Tales from the Departure Lounge

#32 Simon Anholt (Good Country, Selfish Country)

December 13, 2023 Andy Plant & Nick Cuthbert Season 2 Episode 32
Tales from the Departure Lounge
#32 Simon Anholt (Good Country, Selfish Country)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Simon Anholt is the world's leading authority on 'nation brands' having coined the term in the 1990s. He is the founder of a number of global surveys that track the perception of countries and cities, including the Good Country Index and the Nation Brands Index.  He joined the TFTDL crew to tell us why killing people is a bad thing, the sign that we've entered the Asian-century, and what yak soup really  tastes like.  

His TED talk has over 12 million views, he has been a policy advisor for over 60 governments around the world and he even created his own country. He also has a morbid fear of flying. It's time to abandon your prejudices and open your mind to what role each country plays in a globalised world. Can we be less selfish and just be good-er? 

Final boarding call: The Faroe Islands (again!) 

This episode is sponsored by AHZ Associates - trusted UK university representatives helping students from all over the world to enrol in British universities. Find out more at www.ahzassociates.co.uk

Tales from the Departure Lounge is a Type Nine production for The PIE www.thepienews.com

Andy:

does that sound straightforward?

Nick:

Just in the nick of time.

Andy:

Awesome, should we crack on?

Nick:

Welcome to Tales from the Departure Lounge. This is a podcast about travel for business, for pleasure, or for study. My name's Nick and I'm joined by my co-pilot, Andy. And together we're gonna be talking to some amazing guests about how travel has transformed their. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey. Welcome to the podcast.

Andy:

Wow, wow, wow, Nick, this was interesting,

Nick:

what an episode.

Andy:

Today we have Simon Anholt on the podcast. He's the executive chairman at Anholt Co and the founder of the Good Country Index.

Nick:

He's advised over 60 countries on nation branding. and I love these ones because they are outside of the higher education sector. It's a different perspective on the world.

Andy:

but actually really relevant because it's talking about how countries, cities and regions are perceived, which is very much in our wheelhouse. who does the most good, and who are the not good guys? He wouldn't let us call them bad guys, would he?

Nick:

Yeah. The opposite of good is selfish.

Andy:

His TED Talk on YouTube has over 12 million views, it's called, Which Country Does Most Good in the World he's created these metrics and for the last ten years he's been measuring countries against each other things like exporting violence, that's a bad thing. Killing people is terrible.

Nick:

And he's even gone as far as creating his own country, Which is called the good country.

Andy:

He did that because he doesn't like Nation states as they exist now. So why not create something different?

Nick:

I can see the logic. he has very specific statistics on the number of miles he's flown. Um, he's actually afraid of flying.

Andy:

he said he'd flown over 2 million miles, taken over 2, 000 flights, and he cannot bear flying. That's masochism. He's very generously provided a PDF for any of our listeners to download of his latest book. wE can't put it out onto the public internet. email us and we'll send you the book

Nick:

answers on a postcard to sickbagattailsfromthedeparturelounge. com.

Andy:

He's the creator of an incredible index that can be used for shaping a better world. He takes two passports on his travels, thinks having opinions is a bad idea, but that's his opinion, and likes a nice warm bowl of yak soup. Let's get some tales from the Departure Lounge from Simon Anhalt.

Simon:

The first thing to say about the Good Country Index is that I mean good the opposite of selfish. I don't mean good the opposite of bad, Britain has got a huge image problem and that's because it's got a huge reality problem and the two things are never very far away from each other. a colleague of mine and I started a new country, which we called The Good Country. How about a grown up people to actually believe in the future of humanity instead of endless fucking competition? I'm so morbid about this that I keep an accurate record of every single flight I've ever taken. I have flown 2, 598, 983 miles and I've taken 2, 184 flights. every single one of them, in a state of utter abject misery.

