Feng shui is a threat to the nation

SOME BLAME millennial anxiety, others say that it is all this cocaine which everybody seems to be taking. Personally, I suspect that the problem is with the mobile phones upon which millions have become as dependent as panicky toddlers clinging on to their blue blankets. To judge by the conversations one is forced to overhear - "Hullo, Jenny, I'm now on the train, I'll be there in approximately 40, no, 43, minutes" - small nodules of stupidity are growing within the inner ear before cross- pollinating in a creepy, Monsantine fashion throughout the skull. The resulting mental imbalance is there for all to see, with the crying, sentimental, unthinking part of the brain colonising what used to be rationality.

The most obvious, and embarrassing, symptom of the new stupidity is to be found in the craze for the Far Eastern practice of feng shui. All over the country, it seems, there are people who believe that a blocked door in the house can cause constipation and that wind-chimes over the bed will enhance marital happiness, while regularly sprinkling rice around the perimeters will help personal growth. Those, like me, who live in an incomplete and spiritually unlucky L-shaped house should apparently think of moving to more harmonious surroundings.

Harmless enough tosh, one might think. For hundreds of years, wise and gentle Chinese have presumably believed in the energy of ch'i and the need for correctly sited doorways and spiritually acceptable colour schemes in their bamboo huts without any obvious ill-effect. In the West, there has always been a market for this kind of thing, whether it be feng shui, astral projection, levitation or contacting Auntie Doreen on the other side.

Only the other day, Talk Radio devoted an hour-long phone-in to a man who was convinced that human beings essentially communicate backwards; that all sorts of fascinating, weird stuff can be deciphered, for example, by playing the speeches of Bill Clinton on a reverse tape.What is now odd and alarming is that exotic belief systems and cranky conspiracy theories no longer merely appeal to the vulnerable and feeble-minded; they have a vast constituency. Callers to Talk really took seriously the man with his absurd, indecipherable tapes.

Feng shui has become big business, with large firms spending thousands on moving their lavatories to a favourable position. The Mail on Sunday has a feng shui advice column. Even book publishers, notoriously slow off the mark, have woken up to the fact that money is to be made here: 73 books on the subject were published in 1998, including Lillian Too's Little Book of Feng Shui, which has already sold more than half a million copies.

According to Miss Too's publisher, the interest in New Age remedies and beliefs is "part of a widespread reaction against the commercialism of the Eighties", a view supported by something called the Future Foundation whose recent report into consumer trends concluded that Thatcherite selfishness had been replaced by gentle, caring "self-actualisation".

The problem is not simply that this is a faulty analysis - spiritual self-obsession is as harmful and exclusive as financial greed - but that a general misty-eyed mindlessness can so easily seep from the personal to the political. On last week's disturbing Panorama programme into the background to the issue of GM foods, the tough-talking pragmatist of the moment, Jack Cunningham, was asked whether the two new advisory bodies he was creating would, unlike the existing committees, include a few people not committed to biotechnology, who took a cynical view of the multinationals promoting it. The Cabinet enforcer was outraged. This was no time for cynics, he replied. There had been too much cynicism in the past. It was time for commitment to change, for positive thinking.

In other words, faith was what mattered. Those who stood back, taking a sceptical view of the Government's intentions, were not just intellectually wrong, but morally wrong, too: they were against progress, science and an end to world hunger. By refusing to be moved by the Government's honest reassurances about the activities of Monsanto and Zeneca, or by the photographs of the Prime Minister moving among the refugees like a Mother Teresa in shirtsleeves, these sneering rationalists merely revealed that they lacked the emotional integrity, the faith, of good, self-actualised, believing folk.

I'm not saying Jack Cunningham sprinkles rice around his house, or that wind-chimes hang over the Blair marital bed. But a warm ch'i of insincerity wafts through the feng shui politics of a Government for whom feelings so often take the place of rational analysis.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea