Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it does.
Not content with usurping your moral sense, they want to excavate down to your roots where the most sacred things dwell…and bend them to the programme.
You will know of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the associated Agenda 2030. You will know how the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) corporate score is being used to throttle the credit streams available to businesses throughout the Western and Anglophone world. You will appreciate that the purpose of the ESG initiative is those same SDGs and Agenda 2030.
But that is not enough. Every individual must, in the core of their being, be fully and actively supportive of these same goals. Ignorance thereof must be cured by re-education. Dissent must be met with “interventions”.
Welcome to the Inner Development Goals (IDGs).
Its harshest detractors describe it as a brainwashing programme. Its target audience is everyone.
The Purpose of the IDGs is to Deliver the SDGs
You can see the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals here. Many are, at least superficially, impossible to regard as other than desirable. Have you something against sustainability or development? The devil is in the detail that lies behind the fine words (beware moral infantilism!). Several of the SDGs are, however, at least questionable and, in many people’s opinion (including mine), badly wrongheaded because they take a policy line which is wildly at variance with empirical reality. These include “climate action”, “gender equality” and “affordable clean energy”, at least.
And yet the IDGs constitute a programme of psychotherapeutic methodologies and practices whose declared purpose is to support the specific policy directives embodied in the SDGs.
Before reading further, take a look at this. This is the façade behind which the IDG programme is being advanced. It is designed to make it all-but impossible to criticise. What’s not to like? Under the headings “Being” / “Thinking” / “Relating” / “Collaborating” / “Acting” there are lists of motherhood-and-apple-pie words, like courage, perseverance, integrity and authenticity, humility, empathy and compassion…and critical thinking!
In the expanded and amplified version of the “IDG Framework Toolkit” you will find a plethora of psychotherapeutic / religious practices, such as mindfulness and meditations upon kindness and compassion. How could one be so unenlightened as to find fault with it?
The IDGs are effectively modelled on the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programmes which have been in schools for some time. But the IDGs are targeted at everyone in a big push to meet the SDGs by 2030. The enthusiasts themselves refer to the IDG process as “rewiring the brain”, as close a phrase as you might like to “brainwashing”. Health, well-being and flourishing feature large in the IDGs. How can one object? Well, one can easily object when it becomes evident that the health, well-being and flourishing they have in mind is not yours but the collective’s, and (ostensibly) the planet’s.
Based on its façade of fine words, there is nothing tangible with which to gauge the intentions of the IDG programme. Oh, there are the usual red-flag words, such as “sustainable”, “biosphere”, “collectives”, “stakeholders” and “diversity”, but nothing to indicate context or policy. What we have here is just the sugar coating, but not the bitter pill itself. It is the association of these fine sounding words with predetermined policies that constitutes a valid concern.
Here’s an example. In the IDG Phase 2 Research Report this observation is made: “Widening the scope of sustainability to include a psychological perspective also seems to be in line with the ambitions of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, IPCC, who in their report Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change mentions: “…meditation, yoga or other social practices that encourage lower carbon lifestyles”. Did you spot the non-sequitur? The presumption behind the IDG programme appears to be that, by “cultivating our inner life”, by “developing our cognitive skills” and by growing our personal qualities such as courage and humility, then alignment with the specific policies of the SDGs will automatically follow.
In other words, the broad thrust of the SDGs is beyond question, all that remains is to overcome the cognitive or psychological barriers to some people’s active participation in achieving them.
The organisers acknowledge the presumption that the IDG programme will lead automatically to alignment with the SDGs. In the context of evaluating the effectiveness of intervention methodologies, they note “The framework … needs to be relevant in relation to the SDGs. Therefore, a method that contributes to making these connections and that helps strengthen the case of the IDG-framework and its relation to reaching the SDGs should be viewed as favourable in the evaluation.”
They admit there is a tension between free opinion and guided opinion in the choice of methods to recommend in the Toolkit, but the direction to practitioners is clear…
“…we consciously try to avoid optimization of inner development with regard to a specific perspective and thus narrow inner development itself down. At the same time, inner development is addressed in the context of the IDG initiative with regard to the implementation of the SDGs and other sustainability concepts, which limits or could limit the notion of inner development that is entirely free.”
For groups working on their IDGs, their suggested starting point is…
“Define in advance a common goal that you want to achieve as a group. This goal should relate to the implementation of the SDGs or other sustainable concepts that serve the greater good.”
Aargh! The “greater good” is the ultimate red flag for collectivism.
