This should have been posted last night.
These are revolutionary times. Not in the sense of violent revolution and the storming of palaces and parliaments. The time is right - or more right than it’s been for a couple of generations - for a revolution in mass consciousness. For changes in perception about the nature of our political system, our economic system, our education system, and the way we live. We need a revolution in values and ways of living, and the financial crisis - the near collapse of capitalism - is causing a hell of a lot of people to re-think what they’re doing with their lives, and how we operate as a society.
The question then becomes - if there is such a change in consciousness, can the material, social, economic and political world still remain the same? Can the same dumb, hopeless, inhuman, unequal and exploitative system we’ve had for so long just carry on? Surely not?
Well - it’s possible. Such is the nature of apathy, and inertia, and anomie. The sheer deadweight of an endemic lack of focus, of purposelessness, of fearfulness and lack of self-confidence.
The masses do not believe they have the power to seize power and change the way we do things. They have no representative political party any more. They have no experience of governance. They’ve left governance to the ruling classes and the political elite (of all persuasions) for far too long.
Maybe the post-war consensus of relatively benign, liberal and social-democratic, well-meaning and decent governance deprived the masses of any reason for real anger and removed the need for a spirit of resistance to the rule of those who would exploit and dominate. For a very long time, before the rise of Thatch and the neo-conservatives, it appeared there was a consensus around the need for a welfare state and a drive for greater justice and fairness for all.
Given the disengagement of the masses from direct participation in politics it’s not too difficult to imagine the world as we’ve known it just carrying on in its usual fashion, even in its late 20th Century Thatcherite/NuLabour form. Dum di dum di dumb.
But we can’t afford to be defeatist now. We can’t expect the bankers and the politicians and the financiers and the industrialists to come up with a plan for a better world. All they know are the nostrums of neo-conservatism, of Chicago-school economics - voodoo economics, faith in the ‘free market’ and dog eat dog competition - but they also know that this is what’s fucked everything up, as more enlightened souls always knew it would.
So where to go now? More of the same? Er - no. ‘Risk assessment’ and risk-taking is a busted flush. No-one’s going to take those sorts of risks any more. Or to take any risks whatsoever in the casino of capitalism right now. All the bankers want now is the reassurance of OUR money to cradle them and warm them and send them happily to sleep - perchance to dream their sweet and wet dreams of fabulous wealth and privilege. More of the same, really. Bail-out bliss.
What the rest of us want now is for banks to work in the way that WE want them to work - for the benefit of the masses, not the ruling classes and the self-styled masters of the universe. That’s a simple enough aim. Go figure.
What we want now is for government to make everything work for the benefit of the masses, not the ruling classes. That means tax policy, housing, health services, social services and public utilities. Simple enough. Go figure.
What we want now is for education to work for the benefit of the children and for adults who want learning to take place throughout their lives. This is learning geared towards their greater understanding of themselves, their lives, the universe and everything. This is learning that points the way towards the discovery of pathways towards enlightenment, not a so-called education that consists of nothing more than the narrow and functional skills that get you a place on the treadmills of industry and commerce. Or - if you would prefer - the treadmills of public service bureaucracy or the civil service. Or civil semi-slavery as it is now - tied to the yoke of government tasks and targets in return for money for rent, mortgage, food and clothing.
In terms of what the British working and middle classes will now do in order to determine the type of policies we need post-Big Bang/Big Bust, a lot might depend on what they see happening in other countries. It's possible that greater activism and street demonstrations might come about from what they see taking place in France, Eastern Europe and even America. When the dominos started to fall at the end of the communist era in Eastern Europe we saw previously unimaginable and radical change, due to people being inspired to get out and protest and demand change. We're at the end of another era now.
Under the Victorians, said Paxo, on TV last night, the accumulation of wealth and land became more and more ruthless and violent.
Under Thatch and NuLabour, it became more and more - well . . . ruthless, relentless and aggressive. How else to describe the practices that characterise what’s been happening? The mis-selling of so-called derivatives from so-called sub-prime mortgages. We didn’t even know such things could exist. The currency trading and speculation; the property bubble, the over-valuation of stocks and shares, the bonus culture. The attempt to grab Iraq’s oil.
Victoria was no pacifist. Military force was used year in, year out - to subdue and govern what the British ruling classes saw as inferior races. Including their own working classes if necessary.
