PROLOGUE: “Are You Mind-Shaming Me?”
If you took one look at the title of this article and said, “Big words; forget it. I’m outta here!”, then you should read on, because this is plainly for you. How easily we run from what we do not understand! How little we persevere to penetrate apparent adversity! How far we have gone in our desire to water everything down, to dilute difficulty, to resist learning, to render things facile and ‘non-threatening’ to such an extent that they no longer carry their original meaning nor much of worth at all.
As we move towards the twenty-first year of the twenty-first century, the human mind seems to have become a victim of the Lowest Common Denominator Syndrome. The emphasis today in Western culture is on crass simplification in pursuit of an imagined intellectual equality and in the slavish service of a truth-crushing, socially-engineered ‘political correctness’.
If something taxes people’s minds it is perceived as a threat because it may reveal their ignorance or supposed lack of intellectual ability. “Are you mind-shaming me?” says the dumbed-down soul of today inwardly when faced with material which it assumes to be beyond its understanding. Thus, an artless reductionism and anti-intellectualism have come to pervade the cultures of the Western world. It is almost as if there has been a deliberate conspiracy to render whole populations unable to discern the difference between truth and falsehood, between the real and the phoney, and unable to exercise wisdom and to analyse objectively the world around them. A “Soundbite Culture” has now been established, and it is wreaking havoc on the human mind.
This debilitated state of mind is, of course, very helpful to the ruling powers of the world, in whose interests it is to prevent penetrating intelligence from flowering and instead to encourage dumbed-down stupefaction and an unenquiring mind. This is precisely why the development of intellect has been so stunted and a passive, unquestioning mind has been so encouraged over recent decades. “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” was one of Big Brother’s slogans in George Orwell’s book “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. But the ignorance of the people only gives “strength” to the hegemonial powers. This is why all members of society should do their level best to be achievers in the realm of self-education and societal perception. One can only really accomplish that satisfactorily through reading choice material (i.e. material which is didactic). If one is put off when faced with some words one doesn’t understand, then that is self-undermining. It is the literary equivalent of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face! One should acquire a dictionary and expand one’s vocabulary. We have not been given minds to waste them. If a writer uses a ‘big word’, do not immediately assume that s/he must be showing off or that s/he is a pretentious intellectual. No one acquires a large vocabulary genetically; it comes through diligent study and a willingness to learn. There comes a point when one realises that words carry a power which is verging on supernatural. The richness of vocabulary and expression is part of what it means to be a free spirit. This is precisely why, in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, the limited verbal system of “Newspeak” was developed. It not only eliminated what the state considered to be ‘unnecessary’ words, but it also naturally led to a narrowing of thought and, therefore, to the stultifying of perception and awareness. The dumbing-down of today — in which people use the small size of their phones as an excuse for failing to read or they complain about the length of a piece if it is more than a page long — is the non-fictitious version of Newspeak. It is no coincidence that one of the first acts of any dictator when s/he comes to power is to remove or assassinate the academics, creatives, writers, and thinkers. Penetrative minds must be dumbed-down by them or destroyed. Then the way is paved for the building of their desired totalitarian empire, which is the very real goal of the power-elite in this world.
The Other Side of the Dumbing-Down Coin
Another aspect of this dumbing-down has gone in the opposite direction of unquestioning passivity. This is when people grow so suspicious of everything that they become obsessed with conspiracies and see them happening where they do not necessarily exist, or they are very much exaggerated. That then becomes all that they talk about and a kind of paranoid obsession sets in. They may even become entranced by some leader. Although such people imagine they are highly awake (a variation on being ‘woke’), in fact they have become just as useful to the power-elite as the ones who sleepwalk through the world. When they do their ‘research’, it merely consists of finding material which sensationally bolsters their already-stilted narrative and belief-system. What such folk do not realise is that a great many false notions about conspiracies are seeded by ‘controlled opposition’ through intelligence agencies in order to lead people off the scent and send them shinning up a disused telegraph-pole rather than going down the right street. The power-elite does not like people to wake up genuinely and fully, so they insert operatives into the proceedings who seem to say all the right things but who cleverly lead you onto false paths in order to undermine your equilibrium and scupper your useful perception. They are very happy for you to wake up partially so long as they can get you believing so much other bullshit that no one will take you seriously other than the other crazy folks who think like you. Truly, these days, one needs the hide of a rhinoceros and the skillset of a world-class spy in order to keep one’s head above water and not fall into either passivity (sleepwalking) or false activism (obsessive conspiracism) — for both of these are just different forms of dumbing-down and the stupefaction of the human mind.