Nick:

before we get into the episode, I want to quickly tell you about a new sponsor for the show. AHZ are a company close to my heart. They are official UK university representatives and they support students from all over the world to study in the UK. For more than a decade, they've grown with the UK sector to be one of the most trusted of agents. Their enrollment data now places them easily as one of the top recruitment partners for UK universities. You may have noticed that their competitors have all started to promote other study destinations, such as Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand. So for British universities, it is becoming harder to stand out. a strategic decision to stay loyal to the UK and remain destination specialists. Students literally have a world of university choices now. But if a student is passionate about studying in the UK, AHZ are perfectly placed to represent your institution, your unique features and your recruitment objectives around diversity and quality. They are proud to represent the UK and they want to work hard for you. We always say that they are a local agent with a global reach. So if by some miracle you're not already partnered with them, I suggest you get in touch for 2024. AHZ are one of the biggest success stories in the sector. Don't take my word for it, just ask around. There are many people who will vouch for them. Check out ahzassociates. co. uk Now let's get on with the episode.

Andy:

Simon, thanks so much for coming on to the podcast. The first question we ask all of our guests is, if you could take them anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

Simon:

I think up there in the top five would probably be the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, just because it's a place that not very many people have been to. And it's, really worth it.

Andy:

And what first took you to the Faroe Islands?

Simon:

same reason that I go everywhere because. My job involves advising governments in other countries on how they connect with the international community and various other things like that. and that was the reason I had to go to the pharaohs, the nice thing about my job is that I get to know the places quite well because I have to go there quite often. Sometimes I have to stay for a few weeks at a time or even a few months at a time. the pharaohs, I went there six, seven, eight times for people who don't know, it's a dependency of the Danish crown. It's a chain of tiny little islands in the middle, of the ocean. You have to try and imagine, The Grand Canyon, spray painted green, turned upside down and plonked down in the middle of the Atlantic. that's what it looks like, but it doesn't really do it justice. It's staggeringly beautiful.

Andy:

a fantastic description. when you went, you were invited by the government, what do they expect you to do when you're there?

Simon:

I talk to people. Right across society, from, prime minister or president, right down to the, people literally tilling the fields or studying in the universities, how they see their own country and its role in the world. whAt are you most proud of? What are you least proud of?, what could be its gift to the world Because what we're trying to do is grand strategy. I have this pet theory that in the age of globalization really every country has to have a very clear idea about its reason for existing. And the answer to serve our own people is just not good enough anymore AnD we end up with a plan for where the country should go and what its contribution to the world could be. And then we start figuring out how it can do that

Andy:

but then you have the Good Country Index, that's a league table of whether countries are good or not. how does that come about?

Simon:

Guess the first thing to say about the Good Country Index is that I mean good the opposite of selfish. I don't mean good the opposite of bad, because who am I to judge whether a country is morally good or bad? What the Good Country Index tries to do is it tries to measure the net contribution of each country to the world outside its own borders? There are lots of country rankings out there, from happiness to prosperity to productivity What they all have in common is that they look at countries. Independently and individually, as if they were completely disconnected from the rest of the world. And that's so stupid because the whole point about the age that we're living in today is that everything is connected, whether we like it or not. Everything we do in our own little countries, sooner or later has an impact on everybody else. We collect, 35 big data sets that are mostly produced by the United Nations family. And those 35 indicators measure a whole range of things like, how many people have you killed this year? You being the country, not being, Andy. so if it's the pharaohs, How many people have been killed as a result of? Actions by the Faroe Islands outside the Faroes. If you want to kill your own people, that's not nice, but it's not what we're measuring I'm not suggesting that governments should be allowed to kill their own people, but what I am interested in is how many people around the world and call me old fashioned, but I think that's a bad thing to kill. and then there are other things like for example, how many tons of carbon dioxide have you emitted? because that of course affects everybody else. How effective have you been at sharing your country's culture? How many students from other countries have come and studied in your country? I think that's a good thing. how many, refugees, have you, welcomed in your country? And what we end up with is seven sub indicators. Like peace and security, knowledge and science. planet and environment and then an overall ranking, which is the one I basically use to punish and embarrass countries,

Andy:

I guess that was my question. With all indices and all rankings, who are the movers and shakers? Who's becoming better and who's becoming worse?

