Is it Time for the Furious Rise of the Don’t Knows

Hurriedly, the rats pressed the pedals for their pellets of spite and superiority…

This week’s New Scientist editorial opens with a little Aristotle, “all men by nature desire to know”.
The editor goes on to tell us that “human nature has not changed”. I am not so sure, a slight re-edit could help.
“All men by nature desire to tell you what they know”.
The vaunted reaction against experts my come from the increasing number of people quite certain that they have as much expertise as the experts, cack-handedly strung together from light reading of internet links.

I wish I knew what other people knew that makes them so sure.

I have never been as confused as I am now about why people believe what they believe.

The Kruger Dunning effect spreads with bubonic speed, tweets replacing sneezes as the most effective method of hastening the plague progress.

Should I remain doubtful or must I align myself with some gang of new dogmatists closest to my opinion for fear that the other fundamentalists will be victorious if I don’t choose a banner to wave or burn?

The necessity of taking Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate is terrifying and strange.

Watching both the pro and anti Corbyn vitriol, fury and certainty has left me hankering for an invasion of pods to replicate us all without these haphazard and thought hindering emotions. (I know research demonstrates the necessity of emotions for decisions, but maybe we need to have a little Vulcan human hybrid grip).

In Michael Crichton’s The Terminal Man, a man who is victim of murderous rage has a chip implanted which secretes calming delight every time he is on the cusp of uncontrollable violent outbursts. Unfortunately, he becomes increasingly addicted to the calming delight, and so he becomes more, not less controllable. It’s a neurological disaster. It’s the cane toad of psycho therapy. (this is based on memory of watching the George Segal version on Channel 4 thirty years ago, so apologies to the Michael Crichton estate for any misrepresentation).
This addiction seems similar to our addiction to seeking perpetual fury on social media, a perpetual fury driven by our perpetual certainty that we are the extreme expert on almost bloody everything.

Traintoiletgate seemed a typical example. I watched as self-proclaimed sceptic banged on and on about this scandalous plot of Corbyn, twizzling his waxed beard in a monochrome expressionistic movie, leering with delight at his carefully etched plan to pretend the train was full, which as we know, they so rarely are.

Meanwhile, anyone who wishes to criticise Corbyn in even the most moderate language must be flushed into a threatening sewer of language and spite.

The worst examples of any side are repeatedly held up as the most typical of whichever team you despise.

The bunker mentality is such that barely anyone is above ground now. Everyone is on the losing or victimised side, so the few who roam free, Jeremy Hunt and Southern Rail executives amongst them, are free to disembowel what they want while we’re busy typing typing typing (look, I’m doing it too).

I am punch-drunk to the point of immobility. (The sceptic who tweeted to me that Noam Chomsky is basically America’s David Icke has a special place in my “really? REALLY? You REALLY believe that?” file)

I have had to cancel my appearance at a Jeremy Corbyn event in Brighton due to rehearsals for a musical. Never let politics get in the way of a high kick, unless you are Betty Boothroyd, when you can combine both. In some ways, I am relieved. I worry about supporting political parties, and now this event has become a sub set within that party, though it’s not really a party anyway. It is an opposition party that has become obsessed with opposing itself. Rarely do I actively support a party, a benefit here and there, some for Caroline Lucas, a do for the Lib Dems, a Stand up for Labour event, and a few evenings for some anarchists pretty much sums it up, and I think the anarchists may have the allure, after all, haven’t they got Ursula K Le Guin and Alan Moore?
The relentless besmirching has worked. I have lost faith in most humans, at least when they are given authority, and I am increasingly convinced that “the right thing to do” is impossible because those with the tightest grip on the reins have no desire to do any sort of right thing if it may damage the mathematical outcomes they wish to see.

I think I have made the mistake of saying yes to Sunday Morning Live, the BBC debate show. They have kindly asked for some years now, and I was alway sober enough to say no. I think I said yes a few months ago and now I remember why I am so utterly useless for such spectacles,
I don’t know. I could bluff knowing. I could even ask for a bit of make up that means the lighting makes me look like I’m sure. Perhaps I can bluff fanaticism.

Peter Hitchens, Owen Jones, Douglas Murray and other regulars seem to know. They have a certainty that is increasingly elusive to me. Who is hiding all the better answers?

It’s time for the “don’t knows” to rise up, and look the Yeses and Nos straight in the eyes and say, “so what makes you so sure?”

Or maybe it’s not…

There are now 28 Book Shambles podcasts available – from Sara Pascoe to Chris Hadfield, Geoff Dyer to Nikesh Shukla, Eddie Izzard to Isy Suttie


A new horror anthology, Dead Funny Encore, has just come up – stories by Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Alice Lowe, Alan Moore, James Acaster, me…

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