The Difference Between True Intelligence and IQ
Let me stress here that the dumbing-down and stupefaction of which I write in this piece have nothing whatsoever to do with Intelligence Quotient (IQ). I have known PhD’s whose level of perception, teachability and ability to understand truth and logic are virtually non-existent; and I have known completely uneducated people (in some cases even semi-literate) with a powerful desire to learn and an ability to grow in depth of understanding and intellectual prowess. There is a powerful, incisive kind of intelligence which lies altogether outside of conventional IQ considerations. The mere motivation to acquire truthful knowledge carries its own momentum for self-education. A lazy mind will assuredly remain ignorant, whereas a lively mind will inevitably develop.
“Please Make Your Articles Shorter!”
However, everywhere around us is a mass of evidence revealing the disease of “dumbed-downness” — a mind which has gone “out to lunch” and which will not be returning to work in the afternoon. The ability to think rationally and creatively has been overturned in favour of superficiality and the acceptance of illusory limitations. Regularly, people write to me and say something like this: “Please make your articles shorter. I cannot possibly read them on my phone as it taxes my eyes too much”. My reply is this: “If you were concerned about your emotional, psychological and spiritual health as much as you claim to be concerned about the physical health of your eyes, then you would stop using a phone for reading in-depth articles (as it is plainly unsuitable) but would instead ensure at all costs that you acquired a tablet, laptop or desktop computer”. Frankly, if someone refuses to upgrade from a phone for the purposes of digesting decent reading matter, then it is a sign that they have no desire to learn but wish to remain in their little bubble of ignorance, using the size of the screen of their phone as a lame excuse for their laziness. The attitude should not be: “Sorry, I’ve only got a phone so I can’t read any articles”. Instead, it should be: “I’ve only got a phone so I’d better upgrade from such a small device, then I can read some meaty material and educate myself as that is my duty as a responsible human being!”
The problem is that after years of dumbing-down and superficial communications, the thirst for learning has been almost entirely eradicated. It seems that rather than wanting to be challenged and educated by in-depth writings on a subject, most people would rather merely have their current narrative or belief system bolstered by shallow memes, frivolous GIFS, and YouTube videos performed by lightweight, tendentious people who merely know how to play to the crowd and gather a following. All of this is part of, and what has led to, what I call ‘The Politics of Stupefaction’. The primary meaning of ‘stupefaction’ is, “The state of being stupefied; numbness, torpor, insensibility” — basically, mindless and stupid. The experience of stupefaction is like being drunk on superficiality. There is a politics to that stupefaction which has been playing centre-stage for decades and it is now really coming to fruition.
There are two related influences in which these ‘politics of stupefaction’ have mesmerised the collective mind of humanity: The demise of didacticism and the sabotage of stillness. What I believe is a deliberate social engineering of these two debilitating influences has massively undermined the collective mind’s ability to be discerning, insightful, steadfast, and incisive. It has even undermined the ability to judge between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, real from imaginary. So let’s now open this up…
I. THE DEMISE OF DIDACTICISM
First, a definition of didacticism: “Communication that is suitable for teaching or intended to be instructive”. So, how do people learn? There are three primary — and complementary — instruments of learning. The first instrument of learning is by example. From the very beginning we are involved in the process of mimicry and imitation. At the tenderest age we smile out from our crib when Mother smiles into it. Later we are influenced by successive peer groups whose role-modelling has enormous influence in our lives. A second instrument of learning is what is known as heuristics. The word “heuristic” comes from the Greek word eurisko, which means “to find” or “discover”. The well-known Greek word eureka is related to it. This involves the process whereby we make discoveries through the trial-and-error experiences of living. For example, when a child touches the radiator and discovers that it burns his or her hand, s/he will not do that again. Learning has taken place. Heuristics in action. Like the instrument of example, learning through heuristics begins at a very early age and lasts throughout our lives. In order for this instrument of learning to be productive, one must be open to its lessons or one will repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
A third instrument of learning is what is known as didactics. The word “didactic” comes from the Greek word didasko, which means “to teach” in the sense of objective instruction. It is not enough for us to learn by example or by the process of heuristics. We need practical, concrete instruction in many areas of living. A child can learn by experience that a flame is too hot, but s/he must be taught by objective instruction, rather than example or experience, that s/he must not cross the road when cars are coming. Didactic instruction implies some kind of authority — preferably a healthy one. Didactic instruction indicates that there is someone who knows more, someone who possesses impartible wisdom. It also demonstrates that there is one whose ignorance must be exchanged for enlightenment. One of the first steps towards wholesome education is to admit one’s ignorance.
