The New Barbarism: Death by Bean-Counter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

 From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

 I like Tolkein’s poem from The Lord of the Rings. I inspires in me a measure of hope in these twilit times of looming darkness for, as many of you know who have been with me from the former Dark Age Blog and through into the present Chrysalis, I haven’t often been the bearer of glad tidings and good news. More often than not, a Cassandra in fact.  But through some 1400 postings and short essays over a decade, I’ve yet to have had to eat my words.

It’s much easier to observe the signatures of a new barbarism in our post-Enlightenment era than to discern a fire in the ashes or a new light springing forth from the shadows, although I’ve attempted to draw some attention to that, too — that light springing forth from the shadows being the “irruption” of a new consciousness that Jean Gebser anticipated as “the integral consciousness” or “the aperspectival consciousness”; or, what Sri Aurobindo discerned as “the supramental”; or what Nietzsche referred to as the “transhuman”.  Daily, like a Robinson Crusoe, I scan the horizons of our present world age, as well as the smaller universe of my daily experience, for those signs of life that might suggest a shorter, rather than longer, exile in the wilderness for us.

Tonight, on the CBC’s Fifth Estate, the Canadian public broadcaster will be presenting a investigative report called “The Silence of the Labs” about the ideologically-motivated suppression of science and knowledge in Canada by the present Conservative government of Stephen Harper — particularly of environmental and climate science, for which conservatives have a bee in their bonnet — along with their reversion to a more primitivist approach to economic policy once called “mercantilism” — the attitude of which was once famously lampooned by Oscar Wilde as the attitude of the cynic, that is, of “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

We can just call it, rule of the bean-counter, and call that by its true name — nihilism. (So perhaps also call it, “death by bean-counter”).

“The Silence of the Labs” probably couldn’t be more timely, given the destructive suppression of science and public knowledge conducted under the ruse of “deficit reduction”. It comes coincident with the government’s announcement that it has begun closing 7 of 11 Departments of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries and has begun destroying most of those libraries’ physical research collections.

In other words, book-burning, Conservative-style.

There is no doubt that the “new conservative” in his attitudes, however bigoted in his opinions he might be, feels threatened by, and insecure about, climate science and environmentalism. Killing the messenger has become something of an epidemic.

And I say “new conservatism” because it has taken the “conserve” out of conservatism and replaced it with just the “con”. The “new conservative” has discovered the rhetorical value of “lip-service” for the conduct of mass politics (or what is now called “managing the optics”), while a nation of Rip Van Winkles blithely sleepwalks its way through the signature events of the day, confusing the rhetoric with the reality.

Just take the poo pill, and you’ll be re-inserted back into the Matrix.

Unfortunately, lip-service, as the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy pointed out, is a form of value nihilism — symptomatic of the social disease of decadence.  And the present Canadian government and ruling party (and not just the present Canadian government and party) is very practiced in lip-service (which the studied practitioners of  lip-service and perception — or “image” — management prefer to call “political truth” to avoid the self-incriminating implications of lack of integrity, dishonesty, and fraud). And for that practice they seem to have no lack of encouragement and support from partisan hacks and cynical media pundits who, as far as I’m concerned, are engaged in journalistic malpractice for promoting “a culture of lying” (as Andrew Coyne called it), or giving their blessing to the realities of a “post-truth politics”.

Moreover, I do not see a lot of difference among other national jurisdictions, judging from what I read there. It all seems fairly general.

Bleak is how I would describe the situation. And there’s no lack of considered opinion these days — backed by more evidence than I’ve presented here — that we have now entered, or are entering into, a new Dark Age and a new barbarism.

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king

When I read these lines about the blade that was broken, I think of William Blake and the lines from his poem Jerusalem,

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

Blake’s sword has been broken for generations, however, and he never lived to see truth — his “New Jerusalem” — enthroned again in human affairs, which was the whole guiding passion of his poetry and art, and of the hopes he had entertained for the French and American revolutions.

But perhaps the present revival of interest in Blake — at least since Northrop Frye’s 1947 study of Blake called Fearful Symmetrymight just be one of those small sparks amongst the ashes — and among those “signs of life” on the horizon of this age — that might indicate that Blake was simply born too soon to be anything but an enigma (or worse, a lunatic) to most of his contemporaries.

Although Jean Gebser, comprehensively surveying the events of his own life time, saw signs of the emergence of a new consciousness structure (equally, Blake’s “New Age”), he also sensed that it could be abortive or suppressed, in which case it might be delayed by centuries, or that it might fail because the human species would destroy itself and the planet beforehand.

That anticipation imparts a certain sensitivity to the edginess of contemporary events — a certain mood of suspense. Is it failing? Is it succeeding? Neither question can really be answered at the moment.

