A New Hope

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“He who has hope, has everything.” – Thomas Carlyle

Corporate business has democracy in a chokehold and neither the Conservatives nor Labour have any intention of saving the system that they purport to serve; if anything, they would happily see it demolished in return for their respective self-contained well-to-do lifestyles. It comes as no surprise that the centre-right do not have the best interests of the less affluent (the majority) in mind, but Labour were meant to be the champions of the underdog. As the neoliberal model was put into practise by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, the old socialist values that were intrinsic to Labour have all but vanished and our two main “democratic” parties are almost ideologically aligned. During the Tony Blair years, Labour made the short sighted mistake, amongst many other uncharacteristically pro-neoliberal actions, of trying to appease undecided voters, in order to win a general election, by adopting policies that are untrue to the values of the political left. Since then, they have stuck and the carcinogenic effects of neoliberalism have infected the Labour party to its core. Often described as Blairites, those members whose indistinct ideologies overlap the centre-left and centre-right arcs of the political landscape, in a blurred and unapologetically compromising fashion, have shown the true colours of the party, no more so, than in the recent, blatantly divisive and all too transparent leadership coup.

Labour’s biggest failure has been the absence of idealistic, left-wing value-based alternatives; a manifesto that is unashamedly courageous and sincere in its convictions. The party has been reduced to ‘fire-fighting’ style rhetoric towards the morally and socially destructive energies of the Conservatives, which although important, on their own, deliver no more than a butterfly kiss to the heavy set jaw of the powerhouse which is right-wing and neo-liberal interdependence. As the manifestations of neo-liberalism show their ugly face in the form of unemployment, low wages, zero-hour contracts, poverty, etc. those most affected have been left out in the cold, metaphorically as well as literally. Who will represent the working class if not the Labour party?

The working class is broadly defined as:

“those who rely upon their earnings from wage labour, thereby, the category includes most of the working population of industrialized economies, of the urban areas (cities, towns, villages) of non-industrialized economies, and of the rural workforce.”

The vast majority of the population falls within this bracket, yet there seems to be an identity crisis brewing within this societal group and the term “working class” conjures up stereotypical images of 18th Century factory workers. Many today would probably consider themselves to be middle class. The term “middle class” was made popular by Karl Weber in his socio-economic framework yet it is left very much open to interpretation with no definitive definition. Hence, unless you inherit your wealth and never have to rely upon some form of paid work to survive, such as the Royal Family or an heir/heiress, then technically we are all working class, regardless of your working attire, location or salary.  There is an attitude within the perceived middle class, particularly for those that own small businesses and work in “The City”, that the Conservatives are business friendly and “on their side”. I shall allude to this misconception shortly*, but first let us return to the question of who will represent the working class if not the Labour party?

Although unsure of why and how, the poorer working class feel as if they are being left to rot, and like hyenas, the far-right political parties are particularly adept at scavenging for remains. By manipulating the despondency within the working class and emulating a public image that they can relate to, far-right parties misdirect the working class’s anger by exploiting their lack of education (something that most cannot be blamed for). A combination of poor environmental and social conditions, relentless pro-neoliberal propaganda by the mainstream media that pedals scapegoating and divisive information and a lack of adequate education/exposure to the panorama of political, economic and ideological systems, creates the conditions for a propensity towards the neutering of one’s critical thinking on the matter.

So what can be done if a great many of the perceived “middle class” are indoctrinated into a system whereby the Conservatives, mainstream media and corporations are all in cahoots as they lead us towards a future as bleak as a British summer, the far-right, like the Emperor from Star Wars, is manipulating minds to the dark side, and Labour at the first whiff of actual left-wing attitudes are divide by mutinous abstention?

Four things: RECALIBRATE, ASSERT VALUES, MOBILISE, PERSEVERE

RECALIBRATE

We need to recalibrate our sights and see past our own short-termism by relinquishing any desperate attempt at what are perceived as strategic gains, albeit minimal and fairly insignificant ones. In other words, we must stop voting Labour just because we cannot stomach the thought of the Conservatives being in government any longer. This behaviour, rather than hinder the neo-liberal agenda, will only perpetuate its efforts, as the political landscape further gives way to the domination of centre-right values harboured by both parties.