Not very long ago, people did not need always to indulge in “multimedia experiences” in order to grasp an idea. They had not yet been deceived by visual imagery to such an extent that it made a mere ‘talking head’ appear archaic and boringly immobile. They had not yet been infected with the modern virus of having high self-esteem, which dictates that a person must not be subjected to having humiliating feelings of ignorance by the obvious knowledge of an authoritative teacher.
The Wrong Examples of Learning Are Everywhere Followed
Furthermore, in former times, the paltry ‘soundbites’ so prominent today in political circles and in the media would have been regarded as unsatisfactory vehicles for the successful propagation of ideas. Superficiality and its twin-sister, sentimentality (not to be confused with the infinitely more profound Romanticism), will abound if didactics do not take precedent in the field of learning. Yet this is precisely what has happened in the world today, as the process of human learning has disintegrated. The wrong examples are everywhere followed. The latest mindless pop group has more influence over young people than their parents or the collective sagacity of wise community leaders. The most authoritative people today for the majority of young people are mindless ‘Reality TV’ shows and pretty vacant YouTube influencers. Learning by experience has degenerated into selective, subjective experientialism (“it feels good to me”). But by far the greatest casualty in the learning process of the world has been objective instruction — didacticism. For the degeneration of the two other instruments of learning has come about as a direct result of the demise of didacticism. When you take authoritative learned instruction out of the equation, then ignorance, foolishness, and a failure to learn from experience will abound.
The demise of didacticism has not happened in a vacuum. True didacticism instructs in order to effect an increase in knowledge, personal ability and discernment. However, there have been very definite influences and movements which have deterred its presence in modern culture. The process of watching television which bewitches so many for such a long stretch of their lives has been one of the greatest single enemies of didacticism. Almost everything about television dictates against the exercise of didacticism. One does not have to think when watching television. It does the thinking for you with a series of socially-engineering images. Nothing is left to the imagination (as it would be if one were reading an article or book). It creates an ersatz world which prevents you from formulating an objective worldview. Not only does the process of modern television-watching remove didacticism but even the format of many influential programmes today militates against didacticism. For example, it is increasingly common for news readers to look as if they somehow dropped in for a casual chat while they sit on the edge of a desk with a piece of scrap paper. This is deliberately designed to reduce the objective nature of news reading. No one must feel threatened by any kind of authority and nothing must look as if it is authoritatively true.
If a media personality uses one or two ‘big words’, s/he will receive bitter complaints from the public about his or her lack of empathy or over-academic approach, or s/he will be accused of intellectualism and showing off. It is seen as degrading to ask humbly for the meaning of a word or even having to look that word up in a dictionary. Yet, this is precisely how one grows in knowledge and understanding. So many do not want to appear to be (in their thinking) ‘stupid’. But there is nothing stupid about the desire for self-education.
Deliberate Dumbing-Down in the Media
A former head of the BBC World Service and a BBC Newsnight presenter — a man with a long history in broadcasting and the arts — John Tusa, publicly stated in a 2005 speech entitled the “Media and the Arts” at the Athenaeum Club in London that he left the BBC because there was a deliberate policy of dumbing down. On the subject of the “dumbing-down” of culture, he said that programmes — and especially news broadcasts — had become almost monosyllabic so as to avoid making anyone feel hurt or ignorant because they could not understand certain words which may be used. He said that whereas at one time if one didn’t know a word one would be motivated to discover its meaning, the accent today was on crass simplification in the cause of a false ‘equality’ and political correctness. He also complained about the way that documentaries on a serious subject such as the arts, archaeology or history would very often be presented by a well-known entertainer — in the hunt for higher viewer ratings — rather than by an expert on the subject, which undermined the didactic element of the programme and reduced it to the rank of entertainment rather than documentary.
