George Monbiot’s devastating analysis of British politics.
Note to readers:
When you start reading the following introduction, ahead of George Monbiot’s essay, you may be excused for thinking I have lost the plot! However, trust me there is a purpose. For this blog is called Learning from Dogs.
We know that the relationship between Planet Earth and man, as in H. sapiens, goes back around 200,000 years.
We also know, indicated by DNA evidence, that the dog separated from the grey wolf about 100,000 years ago.
The relationship between dogs and man goes back thousands of years as well; “The going theory is that dogs were domesticated somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago.“
Certainly, the dog was the first animal to be domesticated by man. In fact, some archaeologists speculate that without the dog man could not have been such a successful ‘hunter-gatherer’ allowing, in time, man to evolve into farming; the real start of modern man.
￼But what of today?
There is little doubt that many people, even with the minimum of awareness about the world that we live in, are deeply worried. On so many fronts there are forbidding and scary views. It feels as though all the certainty of past times has gone; as if all the trusted models of society are now broken. Whether we are talking politics, economics, employment or the environment, nothing seems to be working.
Why is this? What’s the cause?
It would be easy to condemn man’s drive for progress and an insatiable self-centredness as root causes. But it’s not the case, certainly not the whole case.
The root cause is clear. It is this. How mankind has developed is the result of mankind’s behaviours. All of us behave in many ways that are hugely damaging to the survival of our species upon this planet. It is likely that these behaviours are little unchanged over thousands of years.
But 2,000 years ago, the global population of man was only 300 million. It took 1,200 years for that global population to become 1 billion; in 1800. Now track the intervals as we come forward in time.
In 1927, just 127 years later, the two-billionth baby was born. In 1960, only 33 years on, the three-billionth baby. Just 16 years on, in 1974, the four-billionth baby was born. In 1987, 13 years later, five billion. Around October 1999, the sixth-billionth baby was born! It’s trending to a billion every decade. In other words, a 100-million population growth every year, or about 270,000 more persons every single day!
Combine man’s historic behaviours with this growth of population and we have the present situation. A totally unsustainable situation disconnected from the finite planet that supports us.
The only viable solution is to amend our behaviours. To tap into the powers of integrity, self-awareness and mindfulness and change our game.
We all have to work with the fundamental, primary relationships we have with each other and with the planet upon which we all depend. We need a level of consciousness with each other and with the living, breathing planet that will empower change. We need spiritual enlightenment. And we need it now!
That is why we have so much to learn from dogs. They are man’s best friend. They are man’s oldest friend. They have a relationship with us that is very special; possibly verging on the telepathic.
They can show us how we need to live our lives. Now!
￼ The Origin of Dogs, Scientific American, August 20th, 2009
 Refer Dr Rupert Sheldrake best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance
The George Monbiot essay.
(I hope as you read his essay, you can now understand the reasoning behind my introduction.)
Republished with the very kind permission of Mr. George Monbiot.
Almost all the issues worth debating are left unmentioned in this election.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th May 2015
Political coverage is never more trivial or evanescent than during an election. Where we might hope for enlightenment about the issues on which we will vote, we find gossip about the habits and style of political leaders, an obsession with statistically meaningless shifts in opinion polls and empty speculation about outcomes. (All this is now compounded by the birth of a royal baby, which means that our heads must simultaneously be dunked in a vat of sycophantic slobber). Anyone would think that the media didn’t want us to understand the choices confronting us.
While analysis of the issues dividing the political parties is often weak, coverage of those they have collectively overlooked is almost non-existent. The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the SNP might claim to be at each other’s throats, but they have often reached consensus about which issues are worthy of debate. This article will list a few of the omissions.
The first is so obvious that it should feature in every political discussion: the corrupt and broken system under which we will vote. The argument I’ve heard several Labour activists use – “vote for us because it’s the best we can hope for under first-past-the-post” – would carry more weight if Labour had any plans to change the system.
