Tag: Eugenics

Hell of a state: What the tragic story of Don Lane tells us about Tory Britain

By Daniel Margrain

Don Lane

Don Lane, who suffered from diabetes, earned his living by delivering parcels to peoples’s homes and businesses throughout the country. Although Mr Lane was paid a salary by the giant courier company he worked for, according to the law, he was “self-employed”.

The amount he was paid depended on how many parcels he delivered. Mr Lane received no holiday or sick pay and was under constant pressure to meet targets. Drivers for the company get fined by them for rounds they miss. Mr Lane was recently fined for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes where tragically he collapsed and died.

The scandal that underlies the story is one which the bosses and shareholders of giant multinational companies like the one Don Lane worked “self-employed” for, have seen their dividends and pay go through the roof, while workers at the bottom, have experienced a real terms drop in their income over many years. The ideology that drives this “gushing up” of wealth towards the top, is called neoliberalism.

Before its onset four decades ago, the UK was a much more equal society than it is at present. The available data shows that the share of income going to the top 10 per cent of the population fell over the 40 years to 1979, from 34.6 per cent in 1938 to 21 per cent, while the share going to the bottom 10 per cent rose slightly.

As measured by the Gini Coefficient (see below), the redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, rose sharply under the Thatcher government in 1979. The trend continued, albeit less drastically, under successive Tory and Labour governments where it reached a peak in 2009-10.

Figures show that GDP, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016. This increase in wealth, however, has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands.

Inequality

SourceIFS 2016

Impact of inequality

report by Oxfam highlights the significant role neoliberalism plays in perpetuating inequality and suggests that the societies most affected are more prone to conflict or instability. The report also points out that extremes of inequality are bad for economic growth, as well as being related to a range of health and social problems including mental illness and violent crime.

Moreover, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book, The Spirit Level. argue that other impacts of inequality include drug addiction, obesity, loss of community life, imprisonment, unequal opportunities and poorer well-being for children.

Left Foot Forward has cited studies that illustrate the close correlation between inequality and unhappiness. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to, and treat, each other.

But rather than introducing socioeconomic policies that help reduce inequality, the Conservative government under Theresa May, has deliberately and consciously continued with the failed high borrowing-low investment/high debt economic neoliberal model that gives rise to it. Under the guise of austerity, the government have instead turned on workers, the sick and the disabled. The result has been increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicides.

Fragmented

The existence of fragmented and atomised communities outside the confines of the workplace, the reduction in organised labour within it (illustrated by the long-term decline in trade union membership) and the lack of any safety net, means that ordinary people are increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of “market forces”.

The ideology that underpins the neoliberal assault is the pseudo-science concept known as biological determinism, the legitimacy of which rests on the assertion that the social order is a consequence of unchanging human biology, as opposed to the result of inherited economic privilege or luck.

Thus, biological determinism reinforces the notion that inequality, injustice and the existence of entrenched hierarchical social structures of government, media and commerce are “natural”.

But it also highlights the artificial limits that a system driven by profit imposes. Any rejection of biological determinism and the rigged market system that reinforces it, is regarded by its promoters as being the fault of the individual, not the social institutions or the way society is structured.

Thus, according to evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists and those within the elite political and media establishment, the solution to overcoming inequality and injustice is not to challenge existing social structures upon which “reality” is based, but rather to alter the chemical composition of the human brain to accommodate it to this reality.

In extreme circumstances it has been used to justify the elimination of individuals altogether who challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and/or whose values are perceived to be a “drain on the taxpayer”.

Social Darwinism

Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify its killing of ‘undesirables’ or ‘low hanging fruit’. These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories.

The said theories adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Intellectual challenges to neoliberalism and evolutionary psychology help undermine the notion that rigid social stratification, inequality and injustice used to justify them, are inevitable. Indeed, prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Dani Rodrik and Jeffrey Sachs have for a long time been raising their voices against the neoliberal experiment.

What is self-evidently clear is that the current rigged economic system in which power is increasingly concentrated at the top, is not sustainable. The only thing preventing our ability to tackle extreme inequality is political will.

At the next election voters will be faced with a clear choice – either to maintain the status quo by returning the Conservatives to power or, alternatively, to engender a paradigm shift by electing a Labour government. If future Don Lane’s are to be avoided, then we have no alternative other than to ensure a Corbyn victory.

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21st Century Victorian Holocausts

By Daniel Margrain

 

Author Milan Kundera’s aphorism that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, might well have been written for the starving, poor, sick, mentally ill and disabled whose suffering the vast majority of the political-media class are attempting to wipe from the pages of history.

One rare exception is the Daily Mirror who occasionally report on the plight of world’s “unpeople”. I will never forget, for example, their courageous coverage of the Iraq WMD debacle or the fact they were the only corporate daily paper at the time to give prominence to John Pilger’s insightful journalism. Also, to their credit, shortly before the last General Election, they availed their readers of the attempts by the Tories to cover-up rates of suicide among Britain’s sick and disabled people who the government deem fit for work.

