decide to be ideologically unacceptable, and we demand that all other parties come with compromises first, even when making such demand is self-evidently impossible.
I shall paint you a number of such examples, and try to illustrate where this inability to “swallow the bitter pill”, i.e. “accept what is a priori determined to be unacceptable”. There is of course a flipside to this, where as a culture we become unable to rationally dismiss things that are essentially wrong, out of sheer pigheadedness.
Problem one – the inability to accept what’s established fact, and rationally act upon it.
Example 1 – Climate Change
There is no amount of regurgitating facts that can convince people who do not “believe” in it but climate change is established fact and science. The problem is that there is a statistical chance people of a certain demographic, people of a certain political bent, people of a certain income strata who have major stakes in denying it exists, because in affirming this is a reality, these people would also be very likely to suffer major losses in affluence, status and income as a result. Clearly, certain industries have been quite active in conspiring with media to insist climate change isn’t real, isn’t caused by human activity, or (even more insidiously) it is irreversible and we might as well roll with it. The inability to accept this will have profound consequences, arguably as implicitly violent as actual warfare. The number of people thrust in to migration, systemic poverty or literal death might easily lead to more quantifiable hardship than 2 world wars, in a comparable time interval. This is in itself a completely rational, fact based statement, yet simple statements such as these are like vinegar to the people who won’t have it. In essence, people who have accepted the dictum that climate change isn’t real, or isn’t human-made, or is already a certainty, or isn’t that bad, or trying to reverse climate change with political measures and treaties would cost more than the actual cost of corresponding climate change itself can not accept the mere idea.
So let’s talk consequences – any level of severe climate change will almost certainly trigger a mass migration the world has never seen. Mass migration can not be easily stopped, or at least not without prohibitive costs that would cripple modern society. You’d have to pretty much dismantle democracy and the fair rule of law, to make society impervious to the degree of mass migration that is certain to be causally linked to correspondingly severe climate change.
But discussing this whole (and other) causal consequences and conclusions of the one is not debatable as the first is not accepted. And this is a major problem.
We have seen that similar mechanism, scaled down, with cigarette smoking. It is established fact that cigarette smoking costs society significantly more in terms of long term health care costs, than any taxation right now applied. It is thus yet another bitter pill for smokers (and one that has been more or less swallowed by society, after decades of frantic struggle) that their affection with burning chemically treated plant material into their lungs costs them most likely their health, while saddling society with the consequences of having to spend a fortune on mopping up the health care fallout. We have to not merely see our loved ones wither away, grow physically repugnant, get sick and die in a horrible fashion because of smoking, we also get as a society to waste taxpayer money on the whole manifested nightmare. But merely stating this as fact alienates smokers, angers them to no end, and ends all reasonable discussion. It is hence no surprise that a lot of career denialists moved from cigarettes-are-harmful debate leveled up to denying climate change, since conceptually there are so many similarities between the two.
Example Two – Technological unemployment
Technology, increased efficiency, automation, robotization and AI are all displacing jobs, period. They have been for centuries, and we have seen most these jobs be displaced by new and often higher quality jobs. Sad fact is that now we see (a) the allotment of new jobs be of a significantly lower quality, with lower pay, (b) the competition between workers is heating up to often unbearable degrees of ruthlessness, (c) it is becoming societally unaffordable, in terms of retraining and student debts and all to prepare workers for this rapidly evolving disruption and (d) the ability of automated systems, in conjunction with the esoteric and often woefully underestimated field of AI machine learning to wipe out previously automation-proof old jobs as well destroy any possibility of large numbers of new jobs emerging, is winning and will only get worse in decades to come.
This is potentially a societal disaster. Like with climate change we see a lot of stakeholders who can not and hence will not wrap their head around this reality (most people will be unemployable in a few years), or the follow up consequences (we will somehow have top artificially pump up useless jobs to employ people, or somehow societally have to levy a tax that’s a bigger redistributive effort than anything we have ever seen in history, allowing people that are already widely regarded with contempt to not work. Technological unemployment is unacceptable. Higher taxes are unacceptable. A basic income give out to (fill in your preferred dark skinned minority you hold most in contempt) and have these people live off a bare bones minimum income in what will prove to be teeming banlieux-style slums all across the developed world is thus unacceptable, and exponentially so. But as surely s night follows day these are all perfectly sound, perfectly rational, completely fact based and inescapable. But to spell it out forces hard working, middle income, blue collar, often white skinned people to have to swallow the bitter pill of having to see their hard-earned tax dollars go to “those people”.