The Popular Rejection of Authoritative Leadership
The concept of authoritative leadership has been challenged to such an extent that for someone to be “in charge” or “at the helm” is regarded as being completely outmoded and even as an object of ridicule. When I showed a concert of classical music to a friend for the first time in her life, one of her first remarks afterwards was to sneer at the way that the musicians watched the conductor for his cues “as if they looked up to him as someone to be followed, like they were dependent on him or something”. She especially didn’t like that look of dependence in the eyes of the musicians. She resented the authority wielded by the conductor. That is a classic standpoint which has been fashioned by the dumbing-down industry; the failure to distinguish between false authority (in which some puffed-up individual wields power over others for wrongful means) and true authority, which is necessary and desirable for the well-being of society and for the proliferation of knowledge. An orchestral conductor is an archetypal authority figure who either instils resentment and rebellion in the ignorant and immature or admiration and respect in those who appreciate the need for musical ensemble and symphony rather than chaos and cacophony. Of course, an orchestral conductor can behave in a horribly dictatorial fashion without any regard for the feelings of the musicians. But that is not what we are speaking about here. The conductor concerned was the late Claudio Abbado, who is the very epitome of a sensitive gentleman and a conductor to whom one could indeed look up, and who musicians universally admired.
The situation today is that true authority is now parodied as being akin to dictatorship, and paraded by “experts” as an undesirable influence on social life. A consequence of this has been that a didactic teacher is perceived to be a subversive influence because s/he instructs pupils preceptively rather than merely “facilitating their self-learning processes” — as dictated by trendy education theoreticians today. Thus, a “talking head” engaging in instruction becomes not only boring but even obscene and anachronistic in the eyes of many today. Instead of the wisdom of the wise being a precious commodity, everyone’s viewpoint becomes valid and there is no single “right” answer to anything and we’re all on the same level. It is what I call the “Fish ‘n Chips Syndrome” — we all fish around and everyone chips in. To speak of truth these days as being in any sense objective is likely to result in a sneer or even a vehement diatribe. As a result, many people today know very little about anything except their own subjective feelings.
The main problem has been that if something cannot immediately be understood by someone, then it is perceived as a dangerous threat rather than a life-enhancing challenge. It threatens to expose the current inequalities of intellectual ability which inevitably prevail in any society. Therefore, in the interests of maintaining the illusion of intellectual equality, authoritative teaching is then dumbed-down to such an extent that it becomes virtually non-existent. The irony is that in dumbing knowledge down so as to avoid offending the less knowledgeable it actually works against itself in that it can only increase the level of ignorance. So the question must be asked: Which is more important — to avoid offending the ignorant by highlighting their ignorance (and thus decreasing their potential for knowledge) or to reduce their ignorance by introducing them to new concepts and knowledge and encouraging them to learn?
The Three Types of Ignorance
Our ability to become knowledgeable human beings revolves around how we respond to our state of ignorance. We can say that there are three kinds of ignorance in this life: Happy ignorance, simple ignorance and wilful ignorance. Happy ignorance is an ignorance which is usually profitable for us. There are unspeakable things in this world which it is better for us never to know anything about. The agonized screams of a raped child. The chaotic debacle of mortal combat in battle. It is better that we remain happily ignorant of them. I’m not speaking about escapism or hiding our heads in the sand or pretending that such things do not exist; for that is something very different. I simply mean that there is no need for everyone to be exposed to all the details of that which sensitive souls have no need to experience. Some brave souls have to clean such messes up. They will not remain happily ignorant and they will carry that awful knowledge in their hearts. But this does not apply to everyone. Fortunately. Then there is simple or natural ignorance. This is when we do not really understand things such as what binds particles together. That is a simple ignorance. It doesn’t necessarily affect me whether I know it or not, unless it is a vital knowledge. I can choose, though, to try and understand it. Simple ignorance is a desirable condition if the one afflicted by it is willing to learn! Simple ignorance is a great opportunity for us to do so. An empty vessel is no bad thing because it can always be filled and, indeed, should be. On the other hand, wilful ignorance is when a person is so opposed to expanded knowledge and truth that he or she is actually prepared to resist it. As soon as they hear views different from their own, they do not investigate them to see if they may be correct but begin to slander those who hold those views and even set out to destroy them. One can see this happen again and again in this world. Wilful ignorance is always inexcusable, and it is what lies at the heart of so much stupefaction in the world today. You can easily tell the difference between wilful and natural ignorance. Natural ignorance rejoices when it hears things explained more adequately, whereas the one who is wilfully ignorant becomes puffed up with pride, refuses to accept instruction and even wrongly accuses those who hold the knowledge which he or she refuses to learn. It is said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” but it is much more paved with wilful ignorance! Wilful ignorance entails the deliberate eschewing of necessary knowledge — a contrived naïveté, if I may put it like that. The first type of ignorance (happy) is a blissful one. The second type of ignorance (simple or natural) is a hunger which longs to be satisfied, a hole which aches to be filled and a seed which yearns to be grown. The third type of ignorance (wilful) is a defensive wall which hates to be shattered, is content with what is already known and resistant to what is as yet unknown.
