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'Human history could be seen as a never-ending series of battles over stories, with the winners determining who shapes society, at least for a while.' Such beautifully expressed truth.

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I appreciate how you framed the pandemic as a battle over stories. I think warring over the narratives will tear our nations apart. I don't want to be pro or anti vaccine. Reading your essays has helped me determine to take a pacifistic approach. I want to hear both sides and reserve judgement until a later time when calmed tempers allow for more rational reflection.

The stance that allows me to remain sane is this: I don't know and I don't claim to know and I'm not going to fight.

Thanks again for bringing an alternative perspective to the chaos!

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And again a great essay. Thank you Paul for the wise words.

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Yes, I think your point about narrative is surely correct. One might go further and say that the battle is over not merely narratives but rather myths, where narratives are subsets of myths. We hesitate to do so because we have become suspicious of myths. We suppose them to be untrue. We forget that they express truths rather than that they 'are' true. Yet, as Tolkien observed, there is one myth that not only expresses Truth but is also actually true: the story of the Incarnation.

Problems arise when we mistake myth/ mere narrative for truth. The plague narrative has been taken for truth and yet it is clear that, for the partying British Conservatives, it has been understood all along that the response of government has been pantomime. Few in government really believe the narrative but they collude with public and press by pretending to do so. It is well known that the average of Covid fatality in the UK is in excess of the average life expectancy. AsJohnson is reported by D Cummings to have said at the outset, 'get Covid. Live longer.'

We need to ask why is there this mass collusion in manifest falsehood? Why is the majority going along with all this? It can't be that people are REALLY scared because it is perfectly clear that there is little to be scared of. No, it is surely fear of fear. It's the thought that there could, very clearly, be a situation that is completely beyond our collective control - and that is frightening if you have only the one life to live.

What is more frightening still is, as you say, how this all plays out. The fact that the so-called vaccines (in fact they are more like prophylactics: vaccines prevent infection, these don't) are not terribly effective beyond about twenty weeks and clearly have nasty side-effects is surely being noticed by increasing numbers. When the penny finally drops, presumably there will be a period of hysterical denial (which will doubtless be visited on the unclean) before something else comes along to distract the masses - in this case, one suspects - an economic catastrophe to which governments are likely to respond by taking full powers and converting them to command economies. Currencies will then presumably collapse and - well, it starts to get depressing to think about... And all because we have forgotten God (as Solzhenitsyn put the matter) a forgetting in which, astonishingly the church has colluded. Which Bishop stood up to enjoin his flock to spit in the face of death? Not a one. Instead, they were content to dress up for Mass looking like figures in a Jake and Dinos Chapman tableau.

Ultimately, though, this is surely a battle over the nature of reality itself. Is there really a world out there, are there really people, or do we just have (as Democritus, and Lucretius after him, said) atoms and molecules whirling round in empty space? And if there is a world, and there are people, where do they come from and what are they for? These are questions that we have forgotten how to answer.

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Hi Paul, in your interview with UnHerd you state that the “Elites”, representing Brexit Remainers, lost the EU referendum.

With respect I think you are losing perspective here.

To paraphrase Donald Trump, there are “elites” on all sides.

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I've been reading about the enneagram of personality. I read that my type is inclined to take the antithesis over the thesis based on my innate traits. Other types are more inclined to agree with "the narrative"; they are motivated by a deep unconscious (or subconscious?) need to avoid uncomfortable conflict. Interesting to ponder how much these simple personality variations may determine what we consider our deeply held truth. I had to laugh at myself! Of course the teaching is that all types reflect an aspect of divine truth and that we can be freed from merely playing out our type through spiritual growth.

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From Voltaire's Candide:

During this conversation, news was spread abroad that two viziers

of the bench and the mufti had just been strangled at Constantinople,

and several of their friends impaled. This catastrophe made a great

noise for some hours. Pangloss, Candide, and Martin, as they were

returning to the little farm, met with a good–looking old man, who was

taking the air at his door, under an alcove formed of the boughs of

orange trees. Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was disputative,

asked him what was the name of the mufti who was lately strangled.

“I cannot tell,” answered the good old man; “I never knew the

name of any mufti, or vizier breathing. I am entirely ignorant of the

event you speak of; I presume that in general such as are concerned in

public affairs sometimes come to a miserable end; and that they deserve

it: but I never inquire what is doing at Constantinople; I am contented

with sending thither the produce of my garden, which I cultivate with

my own hands.”

