Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
A powerful essay from George Monbiot.
I do so because in a world where much of the media is ‘bought’, and do understand that I use the term loosely, solid and trustworthy correspondents are to be applauded and, in turn, their views shared. Mr. Monbiot is a classic example of someone who adheres to a truthful perspective. I am more than grateful for the blanket permission given to me by GM for the republication of his essays.
Deviant and Proud
August 5, 2014
Do you feel left out? Perhaps it’s because you refuse to succumb to the competition, envy and fear neoliberalism breeds.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th August 2014
To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed.
I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe (1). What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.
We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identity is shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.
Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power (2). It’s rapidly colonising the rest of the world.
Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.
At the heart of this story is the notion of merit. Untrammelled competition rewards people who have talent, who work hard and who innovate. It breaks down hierarchies and creates a world of opportunity and mobility. The reality is rather different. Even at the beginning of the process, when markets are first deregulated, we do not start with equal opportunities. Some people are a long way down the track before the starting gun is fired. This is how the Russian oligarchs managed to acquire such wealth when the Soviet Union broke up. They weren’t, on the whole, the most talented, hard-working or innovative people, but those with the fewest scruples, the most thugs and the best contacts, often in the KGB.
Even when outcomes are based on talent and hard work, they don’t stay that way for long. Once the first generation of liberated entrepreneurs has made its money, the initial meritocracy is replaced by a new elite, which insulates its children from competition by inheritance and the best education money can buy. Where market fundamentalism has been most fiercely applied – in countries like the US and UK – social mobility has greatly declined (3).
If neoliberalism were anything other than a self-serving con, whose gurus and think tanks were financed from the beginning by some of the richest people on earth (the American tycoons Coors, Olin, Scaife, Pew and others) (4), its apostles would have demanded, as a precondition for a society based on merit, that no one should start life with the unfair advantage of inherited wealth or economically-determined education. But they never believed in their own doctrine. Enterprise, as a result, quickly gave way to rent.
All this is ignored, and success or failure in the market economy are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The rich are the new righteous, the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classified as social parasites.
The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness. The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafka-esque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty and breeds frustration, envy and fear. Through a magnificent paradox, it has led to the revival of a grand old Soviet tradition, known in Russian as tufta. It means the falsification of statistics to meet the diktats of unaccountable power.
The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy.
These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders. Of the personality disorders, the most common are performance anxiety and social phobia; both of which reflect a fear of other people, who are perceived as both evaluators and competitors, the only roles for society that market fundamentalism admits. Depression and loneliness plague us. The infantilising diktats of the workplace destroy our self-respect. Those who end up at the bottom of the pile are assailed by guilt and shame. The self-attribution fallacy cuts both ways (5): just as we congratulate ourselves for our successes,we blame ourselves for our failures, even if we had little to do with it.
So if you don’t fit in; if you feel at odds with the world; if your identity is troubled and frayed; if you feel lost and ashamed, it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
1. Paul Verhaeghe, 2014. What About Me?: The struggle for identity in a market-based society. Scribe. Brunswick, Australia and London.
What powerful observations; what common-sense written by Paul Verhaeghe, and beautifully reported by Mr. Monbiot in an incredible essay.
You have probably guessed where I stand! ;-)
This had me laughing out loud!
Now before reading on, please allow me a moment to explain that the following does cast aspersions over the current president of the United States of America. I don’t have the right to vote in any form of US election so am very happy to let all of American politics flow over the top of my head. Thus this is published simply because it gave me so much fun when reading it and I wanted to share the fun with you. Very grateful to neighbour Larry for sending it to me.
A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN
To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for the esteemed position of President of the USA and thereby a continuing failure properly to govern yourselves, as the Head of State of the United Kingdom I do hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence; effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)
As your new Sovereign, I, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which I have never liked).
The United Kingdom’s current Prime Minister, David Cameron, will now appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
The United States Congress and the Senate are disbanded with immediate effect. My Government is preparing a questionnaire, to be circulated next year, to determine whether any of you noticed the change.
To aid in your transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
- The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).
- Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’
- July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
- You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
- Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
- The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
- You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
- The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound-for-pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth (see what it did for them). American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all varieties may be sold without risk of further confusion.
- Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
- You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
- Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
- You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
- An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
- Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save the Queen!
