Douglas Murray: Racism, Marxism, and the War on the West | Lex Fridman Podcast #296 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Douglas Murray: Racism, Marxism, and the War on the West | Lex Fridman Podcast #296".


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Opening Remarks

Introduction (00:00)

I think that some people are deliberately trying to completely clear the cultural landscape of our past. In order to say there's nothing good, nothing you can hold on to, no one you should revere, you've got no heroes, the whole thing comes down, who's left standing? Oh, we've also got this idea from the 20th century still about Marxism. And no, no, you can, you, you, you will not have the entire landscape derasinated. And then the worst ideas tried again. The following is a conversation with Douglas Murray, author of The Madness of Crowds, Gender, Race, and Identity, and his most recent book, The War on the West, How to prevail in the Age of Unreason. He's a brilliant, fearless, and often controversial thinker who points out and pushes back against what he sees as the madness of our modern world. I should note that the use of the word Marxism and the West in this conversation refers primarily to cultural Marxism and the cultural values of Western civilization, respectively. This is in contrast to my previous conversation with Richard Wolff, where we focused on Marxism as primarily a critique of capitalism, and thus looking at it through the lens of economics and not culture. Nevertheless, these two episodes stand opposite of each other with very different perspectives on how we build a flourishing civilization together. I'll leave it to you, the listener, to thank and to decide which is the better way. This is the Lex Friedman podcast. To support it, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, dear friends, here's Douglas Murray.

Discussion On Racism And Western Civilization

Western civilization (01:47)

You recently wrote the book titled The War on the West, which in part says that the values, ideas, and history of Western civilization are under attack. So let's start with the basics. Historically and today, what are the ideas that represent Western civilization? The good, the bad, the ugly? I actually don't get stuck on definitions, precisely because, as you know, once you get stuck on definitions, there's a possibility you'll never get off of them. Yes. I'd say a few things. Firstly, obviously, the Western tradition is a specific tradition, a specific tradition of ideas, culture, well known to be perhaps easily defined by the combination of Athens and Jerusalem, the world of the Bible, and the world of ancient Greece and indeed Rome. Effectively, it creates European civilization, which itself spawns the rest of the Western civilization, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others. But these are the main countries that we still refer to as the West. So there's a specific tradition and all the things that come from it. My shorthand cheat on this answer is to say, you know when you're not in it. So if you've ever been to Beijing, Shanghai, you know you're not in the West, somewhere else. When you're in Tokyo, somewhere extraordinary, but you know you're not in the West. Obviously there are, let's say, borderline questions like, it's Russia in the West, which I sort of leave open as a question, possibly. If you were placed in Tamasko blindfolding and you woke up and you couldn't hear the language or maybe you didn't know what the language sounded like, would you guess you were in the West or not? I think I was somewhere near it. Getting closer. I mean, you know, it's also a question of whether it's European. And I think the answer to that is not really, although massively influenced by Europe, but times wanting to reach towards it, at times wanting to stay away. But part of the West, possibly, yes. But anyway, it's a very specific tradition. It's one of a number of major traditions in the world. And because it's hard to define, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Are there certain characteristics and qualities about the values and the ideas that define it? Is the type of rule, the type of governmental structure? Yes. I mean, the rule of law, propiering democracies and much more. I mean, these are, of course, things that were ended up being developed in America and then given back to much of the rest of the West. I say there are other perhaps more controversial attributes I would give to the West. One is a ravenous interest in the rest of the world, which is not shared, of course, by every other culture. The late philosopher George Steiner said he could never get out of his head. The haunting fact that the boats only seemed to go out from Europe. They didn't, they explorers, the scholars, the linguists, the people who wanted to discover other civilizations and indeed even resurrect ancient civilizations and lost civilizations. These were scholars that were always coming from the West to discover this elsewhere by contrast to, you know, there were never boats coming from Egypt to help the Anglo-Saxons discover the origins of their language and so on. So I think there is a sort of ravenous interest in the rest of the world, which can be said to be a Western attribute, although of course also has function immediately preface it to some downsides and many criticisms that can be made of some of the consequences of that interest because of course it's not entirely lacking in self-interest. So it's not just the scholars, it's also the armies, the armies and they're looking to gain access and control over resources elsewhere and enhance the imperial imperative to conquer, to expand. Although that itself of course is a universal thing, I mean no civilization I think that we know of doesn't try to gain ground from its neighbors where it can. It was the ability to go further, faster. Certainly gave an advantage in that regard. Do some civilizations get a bit more excited by that kind of idea than others? Possible, it's possible. Because you could say it's the Western civilization because the technological innovation was more efficient at doing that kind of thing. Absolutely. But maybe you wanted it more too. Well the Ottomans wanted it as an awful lot and did very terribly well for many centuries and I shouldn't forget that. Others did others. I'd also say by the way that, and again it's a very broad one but it's worth throwing out that I think self-criticism is an important attribute to the Western mind. One that as you know is not common everywhere. Not all societies allow even their most vociferous critics to become rich. So you know criticism is a negative sounding word, it could be self-interspection, self-analysis, self-reflection. And it can be what you need. And in the Western system I'd argue that one of the advantages of the system of representative governance is that where there are problems in the system you can attempt to sort them out by peaceable means. We listen to arguments most famously in America in the late 20th century. Civil rights movement achieved its aims by force of moral argument and persuaded the rest of the country that it had been wrong. That's not common in every society by any means. So I think there are certain attributes of the Western mind that you could say are entirely unique but they are not as commonplace as well. What about the emergence and hierarchies of asymmetry of power most visible, most drastic in the form of slavery for example? Well, I mean everyone in the world is slavery so I don't regard it as being a Western, the unique Western sin. It's rather hard to think of a civilization in history that didn't have slavery of some kind. One of the oddities of the Western ignorance of our day is that people seem to imagine that our societies in the West were the only ones who ever engaged in any vices. Alastis isn't true. It's a sort of Rousseauian mistake or at least one that's blossomed since Rousseau, that everybody else in the world was born into sort of Edenic innocence and only we in the West had this sort of evil in us that caused us to do bad things to other people. Slavery was engaged in by everyone in the ancient world of course and through most of the modern world as well of course there are 40 million slaves in the world today so it's clearly not something that the species as a whole has a problem with. That's more slaves of course than there were in the 19th century. I'd say on top of that that the interesting thing about the Western mind as regards to slavery is that we were the civilization that did away with it. And by the way the founding fathers of America who today are lambasted routinely for being acquiesced in the slave trade, engaging in it, owning slaves. It's not people almost don't even bother now to recognize the fact that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington all wanted to see this trade done away with, couldn't hold the country together at the origins if they'd have made such an effort and believed and hoped that it would be something they would be dealt with after their time. So the founding ideas had within them the notion that we should as a people get rid of this. And the declaration of independence set up the conditions under which slavery will be impossible. Oh man, I created equal. Once you've put that, that's a time bomb under the whole concept of slavery that's ticking away. Okay. And sure enough it detonated in the next century.

Slavery (10:28)

If we just step back and look at the human species, what does slavery teach you about human nature? The fact that slavery has appeared as a function of society throughout human history. There are two possibilities. One is it's what people think they can do and God is not watching. Another is it's what they can do if they think that God allows it. Really, really well put. And the fact that they want to do this kind of subjugation, what does that mean? Well, I mean it's pretty straightforward in a way. There are people who get to work for free. There's economic in nature in some sense. Yes. But in order to do it, I mean almost always there are some examples in the ancient world where this wasn't the case, but almost always it had to be a subjugated people or people that regarded as different. One of the things actually I've tried to sort of inject into the discussion through this book among other things is a recognition that there were very major questions still going on in the 18th and early 19th century that one resolved, which were one of the reasons why slavery was not as morally repugnant to people then as it is to us now. And that's the question of polygenesis and monogenesis. At the time of Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers were thinking and working. They didn't know because nobody knew whether the human races were related or not. There were arguments, the monogenesis argument that we were all indeed from the same racial stock. Polygenesis argument was that we weren't. We were black Africans, Ethiopians, they were often referred to at the time because they provided some of the first slaves were different from white Europeans, simply not related in any way. And that makes it easier of course. That makes it easier to enslave people. If you think they're not your brother, am I my brother's keeper? No, he's not your brother. And it's a very troubling argument in the 18th and 19th century also because there was a biblical question. It threw up a theological question, which was, I don't know, people were literally debating this at the time. Was there also a black Adamadeve? Was there as it were an Indian Adamadeve, an Native American Adamadeve? This was a serious theological debate because they didn't know the answer. People say that Darwin solved this. It wasn't just Darwin, of course. But by the late 19th century, the argument that we were not all related as human beings had suffered so many blows that you had to really be very, very ignorant, deliberately willfully ignorant to ignore it by that. So no longer was after Darwin a theological question, it became a moral question. It was already a moral question, but it clarified. Darwin clarifies it definitely. And then you're in this as a same in this situation of you're not subjugating some other people, you're subjugating your own kin. And that becomes morally unsustainable. So given that slavery in America as part of its history, how do we incorporate into the calculus of policy today, social discourse, what we learn in school?

Reparations (14:04)

We can look at slavery in America. We can look at maybe more recent things like in Europe, other atrocities, the Holocaust. How do we incorporate that in terms of how we create policy, how we treat each other, all those kinds of things? What is the calculus of integrating the atrocities, the injustices of the past into the way we are today? That's a very complex question because it's a moral question at this point. And a moral question long after the fact. I say at one point in the war on the West that the argument, for instance, on reparations now that goes on and it's not a fringe argument anymore. Some people say, "Oh, you're pulling up this fringe argument." It really isn't. I mean, every contender for the democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020 was willing to talk about the possibility of reparations. I'm very eager that this country in America goes through that entirely self-destructive exercise. I say that there's a lot of problems with this, but if I could refine it out of one thing, I'd say this. It's no longer about a wealth transfer from one group of people who did something wrong to another group of people who were wronged. It would have been that could have been that 200 years ago. Today it's not even the descendants of people who did something wrong giving money to people who were the descendants of people who were wronged. It's a wealth transfer from people who looked like people who did a wrong thing in the past to another group of people who resemble people who were wronged. That's impossible to do. I'm completely clear about this. There is no way in which you could organize such a wealth transfer, our moral or practical reasons. It's filled with people who have same skin color as us, for instance, who have no connection to the slave trade and should not be made to pay money to people who have some connection. And then the country is also filled with ethnic minorities who have come after slavery, who would not be due for any reimbursement as it were. The problem with this is that I'm perfectly open to the possibility that there are residual inequities that exist in American life and that the consequences of slavery could be one of the factors that result from this. The thing is I don't think it's a single issue answer. I think it's a multi-dimensional issue, something like black underachievement in America. It's obviously a multi-dimensional issue. Much of the left and others wish to say it's not. It's only about racism. And they can't answer why Asians who have arrived more recently don't, for instance, get held down by white supremacy, but actually white supremacy in quotes, obviously. But don't get held back by it, but actually flourish to the extent that Asian Americans have a household earnings and high household mean equity then home equity and so on than white Americans. So I don't think that on the merits the evidence is there that racism is the explanation for black ongoing black underachievement in some sections of the black community in America. It's obviously a part of it. Would you say that even those things like fatherlessness and similar family breakdown issues are a long-term consequence of it? Possibly, but it's being awfully generous to people's ability to make bad decisions. For instance, how many generations after the Holocaust would you allow people to claim that everything that went wrong in the Jewish community was as a result of the Holocaust? Is there some kind of term limit on this? I would have thought so. And I think most people probably think that's over. I think the details matter there. But it's very difficult. There are deep orders. I enjoy swimming out in the ocean. Although, I'm terrified of what's lurking underneath in the darkness. You're right. You're right to be. Okay. It's really complicated calculus with the Holocaust and slavery.

