From a Spiegel Inerview with John Cleese

I found this Spiegel interview with John Cleese very interesting, especially the following statement where he says that he thinks that it is not possible  that the planet can be run in a rational and kind way —

Here is what he says:

” . . . .  I think you can reduce suffering a little bit, like the Buddhists say, that is one of the few things I take seriously. But the idea that you can run this planet in a rational and kind way — I think it’s not possible. There will always be these sociopaths at the top — selfish people, power-seekers who want to spend their whole lives seeking it. Robin Skynner, the psychiatrist that I wrote two books with, said to me that you could begin to enjoy life when you realized how bad the planet is, how hopeless everything is. I reached that point these last two or three years when I saw that our existence here is absolutely hopeless. I see the rich people have got a stranglehold on us. If somebody had said that to me when I was 20, I would have regarded him as a left-wing loony. . . .  ”

Would you like to comment on this?

14 thoughts on “From a Spiegel Inerview with John Cleese

  1. What I find sad is that he fails to see the connection between capitalism and having a sociopathic elite running everything. In egalitarian societies where people are given a real say in running their own lives, historically people have been quite happy.

    1. I must say, Stuart, I do like an egalitarian society. Some fifty years ago Australian society seemed to us to be astoundingly egalitarian. We really liked this about Australia.

      John Cleese’s third divorce from American psychologist Alyce Faye Eichelberger, cost him 20 Million Dollars. Apparently he went on an “Alimony Tour,” as he called it, to raise money to pay to his ex-wife.
      Isn’t this rather ridiculous?

      I wonder how it was established that the ex-wife deserved $ 20 Million!

      Cleese says: “When we broke up, there were five properties. Now I have one very nice flat left in London, just around the corner. I don’t need anything else.”

    1. I wonder what would be a positive model, Robert. I think people have very different ideas about what sort of education is necessary and should be provided. A lot of young people who are not qualified for university studies, often do not even get any kind of job training! On the other hand these young people, who make it to universities, may have to acquire a lot of debt if for instance the university studies involve substantial fees..Maybe these students would only be interested in lucrative employment at the end of their studies. Is this a positive model?

      1. I had in mind a model that incorporates both mental and physical health: a health module from K-12. We could detect anti-social behavior and violent tendencies earlier and we could work with the parents. We know that a child’s self-esteem is as critical to its mental state as blood pressure, and we could get a better sense of that. We could teach children healthy coping mechanisms, and incorporate more science, so children could move at an accelerated rate in that area. We could also learn to diagnose and deal with extrinsic obstacles to learning. This is a major area to be explored if we want our children to reach their potential. Children should be taught healthy means of self-expression, and there would be an overlap with the arts and writing. The education that we teach for the most part is safe; we don’t have to examine a child’s mental life. By no means is a health module simple–it is enormously complex. But if we are truly to bring about a more peaceful, healthy world, a health module is essential.

  2. Robert you say: “We could also learn to diagnose and deal with extrinsic obstacles to learning. This is a major area to be explored if we want our children to reach their potential.”

    I think ideally every teacher would have a health model in mind. Surely, it ought to be possible to train teachers to look after the mental and physical health of say up to twenty students. I believe the way the system usually works is that it is mostly left to the parents, (possibly a single mother or father) to detect abnormalities in the child’s mental state.

    What comes to mind on this subject, is the curse of drug taking. In our society students as young as thirteen or twelve can possibly be lured into it. How is society supposed to cope with this? It seems to me that most parents are quite helpless in enforcing restrictions.

    1. Uta, it is unreasonable to expect teachers with no psychological training to look after the mental and physical health of twenty students. It’s virtually impossible, given the time restraints and the curriculum at hand. I remember it was hard for me to deal with seven students at the junior college level! Goal setting is essential: what are our objectives and goals? For me, I used the Ohio State method of language learning that places great emphasis on a student learning on his/her own toward developing confidence, and thinking on one’s own in all areas of life. I did not see myself as a teacher of Russian and Russian culture only, but as a teacher in the broadest sense, a guide. I noted that certain students had mental problems that kept them from achieving and tried to work with them. I think that was one of my earliest teaching experiences with obstacles to learning. One of my greatest achievements was when I received a call from one of my students’ mothers, telling me I had changed her daughter’s life. Later, that same student informed me that her boyfriend was the top student in the class. I was quite pleased as you might imagine. Of course, having a smaller number of students helped me establish closer relationships with my students and pinpoint problems. The goals you set sometimes produce the results you want.
      As for drugs, most adolescents that take hard drugs come from disturbed backgrounds. These backgrounds would be elucidated in the health course I’ve proposed. Marijuana and alcohol often arise through peer pressure. The problem needs to be tackled at that level.
      Parents are not that helpless! I’ve known many parents whose children are immersed in drug-ridden environments, but the children never touch drugs. It seems the key is goal setting by the parents and true dialogue that deals with children’s fears, dreams and convictions. And the feeling that they are loved for who they are!

      1. Thank you so much for this reply, dear Robert. It is quite thought provoking and heartwarming. With best Wishes for the Easter Season,
        Yours Uta. 🙂

  3. There are societies that work better than others. In countries where capitalism and money reign supreme, forget them , gambling, dog races, ice and mind boggling stupor and decay will tend to dominate.
    I am drawn to the countries such as Finland and Holland where enough people will keep a check on the extreme and idiotic extravagances of overtly capitalist systems.
    Australia is not one of those countries, a great pity.

    1. I think your are very right there, Gerard, we need to keep a check on the extreme. The capitalist system has a lot to answer for.
      The Australia of the sixties has been good to us migrants from Germany. This is why we do own our own home. I regard this as a big achievement. 🙂
      A lot of children of migrants do own their own homes too.

      The grandchildren of migrants from the fifties and sixties have to pay rather ridiculous prices if they also are out to purchase their own home, As you know, rent in sought after areas is very, very high. It is a speculator’s market!

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