As a Brit living happily here in Southern Oregon, all I can add to this statement from Her Majesty is don’t mention the Scottish referendum in just a few weeks time!
Now I think I better run for cover!
Certainly dogs couldn’t be any worse!
I am referring to politicians; but you probably guessed that.
Just my way of a lead-in to a wonderful item seen recently over on ABC Eye Witness News.
DOG ELECTED MAYOR IN CORMORANT, MINNESOTA
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
CORMORANT, Minnesota (WLS) — Duke, a 7-year-old dog, was elected mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota.
“He won by a landslide,” Tricia Maloney said of the Great Pyrenees. “He’s used to coming to the pub and getting some burgers and some fries or something.”
The 12 people who live in Cormorant all paid $1 to vote.
“Poor Richard Sherbrook that owns the Cormorant store, he didn’t even have half as many votes as Duke did,” Maloney said.
The farm dog is all bark, no bite. His term lasts one year.
A quick web search found a longer version of the news item over on the CBS News website:
Duke The Dog Sworn In As Mayor Of Cormorant, Minn.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every dog has his day and Saturday is it for Duke the dog.
Duke was elected mayor of the northwestern Minnesota community of Cormorant, and he was sworn in Saturday. Organizer Tammy Odegaard says Duke got gussied up Friday night, his second trip to the groomer since his election.
“He spends a lot of time at the dairy farm next door,” Odegaard said, who notes she’s now a member of Duke’s staff. “So, twice in, like, seven days for him is, like, it’s never happened. So I’m sure he’s wondering what’s going on with just that.”
His first grooming took five hours and came after the majority of the town’s 12 voters backed him in the balloting. The town pulled out all the stops for the 10 a.m. ceremony during Cormorant’s annual fair.
“We’ll have him put his little paw on the bible, going to have him have the little oath,” Odegaard said. “Of course, he’s not going to repeat it. It would be awesome if he would bark, but who knows? He’s a country dog, so he’s not used to performing on cue.”
During the two-minute inauguration ceremony, Steve Sorenson, chairman of Cormorant Township, greeted Duke and set forth his duties.
“You are about to em-bark upon a great time of service, tremendous personal and professional growth,” Sorenson said. “If you accept this challenge and these responsibilities, please bark or pant.”
“I think that qualifies,” Sorenson said.
As for the mayor’s salary, a pet food store is donating a year’s supply of kibble to reward him for his service.
The village of Cormorant is located in northwestern Minnesota, near Pelican Rapids.
Duke is a seven-year-old, big, white, shaggy Great Pyrenees that loves to roll around in the dirt. Odegaard would not say if that activity qualifies Duke for a career in politics.
“You said it, not me,” Odegaard laughed.
That inauguration ceremony was captured on video; see below. Warning, the first seven minutes are a little slow! But it is worth watching, trust me!
Funny how things happen.
Yesterday evening we had close friend Don Reeve staying with us. To put this into context, it was Don and his wife, Suzann, who in 2007 invited me to spend Christmas with them at their Winter home down in San Carlos, Mexico. That, in turn, led me to meeting Jean, Suzann’s best friend, and look where that got me! :-)
(Can’t resist adding that Jean and I were born in London, some 23 miles from each other!)
Thus you can understand the pleasure it was for Jean and me again to see Don; albeit for a brief overnight stay.
What was an extra, unanticipated pleasure was meeting a young, rescue dog that Don had adopted in recent weeks. Her name is Margarita and she was found and rescued by Suzann from the streets in San Carlos. What was so glorious was to see the love and hope for a better future that flowed between Don and the sweet, young Margarita. It resonated so perfectly well with Suzan’s post published here on Monday: Rescued dogs are life-savers.
By the time I sat down at my desk yesterday, I was conscious of a) not having a clue as to what to write, and b) inspired by the sense of hope that dogs offer us humans. Serendipitously, the theme of hope led me to a post written by Jennifer Broudy de Hernandez over on her Transition Times blog. It was called Warriors for the Planet and was the most beautiful essay.
I’m delighted to reblog that here with Jennifer’s approval.
Warriors for the Planet
Another summer, another war. I wonder how many summers there have been in the last 5,000 years when human beings were not occupied with killing each other?
Correction: not “human beings,” “men.”
