The Rise of Me-ism
A few weeks ago, I was discussing the rise of uninformed egotism with a psychiatrist friend. It seems that you can’t engage with any form of media these days without being bombarded into submission by Me-ism. The stilted deference of previous generations has been replaced by the rampant energy of the mob, all eager to express their ill-considered opinions to any talk show and letters page that will have them. Now the masters of their own voices, they shout their dissent from the proverbial rooftops and pour their vitriol upon the heads of those who dare to question their authority.
Freedom of speech is the concept enshrined in constitutions around the world. But the West seems to have adopted the freedom of thoughtless speech, the right to disagree and argue any point with anyone to any degree, regardless of knowledge or consideration. This has important implications for how we live. Once experts were happy to discuss their subjects in the media. They were often regarded as clumsy and other- worldly in the spotlight of public attention, but that was tolerated because of their in-depth knowledge. Now we do not allow such luxuries. Each ‘expert’ is in fact a sound bite specialist whose primary role is to get the message across come what may. Sarcasm, interruption or sheer volume are all useful tools to get the job done. The truth is not the point. It is the message.
The rise of the mediocracy
Politicians have quickly realised that the power of persuasion these days is in the power, not the persuasion. Consequently they do their utmost to ensure that they do not fall fowl of public opinion. Once the public, fueled by ignorance, has decided upon a direction, it cannot be turned. Politicians have even become advocates of the new process. What better way to test a policy than to leak it to the media and test reaction? Discount sentences for admission of guilt? What do The Sun readers think? Tightening strike legislation? Let’s read the Daily Mail leader. Instant reaction sounds ideal, but it all stifles true debate and leaves the representation of the people in the hands of media executives and the loyal party members in the House of Commons.
The situation is even worse in the public sector. Who would dare to go against the will of government, no matter how illogical. Government experts are expected to tow the line regardless. Professor David Nutt dared to question the Labour government’s drugs policy and was sacked out of hand rather than be allowed to engage in a rational debate on the matter. How do public sector workers protect themselves from such a fickle employer? They shroud themselves in systems and processes designed to protect the employee from the mob, the media and their own bosses. Consequently when a child dies in squalor, an over-dependence on performance data is blamed ( Baby P ), the MOD overspends are due a misplaced culture of optimism and when the sick die in their own filth it is due to a lack of robust mechanisms to ensure that changes are implemented and a culture that does not welcome concerns being highlighted ( Staffordshire ). In each case the government throws the mob a body and hopes it will all die down. But all the failed systems, processes and mechanisms remain to protect the workers who dare not question or decry for fear of losing their jobs. And so Me-ism leads inevitably to mediocracy.
Mediocracy is a situation in the society in which mediocre people prevail. The society is subordinated to a quasi-egalitarian ideology in which words and ideas are redefined to be convenient for the average people. Other symptoms include dumbing, jargonism, infantilisation, vacuity, phony democratization and authoritarianism. ( wikipedia )
How ironic that the rise of the individual has seen a diminishing of individualism. That higher educational standards have resulted in a polarisation of public opinion rather than the vigour of new ideas and informed debate. How sad that the electorate, after gaining universal suffrage, now simply hand their power to the mediocre politicians and howling media.