End of the Enlightenment: New Internationalist column

My festive season column in NEW INTERNATIONALIST magazine December 2012.

Bah, humbug!

2012 was the end of reason

Roll up, roll up for the End Of The Enlightenment Show! You there, in the best seats right up front, watch in wonder as the world as you know it comes crashing down, the pillars of civilization torn asunder by neocon Samson and his delightful assistants! The Mayans may be wrong about 2012 marking the end of the world, but it’s the end for us – and what a spectacle it’s turning out to be.

Quake in your DM boots as tectonic shifts in consciousness thrust whacko pundits to the fore! Marvel at the multitude of business shills speaking of false profits and naysaying tax-collectors explaining why we have to pay while the super-rich go forth and multiply!

Hear US Republican nasty Charlie Fuqua calling for a return to slavery and the death penalty for ‘rebellious’ children because it says so in the Bible… if by ‘Bible’ you mean the Rorschach inkblot of Christian fundamentalist imaginings. ‘No critical thinking, ’cause that challenges your parents and the Family!’ they cry. Verily, the British Conservatives stare in envy and trail in their wake – or wail at their take.

Luckily, the Tories have politicians like Michael Gove, who is Minister for Education in the same way as Orwell’s Ministry for Truth does what it says on the tin. With our schools being handed over to businesses, we’ll soon be plummeting down the literacy rankings just like Sweden. Watch Gove hard-wire young brains for unquestioning obedience: no music or arts in the game of Baccarat replacing our exam system. History will be transformed into facts ’n’ data mined for system-buttressing tropes and filtered for subversive elements. A generation will say, ‘Karl Marx? Who he? Any relation to Santa Claus? Can I have an X-Box, Santa, just like my parents used to have in ye olden days before it all turned to shit?’

With enhanced baboon-bum lips and PIP breast implants (before they explode in your chest), girls can marry wealth and get themselves a half-million-dollar shelf of Birkin bags, just like socialite Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of Formula 1 supremo Bernie. The rest of us will have to slap on a ‘will work for food’ placard and head for our local dollar or 99p store, our dreams of becoming scientists or astronauts up in smoke.

Still, there’s always the entertainment biz, traditionally the exit from drudgery for talented boys and girls. Nope, that’s sewn up as well. Dynastic succession in the arts is now reserved for the offspring of the cultural aristocracy, while YouTube and Spotify function as windows into a world denied the rest of us. Yes, you may get three million viewers of your music video (hewn out of sweat, toil and a unique vision of our place in the cosmos that sends our spirits soaring) but your royalty cheque for $94 isn’t going to get you very far.

So, as capitalist production moves from the West to Asia and Africa, we wave farewell to four centuries of Enlightenment values. Nice while it lasted.

New Internationalist magazine

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