Let’s be frank: even though there may be women in the armed forces of many countries now, war still remains a masculine activity and preoccupation. The women who serve as soldiers must adhere to the masculine warrior code and become honorary “bros,” for whom the worst insult is still be called a “girl” or a “pussy.”
I have been reading Anne Baring’s magisterial book The Dream of the Cosmos, in which she gives a detailed account of the shift, around the time of Gilgamesh, from the ancient, goddess- and nature-worshipping “lunar cultures” to the contemporary era of solar, monotheistic, warrior-worshipping cultures.
In her elaboration of this shift, I read the tragedy of our time, enacted over and over again all over the planet, and not just by humans against humans, but also by humans against the other living beings with whom we share our world. I quote at length from Baring’s remarkable book:
“The archetype of the solar hero as warrior still exerts immense unconscious influence on the modern male psyche, in the battlefield of politics as well as that of corporate business and even the world of science and academia: the primary aim of the male is to achieve, to win and, if necessary, to defeat other males. The ideal of the warrior has become an unconscious part of every man’s identity from the time he is a small child.
“With the mythic theme of the cosmic battle between good and evil and the indoctrination of the warrior went the focus on war and territorial conquest. War has been endemic throughout the 4000 years of the solar era. The glorification of war and conquest and the exaltation of the warrior is a major theme of the solar era—still with us today in George W. Bush’s words in 2005: ‘We will accept no outcome except victory.’ This call to victory echoes down the centuries, ensuring that hecatombs of young warriors were sacrificed to the god of war, countless millions led into captivity and slavery, countless women raped and widows left destitute. It has sanctioned an ethos that strives for victory at no matter what cost in human lives and even today glorifies war and admires the warrior leader. This archaic model of tribal dominance and conquest has inflicted untold suffering on humanity and now threatens our very survival as a species.
“The cosmic battle between light and darkness was increasingly projected into the world and a fascination with territorial conquest gripped the imagination and led to the creation of vast empires. It is as if the heroic human ego, identified with the solar hero, had to seek out new territories to conquer, had to embody the myth in a literal sense and as it did so, channel the primitive territorial drives of the psyche into a Dionysian orgy of unbridled conquest, slaughter and destruction. We hear very little about the suffering generated by these conquests: the weeping widows, the mothers who lost sons, the orphaned children and the crops and patterns of sowing and harvesting devastated and disrupted by the foraging armies passing over them, the exquisite works of art pillaged and looted….The long chronicle of conquest and human sacrifice, of exultation in power and the subjugation of enemies might truly be named the dark shadow of the solar age” (118;124).
Like Baring, I see our time as a critical era in the long history of homo sapiens on the planet. There is still hope that enough of us will be able to detach ourselves from the pressures and busyness of our lives—will become conscious of what is happening to the planet and human civilization writ large—will understand that there are other ways to relate to each other and to the Earth, ways that will seem increasingly possible and obvious once we focus on them and begin to put our energies into manifesting our visions of a creative, collaborative, respectful mode of being.
Baring ends her disturbing chapter on the ascendancy of the solar warrior culture with a hopeful quote from The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas, from which she springs into her own positive vision of the potential of our time.
“’We stand at the threshold of a revelation of the nature of reality that could shatter our most established beliefs about ourselves and the world. The very constriction we are experiencing is part of the dynamic of our imminent release. For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being. The driving impulse of the West’s masculine consciousness has been its quest not only to realize itself, to forge its own autonomy, but also, finally, to recover its connection with the whole, to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life; to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul. And that reunion can now occur on a new and profoundly different level from that of the primordial unconscious unity, for the long evolution of human consciousness has prepared it to be capable at last of embracing the ground and matrix of its own being freely and consciously.’
“As this deep soul-impulse gathers momentum, the ‘marriage’ of the re-emerging lunar consciousness with the dominant solar one is beginning to change our perception of reality. This gives us hope for the future. If we can recover the values intrinsic to the ancient participatory way of knowing without losing the priceless evolutionary attainment of a strong and focused ego, together with all the discoveries we have made and the skills we have developed, we could heal both the fissure in our soul and our raped and vandalized planet” (130-131).
My heart aches for the suffering of the innocent civilians trapped in the crossfire in Gaza this summer, and for the grieving families of the passenger plane heinously shot down by warriors who were either poorly trained or just plain evil.
