The social contract has been broken, not by the many law-abiding, tax-paying majority, but by the few of the State, says Neil Oliver
Clearly the lesson there is that only brainless frogs get boiled alive.
The usual suspects have been in Davos again, at the World Economic Forum overseen by Klaus Schwab – the few hundred of the most unimaginably rich gathered in one place to fantasise together about what the several billions of us ought to be forced to do in order to make those billionaires’ lives better.
Those poor billionaires – for whom everything on Earth might finally be perfect, if only someone would invent the vacuum cleaner big enough to suck every last one of us peasants, inconsequential specks of dust that we are, into outer space once and for all.
While listening to whichever one on stage is pontificating about this or that technological advance, or about how better to structure civilization itself, I find it best to imagine they have the high pitched, excitable voices of children – like in those TV adverts for chewy, jelly sweeties.
When I do that, I am reassured by their evident ridiculousness, their patent lack of a grasp on the reality of what this human species of ours is all about.
Some of their ilk talk blithely about the millions, billions of “useless eaters” who might best be controlled and placated by drugs and video games.
I hear it announced that it is already time to “hack” the human animal and implant technologies to make us better at being alive in the world. Some of them are apportioning to themselves nothing less than the power of God.
It is precisely that genetic failing of theirs, demonstrably present in one billionaire or technocrat authoritarian after another, that will always be their undoing in the end. That glitch, that Achilles Heel common to all of them, is their failure to note the still limitless potential of the unadulterated Human Being Mark I. They think they have us mapped – tracked and traced already – but they don’t.
There’s another thing they collectively overlook – or deny, at least to themselves – while making their plans and cooking up their little magic potions.
And it is fear – their own fear. Their all but overwhelming fear of all of us. Whether or not they’re aware of it, they are motivated, those few hundred Richey Richests, by fear of the billions of us. They look out at us, down on us, from their castle walls, and our presence – in all our endless, untidy, unpredictable variety – and they are afraid. They don’t really understand us, they don’t really get us, and it’s that which has made them fearful.
People always fear what they don’t understand. When you get right down to it, they would probably rather we just weren’t here. But we are here. We are here and every last one of us, white, black or brown, tall or short, good at maths or good at growing plants, or good at putting smiles on the faces of those around us, or whichever small fragment of the miraculous each of us has within us – every last one of us has the same unalienable right to a place on this planet as any one of them. Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates – whoever – has no more right to be here, to live the best life available here, than you or me.
You may have heard or read by now about the slowly boiled frog. It’s that notion that you can put a frog in a pot of cold water and turn on the heat beneath. Poor frog doesn’t know what’s happening and so, according to the story, is slowly and unknowingly cooked to death. We are invited to think that we are like that frog, that we are helpless to identify the danger we are in, far less to extricate ourselves from our plight. Here’s the thing: it’s not true.
Back in the 19th century a scientist of sorts removed a frog’s brain and found it would, indeed, remain in the steadily heating water until dead. But much more recently, in the 20th century, biologists tried the experiment with healthy, complete frogs – and found that every single one of them leapt out long before it was in any real danger. Sometimes, the frog wouldn’t stay in the pot even when there was no heat under it at all.
Clearly the lesson there is that only brainless frogs get boiled alive.
I would offer here a helpful analogy: we placed ourselves in a pot called the social contract. This is a way of describing the relationship we proles have with the State. Put simply, under the terms of the social contract, we agreed to behave and do our bit, and in return the State kept us safe from crime and undue suffering and protected our rights and freedoms. That was the deal.
A while ago, though – even before the adventures of Covid-19 – the State turned the heat on under the pot. It takes a while – and each one of us frogs becomes aware of the change at a different moment – but sooner or later one frog after another realises the water has become unpleasantly warm … and jumps out. I feel this is what is happening now – that’s what’s been happening for years. More and more healthy frogs, with brains intact, are getting out of the pot, turning their backs on the social contract.
For those who thought they could cook us, without us knowing, this is a frightening time. The billionaires, technocrats and autocrats can sit together in Davos and squeak excitedly to one another all they want. But they’re in another pot – a pot of their own elitism – and the heat under theirs is rising too.
I am wired to look back in time in search of answers to problems. Given the assumption that there’s noting new under the sun – that a version of whatever is happening now has likely happened in the past – I look to see how things played out.
Nearly 2,000 years ago the Caledonians of the north faced off against a Roman army led by a Roman Governor called Agricola. Among much else, the Roman Empire wantedsubmission from those people they deemed lesser, inferior.
According to Agricola’s son in law, Tacitus, the Caledonians were led by one they called Calgacus, which means the swordsman, who rallied his forces with these words, or words like them:
“To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are … And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety … unpolluted by the contagion of slavery … the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission.
“Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches … they create a devastation and call it peace.”
I read about those Romans and see the model for every autocratic empire there ever was, and that ever shall be – from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. The Romans were the victors of the battle in question, but they never did win either the submission or the obedience of those Caledonians. The Roman Empire declined and fell, of course – as every empire must. Empires used to last for centuries. The most recent last for just years. They fall, the world kings, faster and faster every time.
The strutting peacocks of Davos, the WEF, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation are no Romans. But they want our obedience and submission and have endeavoured to obtain as much by stealth. They thought we wouldn’t see them, wouldn’t see what they were doing, that we wouldn’t feel it, but we did and we do.
They sought to exploit our good nature. Give the devil his due – the social contract was good while it lasted. We had peace a lot of the time, rule of law, personal freedom and protected rights that passed from generation to generation.
That was then, though, and this is now. Now a handful of frightened billionaires and their enablers seek to make the pot a prison. By the manipulation of fear and the application of propaganda, they want us to be and to remain forever as frightened as they are.
They tell those of us who’ve noticed that we are being silly, that nothing of the sort is happening. This is gaslighting – and that is the gas that’s already lit under the pot. But look at what they’ve done. Having slipped and shouldered their way further and further into our lives, every aspect of our lives, they’ve only made a mess of everything. For all their wealth and their so-called wisdom we’re all about to get poorer, colder and hungrier. Already millions have had their health – physical mental or both – hopelessly compromised. It is increasingly hard not to see this as having been the plan all along. After all, surely no one in authority is stupid enough to have caused all this harm by accident.
As far as I am concerned, the social contract has been broken – not by we the many law-abiding, tax-paying majority, but by the few of the State.
Of course, an analogy only goes so far. We are not frogs. We are human beings. This is our country, our world. In the moment we decide collectively that we have nothing to fear from those who would take advantage of our good nature … in that moment the fear is gone. And somewhere in their hearts, and somewhere in their heads, the billionaires in Davos must know it too.