On the Albert memorial the figure called ‘Europe’ rides an ox into a civilised future. “Occupy, fortify, grab and brag” seemed to sum up the attitude of the wealthy and the ruling class, said someone to Paxo - then as now, as it turns out. There’s a fair bit of bragging going on at the moment about the success of the military ‘surge’ in Iraq and the pacification of opposition forces. But could that be anything to do with the hand-over of governance to the Iraqis themselves?
For how long could so few (Victorians) govern so many? asked Paxo.
The answer in our time might be - for as long as the State and the neo-conservative owners continue to maintain control of the major channels and the publications of mass communication and mass circulation - since pacification and disenfranchisement nowadays depend less on the army and police, and more on brainwashing the population and maintaining a state of consciousness and awareness (call it a hegemony) that basically consists of Thatch’s slogan - “TINA - There Is No Alternative”.
According to this thesis socialism doesn’t work, and casino capitalism is the only way to go. All attempts at regulating and controlling ‘the market’ are doomed to failure, they say. In order to do that you’d need a worldwide consensus towards more enlightened thinking and a worldwide determination to promote greater social justice and equality, and that’s just not going to happen.
So we live in very interesting times. Obama thinks he can do things better than the Chicago Boys - the Friedmanites and neo-conservatives - even though he’s a Chicagoan himself. The Republicans are determined to thwart him, of course, and they are the party of big business and big finance, the ones with control of the media and the traditional sources of access to information.
Back in the day, a rebel, a George Lansbury, would go out and set up a newspaper (the Daily Herald) in order to present an alternative point of view. It’s hard to imagine that happening now.
Thankfully we have The Guardian, which is hardly mass circulation, but has an excellent website that’s by far the most popular of all the newspaper sites on the Internet. The Guardian at least allows progressives and social democrats like George Monbiot, Polly Toynbee, Simon Jenkins, Jenni Russell, Roy Hattersley and others to present their point of view. But it’s hardly enough. Right-wing ignoramuses and scumbags crawl all over its website and the Comment Is Free feedback section, and deposit their evil turds of ignorant opinion wherever they can.
To what extent can the Internet provide the means for progressive thinkers to communicate with one another and build an alternative consensus? Supporters of Obama used the Internet very successfully to raise a fighting fund, so there must be some hope.
Paxo pointed out that the men who worked in the docks were some of the poorest in Britain. They were paid by the hour, for an average of three hours a day. They went on strike for six pence an hour, and for a minimum of four hours a day. The suffering was intense - a confrontation between wealth and labour - then and now.
The bosses finally gave in. The underdog had won.
Incidentally - Paxo has done a very good thing by showing us some truly great paintings of British and colonial life in Victorian times. The book of the series might well be worth buying.
Fred’s Pension & HH.
“Fury about Sir Fred’s pension had been flying around for days,” said someone on BBC News last night.
“It might be enforceable in a court of law,” said Harriet Harman, “But it’s not enforceable in the court of public opinion. And that’s where the government steps in.”
Ominously the news this morning is that Downing Street is unhappy with Harriet for speaking out so forcefully. Never mind them, Harriet. You did well. Very well. It needed to be said. That was true leadership.
The B Word (x2)
Blair’s in Gaza. He’s appalled by the conditions and the destruction. The fucking nerve of the man. What did he EVER do to try to change the perceptions, the strategy and the behaviour of the Israeli government? 'Cos that would have upset George as well, would it not?
Cherie Blair presented an hour of waffle about Christianity last night. Awful.
Key books for changing awareness and consciousness:
Affluenza .(Oliver James)
The Shock Doctrine .(Naomi Klein)
The State We’re In .(Will Hutton)
Pedagogy of Freedom .(Paulo Freire)
(Ethics, Democracy & Civic Courage)
The New Learning Revolution .(Dryden & Vos)
It’s About Learning .(Stoll, Fink & Earl)
Spiritual Intelligence .(Zohar & Marshall)
Destructive Emotions .(Dalai Lama & Daniel Goleman)
Emotional Intelligence .(Daniel Goleman)
Social Intelligence .(Daniel Goleman)
I was going to include in this post some chunks from Andrew Rawnsley’s page in the Observer yesterday, but that will have to wait.