My training in almost everything is fairly limited. I have a curious and distracted intelligence which works best when I am working with others like myself – that is to say, an intelligence which works quite infuriatingly when this is not a given.
I have never, however, managed to achieve a job status which might have corresponded even to this intelligence – nor, indeed, served to make it productive. Neither in Spain nor in Britain have I ever, in my life, earned more than the average national wage.
Not even once.
Not even close.
What does this mean? Have I been wrong all my life in the way I have taken my opportunities? Do I simply not care enough about how most people prefer to measure success? Is my intelligence simply useless? Or is something else operating here which I am unable to fathom?
How can we decide when something is right? How can I decide – in my life and in my society?
These are the questions I pose this evening.
In the past, religious morals and commandments of all sorts – heavily and widely folded into our cultures and ways of seeing – took these kinds of decisions on our behalf. Successive belief systems replaced religious dogma with an unthinking politicisation of the decision-making processes – which, again, allowed us a relative freedom from having to choose. And it’s at that point I believe we currently find ourselves unsurely: in a place where those who command us, despite the prevailing sociocultural currents, continue to use politics not to liberate us but, rather, to subjugate us profoundly – as profoundly as any religious stream of thought ever did.
Something, perhaps, we actually need a little more of.
Let me explain.
I’m not saying we need what subjugation brings. Subjugation is wrong – quite anti-human. But subjugation, like the small Mediterranean island with perhaps only one or two corner shops to compete for business and time, doesn’t half simplify the effort of getting out of bed in the morning and deciding what to do next.
It occurred to me this morning that what we needed far more than Apple’s virtual PA Siri is something which, instead of telling us what we want to know, tells us what we need to hear. A virtual boss, if you like, is how I initially described it. Something which fashions the limits we need.
Maybe what I really meant, though, was a virtual priest.
For Facebook and its ilk – with all their sociopathic instincts – are about as anti-Christ as you could get. And I don’t mean this in the religious sense of the Devil and all His works. After all, Christ had an underlying coherence to everything He said – there was structure and pattern: something we could almost mathematically appreciate. The sociopathic economy, on the other hand, believes in everything and absolutely nothing.
I certainly don’t know whether even a small proportion of my life has borne witness to a man who knows how to take the right decisions. But, whilst my life is relatively insignificant to a wider world, the question I ask – how we might know we are right – is not only of value but surely needs to be examined.
Too much of what happens is effected by people who are trading on their pasts as if this were all some guarantee of future efficiency. Civilisation is becoming so very complex that there is no way even a reasonably educated soul can possibly work out whether the specialist he has before him is telling the truth or propagating porkies. And yet the need to know, to be able to decide, to feel comfortable the decision is the right one … all of this is becoming evermore imperiously necessary to the extent that if we do not find a way that is not based on some kind of blind faith, we shall drown in our own awful uncertainties.
No. It’s not that virtual PA which simply serves to offer us even more choices that we need. It’s the whole bloody shooting-match of an entirely brand new belief system – a system which helps us to accurately limit our options to a realistic and sustainable level on what is clearly an evermore complex planet … that’s what we really miss in our civilisation – and what’s making life so very trying right now.
A virtual Christianity, then, anyone? Jokes about tablet PCs coming down from Mount Apple notwithstanding, it might not be a bad idea. Based on clever algorithms which we could trust implicitly, perhaps open sourced and thus easily examinable, serving to give us back our certainties after a century and a half of relativism – surely we could manage in a single generation to do away with so much of this 21st century existentialist pain.