Thursday 19 November 2020

Barnardo's should know better about 'white privilege' - Spectator Coffee House, 12/11/20

Barnardo's should know better about 'white privilege'
By Patrick West

Corporations and charities virtue signalling has become a familiar spectacle in everyday life. Sainsbury's, Virgin West Coast, HSBC, Ben & Jerry's, Gillette and Nike have all pronounced their various anti-racist, anti-sexist and pro-gay, pro-trans principles. The latest to join in this festival of conspicuous compassion is Barnardo’s, which yesterday pronounced on the matter of 'white privilege'. Unveiling its new guide on this hot topic for parents, the children's charity said:

'Talking about white privilege means looking at how our own actions maintain and support racist systems and structures.'

Unsurprisingly, this has generated some angry responses. 'As a former Barnardo’s Boy, I find your stance as disappointing as it is nonsensical,' was one reply. 'Where was my white privilege when I was left in Hull Maternity Hospital at 2 days old? Where was my white privilege when I was in several short-term foster homes prior to going into care in?'

Another added: 'Been on the breadline for most of my life, been homeless too, is it too late to apply for my white privilege?'

This furious backlash is no surprise – and Barnardo’s should have known better. People are growing tired of smug institutions parroting ill-defined, contentious topics like 'white privilege'. As many of those replying to Barnardo's message have pointed out, poor people come in all colours. Being white doesn't automatically confer privilege. White working class people increasingly hate being demonised on account of their skin pigmentation, especially by affluent white liberals, who compensate by disdaining whites who are poorer and less sophisticated than them.

Walk into any bookshop and witness how the issue of race both consumes and narrows our thinking on culture and society. This monomania has made us blind to the issue of class, a category of people who don't exist in woke thought. According to Ibram X Kendi, the author of How to be an Antiracist, 'the original sin is racism', a statement which reflects how racism has become the ultimate transgression today, a heresy that has terrible consequences.

You would have thought that 'progressive' doctrine, with its emphasis on 'intersectionality' – the idea that people can face multiple forms of discrimination owing to their race, sex, sexuality and so on – would recognise that the categories of privileged and underprivileged are not a black and white matter, literally. But the public manifestation of Critical Theory, which has ravaged the academy in recent years, and which has now been adopted by big business and charities, has nothing to say about class (unlike the Marxist doctrine that preceded it, which was contrarily obsessed with it).

As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay wrote in their recent book Cynical Theories, How Universities Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity: 'Privilege-consciousness has...nearly completely replaced class-consciousness as the primary concern of those on the academic, activist, and political left. ' They continue: 'This shift away from class and towards gender identity, race, and sexuality troubles traditional economic leftists, who fear that the left is being taken away from the working class and hijacked by the bourgeoisie.'

The desperate plight of white working class boys and men – who, on account of their sex and skin pigmentation, place them at the apex of privilege, according to woke doctrine – has been much-publicised. Not only are they among the poorest performers in schools, they are frequently outshone by their co-patriots professionally. As Trevor Philips wrote recently:

'The notion of white privilege would be baffling to the families of white boys who have fallen to the bottom of the education attainment league tables, and who are staring at a lifetime of sweeping the streets occupied by their affluent Indian-heritage classmates.'

We can just about tolerate the insincerity of corporations flaunting their political correct credentials. This is usually done to ingratiate themselves with customers, and sometimes to distract from the fact that they have very few black or Asian people in their upper echelons. We can also understand white, middle-class undergraduates attending Black Lives Matter rallies, too. Boasting a compassionate, left-wing outlook on life is intrinsic to being a young student, after all. And what footballer would dare refuse to 'take the knee' on the grounds of disagreeing with BLM, knowing the public opprobrium that would result in such an action?

What is unforgivable is a charity like Barnardo’s joining in this charade. Unlike mere hawkers of consumer goods, it has first-hand experience of dealing with poverty, deprivation and suffering. Unlike those responsible for issuing such declarations as the one we saw yesterday, its front-line workers will surely understand that poverty and a lack of privilege affects children and carers of all colours.

Patrick West is a columnist for Spiked and author of Conspicuous Compassion (Civitas, 2004) and Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times (Societas, 2017)

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Michael Parkinson is right: men are funnier than women - Spectator Coffee House, November 10, 2020

Michael Parkinson is right: men are funnier than women
By Patrick West

As befitting his public persona of a plain-speaking Yorkshireman, and making the kind of devil-may-care social transgression that is the privilege of the very old, Sir Michael Parkinson has declared that men have a better sense of humour than women.