In the context of one psychotherapeutic intervention the research report notes that, “although the connection to individuals’ engagement in sustainability issues is not that direct, nothing in the practice says that the values you identify shouldn’t align with, e.g., the planetary boundaries”. That sounds like a big hint! I interpret “planetary boundaries” to refer to the constraint of finite resources, and hence to the foundational concerns behind the SDGs. The same psychotherapeutic intervention is claimed to have been demonstrated to decrease “tendencies to get caught up in conspiracy theories”. Hmm. I’m rather sick of hearing that phrase. It only ever seems to apply to my opinions, never to opinions such as the oppression of women by men for millennia, or the supposed “genocide of trans”.
So, what is the bitter pill within the façade of the IDGs fine words? Watch their promotional video and see if you can spot it. They are careful. They know they cannot be too explicit because it would put people off. That’s why the programme is carefully presented in attractive gift wrapping. But you spotted it, didn’t you? It’s there: the usual “progressive” perspective that capitalism is the universal evil behind every wrong in the world. Perhaps you spotted, in the conversation between Indra Adran and Jan Henriksson the attitude that China was a model to be admired? She said, of the Chinese people in the context of our shortcomings in the West, “In their cultures or in their relationship between the individual and the State, for example, there is already a very different internal spiritual understanding of the relationship between the self and the society”. This is coerced obedience to the State being presented as a moral good. It puts me in mind of Hegel’s philosophy, which Popper identified as providing the intellectual underpinning of both forms of twentieth century totalitarianism, Marxist and fascist (see Appendix B of The Destructivists).
There are five things that I object to about the IDG programme,
- The policy outcomes are presumed at the outset, namely the SDGs/Agenda 2030;
- It is authoritarian;
- It is Malthusian;
- It is collectivist;
- It perverts many valid psychotherapeutic / religious practices by turning them to the above purposes.
The first of these I have already addressed, above.
The second and third Objections are addressed in the sections which follow.
As regards the fourth Objection, some people regard collectivism as a moral good. I regard my principal criticisms to be ,  and , so I consign my refutation of the moral validity of collectivism to Appendix A.
Finally,  is inherent in the IDG programme itself when contrasted with the other criticisms, [1-4]. I present extracts from the IDG Toolkit in Appendix B and suggest that what is intended may not be as fine as the words.
The Authoritarian Nature of the IDGs / SDGs
Authoritarianism is inherent in the nature of the UN.
The UN itself would claim to support democracy by promoting human rights, peace and security. However, it does not itself have a democratic mandate. Moreover, the (illogical) claim that democracy is inherent in the UN’s promotion of human rights is undermined by the UN’s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 29 para 3, which states: “Rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN”. In 1948 the UN thereby unilaterally declared itself to be the arbiter of what constitutes a human right. It never had a popular mandate to do so. Moreover, it is directly contrary to (for example) the US Declaration of Independence which holds that certain rights are inalienable and not of human origin.
The SDGs themselves sprang from a particular political and economic perspective about the future, as discussed in the next section. Whilst some of the SDGs (or, at least, some of their underlying Targets) would be almost universally supported, many are deeply questionable policies which, some informed parties claim, are rooted in overly pessimistic projections about the future. Yet the SDGs, via Agenda 2030, have been adopted within nation states as national policy simply due to UN guidance, thus bypassing any democratic mandate.
But the authoritarianism runs deeper if, as some claim, certain SDG policies have not been adopted because of their ostensible motivation but for ulterior motives associated with broader political objectives. This constitutes a mechanism whereby such postulated political objectives can be advanced without the involvement of the demos.
In short, the UN, and indeed the entire cosmos of trans-national organisations, undermine national sovereignty and hence bypass democracy which exits (or existed) only within nation states.
Finally, and most tellingly, authoritarianism is inherent in the manner in which the IDG programme has been devised and will be rolled out and implemented within organisations and the public. The presumption of its adherents is that the authority to promote the political and economic worldview embodied in the DSGs is not to be questioned. This unquestionable presumption rests upon their conviction that they know best; that their perspective is beyond doubt. The basic psychological stance is arrogance. And also snobbery: the conviction that only ignorant, uneducated plebeian’s could hold a different view. In short, they have anointed themselves the new Patricians.
The authoritarianism is evident, for example, in the presumption that organisations like private businesses will oblige employees to take part in IDG programmes. But I do not sell my labour on such terms, and no one has sought my permission via the ballot box. My political views are not my employer’s business. But that perspective is anathema to the axis promoting IDG. As a mere atom within the collective I am not to be given the option.
The IDGs will shortly be inescapable. Just as corporations rapidly adopted the EDI agenda and the compulsory training of staff on subconscious bias, so they will soon be rolling out IDG training for all staff. One can anticipate it will be linked to their ESG score, and hence to their access to investment funds. The IDGs will soon be in every iPhone. And with Google being one of the backers of IDG, the IDGs will inevitably be in every Android phone also. Six countries are lined up to pilot the programme, and Scotland is one of them. Rejoice.