Institutional racism (19:09)

So the argument in America is that there's deep institutional racism against African Americans that's rooted in slavery. And so however that calculus turns out, that calculation, it still persists. In the culture, in the institutions, in the allocation of resources, in the way that we communicate in subtle ways, in major ways, all that kind of stuff. How is it possible to win or lose that argument of how much institutional racism there is that's rooted in slavery? Is it a winnable? It's an unquantifiable argument. And I'd like to apply some shortcuts to some of this, the following. For instance, let's take the EV1 that's most often cited. If a white person is walking down the street in America and they see a group of young black men coming towards them and it's late at night and they cross the road, is it because of slavery? Is it because of institutional racism? No. It's because they've made a calculus based, not entirely unfounded beliefs that given crime rates, it's possible that this group of people might be a group of people they don't want to meet late at night. It's an ugly fact, but crime statistics in American cities, after American cities bear out, it's not an entirely unreasonable one. It's not reasonable every time, obviously, obviously. But is it attributable to slavery? That's a stretch. If you're in a city like Chicago where the homicide rates shot up in the last two years, albeit again, as always has to be remembered, mainly black on black gun violence and knife violence, nevertheless, if you're in a city like Chicago and you make that calculus, I've just suggested the cliched one that the street late at night, there are other factors other than a memory of slavery that kick in. I'm afraid it's something which people don't want to particularly acknowledge in America for obvious reasons because it's the ugly, it's damn debated in the world. But I was actually just writing in my column in New York Post today about a very interesting case that's similar, which is the question of obesity in the US. As you know, America's the most overweight country in the world. America has, I think, 40% of the population is obese in medical ways and the nearest next country is a long way down. That's New Zealand of 30% of the population. So America's a long way ahead. Why during the coronavirus era when we know that obesity is the one clearest factor that's likely to lead to your hospitalization if you also get the virus? Why did almost no public health information in America focus on obesity? 80% of the people who ended up hospitalized in America with coronavirus were obese. We locked the schools when there was no evidence that the coronavirus was deadly for children. We all wore cloth masks when there was very little evidence that this was much use in stopping the spread of the virus. We had massive evidence about obesity being a problem and we never addressed it. Why? Is it just because we worried about fat people? No, it's actually because about fat shaming is it? No, it's also because to a great extent it's a racial issue in America as well. And actually I quoted this new publication from the University of Chicago as it happens, which makes that claim explicit. It says, "The reasons why people have views that are negative about obesity is because of racism and slavery. This is what everything is drawn back to America. Anything you want to stop, you say it's because of racism, it's because of slavery. How about it's actually because you mind the hospitals getting clogged up, you mind people dying, you mind ethnic minorities disproportionately dying and you'd like to say something about it. Once again, as in everything in America, it's cut off by some poorly educated academic saying it's about slavery. So we're really not. This requires a kind of form of brain surgery to perform it on a society, probably one that's not possible without killing the patient. And it's being done by people who are wearing mittens. So I'm sure that there's a few folks listening to this that are rolling their eyes and saying, here we go again to white guys talking about the lack of institutional racism in America. First of all, what would you like to tell them? So our African American friends who are looking at this and I've gotten a chance to talk to a bunch of them on clubhouse recently, clubhouse is the social app. Yeah, yeah. And I really enjoy it. It's an absolute zoo of an app as far as I can see it's a lot. I personally love it because you get to talk to as somebody who's an introvert and doesn't socialize much, I enjoy talking to people from all walks of life. So it gave me a chance to first of all practice Russian and Ukrainian. So you get the chance to do that. Then you get a chance to talk about Israel and Palestine with people who are from that part of the world. And you get to hear raw emotion of people from the ground where they start screaming, they start crying, they start being calm and collected and thoughtful. This is as if you walked into a bar with custom picked regular folks, in quotes, regular folks, just people that have quote unquote lived experiences, real pain, real hope, real emotions, biases, and you get to listen to them, go at it with no, because it's an audio app, you're not allowed to start getting into physical fistfight. So even though it really sounds like people want to get happening. So you get to really listen to that feeling. For example, it allows a white guy like me from another part of the world coming from the former Soviet Union to go into a room with a few hundred African Americans screaming about Joe Rogan using the N word. And I get to really listen, there's very different perspectives on that in the African American community and it's fascinating to listen. So I don't get access to that by sort of excellent books and articles and so on. You get that real raw emotion.

Lived experience (26:22)

And I'm just saying, there's a few of those folks listening to this with that real raw emotion. Sure. And they, one argument they say is you Douglas Murray and you Lex Freeman don't have the right to talk about race and racism in America. It is our struggle. You are from a privileged class of people that don't know what it's like to be a black man or woman in America walking down the street. Can you steal man that case? First of all, fuck that. Okay. That's not, I think we need to define steel, steel manning. Okay. Can you try? I know what the training is. I really resent that form of argumentation. Sure. I really resent it. I have the right to talk about whatever the hell I want and no one's going to stop me or try to intimidate me or tell me that I can't simply because of my skin color. And I think that if I said to somebody else the other way around, it would be equally reprehensible. If I said shut up, you have no right to criticize anything that Douglas Murray says because you've not got my skin color. Okay. It's not an exact comparison, but seriously, is that a reasonable form of argument? You haven't been through everything I've been through in my life. Therefore you can't comment. No, in that case, nobody can talk about anything. We might as well pack up, go home and isolate ourselves. Strong words, but can you try to steal me on the case? Not in this particular situation, but there's people that have lived through something that can comment in a very specific way. Like for example, Holocaust survivors. Yes. There is a sense in which maybe a basic sense of civility when a Holocaust survivor is speaking about their experience of the Holocaust, then an intellectual from a very different part of the world that's simply writing about nuanced geopolitics of World War II just should not interrupt the Holocaust survivor. We've physically interrupted if they're telling their stories. The logic and reason that the experience of the Holocaust survivor is somehow fundamentally has a deeper understanding of the humanity and the injustice of that. First of all, again, when even deeper war is now, but in terms of wanting to listen to another person who has experienced something, yes, yes, but not endlessly. Not endlessly. I mean, there are some people who've written about the Holocaust. They didn't experience the Holocaust and have written about it better than people who did. It's not this idea that the lived experience to use this terrible modern jargon as if there's another type. This idea that the lived experience has to triumph over everything else is not always correct. It can be correct in some circumstances. If you are sitting in a room with a Holocaust survivor and somebody who'd never heard about the Holocaust and wanted to shoot out their views on it, one of those people should be heard more than the other, obviously. If there's somebody who's experienced racism firsthand and there's somebody else who has never experienced it, then obviously you'd want to hear from the person who has experienced it firsthand. If that is the discussion underway, I don't think that it's the case that that is endlessly the case. I'm also highly reluctant to concede that there are groups of people who by dint of their skin color or anything else get to dominate the microphone. Of course, we're literally both speaking to microphones at the moment, so there's an irony to this, but let's skate over the irony. What I mean is people saying you don't have the right to speak. I have the right to take the microphone from you and speak because I know best. Fine. If you know best, we'll argue it out and someone will win long or short term, but the almost aggressive tone in which this is now leveled, I don't like the sound of, nobody's experience is completely understandable by another human being, nobody's. What many people are asking us to do at the moment, us collectively is to fall for that thing. I think it was Camille Foster who said it first, but I've adopted in recent years, is to say you must spend an inordinate amount of your life trying to understand me personally, my lived experience, everything about me. You should dedicate your life to trying to do that. Simultaneously, you'll never understand me. This is not an attractive invitation. This is an unwinnable game. So if somebody has a legitimate and important point to make, they should make it and they will win through whatever their character is or whatever their race. By the way, there are plenty of white people who experience racism as well. There are plenty of white people who do and have done and increasingly so, which is one of the things I write about from the war on the West. I would argue that today in America, the only group who are actually allowed to be consistently vilely racist against the white people. If you say disgusting things about black people in America in 2022, you will be over. You will be over. If you decide to talk about people's white tears, their white female tears, their white guilt, their white privilege, their white rage and all these other pseudo pathologizing terms, you'll be just fine. You can be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. You can lecture at Yale University. Absolutely fine. The white people have to suck that up as if that's fine because there was racism in another direction in the past. White people can have racism as well. Does that mean that I think that I have a right or other white people have a right to dominate the discourse by talking about their feelings of being the victims of racism? No, not particularly because what does that get us? It gets us into an endless cycle of competitive victimhood. Am I saying that white people who have experienced violence have experienced historically anything like the violence that was perpetrated against black people in America historically? Obviously not. What kind of competition do we want to enter here? This is very, very important terrain now in America because there's one other thing I have to throw in there which is how do you work out the sincerity of the claim? How do you work out the sincerity of the claim being made? At one point in this latest book I referred to a very useful bit in Nietzsche and the genealogy of morals where as you know Nietzsche always has to be treated carefully. When people say I love Nietzsche, you have to know which bits. What exactly do you love about him? I had a lot can be learned from the answer but there are moments in the genealogy of morals that were very useful for this book. One of them was the moment when Nietzsche uses a phrase that I have now stolen for myself appropriated where he refers to people who tear wounds long since closed and then cry about the pain they feel. Now how do you know whether the pain is real? How do you know? I'm not saying you can never know but it's hard. So when somebody says I feel that my life hasn't gone that well and it's because of something that was done to my ancestors 200 years ago, maybe they do feel that. Maybe they're right to feel that. Maybe they're making it up. Maybe they're using it as their reason for failure in life. Maybe they're using it as their reason to not even try. Maybe they're using it as their reason to smoke weed all day. I don't know. Who does know? How can you work that out? And that's why I come back to this thing of who are we to constantly judge in this society, other people who we don't know and attribute motives to them based on racial or other characteristics. And as you write in this part, I like your cultural appropriation of Nietzsche at the same time canceling Nietzsche in the same set of sentences. But you write in this part about evil. No, I didn't cancel Nietzsche. Wow. I can't cancel Nietzsche. I'm saying treat him carefully. Treat him carefully, fair enough. But you can judge a man's character by which parts of Nietzsche he quotes. I think when you meet people who do man and Superman a bit too much, you're in a... Now you're pulling in even deeper water referencing Hitler here. Okay.

Resentment (35:47)