In a interview with the Australian Daily Telegraph, the veteran broadcaster, 85, was asked whether men found it hard to express their emotions. 'Most men I know are the opposite, they're very sensitive and also very funny,' he replied. 'That's the the thing I like most about men. It's a contentious statement but they're much better than women in their sense of humour.'

Such gender essentialism, especially that in favour of males, is taboo these days. So many unfashionable truths are. Thus we should be thankful to Parky for reminding us of something most of us know, but now dare not say.

A report published in October last year did indeed appear to conclude that men are funnier than women. Researchers from Aberystwyth university and the university of North Carolina analysed 28 studies which looked at how funny around 5,000 people were. Looking at the results of various studies in which people were asked to rate men and women's humour – without knowing their sex first – they found that 63 per cent of men were funnier than the average woman.

Men are funnier than women because, as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, humour is mostly based on incongruence and the disruption of reality: horses never walk into bars, and their long faces never actually suggest they are unhappy. While evolution has made females, the primary nurturers, the conservatives of the species who are typically concerned with very real every-day matters, male humans are by contrast often less grounded in reality, and more given to flights of fancy and mental adventures into imaginary incongruous worlds. Think Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Paul Merton or Noel Fielding. Men's propensity for inner mental escapades has made us more prolific comic authors, science-fiction writers, artists and composers (and more likely to be psychopaths).

It has long be noted – most recently in The Comedy of Error, Why Evolution Made Us Laugh, by Jonathan Silverton – that, from an evolutionary perspective still replicated in our culture, women seek men who make them laugh. Men reciprocally look for 'a woman who will find them funny'. The ability to detect incongruity and make a joke from it is a sign of intelligence, writes Silverton, so that funnier people are adjudged to be cleverer people: an obvious evolutionary advantage in the mating game.

The differences between women and men explains the latter's propensity for humour in other ways. Second only to incongruity as a source of laughter is cruelty, or taking malicious delight at those less fortunate than us – he who has suffered a prat-fall in public (think Charlie Chaplin or Jackass) or embarrassed himself in a social situation (think Alan Partridge or David Brent).

If you are a traditional gender essentialist you will hold that men in general can be more violent than women. No wonder so much humour involves cruelty, contempt, superiority, anxiety, aggression and accidental taboo-breaking. 'Throughout the ages, cripples, mental defectives, and court fools have been injured and perhaps even killed in a crescendo of teasing, laughter, and violence. Laughter scorns the victims and bonds and feeds the wrath of aggressors,' wrote Robert R. Provine in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation (2000), 'dark laughter has sometimes accompanied the looting, killing, and raping that are among the traditional fruits of war'.

Humour is inextricably connected with the pursuit of power and dominance, traits also connected with masculinity. Plato and Aristotle linked laughter with superiority over others. And in his 1650 work, Human Nature, Thomas Hobbes agreed, stating that laughter is the expression of a 'sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminency in ourselves, by comparison with the infirmity of others or with our own formerly'.

In connection to this, men are also more competitive than women, which is why Mock The Week was funnier when it had more obnoxious, laughter-chasing male-dominated panels. Robert R. Provine noted that males engage in more proxy-competitive laughter-evoking behaviour than females in most cultures, a behaviour that begins at about the age of six. Among children viewing cartoons, girls laughed more often with boys than with girls, and girls reciprocated boys' laughter more often than boys reciprocated girls' laughter.

Of course, to say that 'men are funnier than women' is a generalisation, like saying 'men are taller than women'. Just as some women are taller than some men, many women are funnier than many men. But it doesn't make the generalisation less true, even if it takes an octogenarian Yorkshireman to say it.

Sunday 8 November 2020

The climate of fear is crippling our mental health - Spiked, November 6, 2020

The climate of fear is crippling our mental health

Depression soared during the last lockdown. The second will cause yet more despair.

By Patrick West

The debate over lockdown is invariably framed in terms of that between two competing needs: the medical and the economic. On the one hand, there are those who say that the health of the nation and the imperative to protect the NHS must be paramount. On the other, there are the lockdown sceptics who say that people’s livelihoods and jobs must foremost be safeguarded from ruination.