I am heartsick when I think about the holocaust that is overtaking living beings on every quadrant of our planet as humans continue to ravage the forests and seas, to melt the poles with our greenhouse gases, and to poison the aquifers and soil with our chemicals.
This is where the solar cultures, with their “great” warrior kings, have led us. And yet, as Baring says, they have also presided over the most amazing advances in science and technology that humans have ever known in our long history on the planet.
We don’t need or want to go back to the simple innocence of ancient lunar societies. We don’t have to bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age.
What we need is to go forward, wisely and joyously, into a new phase of consciousness, in which the masculine warrior spirit is used for protection and stewardship rather than destruction, and the Earth is honored as the Mother of all that she is.
Never let anyone tell you it can’t be done. It is already happening.
May I tempt you to go back and re-read that penultimate paragraph. A sentence that I cannot resist emphasising:
What we need is to go forward, wisely and joyously, into a new phase of consciousness, in which the masculine warrior spirit is used for protection and stewardship rather than destruction, and the Earth is honored as the Mother of all that she is.
The power of hope!
Fear for the future is driving change.
Apologies again for today’s post being largely the republication of other essays but looking after our guests is, as it should be, taking first priority.
Just as yesterday’s post, the essay by Alex Jones, offered hope, so do today’s items.
Will the Pacific Northwest be a Climate Refuge Under Global Warming?
As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects?
A compelling case can be made that the Pacific Northwest will be one of the best places to live as the earth warms. A potential climate refuge.
and offers this conclusion:
So what conclusion does one inevitably reach by studying the IPCC reports, the U.S. Climate Assessment, and the climate literature?
- The Northwest is the place to be during global warming.
- Temperatures will rise more slowly than most of the nation due to the Pacific Ocean (see below)
- We will have plenty of precipitation, although the amount falling as snow will decline (will fall as rain instead). But we can deal with that by building more reservoir and dam capacity (and some folks on the eastern slopes of the Cascades have proposed to do exactly that).
- The Pacific Ocean will keep heat waves in check and we don’t get hurricanes.
- Sea level rise is less of a problem for us due to our substantial terrain and the general elevation rise of our shorelines. Furthermore, some of our land is actually RISING relatively to the sea level because we are still recovering from the last ice age (the heavy ice sheets pushed the land down and now it is still rebounding).
- There is no indication that our major storms…cyclone-based winds (like the Columbus Day Storm)… will increase under global warming.
- Increased precipitation may produce more flooding, but that will be limited to river valleys and can be planned for with better river management and zoning.
The second item was this:
Antarctica’s Point of No Return
POTSDAM – Recent satellite observations have confirmed the accuracy of two independent computer simulations that show that the West Antarctic ice sheet has now entered a state of unstoppable collapse. The planet has entered a new era of irreversible consequences from climate change. The only question now is whether we will do enough to prevent similar developments elsewhere.
What the latest findings demonstrate is that crucial parts of the world’s climate system, though massive in size, are so fragile that they can be irremediably disrupted by human activity. It is inevitable that the warmer the world gets, the greater the risk that other parts of the Antarctic will reach a similar tipping point; in fact, we now know that the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, as big or even bigger than the ice sheet in the West, could be similarly vulnerable.
There are not many human activities whose impact can reasonably be predicted decades, centuries, or even millennia in advance. The fallout from nuclear waste is one; humans’ contribution to global warming through greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, and its impact on rising sea levels, is another.
Indeed, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stated, in uncharacteristically strong terms, that the sea level is “virtually certain” to continue to rise in the coming centuries or millennia. Moreover, the greater our emissions, the higher the seas will rise.
The full article may be read here.
So why do I say that these articles offer hope?
Simply, because the quicker that the awareness of the critical challenges ahead becomes widespread knowledge, right around the world, the quicker that there will be political movements to change our relationship with our planet.
It’s never about not needing governments, it’s always about needing the right sort of governments.
A highly pertinent post from Alex Jones.
I have written previously on Learning from Dogs about the future having to be local if we are to stand any chance of coping with what is ahead. So it was a delight to read this post from Alex’s blog The Liberated Way. In my opinion, Alex is spot on the mark.
The rise of localism
Posted on August 6, 2014
Globalism and central control is coming to an end.