Simon:

the correct term is gooder and un I'm so sick of Nordic countries always coming at the top of every bloody index. One of these days, somebody, is going to come up with a country ranking that doesn't have a Nordic country at the top, but it's surprisingly difficult to do, so Sweden comes first, but that doesn't mean that Sweden is a good country, it means it's slightly less selfish than all the others,

Nick:

you said the killing of people or being, participating in wars, is one of the statistics measured, Sweden, I think I'm right in saying, makes the weapons, but it doesn't actually participate in the wars. How'd feel about that?

Simon:

Oh, I feel very strongly about it. And that's one of the very, very fundamental reasons why the Good Country Index exists, because it points these discrepancies out. As long as people can somehow be encouraged just not to look at the overall ranking and then walk away. If you look at the sub rankings, what you'll see is that Sweden on the, peace and security ranking, it ranks disgracefully low. And that's because it produces and exports large amounts of weapons and munitions. and not all of them are supplied to friendly Western democracies. Not all of the handguns are supplied to foreign police forces. Now South Africa is a country which is known to be quite violent. It has huge problems with domestic law and order. Large numbers of people get killed by murder every year. And people say this index is wrong. Don't you know about South Africa? Well, actually, yes, we do know about South Africa. And the data that we're using, tells us is that South Africa. And many other countries of that sort are basically so busy trying to stop people getting killed in their own territory, they don't have time to go around killing anybody else. And so the amount of violence that South Africa exports. At least directly in measurement is extremely low

Nick:

I'd never considered exported violence versus domestic violence.

Simon:

It's important.

Nick:

this is fascinating.

Simon:

there's another index which I produce every year, which I've been producing for far longer since 2005, which is called the Nation Brands Index. And that's a large international opinion poll, which measures people's prejudices about other countries. And what you begin realize is that although countries do change their behavior every year, we, the human race, never change our minds about other countries. We will do almost anything rather than change our mind about what we think another country is all about or what it stands for. Ever since I started running it back in 2005, it's always only ever been America or Germany, most admired country on earth. And this year in 2023, for the first time ever, the most admired country on earth was Japan. So that's kind of earth shattering.

Andy:

We did our own, survey, Simon, on LinkedIn, and Japan came out the top place that people want to visit.

Simon:

so one of us isn't lying. That's really reassuring. Japan is an advanced democracy, but it's certainly not Western. And maybe one day historians will look back on this and they'll say that index, which Anhalt did and which everybody's forgotten about called the Nation Brands Index. That was the first little indicator that we were actually in the Asian century,

Nick:

I'm absolutely loving this, Simon. There are a lot of countries that have had significant. Conflict in recent years, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen. so do you have to go and meet those governments and sit and talk and listen to their perspectives on their own country? Do they tell you why they should be in the top 10 and not at the bottom of the list?

Simon:

No, the Good Country Index is totally, totally separate from my advisory work. The vast majority of the countries in the index are countries I, I haven't advised. I mean, I think I've probably worked with What is it now, 66 or 67 governments, um, as a policy advisor since I've been doing that work, but there are, that leaves 100, uh, in the Good Country Index, um, that I haven't advised, and quite a few of those I've never even visited. The, the Good Country Index is not based on my views. My own personal opinions simply don't come into it. And, if they did, I realize by now that I would have been wrong most of the time because my guesses about which countries contribute the most to the rest of the world are nearly always wrong.

Andy:

You've been to all these places, on a mission of finding out about them, which countries surprised you the most?