A third factor is given paltry consideration, especially by government ministers: the issue of mental health. While it is acknowledged that lockdowns will affect the way we live, what is never admitted by the government – and often overlooked by mainstream anti-lockdown voices – is the devastating effect ‘staying indoors’ has had on our mental health.

One of the few outstanding voices has been Alice Thomson of The Times, who in a recent article related that the Office for National Statistics states that since the outbreak of the pandemic rates of depression have doubled from one in 10 to one in five. Among the most badly hit have been those aged 16 to 39, a group that has reported a 30 per cent rise in depressive symptoms. A paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggested that 18 per cent of UK adults reported having suicidal thoughts in the first months of lockdown. Meanwhile, in June the Institute for Alcohol Studies reported that almost a third of people had been drinking more.

Although some rates of depression and anxiety are directly related to the pandemic itself, a more common cause of these symptoms has been lockdown and government diktats over the summer. There have been countless reports and accounts of people driven to despair and depression by the loneliness, the spirit of paranoia and feeling of being watched and judged, with the ubiquitous masks giving a horrific sci-fi film aura to everyday life.

I myself, a healthy fortysomething, haven’t been afraid of the virus itself since April. But the state of British society in 2020 has sent me to despair and nightmarish gloom. So many millions feel the same. Is this the price we will have to pay for the next four weeks, for a not very lethal virus that is not currently the biggest killer in the UK? And what of the price we will have to pay in the future, with a vulnerable generation who grew up in a climate of fear, suspicion and paranoia? The actions of the government this year will have devastating effects in the future. We know the dire material fallout of Lockdown 2. Less well recognised will be its equally ruinous mental fallout.

John Sessions: autodidact extraordinaire

John Sessions, who died on Monday, wasn’t one to wear his learning lightly. The affable actor and comedian, best-known as a panellist on Channel 4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? and protagonist on the BBC’s surreal comedy-drama, Stella Street, was an unashamed and conspicuous brainbox and polymath.

He could recite verbatim Finnegans Wake. He did one man stagings of Chekov. He could impersonate Keith Richards, Michael Caine and Al Pacino, flaunt his copious encyclopaedic knowledge on QI, adapt himself to the cinema with ease, or, on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, improvise the scenario of Ernest Hemingway going to the dentist or James Joyce at the seaside.

Sessions admitted that his public persona of ‘Mr Swotty’ could be irksome and that his immodest displays of erudition made him a ‘bit punchable’. The actor Timothy Spall described him as ‘a bit of a clever dick’. In one famous edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, in which contestants were asked to portray the person with whom they would least like to be trapped in a lift, Paul Merton stepped forward and said: ‘Hello, my name’s John Sessions.’

He blamed his ‘over-compensatory urge to intellectualise’ and tendency to show off on the fact that, unlike so many of his thespian and comedic contemporaries, he did not go to Oxbridge, having studied at Bangor University instead. However, Sessions had displayed attention-seeking tendencies even as a boy.

His life is a reminder of an eternal, profound truth: that feelings of insecurity and social inferiority needn’t be a bad thing, but quite the opposite. Sessions had what Alfred Adler called an Inferiority Complex, something the Austrian psychotherapist believed was a good thing, a beneficent state of mind that motivates an individual to seek power and recognition.

And so why shouldn’t this brilliant autodidact have flaunted his acquired knowledge and abundance of talent? If you put in the hard graft you earn the right to parade your significant cerebral wares.

Wokeness long predates Twitter

During this year we’ve all had to find more ways to entertain ourselves indoors. Mine has been reading more books than I would naturally, especially rereading escapist or humorous literature in order to lift the spirits. This has entailed taking recourse to some collected works of Peter Simple.

‘Peter Simple’ was a column that appeared in the Daily Telegraph from the mid-20th century until 2006. From the 1960s, it was written by Michael Wharton. It blended orthodox Tory invective with flights of fancy, with Wharton inventing a fantasy world full of right-on (or in today’s parlance, ‘woke’) grotesques, such as Mrs Dutt-Pauker the enormously rich and privileged north London socialist; Neville Dreadberg, the self-publicising and talentless avant-garde artist and writer of the ‘classic documentary television plays’ dealing with crime, corruption and cannibalism; Dr Heinz Kiosk, the psychoanalyst who concludes every invective with the bellicose refrain ‘We Are All Guilty!’; and Dr Spacely-Trellis, the Bishop of Bevindon, who is so achingly progressive that he barely believes in God at all.