So you write in this part of the book about evil. Quote, "What is it that drives evil? Many things without doubt. But one of them is identified by several of the great philosophers is resentment. That sentiment is one of the greatest drivers for people who want to destroy. Colin blaming someone else for having something you believe you deserve more." And you're saying this kind of resentment, we don't know as it surfaces whether it's genuine or if it's used to sort of play games of power to evil ends. Can you speak to this? Because it's just an fascinating idea that one of the biggest drivers of evil in the world is resentment. Because if you look at... Boy, if you look at human history, if you look at Hitler, so much of the propaganda, how much of the narrative was about resentment. Does that surface or level or is that deep? There is that... It can be any of the above. First of all, everybody has resentment. I use the... The resulting mortgage is sort of very similar to resentment. Let's stick with resentment. So we don't sound too pretentious. Let me give you a quick example of somebody in our own day who has a form of resentment. Vladimir Putin. Did you see Navalny's documentary, "Putans Palace"? Yes. You remember the stuff about Putin as a young KGB officer in Germany? And the stuff about Putin, his first wife's resentment of one of his KGB colleagues who had an apartment that was a few meters bigger than the Putin's apartment. Yeah. It's very interesting. By the way, I'm not saying that Vladimir Putin became the man he has become and invaded Ukraine because he didn't have an apartment he liked in Berlin or Munich or whatever. What is this distinct possibility? My point is that resentment is a factor in all human lives and we all feel it in our lives and it's something that has to be struggled against. And political terms can be a deadly. It's an incredibly deep thing to draw upon. You mentioned Hitler. Obviously, one of the things that Hitler played on was resentment, obviously. Almost every revolutionary does. I mean, the French revolutionaries did as well. And we're not without cause. It was a good reason to feel that Versailles was not listening to Paris in the 1780s and feel resentment for Marianne Tannet in her palace within the palace, ignoring the bread shortages in Paris. So resentment is a very understandable thing and sometimes it's justifiable and it's also deadly to the person as it is to the society. It's an incredibly deep sentiment. Somebody else has got something that you should have. And the problem about it is that it has the potential to be endless. You can do it your whole life. And one of the ways I've sort of sort of found myself explaining this to people is to say it's also important to recognize that resentment is something that can cross absolutely every boundary. So for instance, it crosses all racial boundaries, obviously, and how it goes out saying. More interesting is it crosses all class boundaries and socioeconomic boundaries. And if I was to sort of simplify this thought, I would say, I guess that you and I and everybody watching knows or has known somebody in their lives who has almost nothing in worldly terms. And as a generous person, a kindly person, a giving person, a happy person, even a cheerful person. And I think we probably have also, or many of us, would have met people who seem to have everything and who are filled with resentment, filled with resentment. Somebody else has held them back from something. Their sister once did something. She shouldn't. She got this and I should have got that. And on and on and on. It's a human trait. And one of the things that suggests to me is that we therefore have a choice in our lives about this, this is something which we can do something about, not limitlessly. But for instance, I mean, there are very good reasons that some people in their lives might feel resentment. Let's say you're involved in a car crash and a friend fell asleep at the wheel and that's why you are spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair. That's a pertinent example of this in American politics at the moment. You would be justified in feeling resentment. And at some point you have to make a decision, which is, am I going to be that person or a different person? But even in that case, you're saying at the individual level and that societal level is destructive to the mind. Even when you're quote unquote justified, it rots you. It rots you because the best you can do is to eke out your days unfulfilled. So the antidote as you describe is gratitude. Yes. Gratitude is the antidote to evil in a sense. So gratitude is the individual level and the societal level. Gratitude is certainly the answer to resentment. I quote in the war in the West. When I read it the first time a few years ago, it's absolutely flawed by the Brothers Caramals of not everything in it, when I won't get into it. But I have some very big structural criticisms of the novel. Now you're sweet talking to me because I'm a Dostoevsky fan, but I appreciate this. Oh, okay. Well, we could get into what I see as big as structural flaws in the Brothers Caramals. Anyway, now I'm offended and triggered. Yeah, no, I mean, this is something coming out of Macbeth and saying I didn't think it was much good. Yeah, there's structural flaws. Yeah, I thought the ending stank in the middle wasn't very good. When I read that novel, I was floored by a couple of things. One is of course of the moment where we rise the devil appears. The moment that Ivan says to his brother, you know he visits me and you realize that he's talking about the devil, the whole novel goes into this totally different space. Anyway, it's even more than you've already realized the novel's about. And then when the conversation occurs between Ivan and the devil, remember, I think he says it describes him as dressed as a French, as dressed in the French style of the early part of the 19th century. Very strange, the devil would be dressed like that, but sort of. And if you remember that he's sort of crossed the legs in a rather a bane figure. But the devil mentions impassing to Ivan that he says, I don't know, gratitude is not an interesting that's been given to me. And you're not allowed, this is not given the role of being the devil, this is not one of the things. Just not one of the things. And of course only a genius of Dostoevsky's stature could, I mean, the lesser genius would have made a whole novel out of that insight. Only Dostoevsky can just throw it away because there's such an abundance of riches that he still has to get through. The structural problems aside. But the passive aggressive, the microaggression in this conversation is palpable. A little knife fight. But the reason I mention is because of course, when I thought this is such a brilliant insight by Dostoevsky, because why would gratitude not be a sentiment that the devil was capable of? Of course, that if the devil was capable of gratitude, he wouldn't be the devil. He'd be somebody else. He has to be incapable of gratitude. Do you think for Dostoevsky that was as strong of an insight as it is for you? Because I think that's a really powerful idea that with gratitude, you don't get the resentment that rots you from the core. Yes, I think it was one of the just endless things that he saw in us. And the way I put it is that, I mean, I also think of it in terms of the era of deconstruction, which is one of the things I'd like us to call the era that's now ending. The era of deconstruction was the era that started, let's say, from the '60s onwards and was originally an academic game that then spilled out into the wider culture, which was, let's take everything apart, let's pull it all apart. There are lots of problems with it. One is it's quite boring. You don't get an awful lot from it. You also have the problem of what children find when they try to do this with bicycles, which is they can take it apart quite easily, but they can't put it back together. And the era of taking things apart as a game is one we've lived through and it's been highly destructive, but you can do it for quite a long time. I'm going to look at this society and I'm going to take it apart by showing systemic problems. I'm going to, at the end of that, what have you got? What have you done? What have you achieved? We need to interrogate this. Okay, interrogate. My only is asked questions, but interrogate as a deliberate hostility to this. I'm going to interrogate this thing and take it apart. And again, at the end of it, what have you got? Whether you're interrogating a text or a piece of music or an idea or a society, fine, question, endlessly question, yes, interrogate assumes it's all criminal in a cell and it's guilty and therefore it must be taken apart. And that's what we've been doing for decades in the West. And that's resentment. That's one byproduct of resentment. You can't build the thing, but you know how to take it apart. Is a little bit of resentment good. So you have, you know, that I love Tom Waits and he has a song where a little drop of poison is a good to do that. It's good to have a little bit of poison in your drink. Depends what poison is and it depends if you know not to have another drink. Well, I'd be the case you find out of some alcoholics too that one was too many and 10 is not enough. So there's a natural in this case, this kind of deconstruction is a slippery slope. It becomes an addiction, becomes a drug and you just can't stop. Well, you'd have to wean yourself off it and try to start creating again. You'd have to start trying to put things together again. Something I think might be in the throes of stomatting as it happens. Well, speaking of taking things apart and not putting them together again, the idea of critical race theory, can you to me explain.

Critical race theory (47:53)

So I'm an engineer and have not been actually paying attention much, unfortunately to these things. None of you, the people in your field weren't when it comes along as Max, you in the face. I, you know, I've had that line of thinking and, you know, from MIT, I said, well, surely whatever you folks are busy about yelling at each other for is a thing at Harvard and Yale. It's not going to be. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course. Yes. People in the STEM subjects thought it's not coming for us. It can't come to us and bang. Well, it's, you know, it hasn't quite been a bang. Engineering is more safe than others. Yeah. So not, so let's draw a line now between engineering and science. So I think engineering is, I'm sitting in a castle in the tallest tower with my pinky owl drinking my martini saying surely the peasants below with their biology and their humanities will figure it all out. No, I'm just kidding. There's no, there's no pinky owl. I drink vodka and I hang with the peasants. Okay. Where is this metaphor has gone too far? Can you explain to this engineer what critical race theory is? Is it a term that's definable? Is there tradition? Is there history? What is good about it? What is bad about it? It is a tradition. It is a history. It's a school of thought. It started in the law roughly in the 1970s and some of the American Academy. It's built out. It always aimed to be an activist philosophy. People deny that now, but as I cite in the war on the west, some of the foundational texts. Say as much. This is an activist academic study. We're not just looking at the law. We seek to change the law. And it's built out into all of the other disciplines. I think there's a reason for that, by the way, which is it happened at the time that the humanities and others in America were increasingly weak and didn't know what to do. And they needed more games to play or new games to play. The psychologist got bored. Yeah. Well, they needed to tenure and they needed something to do. And it's not an original observation. Plenty of people have made this. But I mean, Neil Ferguson said this some time ago, for instance, that in the last 50 years in American academia, certainly in humanities departments, when somebody dies out who's a great scholar and something, that's just not replaced by somebody of equal stature. They're replaced by somebody who does theory or critical race theory. They're replaced by somebody who does the modern games. Somebody dies out who's a great historian of, say, I don't know if it's one of my mind, Russian history or Russian literature. And they're not replaced by a similar scholar. In his observation and in yours, is this a recent development? It's happened the last few decades, for sure. And it sped up. Is it because we got into the bottom of some of the biggest questions of history? No, it's because we're willing to forget the big questions. Because it's more fun to-- big questions are as fun. No, partly it's-- no, it's just stress that partly isn't-- this is in the ways. But partly it's a result of the hyper-specialization in academia. If you said you'd like to write your dissertation on Hobbes. If you wanted to-- if you-- something central to Kant's thought or Hegel or something. That's not popular. What's popular is to take somebody way down the line from that. Because there's a feeling that that's all been done. So you take something way, way, way down the line from that that's much less important. And then you sort of play with that. And I think most people-- anyone who's watching who's been in a philosophy department or anything else in recent years will know that tendency. By the way, there's a very practical consequence of this. I saw this the end of my friend Roger Scrutin's life when he-- he would occasionally-- he didn't get tenured universities. But he would occasionally be flown in even by his enemies to teach courses in various universities in basics of philosophy. Because there was no one in the department able to do it. Like, he would go in and teach for a semester, you know, Hegel and Kant and Chopinhauer and others because there was no one to do it. Because they were all playing with the things way, way, way down the road from this. So that had already happened. And people were searching for new games to play. And the critical race theory stuff forced its way in partly in the way that all of this that's now known as anti-racism does, which is in a sort of bullying tone of saying if you don't follow this. It's the same way that all the things that are called studies-- I think everything called studies in the humanities should be shut down. Because of the activist-- It's an act-- they're all activists. Gay studies and queer studies, nothing good has ever come from it. Nothing good. Back is it obvious that activism is a sign of a flaw in a discipline? So isn't it-- It's the sign of the death of the discipline. It's the sign that discipline is over. But isn't it a good goal to have for a discipline to enact positive change in the world? Or is that too-- is that that's for politicians to do with the findings of science? I mean, why create an ideology and then set out to find disciplines that are weakly put together to try to back up your political ideology? So ideology should not be part of science or of-- No, I mean-- --of the humanities. Why would you-- I mean, anyone could do it. You could decide to go in and be wildly right-wing about something and only do things that prove your right-wing ideas. Be fantastically anti-academic, fantastically anti-science, fantastically-- it's an absurd way to mix up activism and academia. And it's absolutely right. And critical ways to is one of the ones that completely polluted the academy. Yeah, and there's been dark moments throughout history both for-- during World War II with both communism and Naziism, fascism that infiltrated science. And that corrupted it. Yes. I mean, for instance, also-- let's face it, in science, as in everything else, there are dark, difficult things. It's much better we know about them, face up to them, and try to find a way socially to deal with them than that you leave them in the hands of some activist who wants to do stuff with them. I'm one of my best friends ever activists. I'm just kidding. OK. None of my best friends are activists. That's how it should be. Well, I was kidding because I don't have any friends. OK. All right. Sure, that's not true. I'm trying to get some pity points. OK. So to return-- You have your clubhouse friends. Screaming away like deranged maniacs. Now, I'm going to do clubhouse by the way, because at the only time I heard it was that Brett Weinstein won when he did that. I didn't know if you heard that early in clubhouse. I was invited to clubhouse by various people. He said, oh, this is a really great civilization. Hang out and talk with interesting people. I downloaded the app and I got on one because Brett Weinstein said I'm doing this competition and I listened and it was the maddest damn discussion I've ever heard. Was there something about biology? Something about-- Was it COVID times or that? At some point, Brett said I'm an evolutionary biologist and somebody else started saying, you're a eugenicist. And he said, no, I'm an evolutionary biologist. And I said, that's the same thing. And it just went on like that. And Brett desperately tried to explain that's not the same thing as being a eugenicist. And he lost the clubhouse room. They thought that was the same thing. He'd come-- it horribly reminded me of a time some years ago in a British newspaper, ran sort of realizing that the only thing you can unite people on in sexual ethics is revulsion against pedophilia, ran an anti-pedo campaign. And shortly after pediatrician's offices were torched in north of England via mob who hadn't read the whole sign. Yeah. Well, to me, like I said, a little bit of poison is good for the town. Anyhow, sorry, I interrupted you with flattering you with air people on clubhouse. I have many. I have multiples of friends, yes. We didn't get to some of the ideas of critical race theory. What exactly is it? I'm actually in part asking this question quite genuinely. Yeah. It's an attempt to look at everything among our things through the lens of race and to add race into things where it may not be as a way of adding-- I'm trying to give the most generous estimation. To add race in as a conversation in a place where it may not have been in the conversation. And that means history to the history of racism. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All history. And to look at it through these particular lenses. I mean, there's a certain-- like all these things, there's a certain logic in it. With feminist studies or something, is there a utility in looking back through undoubtedly male-dominated histories and asking whether the more silent female voice was? Yes. Very interesting. Not endlessly interesting and can't be put exactly on the same par as. But it has a utility. It's that endlessly, sorry to interrupt, that endlessly part that seems to get us into trouble all I've seen. Yes, absolutely. Well, because of this thing of where do you stop? And that's always a-- I looked at this in my last book, The Man is a Crowd. It's one of the big conundrums in activist movements and particularly in activist academia. Where would you stop? It's not clear because you've got a job in it. You've got a pension in it. You've got your only esteem in society as in keeping this gig going. I mean, is there any likelihood? Have you ever-- there's the old academic joke, isn't it, that the end of every conference, the only thing everyone agrees on is that we must have another conference like this one? So one thing they always agree on, this conference is so great we must have another one. Well, that's the criticism you could apply to a lot of disciplines. Of course, civil engineering, bridge building, at a certain point, do we need any more bridges? Can we just fly everywhere? Well-- So-- At the very least, you need to keep the bridges up. Sure. And they would-- critical race theory folks would probably make the same argument. At the very least, we need to keep the racism out. We'll have to make sure we don't descend into the racism. It assumes all the time that we are living on the cusp of the return of the KKK, which is totally wrong. I was a massive-- You say that now until the KKK Army is margin. We can't always predict the future. We can't always predict the future. And you can always say you should be careful, but you've also got to be careful of people who've got their timing like totally, totally wrong or their estimation of society. You mean like most of society before in the 1930s when Hitler was-- I mean, so many people got Hitler wrong. Sure they did. And so-- Most people. Maybe it was nice to have the alarmist thinking there. Well, beware of the man with a mustache. If only it was that easy. It's not always about facial hair. I know. I always say that I mean-- Well, it very often is. These two clean, shaven chaps, both say. One of the problems with everybody knowing a little bit about Nazism is that they think that they know where evil comes from and that it comes from like a German with a small mustache, getting people to goo step, for instance. And that's not correct. A much better understanding of it is it can come from all number of directions and keep your antennae as good as you can. But once you end up in this society, which I would argue certainly parts of America, in where you're always in 1938, that's not healthy for a society either, where people are so primed and think they're so well trained because they spent a term in school learning about the Second World War and the Holocaust, think they're so well trained in Hitler spotting that they can do it all the time. Look at all these phrases we now have in our society, like dog whistle. As I always say, if you hear the whistle, you're the dog. But people say, that's a dog whistle, as if they're highly trained anti-Nazis. I mean, there should be some humility. We should be careful. We should be wary for sure. And we should also be slightly humble in our inability to spot everything. If not significantly humble. Right. So, if we can, there's something funny, if not dark, about the activity of Hitler spotting. If I just may take an aside. But so critical race theory, how much racism, what is racism?