There will be dissidents. The scheme’s response to dissent has already been specified. It will involve what the training material itself describes as “interventions”. What is prescribed is an enforced process of cognitive re-education akin to Social and Emotional Learning, i.e., stronger brainwashing. Dissent is identified with cognitive dissonance. (The identification of dissent with mental disorder is common in totalist mindsets). A specific programme known as EMC2 is the recommended intervention, its aim being to overcome the cognitive dissonance and promote “pro-social behaviour”, i.e., alignment with the SDGs. One imagines “struggle sessions”.
It would help if the ostensible bastions of morality, the religions, were taking a principled stand against this moral usurpation. Instead, many religious denominations are falling into line with the brave new woke morality. The Church of England has mostly fallen, many of the non-conformist churches have fallen, individual clergy in the Roman church have fallen and the Pope himself is preaching the approved narrative on climate change. Shame on them all for moral cowards.
The Malthusian and Degrowth Roots of the IDG / SDG Programme
The whole SDG / IDG programme is rooted in Malthusianism, as is the climate change / net zero agenda. This is made absolutely clear in the Introduction to the IDGs Phase 2b Research Report. The motivation lies in the anti-growth, or degrowth, movement. They sing the praises of Donella Meadows’ 1972 The Limits to Growth and the associated Club of Rome report.
Prediction five years hence is tricky; predictions made over half a century ago are valueless – unless it just so happens that the predictions align with your ideological perspective. And the IDGs Phase 2b Research Report makes explicit that the UN’s SDGs and Agenda 2030 were a direct response to those perspectives. The Malthusianism is evident in the key word “sustainable”, which is intended as the antithesis of “growth”.
However, this axis of thought is not monolithic. It would be a mistake to imagine perfect ideological alignment between all the UN’s groups and affiliates. You will find, for example, “Decent Work and Economic Growth” to be one of the SDGs, although the associated targets make clear that this is primarily aimed at the least developed countries. (Also, that Goal is mainly about social factors related to employment).
Nevertheless, does this not conflict with my claim that the IDG programme is essentially anti-growth? I think not. In the IDG programme I sense a more radical agenda even than the mainstream UN’s SDGs. The IDG Phase 2b Research Report states, “We still believe in continuing growth on a finite planet, but rather in terms of growing our inner skills and capabilities and without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We consider this inner development to be the growth that matters”.
The same report presents the results of a survey of opinions about the SDGs. It would seem that the survey was targeted only at enthusiasts. The report states, “it should be noted that the respondents are biased in their interest in sustainability and inner development”. The results appear to indicate that the respondents were either fully on-board with the SDG programme or else they thought the existing SDGs did not go far enough. The report notes that “common responses addressed opinions that the SDGs do not sufficiently consider the inter-connectedness between the 17 sustainability goals nor do they relate to the inclusion of growth, which some argue is at the core of the problems of sustainability”. I detect a hard-line degrowth lobby closely associated with this programme.
I note in passing that a widespread degrowth ideology would explain what I have always found to be the missing link in the ESG agenda. Whilst the pushing of the ESG agenda by the banks, investment companies and hedge funds is clear and unambiguous, one inevitably wonders what’s in it for them? If degrowth is the true objective, and if said banks and investment companies can do very nicely in such a scenario, then the puzzle is resolved. We are in danger of entering economic deep waters at this point, because the banks will know very well that they are sitting on top of an active volcano in the form of the currency Ponzi scheme they themselves have created. However, I’m not going there, not today.
Expect the IDGs, they’re coming your way.
Appendix A: The Moral Refutation of Collectivism
In the context of evaluating the effectiveness of possible interventions, the advice is given in the IDG Toolkit is that “The ‘collectively desired’ should always be the guiding star on your way”. There is little doubt that the axis of opinion from which the IDGs spring is fundamentally collectivist in outlook.
You do not need to be a profound moral philosopher to refute the collectivist heresy. I take as self-evident that morality is such that,
- your moral obligations cannot be rescinded, and,
- the execution of your moral obligations must be voluntary.
The first of these prevents the rich from buying their way out of obligations. We would hope that the priestly Indulgencies of the past were indeed a thing of the past. (Alas, they have returned in new guise). Nor can the expiation of sins be a price paid in advance.
On the second point, it is clear that an action performed only because there is a gun to your head cannot be regarded as virtuous. Indeed, it is merely selfish self-preservation.
The collectivist heresy holds that an individual’s moral obligation begins and ends with obedience to the collective. The Reductio ad Absurdum of the collectivist heresy then follows. If the collectivist position is interpreted as meaning that the individual has no responsibility for which actions are regarded as ethical, because this is determined by the collective, then the individual has rescinded his obligation and hence violated the first moral principle, above. On the other hand, even if you assume that the individual’s blind obedience is morally secure because the collective decision as to what constitutes “right action” is infallible, nevertheless the collectivist position obliges the individual to obedience. Hence, the resulting individual compliance, even with sound ethical actions, ceases to be voluntary and hence loses its moral validity. QED.