As you can glean from this list, such characters wouldn’t be out of place in a satire today. This is because their real-life equivalents are very much with us. One entry from 1964 stuck out. It features Dr Spacely-Trellis defending a poster depiction of a nude Christ in the face of opposition from crusty conservatives, and it reminds us that the paradox of those preaching liberal tolerance using hateful language long predates Twitter. The passage concludes:

‘“The people who are objecting to this poster are the sort who voted Tory at the General Election. As Christians we must be charitable and understanding to this filthy subhuman scum”, he added, his face turning purple and his eyes starting out of his head. “But I would not care to be in their shoes on Judgement Day.’”

Patrick West is a spiked columnist. His latest book, 'Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times', is published by Societas.

Bruce Gilley and the ‘problems of anti-colonialism’ saga - Spectator Coffee House, October 12, 2020

Bruce Gilley and the ‘problems of anti-colonialism’ saga
By Patrick West

Most of us are familiar with the climate of censure and censorship we now live in. People are 'cancelled' and 'no-platformed' for having inappropriate opinions on matters of race and gender, and reprimanded for using the wrong pronoun when referring to transgender men and women. But there are worrying signs that this tendency to shut down those with the 'wrong views' has strayed into the world of books and publishing.

Bruce Gilley, an Oxford-educated professor, is being cancelled for the second time in three years, having a book withdrawn after an online campaign against him. 'The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns' Epic Defense of the British Empire' was due to be the first volume in a 'problems of anti-colonialism' series. Now it won't see the light of day: the book has been scrapped following a petition set up by a Maoist philosopher, calling on publisher Rowman & Littlefield to rethink its decision to release the book. According to Gilley, who was first targeted by campaigners unhappy at his 2017 paper 'The Case for Colonialism', the 'snowballing' of the petition online was enough for the project to be ditched without explanation.

Gilley is not alone. In July, historian David Starkey said sorry after saying in an interview that slavery was not akin to genocide as 'so many damn blacks' had survived. He was right to apologise. But doing so was not enough. As a result of his comment, and the furore that ensued, HarperCollins said it would no longer publish any more of his books. This came a few months after Hachette dropped plans to publish Woody Allen's memoir Apropos of Nothing, following accusations that he molested his daughter as a child (which he denies).

But while there are, of course, plausible arguments to be made criticising Gilley, Starkey and Allen, I can't be alone in thinking it a pity that their writings may no longer see the light of day. While Starkey's recent comments were wrong, his work on the Tudors has been vital to our understanding of this period in England's history. Should we not be able to learn from his knowledge, even if we don't agree with everything he says?

As for Gilley, while his arguments against colonialism go against the grain of mainstream academic opinion, should he not be entitled to make the argument as to why, for all the bad things that happened under colonialism, there were upsides? After all, isn't the purpose of a good book to challenge our assumptions, rather than to simply confirm what we thought all along?

Yet in the world of publishing, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are two hurdles an author must overcome to get their work published. Firstly, it must be good enough. Fair enough. And secondly, the author must hold the right opinions and say the right things. Even high-profile authors are not immune to the second of these criteria. This summer, several staff members at Hachette threatened to down tools and refuse to work on Rowling’s new book, ‘The Ickabog’, because they didn't like all of her views. On that occasion, the publisher admirably stuck up to those staff members. Yet authors without the loyal following Rowling has are more vulnerable to these attempts at silencing writers.

And while the Twitter mob might not like it, the merits of publishing Rowling are clear: her latest novel which was attacked for being 'transphobic' has since shot to the top of the bestseller charts. So although some publishers are clearly fearful of the mob, toeing the line out of fear and expedience of the financial consequences should they be accused of racism or sexism, more need to take up the old newspaper mantra: publish and be damned.

How closely linked are lockdown and Brexit? - Spectator Coffee House, October 10, 2020

How closely linked are lockdown and Brexit?
By Patrick West

Once upon a time, a long time ago, this country was consumed by the matter of Brexit. Everywhere you turned, in every medium, even among friends and colleagues, you couldn't get away from the subject: everyone was talking about Brexit. We were obsessed by it. From 2016 to 2019 there was no escape.