Simon:

Luckily I'm terrified of flying, so I never get bored with travel. every flight I have to take. is as terrifying as the first. but we can come back to that topic. Anyway, surprise is, It's almost an inevitable part of every overseas experience because you're going to be seeing things that you haven't seen. the first time I went to Bhutan, my very first evening there outside Thimphu in a little guest house. And I was served some soup. I was surprised because it had meat in it, and I thought they were Buddhists. And it turned out, surprise number two, that it was yak, which I'd never eaten before, and it's delicious. Tastes like beef, but nicer. Surprise number three, when I said to my host, forgive me, but I'm surprised that you served me this dead animal. I thought you didn't eat animals. And he said, well, no, but you're an honored guest. they speak beautiful English in Bhutan. It's the language of instruction in the school, so as you probably know, makes things very easy for idiots like me who don't happen to speak the language. and, basically it turned out that, that they'd killed this yak, in order for me to eat the meat soup that, as a Westerner, I would certainly want. And I said, but as a Buddhist, how could you possibly kill this poor animal to feed it to me? He said, sometimes they fall over cliffs. So this was kind of four surprises in a row. And every single country I ever go to is just basically one long surprise.

Nick:

And I'm hoping that you had seconds of the yak. that's a lot of yak for one person to eat.

Simon:

I did have seconds. It was really delicious, and I did have it the next day.

Nick:

Yak sandwiches for lunch

Andy:

The next section of the podcast is called Any Laptops, Liquids or Sharp Objects? This is where you can tell our listeners about any travel hacks you have or any advice as a traveller.

Simon:

One of the things that I, always take with me, is a very nice, beautiful, brand new, quite expensive notebook, because as I'm waiting for the plane to leave. I go into the airport bookstall to try and take my mind off what is about to happen to me. And, in the airport bookstalls, they very cleverly sell beautiful notebooks, which almost everybody wants to buy, because they think they're going to take notes. And maybe other people do, but I never do. I never write a single word because I'm so busy talking and listening. And luckily, I seem to be able to remember things. but I carry on bringing them with me because, then I find what I can do is I can give an unused, beautiful, expensive Western notebook to somebody nice in the country. And then that makes space. in my carry on luggage, which is all I ever take with me, for the very heavy coffee table book about the country which my hosts invariably insist on me taking away with me, even though they know I haven't got the room for it and it's too heavy. Sometimes they give me knives and matches and things like that. Matches, literally. In Sweden, I was given a beautiful collection box of old vintage Swedish matchboxes, all full of live matches. And I couldn't leave this, because Sweden used to be famous for making matches, And they were beautiful, about 50 of them in a presentation box. And I'm always convinced that if I ever do put any of the gifts people give me in the hotel wastebasket, the hotel will report it back to the government and tell them my name will be mud forever. And so I nearly missed my plane as a result of emptying out 50 boxes of matches. into the hotel waste basket, my conscience struck me as I was checking out of the hotel because I thought this is a huge fire hazard. I mean, I've just tipped about 50, 000 live matches into the waste paper bin in my room, so I had to tell the hotel staff as I was checking out. And I thought they would just say, Yeah, don't worry, we'll clear it up. And the person looked extremely worried and said, open down Could you just wait here a moment? I need to call the manager. And as a result of the explanations, I very nearly did miss my plane.

Nick:

An unusual bomb threat, saying that you've left flammable waste in the bin.

Simon:

By the way, there's another thing I always take with me, and that's a spare passport. in the UK you can actually have two passports if you want. You have to prove that you need to. And it's either because you are going to two countries where they won't let you in if you've got a visa from the other country. or as in my case, because you are traveling. Literally every week, and you sometimes have to hand in your passport to an embassy in order to get a visa, and that would prevent you from traveling. And the reason why I always take both of them with me is because I'm constantly convinced that I'm going to lose one of my passports, or that I'm going to have it confiscated, or that I'm going to be caught filling my hotel room with flammable materials And I figure that with a second passport, they're not expecting that so i'll be able to escape.

Andy:

I used to have two passports, for the reasons you've explained. But I was told that some countries, it's illegal to travel with two passports. You're not have them both at the same time.

Simon:

That's absolutely right. There are some countries where if they find two passports, they will arrest you So you need to keep them in different parts of your luggage

Andy:

One in your pants.