So what do we get? We end up with evasive behavior, such as in clueless, dimwitted, shortsighted and arguably completely counterproductive approaches (more prisons, i.e. more prison labour, i.e. swarming prison populations ending up competing for hourly pay rates of under a euro competing with you), more police (who end up becoming a societal force for repression, tax collection-through-endless-fines, who’ll cost a fortune in tax payer dollars, who are routinely prone to mission creep, corruption, asset forfeiture, institutional racism, racial profiling and abuse of power. Or, even more laughably, you get these suggestions “we should deport those (differently colored, different gender identity, different socio-economic class, different religion, etc.) people”. Again, a lot of people refuse to swallow the bitter pill, and we end up with a causal chain of aggravated denial. And as a result the whole topic becomes impossible to discuss without instantaneously making people angry when you bring it up.
Example Three – Overpopulation
Let’s not even discuss this. You can see where this is going.
Example Four – Israel is committing crimes
Yes, Israel is a nation composed of people of judeo-christian, christian, pro-democratic, pro-modernity (more or less), post-enlightenment, pro-humanist values. Yes Israel is surrounded by viciously hostile and arguably culturally backward nations. Yes, Israel has a right to defend itself. Nonetheless Israel, with little doubt, steals land, commits human rights violations – if not outright war crimes. Yet this can not be debated. The asymmetry of a prolonged conflict between mostly white skinned people of mostly a western, modernist descent, facing what has increasingly become a study of how democracy turns in o a genocidal, fascist state, where one party is absolved of even the suggestion of having committed any crimes, and the other side is by definition always wrong, “because they are barbarians”.
Topics that inhabit the borderline of what can be determined, and what lies on the borderland of what can still be debated in polite company.
There are topics that are no longer negotiable to a degree above topics are still somewhat debatable in terms of scientific falsifiability or facts, and those are the topics that tend to make people retreat in to well-padded mental seclusion, or well-armed trench warfare. Topics such as these are, and are not limited to, (*) Is 911 an inside job perpetuated or facilitated by parts of US government?, (*) Are muslims destroying European culture?, (*) Does the private use of firearms have a societal cost significantly outweighing the benefits?, (*) Should women have unconstrained access to abortion?. And I can easily degenerate in to an ever more violent realm of topics not to be raised on thanksgiving or christmas family reunions, such as (*) Has the Catholic religion, as an organization, facilitated large-scale pedosexual aggression by its priesthood?, (*) Has feminism overshot its original purpose and are women now effectively the stronger sex?, (*) Is there such a thing as excessive political correctness?, (*) Do jews control the USA?, or (*) Do vaccines pose an unacceptable risk of creating autism spectrum disorders in children?, or (*) Were the Lunar Landings faked?, or even funnier (*) Is Donald J. Trump a completely incompetent president who has absolutely no place in the white house, and is inflicting immeasurable damage to the credibility of the US?
Holy shit yes, these topics are extremely inflammatory, and I am certain large sections of my readership will have just detonated in moral outrage that I even dare suggest these topics fall on either side of the debate. Or that any or some of these topics are even worthy of discussion in the first place.
But that’s where we have ended up now. I am not arguing all the above “politically incorrect” topics either way. I am not saying there’s no such thing as “social justice warriors”, or “private citizens shouldn’t own military grade assault rifles”, or “Catholicism is to a large degree linked to organized pedophilia”, or “Gasoline does not melt steel beams, or no modern high rise building has ever collapsed in its own foot print after a minor office fire”
(etc.) but by disallowing large sections of society to reflect upon any of these, and a multitude of other topics, and to systematically disallow a rational, fact based listing of arguments either way (or an inability to weigh arguments either way) is a recipe for disaster.
We need as a society learn to become reverent of the irreverent again. A refusal to talk about uncomfortable topics should be, forever, be the domain of the cowardly and the simplistic.