All of this changed this year. With the pandemic, the rancorous matter of Brexit vanished, or at least stopped becoming the emotive, divisive matter of primary concern. It has been relegated to a pedestrian news story about trading rights. In the year of the coronavirus and all its horrors, paranoia and despair, Brexit has become a sideshow. Right?

Wrong. While the clamorous conflict between Leavers and Remainers has ostensibly ceased, in our collective subconscious the same cleavage in our society remains – only the subject matter has changed. As you may have concluded from newspapers and your social media feed, Remainer and Leave camps have merely metamorphosed into pro-lockdown and anti-lockdown tribes.

For instance, back in 2016 it was Allison Pearson in the Daily Telegraph and Frederick Forsyth in the Daily Express who were the most vociferous in their invectives against the EU. This year, these two characters – among many other columnists and voices in general – have been just as ferocious in their denunciations of lockdowns, masks and curfews. When it comes to anti-lockdown/Leave and lockdown/Remain, the two camps, respectively, are often the same lot.

The parallel is at its most obvious when it comes to rhetoric about elites and 'experts'. During the Brexit referendum, Remainers often deferred to experts in academia or the City who warned about the dire economic consequences of Brexit. Leavers cited everyday wisdom and lived experience in their argument why we should leave the EU. Back then, the debate centred on academic knowledge and deference to experts, versus empirical evidence and common sense. It's the same today.

This argument from lived experience is repeatedly employed by the anti-lockdown-minded because the loudest voices to oppose further government restrictions come from small businesses. It's the anti-EU, lower-middle class types who own small shops and run small businesses who have been hit hardest by coronavirus measures. They are consequently the least inclined to support draconian anti-pandemic measures. There is no 'working from home' option for many small businesses or your manual, working class type from the north-east or midlands.

If Brexit was a class issue, then so is Covid. Working-class people who voted against the EU did so as much in revolt against the London metropolitan elite as they did against Brussels. There was a twin resentment then and there is twin resentment now. It's the Somewhere people versus the Anywhere people conflict all over again.

As with Brexit, we have a divide between the working class who can't work at home, and largely an upper-middle class in the Home Counties who are happy to do so – because they can. On average they have larger houses and more gardens, which make domestic life for them and their family palatable. For them, lockdown measures are merely a nuisance. For those in flats or terraced houses, and for those who cannot work remotely, lockdown is a nightmare.

Ultimately, it comes down to a choice between freedom and security, between libertarianism and utilitarianism. That was the fundamental question posed in 2016. Do we vote to leave the EU, and in doing so face an exciting and prosperous, or perhaps an uncertain and perilous future? Or do we vote to stay, knowing that things will be tolerable in an undemocratic and sclerotic union that at least affords us free trade?

We are faced with a different problem today, but it's still one that divides statist and libertarians. Either we are to be subjected to endless and repeated lockdowns, returning indoors every few months, with the hope that deliverance will come in months soon with a vaccine. Or our masters might miraculously take the libertarian leap in the dark, deciding to set free our youth and healthy working age populace, returning them back to the public sphere and back to normality.

Patrick West is a columnist for Spiked and author of 'Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times' (Societas, 2017)

Wednesday 7 October 2020

Why it’s fashionable to hate your own country - Spiked, October 2, 2020


Why it’s fashionable to hate your own country

This is more about parading virtue than reckoning with history.

Patrick West

If one had to explain today’s culture wars in the barest, most simple terms, the best method would be to refer to David Goodhart’s division of peoples into the Somewheres and the Anywheres. In Britain, America and elsewhere we see a conflict between those attached to their homeland, its history and its traditions, and a more affluent, mobile elite, who profess to be more internationalist in outlook – because they can afford to be – and who are less likely to revere the tradition and culture of the lands, cities and towns of their birth.

This is to put it mildly. Going back to the 1930s, as George Orwell famously observed, the Anywhere class is not so much casually indifferent to the culture of their place of birth as positively hostile to it. The ostensible internationalists of Orwell’s time venerated anything that emerged from Moscow or Paris, in contradistinction to that which stemmed from petty, boring, philistine, church-going, beer-drinking England.

The culture wars of the 21st century illustrate that this division very much remains, albeit in mutated form. This was illustrated recently by the decision of a debating society at Trinity College, Dublin to rescind an invitation to Richard Dawkins to speak at a function, on account of his critical viewpoints on Islam. Dawkins, perhaps the most famous atheist of our times, has described the faith as ‘the greatest force for evil in the world today’, and referred to the ‘pernicious influence’ of Islamic faith schools.