Simon:

or in your pants

Nick:

So, Simon, you're going to have to tell us a little bit more about this fear of flying. You've clearly picked the wrong profession

Simon:

I wasn't always scared of flying when I was much younger. in my early twenties, I'm pretty sure that I loved flying. I have a distinct recollection of one of my first ever jobs. I remember being in a Pan Am plane over the South China Sea and there was a typhoon, and the plane was dancing around all over the place. It was really quite serious turbulence, the overhead lockers were bursting open and suitcases coming out and, experienced, cabin crew shouting and screaming, and I remember myself, enjoying it in a sort of Yahoo cowboy, you know, as if I was on a fairground ride. I to me now, that just seems scarcely credible, but I definitely remember it, and I think it changed when I started making babies. I don't, I don't make the babies. Well, I, I'm part of the process of making the babies when I started having children. Sorry, let's try and use ordinary human language here. when I first started having children and the first time you realized that if you didn't come back there's somebody who might really mind a lot. It suddenly started making me anxious about just everything, suddenly I found that all of that stuff That might end up with me dying. I was really anxious about I'm so morbid about this that I keep an accurate record of every single flight I've ever taken. And the Excel spreadsheet I've been religiously keeping since I started doing this work tells me that I have flown 2, 598, 983 miles and I've taken 2, 184 flights. every single one of them, in a state of utter abject misery. I love other countries. I just don't like getting there. And I don't much like getting home again. So I don't know how you get over it. I've tried absolutely everything. I just end up meditating on my imminent death. It's perfectly obvious that there's absolutely no way on earth that airplanes can actually fly, right? It's a very large, very heavy metal object full of human flesh, right? There's no way that that thing can suspend itself in the air, And the only reason why it actually does this is because every single person on the plane apart from me believes it. They're all absolutely convinced. And so it's collective belief that keeps it in the air. And me and my doubts. are enough to bring the whole thing down. So that's why they shouldn't let me on planes.

Andy:

Now you're publicizing these doubts, Simon. Now everybody's gonna think that and these planes are just gonna start falling out of the sky. like fairies you don't believe in them.

Nick:

This isn't Santa's sleigh being flown on, the dreams of children. we do have an episode with a pilot, so I suggest you listen to that and the real science behind.

Simon:

I know the real science of fine aviation. I. try to know as much about the physics of it and the stats and the data. I am, what's it called? air crash disaster. I keep that show going I've watched every episode since they started,

Nick:

simon, can I suggest that maybe you should take flying lessons? Maybe you should face this head on and actually take control of the plane

Simon:

yeah, I've done that. I, I did have a flying lesson for exactly that reason. the trouble is that they won't let you, on the controls of anything but a very small plane. And very small planes are very sick making. and I was so ill that I couldn't face the prospect. I don't get airsick in big jetliners, but little aeroplanes I do. If I did learn to be a pilot, that would work. Because, you know, I'm not scared of driving,

Andy:

The next section of the podcast is called, What's the purpose of your visit? why do you do what you do?

Simon:

job I love. I had somehow or other pieced together in my mind a very clear idea of exactly what I wanted to do. And The job didn't exist. The industry around it didn't exist. And by the way, I wasn't remotely qualified to do it either. I just lied. but the interesting thing about being the only expert in the world on a particular topic is that you are by default the world's leading expert. And so without actually lying, I was able to say to the first few governments that I was the world's leading expert on on national image. You start with a very small idea, which is that countries have got images. They're perceived in a certain way by the people who don't live in that country. And that, that factor has a huge impact on the destiny of that country. If it's got a good, powerful, positive image, then it'll get more tourists, it'll get more investment, it'll get more talent, it'll get more students, it'll host more expos and all the rest of it. And if it's got a bad or a negative or a weak image, nobody will come there, nobody will invest there, nobody will buy its products, nobody will hire its people. And that seemed to me such a obvious but somehow magically overlooked proposition that I thought I'll spend a few months just working through that, maybe do some research and here I am, 25 years later. still fascinated by it,

Nick:

and you said you've now advised over 60 countries. you ever advised Great Britain? I would suggest that they might need some advice on branding at the moment.