Unless we are willing to shed our pride and take on board the need to learn from authoritative sources — seeing this as non-threatening and actually life-enhancing — then ignorance will only deepen, and the age of empire will return to this planet in such an outrageously totalitarian manner that it will make the antics of Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Big Brother seem like a Boy Scouts’ tea-party. And, without a doubt, this is indeed what will come upon this world.
The politics of stupefaction has not only been influenced by the demise of didacticism but also by another even more profound factor: namely, the sabotage of stillness.
II. THE SABOTAGE OF STILLNESS
This may come as a surprise to readers in an article about dumbing-down and stupefaction, but the quality of stillness in the life of the human being is an absolute necessity without which we will wither and decay — mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. Stillness naturally leads to contemplation and poise. Have you ever ascended a mountain and watched a sunrise or sunset? The stillness is so poignant that it reaches to the heart of our being and inspires. You can touch it — and, in turn, it touches you with its mystery. It is the fount of creativity. Mystery is at the heart of all that is profound and excellent. My joint-favourite poet, ee cummings (my other favourite being Wilfred Owen), wrote this extraordinary poem:
As a wordsmith, I marvel at the way that Cummings plays with the stuff of language. Writing that seven-word statement in that unconventional way slows the reader down so that he or she not only grasps the meaning but also enters into the concept. (Poetically speaking there is also a powerful, deliberate symmetry in there. Mathematics geniuses may want to pursue that further…).
Stillness is indeed a mystery which we need to experience and enjoy. Why? So that we can leave our thrusting selves behind. So that we can stand on the edge of an ocean and know things we would otherwise have missed. So that we can think ‘outside the box’ which has been prepared for us by the present-day enemies of mind-expansion. In that stillness, poised in attention, we are much more likely to be confronted with spiritual reality, the frailty of the self, the scent of truth, and the desire to learn.
How Stillness is Destroyed
One gets the distinct impression, in these restless, prosaic days of ours, that the necessity for stillness has been completely undermined by what seems to be a deliberate policy of barbarity. For that mystery of stillness — and our necessity for it — has been sabotaged and subverted by a melange of media today. Take, for example, the way that children are bombarded with images in the programmes which have been made especially for them on television. Have you noticed how the camera shot is constantly changing every few seconds (or less) so that one never gets a chance to alight on an image and study it lingeringly, carefully and discerningly? This constantly changing image is especially the case with pop music shows, where the picture can be almost stroboscopic. This destroys the power of concentration. In TV magazine shows targeted at young people, there is usually a continual pulsating murmur of pop music in the background, which soon turns the young listener into an addict. The same mind-numbing addiction can be seen in the carefully marketed proliferation of ‘game consoles’ and ‘X-Boxes’, where the obsessive thumb-clicking players are sucked into a shady underworld vortex of gung-ho ‘sword and sorcery’ bravado — the ultimate way to undermine equilibrium and eradicate wholesomeness.
Thoughtfulness, incisive discernment, and presence of mind are rarely encouraged in the world of the child today. This influence has suffused itself across the world in tentacular fashion. In the media, young people are continually being programmed with what to think, and how to think it — if they think at all, that is. This is all part of the sinister way that children’s ability to discern and analyse has been completely undermined. The mystery of stillness — that place where we can become alert “discerners”, or where we can for once shut up and listen to what lies beyond us — has been almost destroyed. One even needs a sense of inner stillness in order to learn from written communication or an authoritative voice, for that is where concentration begins.
