It is simple to scoff at vegans who are up in arms since the newest five-pound note includes animal fat. Yes, their carryon is valuable, self righteous and risible. However, these will be the default features of vegans. We expect this behavior from them. It is the most important reason individuals in the Western world go vegan: to show they are superior for you as well as me.
We might also lament the Bank of England’s statement that it’s now working on ‘possible alternatives’ to this problem, which it’s addressing using the ‘extreme earnestness’. It is now common for associations, or individuals, to back down, apologise, or atone in the facial skin of requests and mob pressure, typically with the abetment of Twitter.
The really important part of the episode is the fact that it signifies a fresh cult in society: the cult of innocence. In society, we increasingly yearn for credibility, certitudes and innocence. Religious fundamentalism is but one indication of this, as the competitive pursuit for innocence necessarily results in an extremist mindset. Find the Impetus motion, which is driving the Labour Party farther to the left, with each member attempting to declare who’s the most pure, bona fide anti-capitalist.
See, also, campus censorship, Safe Spaces, cause warnings and Twitch-hunting, driven as they may be by the want to banish filthy and contaminating words. The prohibition of tabloid newspapers at universities is simply the most recent measure.
Elsewhere, we’ve got the occurrence of ‘clean eating’ and detoxifying, eating only organic and allegedly untainted GM-free foods. How many vegans in this state has grown 360 per cent in the previous 10 years. Add to this the cult of Scandi, using its monochrome-mood television dramas and its own dull, clean garments and furniture.
The reasons because of this cult of innocence, using its effect to veer to extremes, are evident. The tendency towards populist extremes in politics is adjudged the mistake of globalisation as well as the fall of the centre left everywhere.
Yet I imagine the cult of innocence is largely a reaction to the electronic revolution. Within an age of incessant info and continuous link, the cult of innocence and yearning for simplicity represents a type of mental recourse. Individuals seek safety and conviction in a world that appears to be floating beyond their control.
Whereas vegetarians rather sensibly object foremost to the killing of creatures, self-viewing vegans are concerned ultimately with all the sensed pollution of the self.
Neither does it seem to stress them that most regular things, from toothpaste to automobiles to condoms, include animal fat. The request from the newest five-pound note was designed to share the message they do not need to reach our disgusting cash.
This does not bode well. The urge for innocence is driving our culture’s now apparent lurch towards a fresh puritanism, using its urge to expunge or curb the unpalatable and difficult. Yet that which is dirty, putrid and offensive is inherent to the human state. It is generally great for people. Hideous, filthy and incorrect encounters open our heads.
Regular readers of the column will understand that I Have been undertaking a job on the 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
‘Not another Nietzsche publication’, you could possibly groan. True, there happen to be a large number of books which introduce the doctrine of the moustached German who went crazy. But Get Over Yourself sets issues another way round. What would he think of our 21st century, digital age?
In our age of identity politics, treatment culture, Safe Spaces, religious fundamentalism, virtue-indicating, Twitterstorms, public emoting, dumbing down, digital dependence as well as the politics of envy, the novel launches Nietzsche’s doctrine by placing the guy in our shoes.
Get Over Yourself both uses Nietzsche’s doctrine to comprehend our society, and chooses our society to spell out his doctrine.
Nietzsche’s crucial message is the fact that life is all about challenge, and that, rather than being scared of misfortune, or fleeing from or attempting to stifle that which we find objectionable or hard, we have to adopt strife and never fear failure. As the guy most famously said: ‘Live dangerously!’