The first of a series of debates on Scottish independence from the UK took place yesterday, the vote for independence takes place next month. The campaign for Scottish independence is part of a larger paradigm shift away from globalism to localism around the world. Cornwall, Wales, Mercia, Yorkshire and Wessex are all campaigning for independence in the UK. Even in my town of Colchester we want to take back control of highways from external authorities.
The European elections this year resulted in a surge in anti-EU nationalistic parties doing well. UKIP which wants the UK to leave the EU was the clear winner in the UK in the European elections. The UN is increasingly seen as ineffective in the face of international crisis, often used by a few powerful nations, and ignored by practically everyone. Israel recently expressed the contempt nations now have for the UN by bombing UN schools in Gaza.
The USSR has broken up into small nations, as has Yugoslavia. Sudan split into two and Georgia into three nations. There is talk of California in the USA breaking into six states, and a growing but still small movements for other states breaking away from the Union altogether. The fighting in East Ukraine is as much about local Russians wanting to determine their own future as the international games of chess between the superpowers.
Flanders is seeking to break from Belgium; Catalonia and the Basque Country want to break from Spain; the city of Venice wants to break from Italy; Quebec is looking to break from Canada; Kurdistan and many other Peoples are seeking to form their own nation states out of the chaos of Iraq, Syria and Libya.
New forms of local currency such as the Totnes pound and electronic currencies such as Bitcoin challenge the bankers. Until recently my local council Essex Council was talking about creating its own bank for local people. Corporates such as Starbucks are considering creating their own currencies, in effect becoming their own banks. Multiple non-banking payment systems such as PayPal are now part of internet commerce. In the face of sanctions Russia has created their own version of VISA for citizens to pay their bills.
The internet has helped to break up the power of information monopolies where the citizen blogger is as effective as a journalist in the New York Times. The internet places greater power in the hands of the individual on the local level.
Water, energy, food and debt are the four great forces now driving the world politically, economically and socially. The many chasing a diminishing amount of resources drives people to fight or conserve their resources. Huge growing public and private debt is destroying nation states, driving the momentum to think local rather than global. The Greek economic crisis drove local people back to the land, to become self-sufficient, and create systems of trade outside of the global financial system.
I support localism, and I designed my business with localism in mind. The growing international crisis will force people to become local, sustainable and self-reliant. As the money runs out nations, communities and individuals will quickly learn that it is down to themselves to live or die.
Couldn’t agree more.
Another reposting of a Monbiot essay.
I’m preparing this post on Sunday; i.e. three days ago. Reason is that my sister, Elizabeth, and friend, Merle, are arriving on Monday afternoon (as in two days ago) bringing us up to three guests in the house. My mother leaves on tomorrow morning and then Elizabeth and Merle depart on Friday morning. So for all the right reasons, Learning from Dogs is taking a backstage. Hence me doing as much as I can ahead of time.
In Monday’s post, The tracks we leave, towards the end I wrote, “The utter madness of mankind’s group blindness is beyond comprehension.” Many know that there is something very badly wrong with the way politics is operating today. Yet, at the same time, many intuitively know the political changes that mankind has to see if there is to be any chance of a sustainable future for mankind on this planet.
Thus George Monbiot’s essay published on the 29th July makes encouraging reading in the context of the growing confidence of the UK Green Party. It is republished here with the kind permission of George Monbiot.
July 29, 2014
The justifications for extreme inequality have collapsed. But only the Green Party is prepared to take the obvious step
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 30th July 2014
When inequality reaches extreme and destructive levels, most governments seek not to confront it but to accommodate it. Wherever wealth is absurdly concentrated, new laws arise to protect it.
In Britain, for example, successive governments have privatised any public asset which excites corporate greed. They have cut taxes on capital and high incomes. They have legalised new forms of tax avoidance (1). They have delivered exotic gifts like subsidised shotgun licences and the doubling of state support for grouse moors (2). And they have dug a legal moat around the charmed circle, criminalising, for example, the squatting of empty buildings (3) and most forms of peaceful protest (4). However grotesque inequality becomes, however closely the accumulation of inordinate wealth resembles legalised theft, political norms shift to defend it.
None of this should surprise you. The richer the elite becomes, and the more it has to lose, the greater the effort it makes to capture public discourse and the political system. It scarcely bothers to disguise its wholesale purchase of political parties, by means of an utterly corrupt and corrupting funding system (5,6). You can feel its grip not only on policy but also on the choice of parliamentary candidates and appointments to the cabinet. The very rich want people like themselves in power, which is why we have a government of millionaires (7).
