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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day – the age of absurdity

I’ve said previously we’re living in an age of tragedy. I’m not too sure about that anymore. I think we’ve advanced further than tragedy. We’re entering an age of absurdity. Consider German climate policy. Germany, as we keep hearing, is incomparably more adult, more advanced, more modern, and in every way superior to bungling Britain. But in Germany, the result of their closing down of nuclear and going for renewables has been an increased reliance on the dirtiest kind of coal. Well, this is tragic, but it’s even more than tragic. It is completely absurd.

And it’s difficult to put these arguments forward because people start shouting at you or they start crying or they say they can’t get up in the morning. I rather brutally suggest: “Well don’t. Stay in bed until you get a better reason for getting up. And if you don’t, well, there we are. Progress always has casualties.”

John Gray

15 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – the age of absurdity

  • bobby b

    We think they’re stupid. They think we’re evil. And, to the extent that refusing to let people eat the seed corn in the winter because they’re hungry is evil, maybe we are.

    But if you eat that seed corn, we ALL die. Which is stupid.

    So I’ll take “evil” any day. And there’s the absurdity. Discipline and realism can’t ever actually be evil.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    To understand Leftists in any country you have to realize that to them reality has no existence. Whatever they want is by definition “reality” and there are never any consequences for any dichotomy between their momentary “reality” versus any objective reality recognized by the world at large. Not saying that such recognized reality is always right, but that it is a basis for further testable conjectures. The differences are irreconcilable. And yes, they believe that the existence of those differences is proof that we are evil. It is what it is.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • Fraser Orr

    I actually think the problem is rather more straightforward. It is a direct consequence of the massive centralization of government. Governments almost by definition do thing that look good rather than being useful because the nature of their incentives is that success is defined in popularity rather than practical results. They can always blame their failures on the other party or evil capitalism.

    Which is fine up to a point, until they start taking over really important things, and where they start cartelling together to prevent even the richest from escaping their clutches.

    I heard a phrase recently — they don’t believe in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market”, instead they believe in the “clutching claws of government.”

  • Kirk

    Every religion seems to attract personality types of their own specific sort… Or, in a backwards way, those religions may instead tend to encourage similar sorts of personality types among its membership.

    And, if you think leftism doesn’t qualify as a religion, you really need to take a long, hard look at the entirely faith-based belief systems that leftism’s adherents operate under. You can’t falsify any of their arguments; everything they say and believe is essentially that of a religious fanatic. The majority of them will insist, however, that they’re rational and “scientific”, yet exhibit the same mindless enthusiasm that you’ll hear from your standard religious fanatic. All you have to do is substitute “Jesus” or “Muhammed” for “Marx” and whatever other anointed leftist source they’ve chosen to believe in. Because, in the end? For all of them, it’s belief, not reason that motivates them.

    Your average environmentalist has rather more in common with the flaggelant’s of the world, wanting to wear the hair shirts and all the rest. The problem is, they also want to force the rest of us into it.

    I think it’s high time we recognize that the left is a belief system just like any other religion, and force a separation from it and the state. They “believe”; the rest of us reason, when it comes to governance and state policy.

    If you doubt me about the religious nature of it, ask yourself this: When have you ever seen or heard of a leftist that is capable of learning from failure? One that says “Hey, this cherished policy of mine isn’t doing what I thought; I genuinely believed that being lenient on crime would reduce it, but the actual indications are that it… Isn’t. Maybe I ought to rethink things?”

    You never will, and that’s because they have a belief system that is essentially religious in nature, faith-based, completely beyond rational analysis or understanding. Leftists believe, with the same fervor and utter lack of mentation that a religious fanatic possesses. No amount of evidence or reasoning will turn them from their belief system, and it’s high time we recognize that fact.

    Separation of church and state? That means that the left shouldn’t be anywhere near governance, because they worship the state itself, a most dangerous thing.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    September 25, 2023 at 2:21 am

    “Governments almost by definition do thing that look good rather than being useful because the nature of their incentives is that success is defined in popularity rather than practical results.”

    But, with an intelligent and interested citizenry, the practical thing would also be the popular thing. There’d be no contradiction. Our system would work great. People would vote for the things that work.

    So I don’t think you’re bemoaning representative democracy, or even our version of it; I think you’re (rightly) less than impressed with our demos.

  • DiscoveredJoys


    Back before the time of the Black Death there were (in our part of the world) workers, warriors and clergy. The clergy controlled access to the afterlife which was as important to the workers and warriors as electricity is to us today. The clergy made a good living controlling that access.

    Perhaps we are returning to Medieval times. There are the workers, the industrialists, and the Green Left. The Green Left now control access to electricity and are quite prepared to make that access as difficult as possible for the workers and industrialists.

    It seems that we are giving up on the better aspects of the Enlightenment – because it suits the interests of The Powers That Be.

  • Clovis Sangrail


    To understand Leftists in any country you have to realize that to them reality has no existence.

    Possibly true now. In the past, it was slightly more subtle in that most of them behaved as if everything worked in isolation — that most contingent human arrangements were laws of nature and would remain unaltered if they just fixed the few things that were `wrong’.

    @bobby b

    I think you’re (rightly) less than impressed with our demos.

    Careful there. That sounds a bit close to Brecht’s solution Die Loesung.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    John Gray is right, but remember, this is an academic has been all over the place at times, as the late Brian Micklethwait, formerly of this blog, pointed out a decade ago.

