An anti-globalist tirade

Why do people want what they don’t want?

This could be confused with a fundamental Platonic question, but I want it to be only slightly confused. If, arguably, people could see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, there would be no evil. They would know better than to entertain invidious thoughts; or commit imperfect acts. That, however, would make the whole people like God, or at least like godly angels, with various unfortunate theological implications, which I’m eager to avoid. The question I’m asking is much less ambitious. Why do people ask for one thing, when they’d rather have another?

Economics can never become a “science” because people do not act from rational self-interest (whatever that may be). They act instead from impulses, as the advertising agencies understand, and those impulses depend on whether they are being watched. By whom they think they are being watched comes into this. Curiously, their “self-image” is determined through what they imagine to be the views of others. Or rather there is nothing curious about this, since we are a social animal, and our happiness depends on the happiness of the tribe (until the tribe happily decides to destroy us). We try to please, which is why, I would suggest, even the deranged who surround me in Parkdale are outwardly “nice” when they are on their meds — those not prescribed meds having mastered “nice” without chemical stabilizers.

Parkdale, incidentally, is where I live. It has no park, and is not in a dale. Notwithstanding I call it Vallis Hortensis, just to get along.

“Nice,” in this sense, is a bundle of (highly predictable) habits and opinions. It extends to little acts of edginess, that are currently encouraged; and will do for as long as they are. Canadians, for instance — who are among the nicest people in the world; who wouldn’t hurt a fly; who won’t complain about anything, however painful; and will spontaneously apologize to inanimate objects if they happen to collide with them — will suddenly become downright stroppy if one expresses an idea which their betters have ruled to be “not nice.” They will tell you that they “have problems with that.”

One must resist the temptation, simply to give them problems, e.g. by using non-euphemistic language. (Example: you are allowed to be abstractly opposed to abortion; but you are certainly not allowed to be against killing babies.)

Yet, under delicate cross-examination, in the spirit of Mr Socrates’ kindly niece, one finds that they might do it themselves — might express many of these not-nice ideas — if they thought they could get away with it. (We have free speech in Canada, but only between consenting adults.) Their disapproval is an anxious concession to the requirement for niceness, with its comfortable mental and spiritual inanition. It is the line of least resistance when any third party might be within hearing. Alone, with only the not-nice person to talk with, their “problems” begin to disappear.

Secretly, I suspect that across a range of issues, and commercial products, people pretend even to themselves that they like things they actually abhor. Or rather, I think this openly, even though it may not be nice.

The advertising agencies (which work with equal enthusiasm on commercial and political products) know this. It is why Democrats and Liberals exist. It is why products that are obviously not good for any conceivable environment are sold as “ecological” and “organic.” It is why new subdivisions are called “Mountainview” when there is no mountain in sight. Or, “Meadowview” when they are in the heart of an asphalt jungle. It is why politicians, who advocate schemes that will bankrupt the polity, recommend them as “investments in the future.” The trick is to remind people of what they really want, while substituting something the client really wants to sell.

And so forth.