Simon:

Um, yes, how right you are. Branding is a horrible word and it's a word that I, I've spent much of the last 25 years trying to stamp on because I was, the bloke who made the mistake of coining the term nation branding back in the late 90s, and it was a big mistake because it caught on. And of course, everybody assumes that means if you want your country to have a better image, all you have do is to hire a PR agency or a branding agency, and they'll turn you into Nike overnight. And of course, that's almost exactly the opposite of the truth. Countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say about themselves. Britain has got a huge image problem and that's because it's got a huge reality problem and the two things are never very far away from each other. Ever since Brexit, it's been very clear from the nation brands index that. faith, interest, respect and admiration for the UK is declining quite quickly, and that's very significant because what the Nation Brands Index tells us is that it's much more normal for countries to go the other way. One of, one of the most pleasant things I've discovered from the Nation Brands Index is that almost everybody likes almost every other country a little bit more with every year that passes. The whole graph goes gradually, gradually upwards. There's only one exception to that, and that's, the Russian Federation. Only Russia has got a lower perception score today than it had when I started doing the Nation Brands Index in 2005. With every year that passes, We as human beings, become more and more used to the idea that we share the same planet, that we're interconnected, that we're interdependent, and it's well known in psychology that as you become more accustomed to an idea, you become more favorable towards it. I was on the client side with the UK. I was vice chairman of the foreign office public diplomacy board. Public diplomacy is just a posh word for nation branding. And we were responsible for looking after and managing the image of the UK. And we did. Terrible job of it, but mainly because no other parts of government listen to anything we said.

Andy:

Do you see a future where there are fewer or no countries?

Simon:

It's a question that often comes up. Why does the state exist? The state exists, to wield the legitimate use of force, in order to create a functioning and lawful society. And that's pretty much beyond argument, but it doesn't have to be a nation state to do that. Most modern countries are just too big to be strictly governable. It makes no difference whether they're democratically run or whether it's, authoritarian tyranny. As soon as you've got more than,, maybe even half a million people, in one polity, it becomes almost literally ungovernable. And some of the states that we see today, like, I don't know, the United States, where 300 million people. That's not a governable entity. And even if you split it up into a federation as the Americans have, it doesn't really help. It's too many people to govern effectively. So the city states seem to work better. It's a more natural unit for people to feel loyalty to and to participate in the management and the running of. And that, I think, by the way, is the secret of it. Getting citizens closely involved in the running and the management. If you look back to the early years of the city state, medieval Florence, for example, there was a real relationship of love and trust between the citizen and the city at all levels, from Cosimo de Medici, who basically owned the place right the way down to the serfs at the bottom and that relationship of love and trust between the city and the citizen has, has morphed in our present day. To a relationship of prostitution. We basically hurl a handful of coins at our governments and we say to them, you sort it, I don't want to know. you'll only hear from me if you mess up and then I'll call customer service. But increasingly when we call customer service, there's nobody there because the population is too big. In 2018, a colleague of mine and I started a new country, which we called The Good Country. And it was a virtual country online. I'd previously done some, research which, Suggested that there were over 700 million natural cosmopolitans, on the planet. We thought it's time they had a country that matched their beliefs and their values. How about a grown up people to actually believe in the future of humanity and collaboration and cooperation instead of endless fucking competition? Want me to say that again without the F word in the middle of

Andy:

no, swearing's fine.

Simon:

aNd so the good country did actually launch and we had quite a large number of people sign up to become virtual citizens of it. The hope was, in future years, the good country would be recognized as a virtual country. a nation state by the UN and then we would be able to solve the problem of stateless persons in one second because we just issued them with good country passports

Andy:

were you the king?

Simon:

aBsolutely not. And that was one of the reasons why I only ever wanted it to be an experiment. Basically, we're all arseholes. And if you put somebody in a position where they can be a bigger arsehole than everybody else, they will do it.