ASSERT VALUES

Voting Labour is not the value statement that someone with left-wing and socialist attitudes should be making. Instead we need to collectively make a value statement by voting for parties that do not sit in the centre but are recognisably left of the centre. Parties such as the Green Party that hold humanism, socialism and ecology in the highest regard. This would send out a statement that is not open to interpretation and it would be the first step towards the mobilization of a tangible and definable opposing movement.

MOBILISE

There must be continued engagement in political discussion with those of all political stripes and it must not be perturbed by the attempted silencing by of the politically apathetic, the ignorance of the anti-intellectualists or the brow-beating of the “loony left” labelling right-wing commentators. Protests, strikes and rallies are a right of a democratic society that must be practised whenever necessary. However, the political left need to build concrete manifestos and workable plans to show a practicable ideology that marries morality and pragmatism, for such a thing would give untold validity to the cause.

PERSEVERE

There are four popular routes which the politically engaged can traverse; one is to soldier forth with the neoliberal efforts of the Conservatives, another is to succumb to the manipulation of the far right and blame the wrong people for your ills, another is to hang on to an idea of what you want the Labour party to be and so maintain a system that is not what you are voting for and another is to simply not care nor partake in the democratic process.
I believe that if our current system is to carry on as it is, eventually (I would not presume to know a timescale) the NHS will be fully privatised, so will all public services and once this happens costs cannot be regulated. The American Healthcare System is a prime example of a brutally immoral and regressive system that already occurs in a modern western democratic country. So there is absolutely no reason why it cannot and will not happen here. As deals such as TTIP, corporate tax breaks, loopholes and a corrupt corporate culture enable the transfer of power away from the general populous and into the hands of unethical, unassailable and fallaciously sacrosanct corporations, austerity will gradually effect more and more people (*including many of those that consider themselves to be middle class). Inevitably, the amount of disaffected citizens will rise as the cost of living begins to weigh more and more people down and as the welfare safety net gathers more holes, and so there needs to be a political ideology/party patiently waiting in the wings to catch them and ultimately care for them. Maybe it is only when people have confronted the fear of having very little that they will realise that human society is best for themselves when it looks after everybody. And this is why perseverance is as important as mobilisation. Rather than compromising values at the chance of being in power or winning over a few of the undecided voters, we have to first of all show them what we stand for, how we would make the world fairer and then let them come to us, as neo-liberalism gradually reveals to them that they are as disposable as the “welfare scroungers” and “immigrants” that were at its mercy, maybe only a decade before.

Above all else, people need hope, for hope is the antithesis of neo-liberal dogmatism. Fear of immigrants, fear of joblessness, fear of not having enough, fear of social rejection, fear of intellectualism, fear of ill health, fear of a wasted vote, fear of the unknown, are all cogs in the dehumanising, profit worshipping machine. There needs to be a party whose ideology not only challenges the socially destructive and morally regressive actions of neo-liberalism but also provides socially positive and morally honourable actions which will empower the powerless, redistribute wealth and rebuild our society and economy to serve us ALL.