But that describes only one corner of their influence. They fund lobby groups, thinktanks and economists to devise ever more elaborate justifications for their seizure of the nation’s wealth (8). These justifications are then amplified by the newspapers and broadcasters owned by the same elite.
Among the many good points Thomas Piketty makes in Capital in the 21st Century – his world-changing but surprisingly mild book – is that extreme inequality can be sustained politically only through an “apparatus of justification.” (9) If voters can be persuaded that insane levels of inequality are sane, reasonable and even necessary, then the concentration of income can keep growing. If they can’t, then either states are forced to act, or revolutions happen.
For the notion that inequalities must be justified sits at the heart of democracy. It is possible to accept that some can have much more than others if one of two conditions are met: either that they reached this position through the exercise of their unique and remarkable talent; or that this inequality is good for everyone. So the network of think tanks, economists and tame journalists must make these justifications plausible.
It’s a tough job. If wages reflect merit, why do they seem so arbitrary? Are the richest executives 50 or 100 times better at their jobs than their predecessors were in 1980? Are they 20 times more skilled and educated than the people immediately below them, even though they went to the same business schools? Are US executives several times as creative and dynamic as those in Germany? If so, why are their results so unremarkable?
It is, of course, all rubbish. What we see is not meritocracy at work at all, but a wealth grab by a nepotistic executive class which sets its own salaries, tests credulity with its ridiculous demands and discovers that credulity is an amenable customer. They must marvel at how they get away with it.
Moreover, as education and even (in the age of the intern) work becomes more expensive, the opportunities to enter the grabbers’ class diminish. The nations which pay the highest top salaries, such as the US and Britain, are also among the least socially mobile (10). Here, you inherit not only wealth but opportunity.
Aha, they say, but extreme wealth is good for all of us. All will be uplifted by their god’s invisible hand. Their creed is based on the Kuznet’s curve, the graph which appears to show that inequality automatically declines as capitalism advances, spreading wealth from the elite to the rest.
When Piketty took the trouble to update the curve, which was first proposed in 1955, he discovered that the redistribution it documented was an artefact of the peculiar circumstances of its time. Since then the concentration of wealth has reasserted itself with a vengeance (11). The reduction in inequality by 1955 was not an automatic and inherent feature of capitalism, but the result of two world wars, a great depression and the fierce response of governments to these disruptions.
For example, the top federal income tax rate in the US rose from 25% in 1932 to 94% in 1944. The average top rate throughout the years 1932 to 1980 was 81%. In the 1940s, the British government imposed a top income tax of 98% (12). The invisible hand? Hahaha. As these taxes were slashed by Reagan and Thatcher and the rest, inequality boomed once more, and is exploding today. This is why the neoliberals hate Piketty with such passion and poison: he has destroyed with data the two great arguments with which the apparatus of justification seeks to excuse the inexcusable.
So here we have a perfect opportunity for progressive parties: the moral and ideological collapse of the system of thought to which they were previously in thrall. What do they do? Avoid the opportunity like diphtheria. Cowed by the infrastructure of purchased argument, Labour fiddles and dithers (13).
But there is another party, which seems to have discovered the fire and passion that moved Labour so long ago: the Greens. Last week they revealed that their manifesto for the general election will propose a living wage, the renationalisation of the railways, a maximum pay ratio (no executive should receive more than 10 times the salary of the lowest paid worker), and, at the heart of their reforms, a wealth tax of the kind Piketty recommends (14).
Yes, it raises plenty of questions, but none of them are unanswerable, especially if this is seen as one step towards the ideal position: a global wealth tax, that treats capital equally, wherever it might lodge. Rough as this proposal is, it will start to challenge the political consensus and draw people who thought they had nowhere to turn. Expect the billionaires’ boot boys to start screaming, once they absorb the implications. And take their boos and jeers as confirmation that it’s onto something. You wanted a progressive alternative? You’ve got it.
3. Clause 144, Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.
9. Thomas Piketty, 2014. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press.
10. Thomas Piketty, as above.
11. Thomas Piketty, as above.
12. Thomas Piketty, as above.
Want to know some more about the UK Green Party? Their website is here.