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Dec 9, 2021Liked by Paul Kingsnorth

New reader, I found this to be really insightful. Excellent articulation of one lens for viewing what’s happening in our world now, a lens that seems to capture much of the dynamic. I’ll be pondering this essay and applications of the competing story lens for quite a while I expect. Thank you, Paul.

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That's incredibly insightful. Thank you.

It explains beautifully why it feels like people on the other side of the debate are living in a parallel universe. Why we cannot understand or even hear each other, let alone have any kind of dialogue.

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There will be increasing and escalating conflict between democracy and technocracy - yes - and from my point of view it is a conflict that technocracy cannot win in the long run. My question is what will be lost during the struggle? Also - a more parochial question in every sense - I just wonder if the church, any church, is going to side with the democracy rather than the technocracy. My hopes aren't high; most church leadership was colonised by the technocrats a long time ago. Certainly the Church of England's institutional response is led by a former Chief Nursing Officer who (to share scurrilous gossip) professes to have 'no theology'. Mene Mene Tekel Parsin....

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Thanks, Paul, for a fascinating essay. The Manichean division between good/bad, true/false, clean/unclean, loyalist/traitor has been with us since the dawn of Time, and has manifested more recently in the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution, in Nazi Germany's quest for a judenrein nation, and in the multiple communist purges including the Holodomor, the Cultural Revolution, and the Killing Fields. They were, in their own twisted ways, attempts at "purification"--or in you terms, the complete triumph of one narrative over another.

There's something soothing to the human psyche about complete uniformity, be it a weed-free lawn, a sugar bowl without fly-specks, or a witch-free Colony. It saves us from the mental labor of perusing a diverse society and having to sort out friend from foe on a person-by-person basis. The narrative becomes a useful scythe or an application of RoundUp, leveling us all. And propagation of the narrative is made more powerful in our time by the efficiency of that which you correctly call The Machine.

All such purification drives have ultimately failed in the past. Why? And if "this time is different", why? I'm hoping you discuss these in your Part III.

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If it's true that what Limberg calls the Thesis (or Sheridan the Plague story) is the driving force behind the actions taken by European governments, such as ordering social distancing, imposing face masks in certain contexts, administering vaccines on a massive scale, etc., I would love to know what those who cleave to the Antithesis think governments *should* have done. With the wisdom of hindsight but acknowledging the uncertainty of counterfactuals, what do they think governments should have done, and what do they think would have happened then? Or do they in fact accept that those actions were perhaps justified but disagree with vaccine mandates and passports? In which case there might be some room for nuance. In a sense this is all water under the bridge, but if the Antithesis is to play a role in driving future decisions, surely it would be worth clarifying.

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Thank you, Paul. Another gem.

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There's an article in today's Herald Scotland by Neil Mackay: It's the Covid crazies who are perpetuating pandemic - not health experts. It's behind a paywall but the first couple of paragraphs are visible, and that's probably as much as most people could stomach. I never thought I would read something so unhinged and, frankly, disturbing in a Scottish newspaper. Many of the comments were outraged and disgusted by the article, so...they removed the comments and left the article up.

Neil Mackay and his ilk are not unintelligent; they know precisely what they are doing. The narrative they are crafting is a horror story, to be played out in the not-too-distant future if we don't quickly come to our senses.

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‘On the other hand, if (like me) you have been locked out of the life of much of your society for six months, for no reason which any science can justify and with no debate or consent, you are equally likely to snap at being told to ‘follow the science’, or trust the authorities to play nicely with your civil liberties.’

Although I chose to be vaccinated, I share many of the canonical views

of those opposed to it: revulsion at using state power to coerce people into medical treatments, a skepticism of Science and a growing suspicion of those who promulgate it, a fear that the extreme measures of control enacted in the name of pandemic management will not recede when the virus does.

While the vaccines have in some ways been a failure (ie they have not ended the pandemic despite mass uptake), is it not clear that they significantly reduce severe illness resulting from the virus? In my corner of the world, which features a relatively constrained supply of critical care facilities and physicians, this is a consideration of social importance. At the peak of the most recent wave unvaccinated made up a disproportionately high fraction of ICU admittants, resulting in surgeries etc being rescheduled (including one intended to remove a tumour from my dad).

As scornful as I am of the vaccine warriors who take to Twitter daily to broadcast their piety, this is something I’ve been weighing when I consider this issue.

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