Lifting The Veil

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The vast majority of us do not become engaged in political dialogue until trying to fill our pockets with money becomes preocupación número uno. By then our engagement in politics is regulated via the mainstream media and the main stream media is big business. There are profits to be had, allegiances to be forged and hearts and minds to be won over. For instance, the editorial direction of the BBC’s output is headed up by Rona Fairhead. Fairhead was a cabinet office member for the Conservative party, she is David Cameron’s business ambassador, an old friend of George Osbourne and was on the board of directors for HSBC bank. Other examples include, The Sun, the biggest selling newspaper in the UK (for reasons more counter-intuitive than superstring theory) which is owned by the infamous Rupert Murdoch, a republican billionaire Australian-American who also owns Newscorp UK (including The Times), 21t Century Fox (including Fox News) and Sky PLC (including Sky News) and has been quoted as saying with regards to The Sun that he is a “traditional proprietor”; exercising editorial control on major issues such as which political party to back in a general election. The Daily Mail, the 2nd biggest selling newspaper in the UK, is owned by the humbly named, Jonathan Harold Esmond Vere Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere; a conservative supporting billionaire with a non-domicile tax status and media businesses owned through a complex structure of offshore holdings and trusts. The Telegraph is owned by brothers David and Frederick Barclay, two conservative supporting billionaires who lease one of the Channel Islands and whose companies have been accused of tax avoidance.

The proprietors of these mega-media outlets have profited from a system that nearly everyone else loses from, but through cunning propaganda they socially engineer a response from the public that conditions us to unknowingly and passively accept it. However, the unjust and damaging consequences of this system manifest themselves through austerity, immigration, crime and scandals such as tax evasion and so these bi-products are themselves marketed as problems of their own making, providing a scapegoat and an energy consuming distraction to veil the real culprits, the ruling class and essentially the system itself. Whether it be the tiresome theatrics of personality profiling, in-party squabbling and scandals which are quickly forgotten and the culprits rarely punished, the tribalistic exploitation of immigrant blame tactics, the culture of ‘conspicuous consumption’ in which over production and over consumption keep us over-working and endlessly wanting, the anti-intellectualism of superficial, materialistic, mediocrity celebrating cultural values propagated through television, magazines, social media and music, or even the caricaturing of the socially compassionate left as impractical and naïve, we are collectively distracted and unaware.

For those of us that are aware and voice our concern we are sometimes met with the damaging and regressive approach of the apathetic rhetoricians whose anti-intellectualistic brow beating of those engaged in political debate on social media aims to silence what should be considered imperative discourse and a celebration of free speech, something that many are still not afforded. I have encountered this behaviour first hand as my polemic ramblings have been criticised because I am not “an expert”. I would be the first to concede that I do not consider myself an expert, although considering the calibre of my opponent I would not be wrong to reconsider my position. To demand a stop to political discussion because one is not considered to be an expert on the matter is akin to stopping someone trained in first aid from resuscitating someone else because they are not a paramedic. At first this analogy may seem a little far-fetched, but trying to shame proponents of political discussion into silence, as previously stated, is damaging and regressive for reasons I believe are far too obvious to have to highlight. Another common condemnation is that Facebook is not an appropriate arena for political discussion. This completely arbitrary and increasingly clichéd viewpoint perplexes and vexes me in equal measure, especially when considering that Facebook has been a very useful tool in organising political rallies and demonstrations of late. Maybe our critics would be more appeased if we posted a photo of our political concerns spelt out on a dinner plate in Alphabites with a defaced Potato Waffle as a gastronomic hashtag.

Ideology should always come before politics; one must have a clear vision of how they would like the world to be, before obsessing over the details. For the preservation of humankind, morality must be fundamental in shaping one’s ideologies. Those of us not suffering from sociopathy or psychopathy are moved by human suffering when confronted with it, more often than not in modern western life, on television. However, when removed from that suffering either through lack of stimulus proximity or inability to relate, we are much more like to display the indifference to suffering that a sociopath or psychopath may demonstrate. As one’s psyche is bombarded with the aforementioned plethora of distractions, overindulgent self-interest, misdirected fear and resentment take hold, and so an almost impenetrable barrier of cognitive dissonance is erected, making any collective change in the ideological landscape of current generations close to impossible to alter. An avid return to a system that was solely responsible for the global financial collapse of 2008 is the best example of cognitive dissonance in action. A collective change in the ideological landscape would be necessary to become fully aware of the detrimental effects of neo-liberalism, which would be a step towards dismantling it. Consideration and compassion for your neighbour and your neighbour’s neighbour, ad infinitum, would lead to a perspective which is intrinsically much more long-sighted in terms of the preservation of humankind. Over-consumption and exploitation are inevitably short-term, they disregard the finite nature of things and the well-being of those that deliver those finite things in favour of immediate profit. When resources such as oil run out or people revolt due to a standard of life they can no longer tolerate, the system comes crashing down. Of course this can have vastly negative consequences in itself and a deliberate deconstruction/reconstruction would be the ideal. Neo-liberalism is not self-sustaining and it will eventually be the author of its own demise. That is not to say that this will be any time soon, there is a lot more juice in the old lemon yet. I wonder though, how much of a sour taste must be left in our mouths before we all realise that this system is not on our side and neither are those in power who advocate it.