Atheism is the default position of most students, and anyone in their twenties who likes to style themselves as a radical freethinker will call themselves an atheist, so you might think Dawkins would find favour in their numbers. And indeed he does – but only when he is attacking Christianity. When it comes to denouncing Islam he is implicitly making the grievous transgression of racism, of attacking the Other, of something sacred and international to the Anywhere class.

To attack Christianity, something that pertains to the Self, to the Somewhere people, is conversely positively fashionable and will find you friends and allies among like-minded, ostensible and ostentatiously international types.

It is a pattern repeated elsewhere. In America we have white, liberal, coastal types mocking Donald Trump and his blue-collar supporters for being small-minded, borderline or actual racists, and for never leaving their opioid-infested, ghastly Middle American towns. In Britain we have been all too accustomed to the Remainer depiction of anti-EU Brexiteers as low-information morons from the provinces who didn’t even know what they voted for.

The white-on-white narrative between the enlightened, educated Brahmin class and the brainless Morlocks is repeated on both sides of the Atlantic, whether it be Momentum or BBC executives versus brainwashed chavs stuck in the past yearning for Empire, or white Black Lives Matter and Antifa virtue-enforcers seeking conflict with redneck MAGA types. On both sides of the Atlantic we see Anywhere liberals denounce the history of their own country as one of genocide and racism.

The abiding and inherent tendency of the people of the Anywhere class is thus to denigrate their own country. The motivation for this should be obvious, if we view this conspicuous self-hatred in terms of virtue-signalling. It is to draw attention to oneself, to display what an enlightened and decent person you are, prepared to right the wrongs of the past and confront the wrong-minded folk of the present. It’s a modern form of self-flagellation, an egocentric, narcissistic, often insincere form of romantic primitivism that goes back to Rousseau, in which the childlike, innocent Other is always sanctified as superior.

The showy politics of the Anywhere liberal-left is often politics to make you feel good. It’s posturing to make others know that you are good.

The new dogmas

Back in the late 20th century it was often observed that Western society had lost faith in its old certitudes, in its faith in reason, progress, grand narratives and objectivity itself. According to a certain coterie of mostly French intellectuals, professors among the humanities departments in universities and journalists in elevated echelons of the press, there was a consensus that we lived in a postmodern society, hopelessly mired in relativism, doubt and multiple irreconcilable interpretations. No one could really say what was true or not as there was no ultimate arbiter of truth.

How things are different today. Our society now seems in precisely an opposite impasse. We now live in a culture suffused with ferocious certitudes, in which everyone believes they possess the truth. This is why verbal conflicts on social media have become so vituperative and unpleasant. This is why political violence and conflict between factions has returned to our streets for the first time since the 1930s. This is why people hold such tenacious views on transgenderism, race, the European Union or the future of America. This is the reason for our conformist and censorious cancel culture of No Platforming. Everyone knows what’s right and seeks to silence those who are wrong. Heretics are punished, fired or brought to bear. Doubt has disappeared.

As Matthew Syed of The Sunday Times suggested at the weekend, we are living in a Counter-Enlightenment. Whereas the thinkers of the Enlightenment, from Immanuel Kant to David Hume, were guided by doubt and the desire to question dogmas held by others or themselves, in order to further human knowledge and progress mankind, dogma today rules.

This is why Friedrich Nietzsche, widely misunderstood as the godfather of postmodernism, was hostile to final, absolute truth. He believed it could ultimately lead to blind ideology. As he wrote in one of his notebooks (a passage that posthumously appeared in The Will To Power): ‘The claim that the truth has been found, and that there is an end to ignorance and error, is one of the greatest temptations there is. If it is believed, it paralyses the determination to examine, to investigate, to be curious and to experiment.’

Postmodern advertising

This is not to say the spirit of postmodernity has vanished. Its embers still waft around us. Consider two television adverts for coffee now showing. One is a series of adverts for Starbucks, in which people explain how and why they transitioned. One portrays a young girl changing her identity from Jemma to James. These tell us nothing about the beverages for sale. It’s all about selling a brand as a woke value. It’s thoroughly postmodern, in that the real and represented have become utterly divorced.

Another advert, that for McDonald’s coffee, is thoroughly rooted in modernity. Its message? Its coffee is tasty and cheap. I know which brand I would prefer to buy.