I spent most of my life believing I was being nudged. I don’t believe I stumbled across the word until recently; but the feeling I was, forever.
In the past two years, whilst doing my MA in International Criminal Justice, the levels of my being nudged – and my need to resist, above all – grew dramatically.
It’s undoubtedly true – at least to my mind – that advertising first, marketing second, machine politics third, and – ultimately – criminal networks, whether state-sponsored or private, have all been, are all now using the theory and practice of nudge to achieve their more or less legitimate goals.
And the levels of mental ill-health, of real mental distress in societies utterly unable to let their citizens just be – forever tagged, notified, liked and unliked, photographed, commented on, even disordered and medicalised when simply eccentric (when normal in their eccentricity, too!) – is more astonishing insofar as we are unable to perceive properly the reasons why.
Out of my perception – once described and diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia – of this infrastructure and tool of nudge as practised and theorised and finally incorporated in almost every stage of 21st century endeavour, I am looking in the year of 2018 to prove that many more perceptive people like myself have been put away and dismissed as disordered for two main reasons:
- As a general rule, psychiatrists – professionals more widely – refuse to think outside of their procedures. This is understandable in a 19th-century world of reasonable constancy. But to refuse to act in a multidisciplinary way – to refuse to be aware of change with medical and diagnostic implications – in the 21st is bordering on irresponsibility. Just one example: before blogging and social networks came along, writing a lot was considered a diagnostic factor in many so-called disorders. It still is, in fact. It shouldn’t be. Or if it should, let it be a diagnosis for the billions on Facebook.
- Nudge can be used for real good. But anything which can be used for real good will also be used for real bad. This is just human nature, throughout history. Where is the analysis, currently, that nudge is being used to hurt us? Where is the debate and discussion? Where is the data and the media? Point me in its direction, if you shall. And then explain its rigour and independence.
2018, then, is when bad, when criminal, nudge will be in my crosshairs. It is when I shall research the reality – or not – of my thesis: that democratic institutions – that societies more broadly – are being gamed by those who prefer not to take ownership for their control and directing of the once blessed beasts.
Democracy’s perversion is to be in my crosshairs for so many reasons: some very personal, some entirely altruistic.
I hope it will also be in yours over the next twelve months.