Theresa May Not

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I recently posted the above picture (courtesy of The People’s Assembly Against Austerity) to my Facebook page and to no surprise I was quick to receive some negative attention from those who, I can only assume, consider themselves to be more “pragmatic”, all be it sardonically so.

It was suggested that the tag lines should read:

“Never live within your means, never control your own borders. Common sense must go.”

Well I would say, no… I’m pretty sure it’s fine the way it is! But you could do some Right Wing propaganda with those tag lines if you wished. Who knows, with such callous indifference and misdirected wit, you could end up working for the Sun.

However, what I find more pertinent than buzz words and tag lines is Theresa May’s voting history. Could it read differently? No. It is all fact.

Huge numbers of Americans are in untold debt due to the lack of a free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare system which forces them to live beyond their means. Once privatisation has consumed all public assets, e.g. the NHS, would it be considered living beyond our means by getting into debt to pay for healthcare? Maybe those unlucky enough should just succumb to an untimely death? Cutting tax credits and lowering people’s incomes will also diminish the means by which they have to exist. The crux is, when it is suggested that we have to live within our means, it is always the poorest whose means are most vulnerable. Austerity does not affect the more affluent (at least not yet) but that is no reason to be unsympathetic or matter-of-fact towards those it does. By countering anti-austerity rhetoric by suggesting that it is just a case of putting up with what we are given, then there is no end to how far austerity could be taken. In our system, means are created by money, and there is lots of it to go around, but the few that have it are so good at keeping it that they even have large amounts of the public defending them.

The monumental disparity between the rich and the poor is factual and indisputable and the redistribution of global wealth would be one of the most beneficial socio-economic events that could occur, for the vast majority of the population. Yet many revel in this overbearing tone that defends the totalitarian, over-privileged, deceitful, acquisitive ruling class of which they are not and will never be a member. Instead they are happier to gnash their teeth at the Have Nots whilst sitting at the foot of the Have Yatchs like some obedient guard dog.

Controlling our borders (which is a slogan that makes me want to gnash my own teeth) is not the same as racism, at least one would hope. However, Theresa May’s actions are discriminatory against non-EU immigrants wanting to live in the UK permanently by ruling that they must earn above £35,000 (a lot more than the average Brit earns) and by making it much harder for British Nationals to move their foreign family members over here. This can cause long, painful separations between parent and children (estimated at 15,000), which for me, is the most disturbing outcome. In terms of controlling our borders, as long as we stay part of the single market, the net migration of immigrants from Europe will be unchanged. So there is little control but much discrimination. This is what the post means by “FOR discriminating against immigrants”.

Furthermore, voting against a Banker’s bonus tax and repealing the Human Rights Act are not the application of common sense but of two insidiously self-interested, potentially very damaging and regressive ideologies.

So once again I find myself having a debate where the details may have changed but the ideologies are still very much grounded as they are opposed.

The ruling class have so many people believing virulently that the way things are, is the way it has to be, that whether it is under the banner of sovereignty, pride, tribalism, being self-made, being shrewd, being pragmatic, being sensible, being strong etc. that they defend, if not advocate a system that continues to serve the vast majority of us less and less. Ironically, their attack is reserved for the vulnerable, the less privileged, just about anybody who has no real power and yet this is dressed up as “Common Sense”, madness.