Racism (01:02:26)

How much of it is in our world today? If we were thinking about this activity of Hitler spotting, how, and trying to steal man the case of, if not critical race theory, but people who look for racism in our world, how much would you say? Well, it's a good thing to try to define. I'd say that racism is the belief that other people are inferior to you. You could say, you could see a form where you thought people were superior to you. That could also happen. But more commonly is, you see a group of people as being inferior to you simply by identity of the fact that they have a different racial background. And that's sort of the easiest way to define racism. As I say, I mean, there are types of racism, I mean, mainly anti-Semitism actually, perhaps it's the only one, which weirdly relies on a hatred of people who a certain type of person thinks are better than them. And that's a particular one of the peculiarities of anti-Semitism. Well, anti-Semitism somehow does both, right? Yes. Well, one of the eternal, fascinating things about anti-Semitism is it can do. It does everything at the same time. It's like quantum racism. Yes. Both superior and inferior. You know that, you know, firstly, Grossman's Life and Fate. So in the middle of Life and Fate, which a Persian friend of mine, we said, was one of only two great novels of the 20th century. She was very harsh, literally critic. What is the other one? The Leopard, obviously. The Leopard? The Leopard of a Giuseppe de Lampedusa. Yeah. Okay. She definitely right on that one. Life and Fate is-- Learning so much today, yes. Life and Fate is an extraordinary book. Something about-- All you know, Grossman was an-- obviously Jewish himself, but he saw almost everything that he could have done in the second of all ways. He saw Stalingrad, you know, the journalist. And he wrote first-hand accounts of Stalingrad. He was also the first journalist into Treblinka. And his account, which you can read among the collections of his journalism, his own account of walking into Treblinka is just one of the most devastating, haunting. pieces of journalism or prose you can read. Anyhow, I mentioned him because Grossman at the beginning-- at the-- in the middle of Life and Fate, which is about sort of a 900-page novel, in the middle of it, which is about the dark axis around Stalingrad. He-- way at one point he amazingly sort of goes into the minds of Earth Hitler and Stalin. He says he says Stalin in his study feels his counterpart in Berlin. He says he feels very close to him at this moment. Wow. Around Stalingrad, like leading up to-- After Stalingrad, when the Germans was lost, he says he feels closeness of Hitler. But Grossman, in the middle of Life and Fate, swabang at the worst hours of the 20th century suddenly dedicates a chapter to anti-Semitism. And I've seen anti-Semitism as something I've always been very interested in because I've always had the distinctive utter revulsion of it. And I've also partly because I haven't seen bits of it in the Middle East and elsewhere. But I mentioned this because Grossman in the middle of Life and Fate, has-- takes time out and does this like three-page explanation-- three-page description of anti-Semitism. And it's extraordinary. I mean, the only thing I can think of that's equally good is Greg Orr von Rett's story who wrote a luridly titled, but Berlin to Saturn and the Valley is called The Confessions of an Anti-Semite. And about pre-First World War anti-Semitism in Eastern and Central Europe. Anyway, Grossman says in the middle of Life and Fate, that one of the extraordinary things about anti-Semitism is that it does everything at the same time. That the Jews get condemned in one place for being rich and in another for being poor, condemned in one place for simulating in another for not assimilating, for simulating too much and assimilating too little, for being too successful for not being successful enough. So it's-- I think it's the only racism that includes within it a detestation for the real anti-Semite, a detestation of people that the person may perceive to be better than them, correctly or otherwise. By the way, I'm embarrassed to say I have not read this one of two greatest novels of the 20th century, Life and Fate, the Jisne Cidba. And just to read off of Wikipedia, I see a Grossman, a Ukrainian Jew became a correspondent for the Soviet military paper. Krasne as I just had been volunteered and been rejected from military service. He spent a thousand days in the front lines, roughly three of the four years of the conflict between the Germans and the Soviets. And the main themes covered in-- how's it go, Life and Fate? I keep the Jisne Cidba. His theme on Jewish identity and the Holocaust, Grossman's idea of humanity and the human goodness, Stalin's distortion of reality and values and science like goes on in reality of war. It's interesting. I need to definitely-- I think you'll really get a lot from it. One of the other things-- so I want to reference it, but one of the other things he does is that he has this extraordinary ability to talk about the absolute highest levels of the conflict. And then zoom in is rather like the camerawork they use in things like Lord of the Rings, where he zooms down and then gets one person in the midst of all this and you get on that. I'll put you in the study too. So I personally have read and reread the William Shires and the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, who's another journalist who was there, but he does not do it. Interestingly enough, given such a large novel, kind of the definitive work on the definitive original work that goes to source materials and Hitler, he doesn't touch anti-Semitism really. So-- So you think to miss out? Well, he just says it very calmly and objectively as he does for most of the work that this was the fact of life. There's a lot of cruelty throughout, but he doesn't get to-- Well, one of the things is, of course, he lost the war because of anti-Semitism. I mean, that's one kind of important way to view it. It's how Andrew Roberts and other historians say it is that, you know, in the end, the Nazis lost the war because they were Nazis. It sounds almost too neat, but it's worth remembering that, you know, at the end of the war, when the Germans need to be transporting troops and they need to be transporting very basic supplies, Eichmann makes sure he gets the trains to transport the Jews right up to the end. Well, that's certainly a dark possibility. You know, but to go back to racism in general, racism in general, apart from anti-Semitism, lies on the perception that another group of people, a racial group, other than your own are inferior to you. That's what I'd say is the easiest shorthand of racism. And of course, it's one of the stupidest things that our species is capable of. I mean, one of the stupidest that you can look at a person and guess them in their entirety, in fact, because of their skin color, I mean, it's like, what a stupid idea that is, as well as being an evil one. But the, I would say that one of the, I think it's a dangerous thing in our era that there are bits of it coming back. That's why I say we do need sort of, we need our antennae working. We just don't need them to be overactive or underactive, you know. Now, the book is War in the West, but speaking of racism, racism towards different groups based on their skin color, you've said that there's a war on white people in the West. Would you say that's the case? Would you say that there are significant racism towards white people in the United States? I'd say that the white people in the United States are the only people who are told that they have hereditary sin. But that's a big one just to start with. They strictly are the only people who are in the skin color. I mean, I would find it so repugnant if, and I hope everybody would join me in feeling this, I would feel so repugnant if there were any school of thought in America today that had any grasp on the public attention that said that black people were born into evil because of something their ancestors have done. Like they had the mark of cane upon them. I mean, I think it would be such a vicious way to try to demoralize a group of people and to tell them that the things they would be able to achieve in their lives are much lessened because they should spend significant portions of their lives trying to atone for something they didn't do. Is there a difference? And the funny, the obvious point, the obvious point left on the said, but let's say it. Maybe in the public square says that, I mean, they're the maniacs of the far fringes, but nobody in the mainstream would dare to say that. Or I think even think that about any group of people other than white people. And does this mean that white people are more disadvantaged than black people know? And again, let's not make this a competition. But let's not get into, I just desperately urge people not to get into the idea of hereditary sin according to racial background. Is there something to be said about the feature aspect to sort of play devil's advocate about the asymmetry of sort of accusations towards the majority? So yes, because white is much easier to attack a majority. It is much easier. But is there something to be said about that being a useful function of society that you always attack, that the minority has this proportion of power to attack the majority so that you can always keep the majority in check? Well, it's a dangerous game to play, isn't it? I think it's a very dangerous game to play. That's a good summary of entire day of human suffocation. Or yeah, everything is dangerous. But it's a very dangerous game to play that. I wrote about this bit in The Matters of Crowds when I was saying gay rights people, the ones that still exist, the ones who don't have homes to go to, who want to beat up on straight people in a way, or want to make straight people feel like they're kind of unremarkable uncool, you know, boring straights. So boring. Not like the magical pixie fairy dust gays. That's a bad idea to push that one. That's a bad idea. And some gays push that. Highly unwise, given the fact that about two to three percent of the population are actually gay, although now there's like an additional 20 percent who think they're like two spirit or something and all that bullshit, but they're just a tension seeker. So that's not spent too much time on that. But equally, as I said in The Matters of Crowds with the feminist movement, very unwise for half of the species to say that the other half of the species isn't needed. And there were always third and fourth-wave feminists willing to make that nuts argument. Not first-wave feminists. You didn't hear it in first-wave feminists. You didn't hear suffragettes tended not to say, "We like the vote and men scum." It would have been hard to have won everyone over to their side. Not least the men they needed to win over their side. But you do get third and fourth-wave feminists who say, "Do we need men or men are all ex?" Again, it's a bad idea. It's a bad idea, tactically. What if men, Richard Rangham, somebody from Harvard, describes that men are the originators of violence, physical violence of society. And he argues that actually the world would be better off. No, just a very cold calculus. If you get rid of men, there would be a lot less violence in society is his claim. But who says you need to get rid of violence in society? Well, it shouldn't at least be a discussion. The pros and cons have a debate on a panel discussion, violence, pros and cons. Well, that's the sort of thing, if I can say so, that Sunday, weak-ass academic decides to do because he thinks that his area of Boston would be nicer or whatever. He might decide it's useful if he was living a Kiev today to have violent men. I mean, if New York was invaded right now, I'd need some violent men around here. But it wouldn't be invaded if there's no violent men. Well, that's the argument. There's also at least there's some level of threat that you ought to exude that puts people off. If I was in, you know, I'm very glad that the men and women of Ukraine are capable of and more than capable of fighting for their country and for their neighbors and their families and much more. But it's better that there was violence ready to unleash when violence was unleashed upon them than that the whole society had been told that they should identify as non-binary. But at least it's a conversation to have. Is there aspect to the sort of the feminist movement that is correct in challenging the some forms of violence, domestic violence, for instance? Although women are capable of that as well. I'm learning about this. We're all learning about this in the moment. I can't help but watch the entirety of it go down in this beautiful mess that is human relations. Okay. But just to finish up that thought, it's very unwise for women to war against men as it would be for men to war against women. It's highly, highly unwise to war on a majority population. And in America, Britain and other Western countries, white people are still a majority. And so why would you tell the majority of their evil by dint of their skin color and think that that would be a good way to keep them in check? I mean, I'm not guilty of anything because of my skin color. I'm not guilty of anything. My ancestors didn't do anything wrong. And even if they had, why would I be held responsible for it? So to go back to Nietzsche, is there some aspect to where if we try to explain the forces of play here, is it the will to power playing itself out from individual human nature and from group behavior nature? Is there some elements to this which is the game we play as human beings is always when we have less power, we try to find ways to gain more power? That's certainly one. The desire to grab is, let me see if I find a quote for you on that. The desire to grab that which we think we're owed and to do it often in the guise of justice. I mean, justice is one of the great terms of our age and one of the very great bogus terms of our age. People forever talk about their search for justice. It's amazing how violent they can often be in their search for justice and how many rules they're willing to break so long as they can say that after justice and how many norms they can trample so long as they can say it's in the name of justice, you can burn down buildings in the name of justice. Well the majority groups throughout history, including those with whites can color have done the same in the name of justice. We come up with all kinds of sexy terms in our propaganda machines to sell whatever atrocities we'd like to commit. One of the quotes of Nietzsche that I liked and I quoted in this. Careful I'm judging you harshly. Yeah of course. Nietzsche says that one of the dangers of men of resentment is they'll achieve their ultimate form of revenge which is to turn happy people into unhappy people like themselves, to shove their misery in the faces of the happy so that in due course they're happy and this is quoting Nietzsche. Start to be ashamed of their happiness and perhaps say to one another it's a disgrace to be happy. There is too much misery. This is something to be averted for the sick says Nietzsche must not make the healthy sick to or make the healthy confuse themselves with the sick. Well I think there again there's a lot of that going on. How could I be happy when there is unhappiness in the world? Why should I not join the ranks of the unhappy? I think Dostoyevsky has a book about that as well. Sure. No swim underground. Okay. This has been very Russian focused. I'm very pleased with another times but Dostoyevsky and Grossman and others have come in. This is very... I wasn't like doing this as a sort of... Yeah well it's always good to plug the greats and good to know they're still relevant. Do you speak Russian by the way at all? Which I did. I'm told it's a 10 year language basically to learn from scratch as my friends who have done it. So I'm told that there's a language and then there's the personality behind the language and the personality I feel like you already have. So you just need to know the surface details. Okay. In fact the silence to be silent in the Russian language is something that's already important.