  • Yes, Brian really did put the boot in to John Gray 😀

  • Stonyground

    I present the following clip without comment.

    “A pack of dog-identifying humans has prompted calls for “animal control” after footage of their Berlin meet-up went viral.

    An estimated 1,000 people who prefer to be recognized as not humans, but canines, organized a gathering at the Berlin Potsamer Platz railroad station in Germany, communicating only by howling or barking at one another.”

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    So I don’t think you’re bemoaning representative democracy, or even our version of it; I think you’re (rightly) less than impressed with our demos.

    As I think you and I have gone back and forth on, certainly the demos, the people, have utterly lost the plot. When you vote for Fetterman over Oz you are so consumed by propaganda and team thinking that you shouldn’t be trusted with matches.

    But the point I made is still an equally contributing factor. When all the power is sucked up centrally it leaves you with no choices. The delusion of democracy is that you have a choice, when in fact the goal of politicians is to eliminate your choices. There are many ways they do this — for example with my super powerful vote who do I vote for to massively reduce government spending or stop America’s constant interference in foreign wars? But also by the practical elimination of federalism, I don’t have a choice of which jurisdiction to move to — it is all one big jurisdiction.

    And it is notable that in our increasingly mobile world the politicians want to reduce your international choices too, for example, with the various minimum tax treaties — which are effectively a form of government cartel, or the EU. This is surely the next frontier in international totalitarianism.

    So your point is very valid, but there is another side to this sordid tale too.

  • NickM

    I’d forgotten the doggers. It gave me a thoought. Is this like the “dancing manias” of days of yore? Is part of the trans-whatever thing some sort of collective hysteria (at least in part)? Could the huge recent upswing have something to do with COVID and lockdowns or tanked economies and stagflation?

    This hypothesis is perhaps strengthened by the very strange change in the nature of trans. It has been noted that in recent years the number of girls who think they’re boys versus the converse has increased dramatically within the set of trans people (although of course both numbers have gone through the roof in absolute terms). I think this is quite interesting but what I think is perhaps more interesting is the numbers who want to remain trans rather than fully surgically/medically transition. Is it perhaps that they are scared of an adulthood that they perceive to be not worth it and scary. That might explain the doggers and similar extreme cosplayers. They want the fantasyland of an eternal childhood. Like Peter Pan or something. It would certainly go a long way to explain some of the use of puberty blockers.

    At an extreme level we have this character. Yeah they blend his food and gave the wee bairn a dummy.

    People have been predicting the end of the traditional family unit since God knows when. I don’t believe this was engineered by the Frankfurt School Marxists but they certainly aren’t going to let this unforeseen good fortune go to waste.

    I have a further hypothesis. If people are increasingly drifting into bizarre fantasies then this also heightens anxiety and encourages more to do it as well. “If I can’t have a proper future, I’ll invent one…” This could be the reason for the rise of weird identities (see Tickle v. Giggle* for an example of quite how absurd this can get) being exponential. The World’s going to Hell in a handcart so I’ll just be a Tellytubby.

    I mentioned, “Tickle vs Giggle to my wife and she gave me an odd look. She asked if I’d been watching CBeebies. She hadn’t heard of the case. I had to explain… She was quite stunned.

  • Runcie Balspune

    After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the anti-nuclear brigade lost their raison d’être, so they all joined the similarly motivated burgeoning environmentalist movement, now with the Greens as power brokers the echoes of their previous protests have emerged, and we suffer the consequence.

  • NickM

    There is a strong parallel to that with the trans ideology. Gay marriage and adoption etc. So, basically no raison d’être for activism on that score. But what if you are an activist? I mean full-on Wolfie Smith activist in the sense that it isn’t so much something you do but something you are. Now, you can either say, “Job Done!” or you can Take the Alexander option and weep by the banks of the Ganges… Or if you’re real hard core against Da Man you take up some other quest however fucking ridiculous is the result. And quite frankly, supporting men with beards wanting to be seen as lesbians is beyond parody. So, if that domino falls then God knows what next…

    Oh, I have an idea though. I have heard of planetary rights. Yes, some people have been arguing (I am not making this up) that Apollo violated the rights of the moon. They are actually attributing sentience and therefore rights to rocks. A lot of this is based on New Age shite and backed-up by completely fabricated ideas of pre-Colombian Americans or pre-Cook Australians which almost certainly have nothing to do with what those (now largely destroyed) cultures actually believed. But it’s a great opportunity to kick Elon Musk up the arse and feel deeply self-righteous about doing so. If I may paraphrase “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, “Being self-righteous never ends”…

  • Paul Marks

    As Johnathan Peace point out – trusting John Gray would be a mistake, he has betrayed liberty in the past. “Fool me once shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me”.

    Even this article is wrong – for example it is not true that the United States is “big enough” to fund this agenda, Dr Gray’s claim is absurd – as the United States is in danger of being destroyed.

    As for the international Corporate State elite pushing this agenda on Germany, Britain, America and other Western lands, they are not really interested in C02 emissions – C02 emissions are just an excuse for the world “governance” they have long desired, for their aim of grinding the faces of ordinary people under their boots.

    That Dr Gray mistakes moral evil for stupidity or ignorance, rather undermines his analysis.