In my latest article on Mercatornet I reflect on the growing fractionalisation of society, facilitated and driven by the internet:
In the recent past everyone watched more or less the same TV shows. Now we can enjoy such a diversity of content that kids in the same class at school can effectively inhabit different planets of entertainment, just as their parents inhabit different worlds of news and online opinion.
There are still many points of convergence, but the option to not watch Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey or the latest from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is more viable than ever.
Linear TV focused our attention on a limited range of options, just like the two-party political system effectively concentrates genuinely diverse political views on a near-binary set of options.
The rise of the internet means that people can now air their diverse political views, whether it be weird and wonderful theories or simply the degree of personal support or opposition for a candidate.
And it’s not just a process of “airing” what is already there. Exposure to diverse opinions engenders greater diversification. We change, reflect upon, amend and consolidate our opinions as we realise how and why other people agree or disagree.
My latest piece at MercatorNet is part 2 of my parenting tips from a low-energy father. Therein I advise we draw on providence and find ways to be happy, for the benefit of ourselves and our children:
Parenting doesn’t end at getting things done. Parents aren’t machines. We model not only our behaviours and skills to our children, but our entire worldview and the moods and personality traits that accompany it.
We can, in a sense, “do everything right” but still inhabit a joyless existence, and our children are powerfully susceptible to the long-term influence of our attitude to life.
That’s why good communication is not enough, and why – for my own sake, and for the sake of my children – I set out learning how to change how I feel.
My latest article on MercatorNet takes the providential view a step further by speculating on what good might come out of the dismantling of traditional moral structures and principles in society and the state.
Like an internet service-provider, we will increasingly expect the state to keep us connected and free from unwanted interference, the perfect venue for the exercise of autonomy.
And despite its association with various ethical issues, autonomy is not a bad thing. It’s a part of our humanity and deserves exercise and respect.
The rise of individual autonomy is not intrinsically evil, nor was the paternalism of the past.
But with providence in mind, the overall trend suggests a development or evolution of our social and political structure, and it’s no accident of history that the rise of individual autonomy came on the heels of the most horrific expressions of collectivism and statism.
Having a smaller, less stable income these days has left me newly appreciative of certain biblical passages:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Money too is more than food and clothing, and as such I think it gives us a sense of security and sufficiency that inhibits our sensitivity to providence. Why should we ‘trust in God’ when we have permanent employment and a guaranteed income?
This balance between material security and spiritual dependence is complex, as demonstrated by the contending interpretations of the beatitude of the ‘poor in spirit’, and the story of the rich young man who went away sad.
It’s not wealth per se that is the problem, but our devotion to it over and above higher things; allowing it to dominate our lives and our minds. At times it can be hard to tell whether we are the masters of wealth or the slaves, driven by financial imperatives with nothing higher to intervene or change our minds.
I think this is the significance of my decision not to follow the financial imperative back into mediocre employment for the sake of a reliable income and the sense of security and sufficiency it affords. The decision to cease compromising my integrity for the sake of money means acknowledging something higher than my income in a society where a high income is more often than not the summum bonum.