Nick:

I think there is a general rule with nation branding that whatever you say you are, you aren't. The People's Republic of China. The Democratic Republic of Congo. So I have an issue around you calling it good country. I think maybe you should go for slightly above average country something like this.

Simon:

two things to say to that, both of them rather aggressive. the first one is that, yes, slightly above average country is funny if you British irony. irony is a product that doesn't cross boundaries very effectively. And I think an awful lot of people would just be a little bit puzzled and say, well, if it's not very good, why on earth would I want to be a citizen of it? I think irony is a really messed up way to behave. you just go around saying something that's slightly different from what you actually mean in order to confuse people and get a laugh out of them. Anyway, that was the first aggressive response. And then the second aggressive response was the People's Republic of China. Just saying, you don't think that that's a good name for it. I think you probably find that with all its faults, a very, very large number of people in the PRC would probably say that's the perfect name for it. And who should judge? They or you? We're like fish in the proverbial goldfish bowl. We only ever see anything the world through a lens of water and we don't even know it's there and it distorts. And I've always felt that the ultimate achievement for me or for anybody would be to get to the stage where you could actually look at things, look at people, look at events, look at history, look at contemporary politics. not through the lens of your own culture or anybody else's culture, and then you would have achieved real wisdom.

Andy:

The last section of the podcast is called Anything to Declare, and this is a free space for you to talk about whatever you'd like to.

Simon:

Gosh, we've done nothing else for the last hour really, have we? to be a vice chancellor.

Andy:

I can't tell whether you're joking.

Simon:

No, no, I'm serious. That's my, that's my, that's my retirement plan.

Nick:

After you just chastised me for irony, I'm now really unsure about, about your donor voice.

Simon:

No, no, I'm absolutely serious about that. It seems to me to be the ideal thing to do at my kind of age. Okay, can I have a rant about the worst thing in the world?

Andy:

Please.

Simon:

so here's my rant. the worst thing in the world is opinions. And, opinions, have often been fatally and wrongly equated with knowledge, intelligence, understanding, and wisdom. And actually opinions are anathema to all of those things. And I would say to everybody, and do say to everybody I meet, if you find yourself forming more and more opinions, there's something badly wrong and the way that you're acquiring wisdom. Opinions are the bane of modern society. There's something about social media in particular that requires us all to have very strongly felt opinions on every single damn thing that's going on anywhere on the planet, which is absolutely impossible. And now at the age of 62, I would say that I only have three opinions. and when I was, 22, I probably had thousands. And I'm very pleased and proud to note that I've been sloughing them off as I've got older. And the reason why that happens is not because you're becoming ignorant or you're forgetting things, I hope. It's basically because you're understanding more and you're beginning to realize that an opinion is an impossible thing to have. Because every single topic is so complex. And there are two sides to every argument, that's the first thing you realize. And then you realize that actually it's never anything like two. It's many, many, many more than two, even on apparently simple subjects. Down with social media, because social media Is, the force that has made this happen because social media thrives on controversy and outrage

Nick:

this is about tribalism,

Simon:

We ally ourselves to a particular, individual or political party or tribe on the understanding that it's a reliable wholesale provider of opinions on all the topics that we need to have opinions on. And so instead of the, what was usually the case in history, where, people's, opinions produced their politics, it's now our politics which produce our opinions. The whole machine has gone into reverse. The question is, where do we find the courage to step away from the things that we've done in the past? Because unless we can do that, there's no progress. There can be no creativity.

Andy:

Great questions, I think, for us to finish on. Thanks so much, Simon, for coming on. It's been wonderful having you.

Simon:

It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

Andy:

I'll look out for vice chancellor's jobs for you.

Simon:

Thank you, if you wouldn't mind.

Nick:

Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. As always. If you are a fan of the show. Please leave a review or emailers at sick bag, a tales from the departure lounge.com. Tales from the Departure Lounge is a type nine production for the pie.

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