Muzak – An Enemy of Stillness
The destruction of the mystery of stillness has been avidly pursued in other media outlets. In many TV programmes and films today, one finds background music, often hypnotically sinister and played continuously on a synthesiser. People seem unable to experience the necessary emotions unless there is musical accompaniment. One cannot even travel in an elevator or walk through a shopping centre today without ‘muzak’. This is where the medium of literature scores massively against that of the visual image. For in reading a book, you have to make your own music. You have to imagine. But in the visual media today, it is all done for you. Again, the opportunity for critical analysis and necessary stillness is destroyed.
All this is rather similar to the way in which people cannot tolerate pauses in a conversation and have to fill every possible nook and cranny with a mundane scribble of words. But those lost pauses can sometimes be more meaningful than the conversation itself! For in the pauses, one has the opportunity to consider what has just been said. Stillness in conversation is vital. It aids empathy; it aids communication; it aids thoughtful dialogue. It aids listening to the ‘music’ which lies behind all words.
To sum up, stillness is an infinitely more powerful weapon than any sword could ever be. It carries its own whirlwind and it should devastate the prevailing spirit of self-centredness if it is to do its proper work. For in stillness we can reach beyond ourselves and discover other, more productive, ways of being.
EPILOGUE: Beyond Manipulation, Mind-Control & Propaganda
It takes courage today to resist the politics of stupefaction and avoid becoming one of the ragged dumbed-down rabble of the world. We need to overcome our fear of ignorance and misplaced embarrassment about any lack of knowledge. We must begin to see wisdom and true authority as life-enhancing rather than ego-threatening. If we develop our ability to be ‘still’ — poised in attention — in all situations, we will see beyond the ‘what is’ and become active movers in them and changers of them too.
We need to become people who can enter stillness as easily as we enter a room. Stand back, look and listen everywhere you are. Rise above the dumb-down programming, from whatever source. Do not allow yourself to be bombarded by spurious images or truncated messages which suppress the flowering of your individuality and perception. When you do this, you will be able to be still and discern the truth of any moment. You will then be beyond suggestion, beyond propaganda, beyond manipulation, beyond the mind control of governments and oppressive empires. Those powers will have their day, for now is their hour and the power of darkness. In time, they will be dust and their spirits dispersed into the Stygian realms where they belong, and then there will be a new heaven and new earth in which will be found only those who have loved truth in this illusory world of deception and fallenness. But while the current world-powers (human and discarnate) have their permitted ascendency in the cosmos, if one enthusiastically educates oneself one will be wholly outside of their sphere of influence and — regardless of what dastardly things they can do to us physically —will therefore be unable to be touched by them mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Nothing could be more necessary at this watershed point in the history of this doomed civilisation.
© Alan Morrison, 2020
Coming next: Letters from the Cave, #2: “The Purpose Behind the Pandemic”.
Notes & References:
 The seeds for this phenomenon were beautifully portrayed thirty-five years ago in Neil Postman’s superb prophetic analysis of dumbed-down culture, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” (Viking/Penguin/Methuen, 1985).
 Self-esteem is very different to self-confidence. What people today call “self-esteem” is more akin to narcissism than simply having confidence in oneself. I can have confidence in myself to do something or be someone but I do not need to esteem myself highly or continually praise myself because of it. As a result of the poor upbringing of so many today — in that they were very often put-down or ridiculed or undermined as children by parents and teachers — the feelings of inferiority generated by this treatment has led to an over-compensatory need to aggrandise the self through “self-esteem workshops” in which exercises are taught such as looking at oneself every day in the mirror and telling oneself one is wonderful, amazing, a genius and a star. This push to create self-esteem throughout the world today has had a very profound effect on the didactic learning process. Because of the underlying feelings of inferiority (which are now masked by the techniques of self-esteem but not truly removed by them) many people resent having an authority-figure teaching them. The process of generating this phoney self-esteem thus undermines the learning process and people become unteachable. A person can be self-confident but that would not take away the desire to be taught authoritatively by a knowledgeable person. A person with “high self-esteem” can never be truly humble. Self-confidence never takes away humility whereas high self-esteem always does. Humility and self-effacement are a vital aspect of humanity. Without them, the world becomes overwhelmed by a stultifying egotism, self-centredness and narcissism.
 Let us not forget that, although Abbado (an avowed anti-fascist) was an authoritative and influential orchestral leader, when he was chief conductor and artistic director at La Scala in Milan, he insisted on giving concerts which were cheap enough for the poorer members of society to attend.