The First Great Culture War

Tensions with conservatives had been building for decades, but the 60s were the real turning point. That was when middle and upper-class teenagers began rejecting the future set out by their parents to become doctors and lawyers in favour of the ideas and lifestyle of a subversive underground movement. Rejecting materialism, they set off to live in religious communes in the desert or up in the mountains, and when they returned years later, their heads were filled with big ideas about fairness, equality and a new vision for the world. Their parents thought their ideas were dumb and just wanted them to get a job.

Many did embark on careers, only ones completely at odds with the values of the older generation. Starting as lobbyists, consultants and advisers they increasingly came to hold real power and began to freeze out those who did not share their ideas. By the 90s, this youthful movement of outsiders had become grown-up insiders, holding positions in the city that commanded big salaries. Over time the cosmopolitan ruling class was completely consumed, and the movement set out to irreversibly change society — for the better, in their eyes — by enacting laws to eliminate old thinking and practices they deemed toxic and harmful. A largely urban movement, they saw the beliefs of those in the country as repulsive and backwards, a hostility that often flared into civil unrest, cultural vandalism and occasionally urban warfare. As time wore on their victory became total, and the traditions, values and beliefs of their parents were consigned to history. In a bitter twist, the world they build was not an equal one, but another type of steeply hierarchical power structure.

This was not the US Pacific Coast of the 1960s, but the Roman-occupied Mediterranean of the 360s, a time in which the cultural tide changed and the once-persecuted Christian subculture seised the reigns of the Roman Empire. What started with the faith of a single Emperor in the early fourth century came to consume the entire state bureaucracy from top to bottom by the fifth. More than this, these events altered the cosmological and social dynamics of the West and set in motion a cultural dynamo that was to characterise its evolution down to the present day. This is the story of how it happened.

The Revenge of Unreason

The real battle of our age is not Right vs. Left, but Enlightenment vs. Counter-Enlightenment. And the Enlightenment is losing.

During the Weimar Republic, a US journalist with the impressive name of Hubert Renfro Knickerbocker wrote a bestseller called “Germany, Nazi or Communist?” which portrayed the country’s future as a stark choice between these extremes. It was to become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as having lost faith in both capitalism and democracy after the great crash of 1929, these two radical ideologies also presented themselves to the public as the only possible solutions to the ailments of society. Furthermore went out of their way to paint their respective nemesis as an absolute evil that they would protect them from. To this end, they deformed language to present reasonable arguments against them made by moderates as evidence of the omnipresence and pervasiveness of their enemies, continually upping the levels of hysteria and sense of urgency to scare people into their clutches. In other words, they needed each other to animate their respective nightmares, and to this end shared a common enemy; truth itself.

Intranets as failed utopias: Knowledge management and human nature

In a twist midway through Philip K Dick’s characteristically paranoid 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the android-hunter Deckard finds himself being accused of being a synthetic. “This matter should be straightened out.” he said, as he was led away to the Hall of Justice. But no. Instead he is taken to a completely different Hall of Justice in a totally different part of town, with its own cops, detectives and staff that Deckard had never heard of. The one he operated from had been derelict for years, he was told. As he ponders his predicament, our hero muses how it is possible for such an organisations to be here and nobody even know about it. *Was this new department a fake run by androids?* Or *was he* actually an android?

Understanding psychology when building careers websites

A careers site can be a company’s single most important recruiting asset, and certainly one that if well planned is a powerful means of captivating and retaining quality employees and reducing or eliminating recruitment costs. Inversely, career site experiences that fall short of acceptable standards can poison people’s perception of companies and sour relationships before they get a chance to start.

Interface of the Gods. Part 1: Paradise Lost

“We stumble forward in hopeful chaos, trusting that the light on the horizon is the dawn and not the twilight.” — E.O Wilson

In Greek myth, it was the Titan Prometheus who was responsible for turning humanity from social primate to super-organism. By giving us fire stolen from the workshop of technology god Hephaestus, he awoke in us techne, the transformative superpower to turn plants and rocks into cities and civilisations. With this ability to consciously sculpt matter, we began to tame and subdue the natural world, a crime for which Zeus dished out a particularly cruel and unusual punishment; having the Titan chained to a mountain where his perpetually regenerating liver was devoured by an eagle for eternity.

Into the Maelstrom: How the hyperconnected age is tearing us apart

Writing during the twilight age of literature, maverick media theorist Marshall McLuhan devoted his life to the understanding of the global mass media and its effect on human behaviour. He argued that by changing our sense ratios, different communication technologies altered the focus of our mental attention and affected us both on an individual and societal level. For example, the communications satellite acted as a ‘proscenium arch’ that made the TV generation all want to be performers, which led collectively to vast shifts in the nature of society as new industries emerged in response. In contemplating the humble photocopier in the 1960s, he saw the seeds of the audience participation and self-publishing that would come to characterise the internet:

10 things about propaganda you should know

Broadly speaking Propaganda is a collection of techniques to channel the flow of information in populations for the material benefit of certain groups, cliques or individuals at the expense of others. Canadian philosopher Randal Marlin, one of the world’s foremost experts on propaganda, defined it as;

“The organised attempt through communication to affect belief or action inculcate attitudes in a large audience in ways that circumvent or suppress an individual’s adequately informed, rational, reflective judgement.”

A key phrase here is “adequately informed”, as inhibiting information flow is just as important — if not more important — as whatever messages are amplified, as the absence of such information or context stops us rationally assessing any given scenario. It is in other words a process of sculpting a person’s imagination of the world by altering the information they are exposed to in a way that leads them towards a certain conclusion, to the degree that they sometimes consider to have arrived at it themselves.

The Death of Ba’al; Climate change, war, and the end of civilisation.

From his spectral throne at the summit of Mount Zaphon, in a palace of blue lapis and silver, the Canaanite Storm God Ba’al protected the coastal city of Ugarit from the forces of destruction and chaos. As master of the life giving power rainfall and fertility, Ba’al had turned the Bronze Age backwater of Ugarit — in modern Syria — into the jewel of the Near East, delivering more than 800mm of rainfall a year — enough to support a prosperous agricultural economy and large urban population. Over three thousand years later, his name is fossilised in the language of Levantine Arabs, where the word bá’al is an adjective to describe irrigation methods that use rainwater.