Stalin (01:21:24)

Oh I should... If we had a moment I'd tell you my story about Stalin's birthplace. I'd say that? No. I want to spend a gory where Stalin was born. Have you been? No. I was there just after the Georgia war. I went to the No Man's Land in South Ossetia and of Khazia. And I said I've really got to go to Gory also here because the shell had landed in Gory rather weirdly from the Russian side and Gory's web start was born. And of course Gory's in Georgia. And I'm only happy that the Museum of Stalin's birthplace they've been trying to change for some years because it's been unadulteratedly pro-Stalin for years. And the Georgian authorities, this is in Shakhashvili's time, were trying to make it into a museum of Stalinism. And it was really tough. The only place I've seen which is similar is the house in Mexico City where Trotsky was killed. That also is like they're not quite sure to do. They don't want to say he's a bad guy because they think that people won't come anywhere. Stalin's house in Gory had changed from the Museum of Stalin to the Museum of Stalinism. There was this large Georgian woman with a pink pencil who had just clearly been doing the tour for like 50 years. And he just pointed it all the faster. She did that classic thing. I've also sort of once in North Korea where they sort of that sort of communist thing where they say here is this is 147 feet high by 13 feet deep. That give you lots of facts, I don't care. It doesn't matter. It will give you facts there. This is Stalin's suitcase. It is 13 inches wide by an end. Anyhow, and this one we did all of this and it was all just wildly pro. Well, not pro-Stalinism, just explain the science that I've seen. It was a great local boy done good. They didn't mention the fact he killed more Georgians per gap than anyone else. Walk up what done good. And we get to the end and before being taken to the gift shop where they sell red wine with Stalin's face on it and among other things and a lighter over Stalin on it, they took you to a little room under the stairs and they said this is a replica of interrogation style to show represent horror of what happened in Stalin time. Now a gift shop. No, no kind of thing. I took the woman aside at the end. I discovered she'd said this rather than Jonathan visited before. I took her to the side. I said, what do you think about comrades Stalin? And she said, I'd say she'd obviously done this during Communist times. She said it was not my place to judge, you know, sort of thing. We had an interesting comment in itself. I said, yeah, but he killed more Georgians than anyone. And all that sort of thing. And it's not my place to judge or to give my views and the sort of thing. And the venture said, but what do you feel about it? And she said it was like a hurricane. It happened. That's interesting because if I may mention clubhouse once again, I got a chance to talk to a few people from Mongolia. There's a woman from Mongolia and they talked about the fact that they deeply admire Stalin. So she sounded, if I may, hopefully that's not cross in line. I think I'm representing her correctly in saying she admired them almost like love them. Like the people love like Jesus, like a holy figure. Isn't that still the case in lives plus of Russia? Yeah. I mean, he keeps on, Stalin keeps on winning greatest Russian of all time. And that's perhaps maybe there's a dip. But if we were to think about the long arc of history, perhaps that's going to go up and up and up and up. There's something about human memory that just you forget the details of the atrocities of the past. You remember the, I mean, think of the number of people we talk about as historical heroes, Napoleon. I mean, British people don't talk about Napoleon as a hero, but the French. Now you're, now you're, now you're. You did the thing that does the asking now again. Now you're on the tricky ground. But like the French, normally Napoleon and there had many animal aspects to you. It was also a unbelievable brute and killed many people unnecessarily. And there are lots of figures from history that we sort of cover that over with. Yeah. Yeah. Can we mention Churchill briefly?

Churchill (01:25:58)

Sure. He is one of the, you could make a case for him being one of the great representatives or great figures historically of Western civilization. Yes. And then there's a lot of people from, not a lot. I know, I have like three friends and one of them happens to be from London and they say that he's a, not a good person. Why? So listen, this friend would not discuss. I just, this is an opinion poll of the three friends, but I do know that there's quite a, you know, there's a back cache going on at the moment. At the moment, in general, there's a spirit like reflecting on the darker sides of some of these historical figures, like challenging history through, it's not just critical race theory. It's challenging history through well, are the people we think of as heroes, what are their flaws and are they in fact villains that are convenient sort of, were there at the right time to accidentally do the right thing? Accidentally. Well, I hope this isn't the representative fair assimilation of your friend in London's views. No, she's going to be quite mad at this, but I didn't say the name. So it could be any friend. It could be. It was a she. Canada. Well, see, I, I, I, given that away. Well, that's with, of course, I would not, I made that up completely. It's, it's all just like my girlfriend in Canada. She's completely a figment of my imagination. Nevertheless, Winston Churchill is somebody, I mean, just looking at reading the rise and follow the third right is an incredible figure that, that to me, so much a World War II is marked leading up to the wars marked by stunning amounts of cowardice by political leaders. And it's fascinating to watch here. This person clearly with the drinking and a smoking problem was a boss. I didn't understand why that's a negative. No, I didn't say you see. Yeah, you throw it in as if it is. No, well, it's, it's called humor. I'll explain it to you one day what that means, but he still. I've explained drawing him. He stood up. He stood up to what we now see as evil when at the time it was not so obvious to see, you know, so that's, that's just a fascinating figure of Western civilization. I'd love to get your comments. The real criticisms. I mean, I'm just making a drinking. The real criticisms of church are quite easy to sum up and I do so in the war on the West I chose. I say these are the things that they now use against him. I didn't do enough to avert the book, Bengal family in 1943, for instance, that's, that's been shot down by numerous historians, including Indian historians in the middle of the war, in the middle of a world war in Churchill did what he could to get grain supplies diverted from Australia to, to, to, to, to Bengal. The famine was appalling. It was caused by a typhoon. It was not caused by Winston Churchill. And the idea that some basically Indian nationalist historians have pumped out in recent years and just anti-churchal figures that he actually wanted Indians to die is just a total calum there. And when people claim, some people claim that, I mean, there was a few very ignorant scholars and nevertheless with some credentials who claim that Churchill wanted the Indian population to, right, basically be genocided. And it's complete nonsense, not least by the fact that during the period which in question Indian population boomed. So that's one of the main ones. Another one is that he had some views that we now regard as racist. He definitely regarded racist as being of different characters and that there were superior races and the, as it were, the white European was a superior culture. He was born in Victorian England. So he had some Victorian attitudes. These are things in the negative side of the ledger. And as with all history, you should have a negative and a positive side of the ledger. Positive side of the ledger includes he almost certainly did more than any one human being to save the world from Nazism. So that should count as something. One of the reasons I talk about Churchill in this regard is to stress that if you get, I'm not trying to stop anyone doing history at all. I don't think that the revisionism of recent years about Churchill or the founding fathers of America or anyone else is anything I want to stop. I find it interesting, find interesting, not least because it's so sloppy on occasions, but I find it interesting and it's important and we should be able to see people in the round. But that includes recognizing the positive side of the ledger. And if you can't recognize that side, you're doing something else. You're doing something else. It's not history. It's some form of politicking of a very particular kind. And I think it's the same thing with the founding fathers. There are some people, for instance, certainly since the 90s, who have pushed the Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson's story to show that Thomas Jefferson was some kind of brute. As a result, we see Jefferson's stature being removed from the council chamber of the city we're sitting in last November by a council members who said that Thomas Jefferson no longer represents our values. If you can't recognize greatness of Thomas Jefferson and that he had flaws, that's not a grown up debate. And weigh them and weigh them in the context of the time.

Marxism (01:32:01)

