A new regular column at The Slog
Create a false atmosphere of urgency and danger, and you can get people to put up with the most appalling behaviour imaginable, and ensure their critical faculties go into hibernation. This is right at the core of why the Covid19 anti-science madness has worked so well.
I had a couple of interesting experiences yesterday in Gambia. Having now finally decided to put down roots here, I went to convert my six month stay visa into a permanent residency. There are two organisations involved in the process: the tourist police – a sort of NGOish breakaway from government trained to be polite, helpful and treat visitors as human beings likely to contribute to the economy rather than Moneybots ripe for ripping off; and the immigration service, a shameless money-extracting bureaucratic nightmare wherein hundreds of confused people at a time are subjected to a yelling, insistent, short-tempered but choreographed attack by those whose aim is to reduce the self-esteem of the processed to that of an extruded chicken sausage.
It was a micro-based master class in how to create deadly uncertainty, fear of getting things wrong, giving up civil rights…and the overall feeling of being the slavish creatures of those In Charge.
To start this column off, let me contrast the two groups of people taking human individuals through a guide to The System. The Tourist Police smile, say good morning, swap the odd joke, and have three desks devoted to dealing quickly with any and all uncertainty. One is then offered paid taxis to ferry a person at very reasonable cost to an anarchy of contradictory counsel sufficient to make Covid advice seem like a model of obvious common sense by comparison.
Equally to the point, now let me explain how the previously chilled wannabe permanent residents change once their left brain is under attack from do-this-now-or-you’re-dead right brain insistence.
My new German friend Karl is, as Germans go, about as un-alles-in-Ordnung as you could get: although a fervent believer in Alles klar (ready for any eventuality) he fully accepts that Gambians are different, he doesn’t judge…and above all, he is philosophical about the frequent need to smile a lot in the face of power cuts, and taxi engines that won’t start in the same way as taxi rear doors don’t open. We shared a taxi to the processing centre, but it wouldn’t start because the driver had emptied the tank. So we gave him a few hundred Dalassis, giggled quite a bit, discussed the psychopathology of Adolf Hitler (the way you do) and later rather than sooner we arrived at the Gambian Dehumanising Queue for the Showers.
The atmosphere at the GDQS could best be described as a futures market bourse where gold sales have just been made a capital offence by law. The noise level, free-for-all mayhem and sieg-heiling clearly had a very clear objective: to make us The People bow down to other people (more often than not horribly obese) with no manners, no patience, no respect and no accountability.
I passed through with flying colours because I have learned to carry with me at all times more than these minor Priests of State deity might ever possibly want. Poor old Karl got stuck on the fingerprint thing, because at 6′ 4″ with very big hands, his thumbs wouldn’t fit in the all-powerful AI digital recorder.
He left a man whose chill factor had declined from +40 to -56. I left to find a taxi back to the Bates Motel.
There is absolutely no desire to display either anti-German prejudice or anti-Gambian propaganda in this article: far from it. I am interested only in the social anthropology ignorance, arrogance and pernicious guile involved.
Here we have one group of State representatives clearly serving the People during the first stage: and equally obviously, State self-serving assholes working every psychological scam at the second stage.
The first stage was based on honest medium to long term marketing of what Gambia offers; the second stage was based on dishonest, panic-driven illegal extraction of cash in return for compliance.
I believe the answer to how and why these two behaviours exist side-by-side native to this tiny African country is a simple three-word one called “species and culture”.
An unnatural culture is driven by State enforced behaviours and environments created by sociopathically cynical élites that demand obedience to the Herd.
Whereas a natural culture is based on acceptance of Homo sapiens as a species that constantly asks questions of the Herd in an open-minded manner.
If you like, top-down unelected State employees are trained to exploit Herd lunacy, whereas those citizens able to read, hear and listen to varietal opinion suspect any and all Herd certainties.
Go back through the history of Contrick19 and you will observe, over and over again, a developing corporacratic phalanx of oddballs whose sole objective has been to create such a high level of fear, media-based horror stories and creepy terms – “global pandemic”, “new mutant strain”, “deadly killer virus” – that my permanent residency experience of yelling, brutalism and urgency was rapidly created on a uniquely massive scale.
Behind it all was the biggest Covid lie of all: “We are following the science”. In fact this was the last thing they were doing, and the medical 1in8 lost no time in making that clear; but by then it was too late – the Herd bought into the Armageddon New Normal, donning masks, and accepted the ridiculous idea that – while 250 years of ‘modern’ medicine had failed to produce a vaccine against the common cold – new wonder drugs with spookily similar mRNA formulations had appeared almost overnight from four different Pharmco’s to knock out what Boris Johnson called “the greatest peacetime threat our species has ever faced”.
So most of the population got jabbed….and railed at the “nutters” who saw through it. The stroke of genius was the use of “science” as the arbiter: for does not science have all the answers? Has it not shown the existence of a global climate emergency? It has split atoms and created the digital age – only a latter-day Luddite idiot would bet against science. Right?
I thought about all this as a couple of dozen obese bureaucrats yelled at each other, tapped irritably on their window frames for citizens to hurry up for there was no time lose, and barked ill-mannered one-word orders like “sit”, “papers”, “passport” while never giving anyone a single clue about what the order of play was. Deafened by cacophony, humiliated by commands and made nervous by urgency, we the sheep variously dropped things, hunted in bags and blinked nervously, until the last lardarse said, “You done, GO!”
The whole experience was another reminder of just how easy it is to frighten people into a state of false haste – and switch off their critical faculties.