Ethos, Pathos, Bathos

Three articles I came across yesterday, in no particular order. First:

Regimes that are losing public support always make the same mistake: rather than fix the source of the loss of public trust–the few enriching themselves at the expense of the many– the regime reckons the problem is dissent: if we suppress all dissent, then everyone will accept their diminishing lot in life and the elites can continue on their merry way.

What the regimes don’t understand is dissent is the immune system of society: suppressing dissent doesn’t just get rid of pesky political protesters and conspiracy theorists; it also gets rid of the innovations and solutions society needs to adapt to changing conditions. Suppressing dissent dooms the society to sclerosis, decline and collapse.

Dissent is the relief valve: shut it down and the pressure builds to the point that the system explodes. Regimes that no longer tolerate anything but the party line fall in one of two ways: 1) the pressure builds and the masses revolt, tearing the elite from power or 2) the masses opt-out and stop working to support the regime, so the regime slowly starves and then implodes.

The article was actually about the suppression of dissent by Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others. But it could have been about any dissent. And my dissent is about the smoking bans which give smokers an ever-diminishing lot in life. It’s a dissent that seldom finds any expression anywhere else, which always seems strange to me because smoking bans affect hundreds of millions of people, not just a few dissenting bloggers being muzzled by Facebook.

Second, William Happer, Professor of Physics Emeritus at Princeton University and, till September this year, the science advisor on the Trump Administration’s National Security Council, talking to James Delingpole about climate change, and saying “It’s a scam.”

“I’d have people come into my office in Washington once a week and tell me about the work they were doing. We were spending the taxpayers’ money and had a big budget — $3.5 billion — which was worth a lot back then. Most of them were very happy to tell a bureaucrat what they were doing. They were surprised and flattered to be invited. But the exception was people in climate, who were always very defensive. ‘Why do you want me to come to Washington?’ they’d say. ‘We work for Mister Gore.’

That’s when I began to realise that there was something funny about this area of science […] They would show up. But it would be very painful seminars, not like normal seminars. We were supporting the Human Genome Project and those scientists couldn’t wait to come to Washington and tell me about the latest gene sequencing machine and how well it was doing and how cheap it was. It would be the same with the high energy physicists in their search for the top quark and how close they had come. I wondered: ‘Why don’t the climate scientists feel the same way?’”

Is global warming alarmism a scam? My belief these days, as a result of owning a copy of Raymond Pierrehumbert’s Principles of Planetary Climate, is that climate scientists like him really do believe there’s cause for alarm. But it’s also my belief that as soon as a politician like Al Gore gets involved with something like this, it automatically becomes a scam. The problem isn’t in the science: it’s in the politicisation of science. And these things become politicised when politicians pick them up.

Third, a video of a talk about ‘The EU and the Decline of European Civilisation’ by some Cambridge law professor. He described the period of European history between 1815 and 1914 as one of ethos: amazing, spirited, and fabulous development.

“…then between 1914 and 1945 there was an unfortunate episode, which I call pathos – suffering – , when we very nearly destroyed ourselves finally and completely – physically.”

After 1945, he said, we went to sleep: bathos. We were exhausted. And we were ashamed.

That seemed to me to be as promising a summary as any of the past two hundred years, and one that focused on the two world wars, during which Europe tore itself to pieces – an event from which it seems to have never really recovered. It’s something we remember in Britain every year on Remembrance Day, 11 November. But it’s really something we simply can’t forget.

About Frank Davis

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1 Response to Ethos, Pathos, Bathos

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