But let me throw a curveball at you then. What about recognizing the positive and the negative of a fellow with nice facial hair called Karl Marx? Sure. Sure. I mean, I have a section in the wall in the west as you know where I go for Karl Marx with some glee. So he seems to have gotten some popularity in the west recently. Not just recently. Yeah. I mean, he's had a resurgence recently. Yes, resurgence. Well, that's because whenever things are seen to go wrong, people reach for other options. And when, for instance, it's very hard for people to accumulate capital. It's not obvious that they're going to become capitalists. And so one thing that happens is people say, let's look at the Marxism thing again and see if that's a viable goer. And my argument would simply be point me to one place that's worked. Well, the argument from the Marxist or the Marxian economists is that we've only really tried it once the Soviets tried it. And then if there's a few people that kind of tried the Soviet thing of... Cuba tried it? They basically it's an offshoot of the Soviet. They tried it. Yes. They've tried it. They've tried it. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. So... But let's just quickly say how did all these experiments go? They did not. Well, they failed in fascinating ways. They did, but they failed. Yes, they failed. And we should stress so grossly failed, so grossly failed that they threw millions and millions of people into completely thwarted lives that were much shorter than they should have been. Yes, so the lesson to learn there, that you can learn several lessons. One is that anything that smells like Marxism is going to lead to a lot of problems. Now, another lesson could be, well, what is the fundamental idea that Marx had? He was criticizing capitalism and the flaws of capitalism. So is it possible to do better than capitalism? And if you take that spirit, you start to wonder, that might actually become relevant in, I don't know, 20, 30, 50 years when the machines start doing more and more of the labor, all those kinds of things. You start to ask questions. My finally might get to Marx's dream of what the average day would look like. Yes. Well, there's going to be an awful lot of literary criticism then. Do you remember that's what Marx said that we would be doing in the evening. The labor in the evening. Well, he didn't know Twitter was a thing or Netflix. So he would change. Are there things we could learn from Marx plausibly, possibly? I can't think of anything myself or from him. But to have a critique of capitalism isn't by any means a bad thing in the society. I'd rather that it was a critique of capitalism that showed how you improved capitalism, a critique of free market that showed how people could get better access to the free market, how you could ensure, for instance, that young people get on to the property ladder, things like that. These are constructive things. So people who say we must have Marxism, I mean, don't know what the hell they're talking about because that never leads to any of those things. Haven't learned in the past. It's never learned in the past. And at some point you've got to try to work out how many attempts you make at this damn philosophy before you realize that every attempt always leads to the same thing. I would say we could pretend that fascism has never been properly tried and that it was unfortunate what happened in Nazi Germany. But that wasn't real fascism. And in Mussolini's fascism, it didn't go all that well, but it was a bit better. And maybe we could try a bit more Franco-fascism. Nobody would have any time for this crap. Nor should they. The people who try that are reviled and quite rightly. So why do we tolerate it with a Marxism thing? It's a great mystery to me the way that people do tolerate it. Always, always in this stupid way of saying we haven't done it yet. And if you keep trying the same recipe and every time it comes out as shit, it's the recipe's shit. Well, sort of I'm trying to practice here by playing devil's advocate practice the same idea that you mentioned, which is when you say the word Marxism, should you throw out everything or should you ask a question, is there a good idea here? Is it the same? Is the good and it's weighing the good and the bad and be able to do so calmly and thoughtfully? Sure. You know, do you know the famous George Orwell comment on the style of the American style and this? Do you know? That's one of my favorite quotes. George Orwell in the early 40s gets into an argument with a Stalinist, who's obviously a Marxist. This is after the show trials 37. This is when it's very clear what Marxism in the Russian form is. And this, always in the discussion with this, this Marxist only goes on and on and eventually Orwell says, well, you know, what about the show trials and what about what's happened in Ukraine and the famines and much more and the purges and the purges and the purges and eventually the Stalinist says to Orwell, what oil knows he's going to sail along, which he says, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. And Orwell says, where's the omelet? Oh, yeah. So it's a good, that's a really good. Look at this by this stage. Okay. Where's my damn omelet? How many just messy, big, bloody, eggy piles have the Marxists created by now in country after country? Always next time they're going to produce the great omelet. But they never have and they never will because the whole thing is rotten from the start. But let me just also say one thing about, because Marx isn't as nice as he sounds. And that's one of the things that I tried to highlight in the book is if we're going to do this reductive thing of people in history and saying, well, they had views of their time and we must therefore condemn them for them. So fine, let's do the same thing with Marx. And there are things I quote in this book from Marx's letters, not least letters to angles. And indeed in his published writings, in part, he was writing for the American press in the 1950s. He has horrible views on slavery and colonialism and much more. But the main thing is, I mean, the horrible things he says about black people and the constant use of the N word. In fact, when I was doing the audiobook for the one of us, I had to decide, will I read out the quotes from Marx or not? If I had read them out, I'd have been canceled because people would have just said, you've been using the N word so much in this passage. And I slightly thought of doing it so that I could say I was only quoting Marx to try to hit the point home. In the end, of course, I was sensible and decided not to. But Marx's letters are disgusting on these terms. Since I highlighted this in this book and some of the media picked it up and have popularized this thing, I'm trying to put into the system, which is if you're going to accuse Churchill of racism, you're going to accuse Jefferson of racism, Washington of racism and so on, what about Marx? The two things that Marxists have said since this came out has been, first of all, why are you saying this about Marx? He was a man of his time, like everyone else. And the second thing they say is we don't go to Marx for his horrible abhorrent views on race. So talking about mixed race people as guerrillas and so on. We don't go to him for that. We go to him for his economic theories. I say, okay, well, we don't go to Thomas Jefferson for his views on slaves. We don't go to Churchill for his, the precise language he used that points in the 1910s about Indians. Or his health advice. Or his health advice. I do go to him for that. But I explain so much. But let's have some standards on this. And that's why I'm very suspicious of the fact that the people don't do this with Marx because I think what they're trying, what some people are trying to do, and this isn't, this may sound conspiratorial, but I really don't think it is. I think that some people are deliberately trying to completely clear the cultural landscape of our past in order to say there's nothing good, nothing you can hold on to, no one you should revere. You've got no heroes. The whole thing comes down. Who's left standing? Oh, we've also got this idea from the 20th century still about Marxism. Well, the 19th and 20th centuries. And no. No. And I will not have the entire landscape derastinated. And then the worst ideas tried again. So basically destroy all of history and the lessons learned from history and then start from scratch and then it's completely any idea can work and then you could just take whatever. Well, and the thing is there are always some people with pre-prepared ideas. And I mentioned this also with the post-colonialists. The post-colonialists were really interesting. Because when the European powers were moving from Africa and the Far East, post-colonial movements had one obvious move they could have done, which was to say since the European powers have left, we will return to a pretty colonial life, which in some of their places would have been returning to slave markets and slave ownership and slave selling and much more. But put that aside for a second. They could have said we have an indigenous culture which we will return to almost uniformly in the post-colonial era. You had figures like France Fanon, you had European intellectuals like Sartre who said the Western powers are retreating from these countries and therefore we should institute in these countries what but Western Marxism. Well, it's not obvious to me that like the bad ideas will be the ones that emerge, but it's more likely the bad ideas will emerge in this kind of context when you erase history. When you erase history. You erase history and you leave some ideas deliberately uninterrogated. I mean, as I say, find me one in 100 American students who've heard of any of the communist despots of the 20th century. I mean, name recognition in, there was a poll done a few years ago in the UK and like name recognition among children, school children for Stalin, let alone Mao. I mean, Mao who kills more people than anyone, 65 million Chinese perhaps. How many students in America know what Mao was, who he was, where he was, nothing. Or the atrocities committed. Where the atrocities were committed. Or. Not that because it means that we might have learned one of the two lessons of the 20th century. We think we've learned one of the two lessons of the 20th century. We actually haven't learned that lesson. We've learned a little bit of it and we've not learned the other one at all because that's why we still have people in American politics and elsewhere actually talking about collectivization and things as if there's no problem with that and as if it's perfectly obvious and they could run it and they'd know exactly where to start. What are the two lessons of the 20th century? Fascism and communism. Oh. Yeah. I mean, I'm not exactly sure what the exactly the lessons are. No, it's not clear. The lessons were very clear that we'd be better at it. Well, one is your book broadly applied of madness of crowds. That's one lesson. Well, how so? Meaning like large crowds can display herd-like behavior. Yes. Be very suspicious of crowd. Yeah. In general, I mean, you apply it in different more to modern application in a sense, but that's rooted in history that crowds can, when humans get together, they can do some quite radically silly things. But lies, Kannetty is very good on that. Crowds and power. And Eric Hoffa, who was a sort of self-taught, amazing, not the able to didactic writer, the true believer and so on. He was extremely good on that. But the reason I mentioned the two things, no, I mean, we should have realized that the two nightmares of the 20th century fascism and communism, that we should know how they came about. And we're interested in learning how one of them came about fascism. And we know some of the lessons, like, don't treat other people as less than you because of their race. That's one lesson. But we've done some good at learning that. But the second one, not to do communism again, not to do socialism, I think we're way away from knowing, because we don't know how it happened. And the little temptations are still there always. Look at people saying, I'm going to expropriate your property. People do things they don't like. They will get, we can't wait to take your property. Well, there's a sense, there's an appealing sense. Okay, every ideology has an appealing narrative behind it that sells the ideology. So for socialism, for communism is that there's a, it seems unfair that the working class does all of this work and gets only a fraction of the output. It just seems unfair. So you want to make it. If they do get a fraction of the output, yes. Yes. So it seems to be more fair if we increase that. If the workers own all of the value of their output and, well, the things that are more fair seems to be a good thing. I'd say, well, yeah, I mean fairness is, I like fairness as a job. No, I must prefer fairness because it's a much easier thing to try to work out. It's quite a morphous itself of the concept, but everyone can recognize it. So for instance, should the boss of the company earn a million times that of the lowest paid employee doesn't seem fair? Should they earn maybe five or ten times the salary of the lurch? Right. Yeah, possibly. That could be fair. There are certain sort of multiples which are within the bounds of reasonableness. I think actually that's the much bigger problem in capitalism at the moment as I see it, is the not untrue perception that a tiny number of people get a lot of the, they accrue a lot of the benefits and that the, that the bit in the middle has become increasingly squeezed and is danger always of falling all the way down to the bottom. I mean, I think in the snakes and ladders of American capitalism, for instance, it's a correct perception to say that the snakes go down awfully far. You tread on the snake, you can plummet an awfully long way in America. And the deal in the game was that the ladders took you high and there's a perception and again, it's not entirely wrong that the ladders system on the board is kind of broken. So what you're saying is you're a Marxist. I'm not saying I'm a Marxist. You heard that here first in the out of context blog post going to write about this. I get to get back to this point, the way to critique capitalism, if it's gone bad, is to get better capitalist free markets where they're not fair, should be made fair, never decide that the answer is the thing that has never produced any human flourishing, i.e. Marxism.

Madness of Crowds (01:48:40)

So as you describe in the madness of crowds that the herd like behavior of humans, that gets us into trouble, you as an individual thinker and others listening to this, how can you, because all of us are mid crowds, we're influenced by the society that's around us, by the people that's around us, how can we think independently? How can we, you know, if you're in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 20th century, if you're in, I don't know, Nazi Germany at the end of the 30s and 40s, how can you think independently? Given, first of all, that it's hard to think independently, just intellectually speaking, but also that there's, it just becomes more and more dangerous. So the incentive to think independently under the uncertainty that's usually involved with thinking is, I mean, it's a silly thing to say, but on Twitter, there is a cost to be paid for, yes, for going against the crowd on any silly thing. We can even talk about, you know, what is it? Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, you know, there's a crowd that believes that that was unjustified as well. I forget what the crowd decided, but I don't. Crowd split on that one. It's safe to have one opinion either way. Okay, it is, right. But there's, you put it very nicely, that there's clearly a calculus here and that you can measure on Twitter and particularly you can measure kind of the crowd, a sense of where the crowd lays. Michael Jackson. Well, boy, I don't want to, this is not, this is not a legal discussion where I don't know my lawyer president. I don't even have a lawyer. The man in question is dead, but I think most people who are not just die-hard fans would concede that Michael Jackson had a strange relationship with children and was almost certainly a pedophile. Was that, was that, did the crowd agree on that? No, the crowd hasn't agreed because he's too famous and we all love thriller. Yeah, we do. So you said people who are not fans, I just don't know. I'm a fan of Michael Jackson, but I think he was almost certainly a pedophile. And I, but I, but nobody wants to give up dancing to bad at weddings. So they just kind of added in. It's fine. Seriously, it's, it's, it's, it's, your, your law. It's a genius. It's not applied to Bill Cosby. Oh, that's it. Well, he wasn't it. He was, he was of course one of the most famous people in America, but maybe he wasn't regarded as talented. Oh, so, oh, wow. There's, there's depth to this calculation. Oh, yeah. There's a genius opt out in all cultures. There's a genius opt out in all cultures. Look at Lord Byron. Lord Byron shagged his sister. It doesn't affect his reputation. In fact, if anything, you're kind of adds to it. But then again, this kind of war against the West genius is actually makes you more likely or no to get canceled. So if you look at the genius of Thomas Jefferson or well, yes, because if you don't have done anything remarkable, nobody will come looking for you. Absolutely. Yeah. I'll societal genius can get you travel life. Okay. Nobody noticing be totally harmless and then, and then die and hope you haven't used any carbon. But, but you were asking about, you were asking about how to survive the, the era of social media as it were and the crowds and, and there's a very simple answer to that. Don't don't over rate the significance of the unreal world. Oh, come on. But this is still human psychology because you want to fit in. Why? Because you're, you like people and you're just, why not just like a small number of people and ignore the rest? Yeah, that's, that's what I do. Well, I mean, I actually like most people. I'm not, this isn't a general thing. I don't have detestation for most people at all. Most people like, I enjoy speaking with them being with, but in terms of storing your sense of self worth in absolute strangers, big mistake. Yeah. So, for me, that's, this, this, this turn into therapy session. Because for me, and I think I represent some number of population is I'm pretty self critical. I'm looking for myself in the world. And there is a depth of connection with people on the internet. I mean, I have some of the shallowness of it. It's shallow connection. Interesting. I put it this way. If you, if you became very old tomorrow, would any of them help? On the internet? No. No, no. Good. But then at the end of the day, yeah, you're right. You're very close friends would help family would help. Yeah. Yeah. And perhaps that's the only thing you can't store, you can't store, um, significant amounts of, of trust or faith or belief or self worth in places which will not return it to you. Okay. So let's talk about the more extreme case, the harsher case. When you talk about the things you talk about in the war on the West and madness of crowds, I mean, you're getting a lot of blowback, I'm sure. Uh, as for the listener, you just shrugged lightly. It was a Zen like look on your face. Um, so you don't, all you need is Sam Harris to say that you're brilliant and you're happy. No, I'm very, I love Sam. Yeah. I'm deeply pleased when he flanders me, but I mean, I'm, and it's nice about me, but no, I don't just rely on Sam. No, I mean, I don't, I don't, why would I mind? If I, I mean, maybe it's self selecting. If I didn't have the view I had about that or the whatever armory it is that I have on that, I wouldn't do what I did maybe. I mean, have you been to some dark places psychologically because of the challenging ideas to explore, so like significant self doubt, just kind of, um, I can't say I've been unaffected by, by everything in my life by any means that would make me an automator or some kind. Um, there's definitely two times I've got things wrong and regretted that. Uh, there's times I've, uh, there have, there was a period around the time I wrote a, my book, The Strange Death of Europe, which, uh, I was a very, very dark time. And it wasn't because I was having a dark time in my life, but because of the book I was writing. Oh, because of the place you had to go in order to write book. And, um, well, I was contemplating the end of a civilization. So occasionally it's now, I have maybe slightly too pat at this stage, but sometimes readers come up from in the street or whatever and say, you know, I love The Strange Death of Europe and will say, you know, very depressing book to read. However, I would say you should have tried writing it. Um, but it was because I mean, I was, it was, it has chunks of it, which I'm very proud of in particular about, um, uh, the death of religion, the death of God, the, the loss of meaning and, um, the, the void. And that's difficult stuff to write about and to grapple with. And there is a sort of, I haven't reread that book since it came out, but, um, I think there are passages in it which reveal what I was thinking very clearly in the poetry of it as it were, as well as the, the detail. Um, but yeah, I, I can't say, I'm used to, I'm used to saying what I think and what I see. And if there's any pushback I've got from that, I'm completely consoled that I'm saying what I see with my own eyes. That's your source of strength is that you're always seeking the truth. As best you see it. Well, I can't agree to go along with a lie if I've seen something with my own eyes. Do you ever, so speaking of Sam Harris, uh, and I mentioned to you offline, a lot of people, I talked to a lot of smart people in my private life on this podcast and a lot of them will reference you as a, as their example of a very smart person. So given that compliment, um, do you ever worry that your sort of ego grows to a level where you're not what you think is the truth is no longer the truth?