Liberalism is the political philosophy which places primacy in individual liberty. The boundary of one person’s liberty is another person’s liberty, and both are constrained by the requirement to inflict no physical harm on others. I speak of the classical Liberalism of Locke, Hume and J.S.Mill, not “liberalism” as the term is now commonly used (especially in the USA) which is a product of the spell-casters (see Appendix B). Under Liberalism the chief role of Government is to protect the liberty of individuals. Other than that, the role of Government is best kept to a minimum.
You will note that what is now commonly referred to as “liberal” is virtually the opposite of Liberal, and so it should not surprise you that such “liberals” are often profoundly illiberal.
Note how the key features of Liberalism have become confused with Conservatism. This is because the spell-casters have left these tenets of true Liberalism without a home. Moreover, the effect of their spells has been to denigrate the very principles of Liberalism. As a result these principles have inevitably become associated with Conservatives, which term now captures all those who oppose the faux-liberal / progressive agenda.
Forgive this plod through basic political theory. Its purpose is to clarify the ethical significance of espousing individual liberty as a political position. The matter hinges upon the essentially voluntary nature of the ethical orientation. If freedom of thought or action is prohibited, then the opportunity for valid ethical orientation is denied. Understood in this way, the liberty of the individual becomes a prerequisite for the exercise of the individual’s moral obligation. Conversely, infringement of individual liberty opens the door to moral corruption by frustrating the opportunity of individuals to manifest a valid ethical orientation.
Appendix B: Fine Words and Casting Spells
Below are some extracts from the Phase 2 Research Report’s amplification of the IDG Framework. The first few might be interpreted as rather collectivist, but I think it would be rather churlish to emphasise that aspect of them, at least as written. Most of these quotes seem entirely desirable. What would transpire in practice, when the SDGs are taken as a given, may be another matter. Who knows then what these fine words may come to mean?
- In what ways do you want to serve the good of the world? In what way does the organization you work for serve the good of the world?
- Do you nurture and sustain a keen and deeply felt sense of belonging to and being a part of a much larger whole such as humanity and the global ecosystem? Has the organisation you work for developed practices to establish and maintain a deeply felt sense of belonging to a much larger whole such as humanity and the global ecosystem?
- What helps you put the “we” over the “I” when the situation calls for it?
- What ideas do you have about how we can strengthen our individual and collective ability to sustain engagement and effort over time? Are there ideas in your organisation on how we can strengthen our individual and collective capacity to sustain our commitment and efforts over a longer period of time?
- Who and what helps you move into action when you perceive the suffering of others?
- Are you working on your ability to feel empathy and compassion even towards people who are very different from yourself and who may act in ways you disapprove of?
- Do you sometimes feel more concerned about looking good than you would like to?
- Are you serious about having an inquirying (sic) mindset when you encounter views that are very different from your own?
- Is your organisation serious about adopting an enquiring stance, even if views emerge that are very different from those that are common in your organisation?
- Can you recall moments when the organisational context in which you work has allowed you to express yourself freely without fear of consequences?
- How do you identify the blind spots in your own beliefs?
- Are you nurturing your habit of asking inquiring and critical questions in relation to significant assertions? Does your organisation maintain a culture where it is possible to ask critical questions in relation to significant assertions?
- Has your organisation developed practices to include dissenters?
- Do you have the impression that your organisation makes a serious effort to be inclusive of those who think differently?
To what extent do these fine words reflect what the IDG programme would actually do?
Words are important. They cast a spell on you. The black magician reads his spells from a spell book. Spells are words which tell stories which enchant and beguile, the clue is in the etymology. (I invite you to meditate on “gospel” – yes, it is indeed a contraction of “good” and “spel”, the latter being the German spelling(!) – “good”, not “God”, mind you).
In my book, The Destructivists, I emphasise the central importance to the “progressive” narrative of the usurpation of the public’s moral sense. One of the tricks used to usurp the public’s moral sense is to change the meaning of words. The word itself – the sequence of letters – has already gained acceptance, perhaps as carrying certain ethical implications. The black magicians then use the word in a changed sense, without ever declaring clearly that the meaning has been changed. By this trick the word already has a passport through the cognitive gatekeepers of your ethical core. Such words become Trojan horses, smuggling into your moral sense the worldview of those who would control you . You will be familiar with many examples: “violence”, “racist”, “liberal”, “misinformation”, etc.
As always, control of the media and the educational institutions provides the mechanism for promulgating these changed meanings without the public ever becoming aware they have been manipulated. The new meanings are then accepted as morally compelled and the old meanings forgotten. Beware these spells as you beware moral infantilism.