THERE APPEARS TO be a deep attraction to the naive idea that we can re-create ourselves and our societies at will, with no regard to who we are and where we’ve come from. A veritable Everest of blogs and posts and articles and books and speeches reinforce our desire to believe that ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’ – that the goal of never-ending happiness requires only a few days’ study of mindfulness manuals (or any of their predecessors) to effect a seismic shift in our wellbeing.
This fantasy permeates politics as well. Even a cursory look at the language and images embedded in politics and public policy shows that asking serious questions about what the past can tell us about the likely effectiveness of proposed policies is rare. Even more uncommon is any deep exploration of what we know about human behaviour and how social structures are likely to influence it. This deficiency is nowhere more obvious than in the political class, who seem to be rendered tongue-tied – or resort to soothing, infantilising babble – whenever uncomfortable truths are broached.
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