Contextualizing Current American Politics

Ego (01:57:13)

Is this kind of, um, it blinds you and also on top of that, the fact that you stand against the crowd often that there's part of it that appeals to you, that you like to point out the emperor's no close. I get a certain throw from the friction. Yeah. That sometimes both your ego and the thrill of friction will get you to, uh, deviate from the truth and instead just look for the friction. Could do. Could do for sure. Um, I try to keep alive to that. I mean, I try, I'm, in the early in my career, I realized that for instance, I didn't want to, to make, um, enemies unnecessarily, any more than strictly necessary because there was a very large number of already necessary enemies. And I remember once I went into the details, but I already had one sort of thing I'd done that we ended another thing, and I just thought I can't, I can't do that. Um, and I remember thinking don't be the sort of person who's forever creating storms. And I tried to make sure I wasn't. And I think I pretty much stuck to that. But to answer your question, um, well, the first thing is I'm, I'm as confident as I can be that, um, I wouldn't fall into the trap you described two reasons. I mean, one is that I don't think of myself as a wildly intelligent person. Um, partly because I'm very, very aware of things I know nothing about. I mean, for instance, I have a almost no knowledge of the details of finance, uh, or economic theory. Um, I mean, the, the real details, I don't mean the big picture of the kind that we were just discussing earlier, but, uh, I have, if you put the, um, periodic table in front of me, I would struggle to do more than, um, handful. Yeah. Um, I, um, very conscious of huge gaps in my knowledge and where I have gaps or chasms, I tend to find I have a disproportionate admiration for the people who know that stuff. Like, I'm wildly impressed by people who understand money, really understand it. You know, those are things, how the hell do you do that? Um, uh, and the same thing with biologists, medics, stuff I just know very little about. And that's a source of humility for you. Just knowing that. Yeah. So I mean, I think, well, I'm, I'm a girl that stuff, but I'm like, oh, Jesus, if you got me under general knowledge, I was saying that thing, some years ago, there's a thing in the, in the UK called university challenge. I don't know, but my, uh, I was asked some years ago on to, uh, there's a sort of like celebrity one of former students of the universities or colleges asked to go back for the Christmas special. Um, and I was asked to be one of the people from my old college to go back and compete in the sort of celebrity alumni one. And the only thing I actually wanted to do it was go discover the Louis Theroux had been to my college before my time and he was on, he'd agreed to be on the team. And I thought I'd love to meet Louis through. That'd be great fun. And, uh, anyhow, and I said, well, I really don't want to do it. And they said, come on, you'd be great. I said, I wouldn't, I'd show myself up to be a total asshole and they can arrange this. And, uh, as it was, I sat down, my flat and I watched some past episodes for university challenge. I realized I just sat mute for the whole of hour. Um, I just couldn't, the first question was about physics and the second one was about, uh, as it was, I watched the, the one and I could answer the first two or three, two questions of the one that actually went out because they, they made it a bit simpler. Um, but, but I mean, I'm terribly conscious of the fact, and I said to the producers, I said, I can't go on because I mean, I just couldn't answer the questions. These unbelievably smart students seem to be able to answer on a whole range of things. So I'm perfectly aware of my limitations and, um, you can't to plate your limitations. Yeah. And they're forever before me, you know, no, they're not hard to find in every day. Um, and then on top of that, I suppose it's, um, you know, in a way, you know, that line from Rudyard Kiplings, um, alternately brilliant and slightly nauseating poem, if there's a lot, there's a line, it just enjoy a good bomb, can you? Well, no, it's, it's, where's the not, it's not, I can enjoy a great poem. Yes. But I mean, a good poem. Yeah. This is, you know, cite you off, but, wait, this is, this is, this goes to your criticism. This is the asky. Yeah. Take, take, take, take, take, uh, Douglas's criticism with a grain of salt. So I maybe I've heard it read it too many memorial services and things. Sure. But, uh, that line of, it's a good piece of advice. If you can learn to meet triumph and disaster and meet these, greet these two impostors just the same. Yeah. That's a good line. It's a good line as, as, as keeping off and an amazing turn of line. But I do think that it's a very sensible thing to try to greet, um, triumph and disaster and regard them as impostors and greet them just the same. And actually anyone who knows me knows that I never, partly it's because I have a sort of belief in the old gods and at the moment that I thought that I was at the moment of triumph, the fates would hitch up their skirts and run at me at a million miles an hour. Um, but it's also because I gen, anyone who knows me knows I never have a moment when I say, um, that's just great. I feel totally fulfilled and victorious. I mean, it happened to me recently when my, when the West went straight into number one in the best set of this. How long did that last in terms of your self-satisfaction? Didn't have. Not even for a brief moment. Um, when I first saw that it was selling, I had that moment of relation. I thought, good. I've done it. It's out. And I did have a moment of relation then, definitely. But it doesn't last partly because I tell myself it mustn't last. Because as you said, fate, itches up its skirt. Is that skirts? I don't, this you, you bridge with your, with your poetry, even when it's nauseating. As of 2022, this year, what's your final analysis of the political leadership and the human mind and the human being of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump (02:04:20)

Ha ha ha. I sort of avoided this for years. Just talking about Trump, I tried to avoid talking about Trump years. Same with I tried to avoid writing about Brexit. Do you think the Trump, just sorry on a small tangent, do you think the Trump story is, uh, over? We just done volume one. I've no idea the people I know who know him said he's running. Um, and, uh, and I think that in general, Republicans have to do have a choice in front of them. Uh, and one friend put it to me recently said, you've got to go in with your toughest fighter. And I understand that instinct. And I also think it's very dangerous instinct because what is your toughest fighter is also your biggest liability. Um, what's the best way to get out the Democrat vote than 2024 than Donald Trump running? And the people that are doing the war in the West, they're pretty tough fighters. Uh, they are. And I'm cautious about this because I know every way I tread is dangerous, but let me just, just be treaded gracefully. I'll tread as grace for as I can. I'll say my Wellington boots. I am a galoshes. Uh, I, here's, here's the thing. Uh, I think everybody knows what Trump is. I think we all knew for years. And I feel sorry for the conservatives who had to pretend that he was something he wasn't. I felt sorry for the ones who had to pretend that, for instance, he was a devout Christian or a man of faith or a man of great integrity or, uh, all of these sorts of things because I'm not in the public eye for years. It'd be an obvious that wasn't the case. But he, but he has something extraordinary. Well, one thing is a method of me communication that you've just got to say is was unbelievable. And one fundamental way that you can't look away for some reason. Can't look away. I mean, we, I, I'll be watching him clear everyone out of the way in 2016 was thrilling because those people needed clearing away. You know, I mean, it's just horrifying what America is going to give us another bush. What's so great about this family? Um, America is going to give us another clinic. We're going to get to choose a Clinton on a bush. Mark Stein said whatever, we'll just wait for the day the Clinton's and the bush is into America and then we can really have a monarchy again. Um, so I, I was very pleased to see him clear them away. I was very close to you. Please seem sort of raised some of the issues needed raising. I thought it was a sort of breath of fresh air and I wished it wasn't him doing it. Um, and then there was a question of him governing and it was just perfectly clear. He didn't know how to govern. He, what he did have, however, what he does have is an incredible ability to fight and some of the forces he was arraigned against were arraigned against him. My gosh, they would have taken down anyone else. I mean, if they'd have probably done some similar BS against Ted Cruz if he, you know, or Marco Rubio, you know, they'd have said some of some people admitted they'd have, they'd have accused all these people of racism and misogyny and everything else as well. So they did make Romney just so that he'd John McCain. Um, but Trump was the one ugly enough and Bruzy enough to fight. And also a willingness or a lack of willingness to play sort of the civil game of politics. Sort of, you know, at a party when, um, like politeness gets you in trouble. Yeah. And everybody's polite and you just out of momentum want to be, be being polite. And all of a sudden you're on an island with Jeffrey Epstein and, uh, it gets you into huge amount of trouble. But so, so Trump has these sort of extraordinary quarters, but I just, you know, look, he, he, he, he screwed up, uh, during his time in office because he didn't achieve as much as he should have done. And you could say they're at every president, but I refuse to acknowledge that two years when he had both houses in the first, the beginning, he just didn't know what levers to pull. You know, I mean, he was sitting in the, the office behind the Oval Office tweeting, watching the news. I'm sorry. That's not a president. And, um, he couldn't fill and didn't fill positions because people knew, I mean, people who were very loyal to him, he would just, you know, he'd get them to do something loyal and then destroy them. And I think, and then we get onto the thing about, and here we get onto the, you know, what of course is very, very fractious terrain. But, you know, I covered the 2020 election and I was traveling all around the States and I went to Trump rally and, and all sorts of stuff. And I, I, I was in DC on election night and, um, went, and it got very ugly at one point. Um, in so-called Black Lives Matter Plaza, when it looked like Trump might win, which Florida came in and got really, I could feel the air, well, very, very heated and like Samantha, people started getting into black block and this sort of stuff. And I thought this town is going to burn, you know, if Trump wins. And in the aftermath of the vote, I was willing to hang around and watch him for a bit and then I saw it was going to drag on. And I saw some of his people and others and people told me they had great evidence of vote rigging and all this sort of thing. And I'm afraid I'm one of those people who doesn't believe that the evidence that they presented is good enough to justify the claim that he won the election. And I, and people say, have you seen 2000 mules and have you seen anything? Look, the evidence isn't there that the election was won by Donald Trump. And I think that what he did on January the 6th was unbelievably dangerous. And you know, here it is possible for us to hold two ideas on our head at the same time. January the 6th was not nothing, nor was it an insurrection and attempt to stage a coup. And there's a vanishing number of people in the US was Eric Weinstein said that the it's like this is the the the roof that you have to walk along and like the the sides are very steep. If you fall off either side. Is there some sense given the forces that are waging war in the West, you said this feeling perhaps because of an T for something else that this town is going to burn and maybe a continued feeling that this town is going to burn with the January 6th events.

America's future (02:11:04)

Are you worried about the future of the United States in the coming years because of the the feeling of escalation? Is that just a war of Twitter or is there is there a real brewing of something? It's real. And how will let me then respond to that? How what is the hopeful if you if you 10 years from now look back at the United States and say we turned it around. What would be the reason? What would be the ways the mechanisms that we do so? I'm since I since I wrote this book there are two things in particular that I've been really pleased that a specific type of specialist has approached me on to say that things I've written about actually have more application than I realized. One is the gratitude issue a number of people have approached me who have gone through AA or Alcoholics Anonymous. They sometimes say have you ever been to AA and that's a bit personal question. But the reason they ask is because they say well because if you go to drug rehabilitation or alcohol anonymous, it doesn't sound very anonymous. You stand up in a room you say your name, you have one of the worst things you've ever done. That's the opposite of anonymous. Anyhow, but they say look because if you go to these things apparently you are asked to as part of your recovery say what you're grateful for like list what you're grateful for. I know that by the way until the book was out and so it turned out have more application than I knew. The other thing though is that I say that it's absolutely crucial in America that we try to find things that we agree on. And a couple of times since the book came out I've been approached by people who marriage counselors. But he also said we've been to marriage counseling again that's a very personal question. Some asking because there's more questions. No but they and I say why because this is one of the things that we do in couples therapy is try to find things you agree on. I think this is very important in America and it's made much harder by the fact and I've said this many times but forgive me if I'm repeating myself but it's made much harder by the fact that having different opinions is very last century. Now we all have different facts or at least the two sides have different facts. One half of the country roughly or let's say 40% 30% whatever you want to put it with a tired minority in the middle. One segment of the country believes that Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election and that the Russians interfered and got Donald Trump in power. Another half of the country believes that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. If you can't agree on who wins the elections it's very hard to see what you agree on as a country. That's one of the reasons I mind the war on American history and Western history is one of the things you have to agree on is at least some attitude towards your past. You don't have to go and everything. But like the public square has to have public heroes who are agreed to be heroes to some extent. What's and all? If you don't have that if actually you think from like half country thinks founding fathers were pretty good the other half thinks they were absolutely rotten racists and so on. If half the country basically thinks it would have been better if Columbus had taken a different turn never found America gone back home and said I don't know nothing out there. That would have been better. The other half is pretty glad in the end that we've got America. You've got to agree on something and I just see in America. I do think we've got to try to find things to agree on like a reasonable attitude towards the past. That's why that matters. Again I stress I'm not trying to say that everything in the American past was good God knows that wouldn't stand up to a second scrutiny or self scrutiny. But nor was it all bad. This wasn't a country formed in sin and in an eradicable sin. It wasn't founded in 1619 in order to make the country wicked and incapable of escaping that wickedness. These are things that will matter enormously in the years ahead because if you can't agree on anything including who your heroes are. The whole thing is just one massive division and we'll see what I think we're already seeing which is people basically going to states where it's more like the life they want to live. Some people say to me well that's okay and the genius of the founding is that it allows for that. That's possible but it eradicates part of what has been American public life which is the ability to look at each other and discuss face to face. And I see things like this bomb placed on Vermaica the other week with the Supreme Court League, the draft league as being just a further example of that. I'm very very worried about it in America and because if America screws up everything everything else in the world goes. Yeah there is the degree to which America is still the beacon of these ideas on which the country was founded and has been able to live out in better and better forms. Live out the actual ideals of the founding principles versus with the desire to improve. An imperfect union. Yeah. I generally have hope that people want to sort of in terms of gratitude people are aware of how good it feels to be grateful. It's the better life psychologically. The resentment is a thing that destroys you from within. So I just feel that people will long for that and will find that. That's the American way. Some of the division that we reveal now has to do with new technologies like social media. That kind of is a small kind of deviation from the path we're on because it's a new we've got a new toy. But we exactly. It's a relatively new. But we need to find reasonable attitudes towards these things. That's why I say it matters how you and my feedback on social media because we're all going through it to some extent. We're learning. And we're learning and we've got to learn how to do this without going mad. I say this as my minimalist call to friends in this era was the main job is not to go insane. Yeah. Yeah. And yeah, like walk towards sanity. Because, you know, I'm sure there's a hundred stops and quote in there and like insanity on the weekends can be at least fun. Okay.