Where are the furious arguments about the UK’s unreformed political funding, that allows billionaires and corporations to buy the politics they want? Where is the debate about the use and abuse of royal prerogative by successive prime ministers? Where is there even a mention of the democratic black hole at the heart of Britain, into which hopes for financial and fiscal reform are sucked: the Corporation of the City of London, whose illegitimate powers pre-date the Magna Carta?
Here’s a fact with which politicans should be assailed every day: the poor in this country pay more tax than the rich. If you didn’t know this – and most people don’t* – it’s because you’ve been trained not to know it through relentless efforts by the corporate media. It distracts us by fixating on income tax, one of the few sources of revenue that’s unequivocally progressive. But this accounts for just 27% of total taxation. Overall, the richest tenth pay 35% of their income in tax, while the poorest tenth pay 43%, largely because of the regressive nature of VAT and council tax. The Equality Trust found that 96% of respondents to its survey would like a more progressive system. But where is the major party mobilising this desire, or even explaining the current injustice?
A comprehensive failure to tax land and property is a policy shared by the three major English parties, mansion tax notwithstanding. None of them seems to mind that this failure helps to replace the entrepreneurial society they claim to support with an economy based on rent and patrimonial capital. None of them seems to mind that their elaborate fiscal ringfencing of land and buildings clashes with their professed belief that capital should be used productively.
Nor will any of them mount an effective challenge to kleptoremuneration: executives siphoning off wealth they had no role in creating. None seek to modify a limited liability regime so generous that it allowed the multi-millionaire authors of the financial crisis, such as Fred Goodwin and Matt Ridley, to walk away from the pain they helped to inflict without forfeiting a penny.
Even these issues are trivial by comparison to the unacknowledged cloud that hangs over our politics: the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet. All major parties and media outlets are committed to never-ending economic growth, and use GDP as the primary measure of human progress. Even to question this is to place yourself outside the frame of rational political debate.
To service this impossible dream, we must work relentlessly, often in jobs that deliver no social utility and cause great harm. Who in politics is brave enough to propose that we work less and enjoy life more? Who will challenge working conditions characterised by ridiculous quotas and impossible demands, or reform a social security regime more draconian and intrusive than day release from prison? Who is prepared to wonder aloud what all this striving and punishment is for?
And how about some acknowledgement of the epidemic of loneliness, or the shocking rise in conditions such as self-harm, eating disorders, depression, performance anxiety and social phobia? Evidently, these are not fit and proper subjects for political discourse, which creates the impression that those who suffer them are not fit and proper electors.
How about some arguments over the loss of public space? Or a debate about what’s happening to children, confined as never before within four walls, both at school and at home? How about some recognition of the radical changes in transport demand, that are likely, in the age of peak car and peak plane, to render redundant the new roads and airports to which all the large parties are committed? Forget it.
The national and global collapse of biodiversity, the horrifying rate of soil loss, the conflict between aspirations to minimise climate change and maximise the production of fossil fuels: none of these are put before voters as issues of significant difference. All major parties tacitly agree to carry on as before.
Politicians will not break these silences voluntarily. They are enforced by a narrow and retentive public discourse, dominated by the corporate media and the BBC, that ignores or stifles new ideas, grovels to the elite and ostracises the excluded, keeping this nation in a state of arrested development.
After this election, we need to think again; to find new means of pushing neglected issues onto the political agenda. We might try to discover why the social media have so far mostly failed to fulfill their democratising promise. We might seek new ways of building political communities, using models as diverse as Podemos and evangelical Christianity. We might experiment with some of the Latin American techniques that have helped to transform politics from the bottom up. However we do it, we should never again permit democracy to be reduced to so narrow a choice.
* 68% of respondents to the Equality Trust’s Survey believed that households in the highest 10% income group pay more of their income in tax than households in the lowest 10% income group.
(Readers in other countries will easily be able to identify their country’s version of the issues that Mr. Monbiot speaks about.)
Sooner or later, and preferably sooner, each and every one of us must start looking at ourselves in the mirror, every morning, and say, “What behaviour will I change today to save this planet for all future generations?“