7 responses to “The New Barbarism: Death by Bean-Counter”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    As they say “this just in” from Don Martin at CTV network, and it substantially supports much of what I’ve written here,

    The “poo pill”

  2. alex jay says :

    O tempora o mores!

  3. Scott Preston says :

    A friend sent me this link today to an article by Ron Graham which appears in the Canadian magazine The Walrus. The article, from October 2013, is called “Born in the Burbs”, and is about Stephen Harper and the governing Conservative Party.

    The article is very lengthy and is probably only of interest to a few Canadians. But I was very surprised while reading it how closely Graham’s description of the political situation concurred with what I have written in the above post, even in his damnation of the same nihilistic “bean-counter” mentality of the ruling party. It’s probably not going to be of that much interest to anyone outside Canada (who are probably struggling with their own bean-counter mentalities, bean-counter attitudes, bean-counter philosophy, bean-counter metaphysics, bean-counter aesthetics, and bean-counter ethics).

  4. Scott Preston says :

    “Canada trading integrity for money”. — Canadian rocker Neil Young blasts the Harper government in an interview yesterday for his “Honour the Treaties” tour.

  5. LittleBigMan says :

    All those Canadian scientists whose work is being defunded will likely migrate down to the United States, where there is always a great demand for highly trained and educated professionals – especially environmental researchers. It will be difficult for Canada to attract these scientists back to the country.

    Humanity’s addiction to fossil fuels is becoming increasingly destructive to our quality of life. It’s really stupid for “businesses” to wait until it’s “cost effective” before they start developing infrastructure for alternative energy sources. It will obviously be too late by then and the damage to our environment will have been done. It’s even scarier to see China take over the United States as the top energy consumer as shown in this June 2012 graph:

    Japan, Germany, and France are the only countries where less energy was consumed in 2011 in comparison to 2001. I was curious about the United Kingdom, but unfortunately no data was shown on the graph for a comparison.

    What’s so encouraging in Canada and Brazil is the renewable proportion of percentage of the energy consumed. The last graph at the website shows this information on the graph entitled: “Which of the Top Energy Consumers are Using Renewables?”

    Brazil with 39%, and Canada with 27%, have the highest proportions of the energy consumed from renewable resources. The trends in China (2%) and the United States (5%) are just pathetic and unconscionable.

    I was incredulous when I read the article about the row between Peter MacKay and General Vance. Unbelievable! If it comes out that Peter MacKay has lied, he should be fired on the spot.

    • Scott Preston says :

      We call it here “the Brain Drain”. I don’t want to appear to be overly biased against Conservatives, but every time there is a Conservative administration in Canada a “Brain Drain” follows. The last great Brain Drain was when former Prime Minister Diefenbaker cancelled the Avro Arrow project. This was (for all its faults) Canada’s first attempt at producing its own jet fighter plane. It was, reputedly, quite advanced for its time. But when the Diefenbaker government cancelled it, many of the engineers and scientists moved to the States, and many ended up working for NASA on the space project.

      Unbelievable! If it comes out that Peter MacKay has lied, he should be fired on the spot.

      Malpractice in both journalism and politics has largely come to be accepted today as part of what former US V-P Cheney referred to as “the new normal”, or what might be called “post-truth politics”.

      In a way, the “end of history”, “the new normal”, “post-modernity” (end of the Master Narrative) and the infamous statement by an unnamed Bush Administration official reported by Ron Suskind (generally thought to have been Karl Rove) about the “reality-based community” form a pattern, and a very ugly one.

      “The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

      So, we end in the situation now called “culture of narcissism” and “culture of lying”. But, as the old phrase has it, “the sleep of reason breeds monsters” or what Wm. Blake called “reptiles of the mind”.

      The “new normal” is thus a species of mass psychosis and even delirium. Not unprecedented in history, of course. Parallels can be found with the millenarianism and mass delusions of the late Middle Ages. It is these parallels that have suggested to some social observers that we are descending into a new Dark Age, a new twilit state of consciousness, whereas others (like Gebser) also see a “restructuration” in this decay and disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness.

      This is what I’ve referred to as “the coincidence of opposites” (coincidentia oppositorum or conjunctio oppositorum) and look in it for evidence of Jung’s principle of “enantiodromia” or reversal at the extremity (or “ironic reversal” as I’ve called it). Cheney’s “new normal” and Fukuyama’s “end of history” seem to be that pivotal point or “the hinge of history” rather.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        The organization that I work for is going through one such “pivotal point.” It is the “end of history” for one era, and a new era is on the verge of beginning in a matter of months. Although people are wondering and speculating about how things will be beyond this “hinge of history,” there is little doubt that the reign of the bean-counters will continue. The thing about the “new barbarism” is that it makes the balance sheets look awfully good. The bean-counters I have known here would say “What else is there?” 🙂

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