Advice for young people (02:18:31)

Do you have advice for young people that just put down their tech talk and are listening to this podcast in high school and college about how to have a career or how to have a life they can be part of. So I brought question, but of course, I mean, I can give specific advice for people who want to be writers and so on, but that's a bit niche maybe. The writers will be very interesting, sorry to interrupt. Also how to put your ideas down on paper and ideas develop them and have the guts to go to a large audience. Well, the main thing to do is to breed. When I was a school boy, I'd ever have a book in my pocket, a side pocket on my jacket or on a side pocket and would read. And that wasn't just those swaddish in some way, but because I discovered, probably at some point in my early teens, I discovered something, I wrote about this one, I discovered that books were dangerous, which was a thrilling discovery. I discovered that they could contain anything. And also people didn't know what you were reading. I remember I got far too young and age. I read the doors of perception of all this Huxley. And I didn't make head or tail of it probably. But I knew that it was about something really interesting and dangerous. And I thought constantly when I read poetry or read history, I was just constantly thrilled and wanted to know more. And if you want to become a writer, you have to be a reader. You have to read the best stuff. And obviously people disagree or agree on what that is. And you'll find the people that really impress you. But I know that I just came across certain writers who just knocked me off my feet. And when you find those people, read everything and cling on to them and find other people like that. Other writers like that were people that were connected by history or scholarship or circles or whatever. For you, was it fiction or non-fiction? Is there a particular book that you just remember where I just gave you pause? Well, I remember that the first book that absolutely threw me was The Lord of the Flies of William Golding, which used to be a sign text and everyone's a bit snobby about because it's so popular. But I was thrown because I think it was the first adult book I read in that I had been used to the world of children's literature, of everything ends up fine in the end. The lost all get found. You know, and this was the first book I read where that's not the case where the world turns out differently. And I remember for days afterwards, I was just in a state of shock. I couldn't believe what I'd just discovered. And partly because I sort of intuited it must be true. And of course, I was not to say that The Lord of the Flies, lots of scholarship on what children do in the situation of being on the island when they do congregate. But yes, that was a sort of introduction to the adult world. And it was shocking and thrilling and I wanted more of it. It was dangerous. And it was dangerous. And then of course, when I became interested in sex, the loan when I was gay, I wrote books were a very, very good way to learn about what I was. And that was even more dangerous in a way. And I thought, I mean, nobody knows what I know. And you discovered sex. That was an invention in books. What do you mean? No, what I mean is, no, no, no, no, no, no. What I mean is that one of the things that gay people have when they're growing up is that you have this terribly big secret and you don't think the world will ever know, you hope the world will never know. And this being called by one psychologist is The Little Boy with a Big Secret. And so if you discover that other people have the same secret, there's a sort of, thank God for that. But I mean, that's just a version of what everybody gets in reading in a way, which is the thrill of discovery that somebody else thought, something you thought only you'd thought. I mean, one of the greatest thrills in all of literature is when a voice comes from across the centuries and seems to leave a handprint, you know. It makes you feel a little bit less alone because somebody else feels, sees the world the same way, is the same way. That's what C.S. Lewis said. It says, said to have said, we read to know we're not alone. But we don't only read to know we're not alone, we read to become other people. I mean, I think I saw in books a version of the life I wanted to live and then I decided to live it. Unfortunately, I unfortunately have to have done so. I wanted to live in the world of ideas and books and debate and I wanted to live in the debates of my time, you know. And I remember when a lot of people I read Auden when I was young and you know, certain lines obviously stuck with me. But I, that poem of his, which everybody knows and which he hated, September the 1st, 1939. I remember certain lines in that just like whacked me. What's that? Sitting on a dive for the second speed to create a little loan. At the end of a load, it's honest decade. Of course, there's a problem with that line, which is you kind of want to be living at the end of a load, it's honest decade as well. It sounds sort of cool in a way. You're the only person who sees it. But so yeah, anyhow, that's a diversion. But the point is, if you want to be a writer, you've got to be a reader. And part from anything else, you discover the the little of language and the things you can do. And I've read people who, and I still do, who I think, my God, I didn't know. How did you do that? In fact, books for me now and articles and other things fall into two categories. One is I know how you did that. And the other is I don't know how you did that. And the best feeling as a writer is when you do the second one. And it happens occasion in my writing life. Were you almost like returned to something you've written or like right after you? No, the moment you write it. You wonder how did I do that? Yes. That's the most. I've never said that before. That's the happiest thing in writing. Yeah. Very occasion, it sounds, but I mean, I've occasionally finished something. Funny enough, it happened to some years ago in a long piece I wrote about the artist, the basket. I finished the piece and I gasped. I didn't know because that's also a thing with writing is you, you, you, it's not, sometimes people say you need to write in order to know what you think. That's not quite true. And you, that's a very bad piece of advice for some writers who don't know what they think and it's not going to become clearer if they just start typing. But yeah, sometimes it is true that you, there's a thought that's just waiting there and a clarity that comes across and suddenly the sentence emerges in your brain. And by the time you've typed it, you, you just go, yes. That's the greatest feeling of writing. It's like it came from somewhere else. That's what, um, a bacoonin says about, you know, what's the moment is Tom's top artist's favorite quote about, you know, bacoon is saying what happens in the moment, whether right to where the writer's pen when he pauses, where does he go in that moment? Um, yeah. Hmm. That's so interesting. That's, that's because I think the answer to that question will help us explain consciousness and all those other weird things about the human mind. Yeah. So that was advice for writers. I didn't really give any advice for people in general, but, um, is that, oh, you want to give health advice? No. To your channel, a Churchill and, no, I don't give health advice. Clearly, because you imply that Churchill was one of your early guides in that aspect.

Section On Love

Love (02:27:15)

So when you discovered your sexuality, let me ask about love, um, um, to purse far too personal go of a question to ask a Brit. But, um, what was that like? And broadly speaking, what's the role of love in the human condition? Sex and love. And for you personally discovering that you were and maybe telling the world that you were gay. I'm on very parallel. It's personal. I do actually have a sort of rule that I then talk about my personal life. But, uh, bruiser meant to be broken. Okay. Um, the, uh, the, the, one of the ways in which growing up and rising your gay differs from growing up and being straight is that it's almost inevitable that your first passions will be unrequited. Oh, wow. I never thought about that. Yeah. Now that's not to say, I mean, you know, there's plenty of unrequited love among young men for young women, young women for young men, plenty of, you know that. But it's almost inevitable, if you're gay, that your first, uh, you know, passions will be totally unrequited because the odds are that the person question will not be gay. So the experience of love is mostly heartbreak. It's heartbreak and disappointment. The heartbreak can be beautiful to, uh, formative. Well, as again, it comes back to the thing, if you're a writer or something, because you can always do something with it. That's why all writers are sort of not to be trusted. Yeah. I, I didn't trust you the moment you walked in here. No, I mean, it's a famous problem with the writers because you always think, well, I could use a, uh, it's a dangerous thing and all writers should. It's almost like a drug, right? Uh, no, it's, it's not like a drug. It's, it's, uh, the fear that all things, even the greatest suffering, um, it could be a very different material. What's the, what's the danger in that exactly? That seeing the material in the human experience, you know, an experience of fully. You don't experience it fully and you might be using it. I had a friend who wrote a poem about a friend who died in a most I'm accident in the Sydney in the '60s and he said, he knew at the moment he was told I was friend of death, a tiny bit of him thought I could use this for poem. And he did and the poem was wonderful, but there's always a slight guilt for writers of, am I going to use that? Anyhow, that's a diversion. There's a life is full of guilty pleasures. And I think that's one of them because if you feel that guilt, really what you're doing is you're capturing that moment and you're going to impact the lives of many, many people by writing about that moment because it's going to stimulate something that resonates with those people because they had similar kinds of memories about a loss and a passion towards somebody that they had to lose. So don't, you know, yes, but there's a good sign. Perhaps more obvious, perhaps problem is reporting from war zones or bad places and wanting to find bad stories because it's useful. And there's there is a definite guilt you get from that sort of thing, like the worst of the situation, the more useful. Anyhow, no, so that's sort of the only difference that happens to growing up in gay. And it means that most, certainly in my generation, most gay men came to sexual or romantic, maturity later. And there's lots of explanations of that maybe being one of the reasons for perceived or otherwise promiscuity among gay men, which is, I think, more easily persuaded by the fact that gay men behave like men would if women were men. That's one explanation. But it's both a feature and a bug that you come to sexual flourishing later in life. It could be seen as a, in the trajectory of human life, that could be a positive or a negative. But what's broadly speaking is the role of love in the human condition, Douglas. Well it's the nearest thing we have to finding the point. What is the point? What's the meaning of life? Let's go there. So what's the meaning is a hard one, of course. Where is the meaning of sighties? And I'd say that everyone can find that. You gravitate towards the places you find meaning. Now there's a conservative answer to this, which is quite useful and it's certainly more useful than any others because the conservative answer is find meaning where people have found it before. It's a very good answer. If your ancestors have found meaning in a place of worship or a particular canon of work, go there because it's been proven by time to be able to give you the goods. Much more sensible than saying, "Hey, I don't know. Discover new ways of meaning." But love is probably the nearest thing we can have to the divine on earth and of course the problem of what exactly what type of love we mean is an issue. Well that goes to the fact that you don't like definitions anyway. I do like definitions. I just think they need to be pinned down. But let's not go there because it's... Does that pin down love at the moment? Well, no, because of the different varieties of love and the fact that we have one word for it in our culture and it means an awful lot of things and we don't delineate it well. But let's say human love with the greatest fulfillment in sexual love with another person. It's probably the greatest intimation you can have of what might otherwise only be superseded by divine love. And it's the sense that all young lovers have which is that they've just walked through the low door in the garden and found themselves in place and that this is... There's a beautiful, beautiful poem of... Can I read it to you? Yes, please. I'll try to find... There's a beautiful poem of Philip Larkins which slightly says what I'm trying not to duck your question by referring to other people. Maybe that's the best way to answer the question. Good bit. It's to read a poem. So there's a poem by Philip Larkin called High Windows which is remarkable because he came to sexual... He hadn't had a rather unhappy sex life, but he came to sexual fruition in the 40s and all the hell that involved. And he took what I remember... Regardless of being a really remarkable and important view on the sexual revolution in the 60s which is that most people who are generous, older people resented the young. They resented the freedom they had and actually they pretended the freedom was terrible and it was always going to lightly do. And Philip Larkin, rather surprisingly, he's a very conservative person, took a different view and he says it in his poem and the opening of the poem is he says, "When I see a couple of kids and guess he's fucking her and she's taking pills or wearing a diaphragm, I know this is paradise. Everyone old is dreamed of all their lives. Bonds and gestures pushed to one side like an outdated combine harvester and everyone young going down the long slide to happiness endlessly. I wonder if anyone looked at me forty years back and thought, 'That'll be the life, no god any more or sweating in the dark about hell and that, or having to hide what you think of the priest. He and his lot will all go down the long slide like free bloody birds.' And immediately, rather than words, comes the thought of high windows, the sun comprehending glass and beyond it the deep blue air that shows nothing and is nowhere and is endless." The divine, he found it. He found it in seeing a couple of young kids and knowing that one of them was wearing a diaphragm. Do you see? It's first of all, it's very counterintuitive but secondly, this is the point that sex had been so tied up with misery. I mean, people don't remember this now when they talk about the past. I mean, there's one of my favourite books, Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. In the descriptions of what it was like, they were trying to have sex in pre-first world war Vienna. You know, all the men ended up going to free male prostitutes. You know, so many of them got syphilis and this was their first experience of sex. It was so god damn awful and they were stuck with it all their lives. And there's lots of stuff that's gone better in our last century and that's one of them. But you ask about love. Yes, I do think that love is basically the thing that gives us the best glimpse of the divine. And by the way, sex, liberating sex, doesn't buy you love. No. I mean, it throws in an entirely, it threw in another set of problems. If there's any meaning on top of all of that is we like to find problems and solve that as a human species and sometimes we even create problems. Douglas, thank you for highlighting all the problems of human civilization and giving us a glimmer of hope for the future. This is an incredible conversation. Thank you for talking today. It's a huge honor. Thank you. It's very kind of you to say that. Thank you. Thanks for listening to this conversation with Douglas Murray. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now let me leave you with some words from Douglas Murray himself. This agreement is not oppression. Argument is not assault. Words even provocative and repugnant ones are not violence. The answer to speech we do not like is more speech. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.

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