The Mirror’s revelations underpinned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refusal to release figures highlighting the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who had died between November, 2011 and May, 2014. It was only after concerted political pressure from below that the government were eventually forced into releasing the information by the Information Commissioner (IC).

The DWP Secretary at that time, Iain Duncan Smith, who admitted that his department have a “duty of care” to benefit claimants, disingenuously insisted that there was no evidence of a ‘causal link’ between the governments work capability assessment (WCA) and the subsequent 590 recorded deaths from suicide.

This was contradicted by the coroners findings which stated that all of the deaths “certainly aren’t linked to any other cause”. It was subsequently revealed that WCA assessors “used psychological ‘nudge’ techniques to push the mentally-ill and those with disabilities towards suicide in order to reduce the ‘burden’ on society caused by these “useless eaters”.

The recorded figures of avoidable deaths resulting from the attempts by WCA assessors to ‘nudge’ people off benefits towards work, almost certainly represents the tip of an enormous ice berg.

In an an attempt to humanize some of those who died in this way, concerned citizens have recorded the personal details of some of the individuals and the circumstances that led to their untimely deaths. This information can be viewed here, here, here and here. It’s particularly shocking to this writer that in Britain in 2017 many of those listed died of starvation.

Deception

The recent personal testimony of commentator Stewart Bailey provides a graphic insight into how assessors are encouraged to push claimants off-benefits towards serious hardship. Mr Bailey’s account which highlights a series of misrepresentations and falsehoods made by assessors in relation to his health condition, is supported by the findings of the Disability News Service (DNS) who have collected evidence as part of a lengthy investigation.

The DNS allege widespread dishonesty by assessors working for the outsourcing giants Capita and Atos. Claimants spoke repeatedly of dishonesty, “fraudulent conduct” and “lie after lie after lie” told by assessors in their reports, on which DWP decision-makers based their decisions on their eligibility for Personal Independence payments (PIPs).

This comes on top of the introduction (April 6, 2017) of the governments policy to reduce tax credits to families with two children meaning 116,000 households will be affected pushing an additional 387,000 children into poverty. Levels of welfare payments in the UK are so low that they have been described by the Council of Europe as “manifestly inadequate“.

The DNS findings also come a few days after their revelation of new plans which indicate that the Tory genocide against the sick and disabled is set to accelerate. The news service have revealed that new government reviews into PIPs means that disabled people are constantly in fear of having their payments cuts or, worse, halted.

The DNS point out that nearly half (45%) of PIP claimants who had a planned review of their award in 2016 either saw it cut or lost it entirely based on the absurd pretext that cutting benefits to the long-term disabled will help them into work.

Joe Whittaker, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said: “The imposition of yet another stage in the already oppressive process to ‘support disabled people into employment’, cynically named a ‘health and work conversation’, is another pernicious attempt to weaken the rights of disabled people.”

Caroline Richardson, one of the authors of a report on last years green paper for the Spartacus Network of sick and disabled campaigners published last month (March, 2017), said the plans show “a total ignorance of the level of sickness or disability that the claimant may be experiencing, and will subsequently lead to huge stress and deprivation at what may be a crisis point in people’s lives”.

The Spartacus report accused ministers of using the green paper as a “smokescreen” to disguise their intention to cut support and force sick and disabled people into inappropriate work.

Life unworthy of life

While all decent people rightly regard this ‘involuntary euthanasia’ strategy to be deeply shocking, it should be noted that it is far from being a new one. Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify their killing of ‘undesirables’ who like the Tories they regarded as a ‘drain on society’ whose value was measured solely in terms of their perceived negative impact on the ‘taxpayer’.

These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories, which adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Off benefits into coffins

Following Duncan Smith’s resignation over a scandal in which people are being pushed off benefits into coffins, many people were hopeful of a change in policy direction under his successor, Stephen Crabb. But these hopes were soon dashed after the latter announced a further six years of “welfare reforms” (euphemism for £12 billion of cuts to the most in need).

What independent journalist, Mike Sivier, correctly, in my view, described as a preventable “war of attrition” amounts to an ideological attack on those who are least able to defend themselves. This war is continuing under the current DWP minister, Damian Green, after it was recently revealed that the government reversed Tribunal rulings that would have extended financial support to 160,000 people with disabilities.

The attempts by the Tories to humiliate and inflict immense suffering on the weakest in society, is what film-maker Ken Loach described as the British governments “conscious cruelty” towards them.

Historical continuum

The ethnic cleansing of the poor by stealth is not, of course, limited to British citizens but forms an integral part of an historical continuum that extends throughout the world. The Nazi Genocide was an extreme version of the ruling classes attitude towards ‘undesirables’.

The symbiosis that exists between the UK government, M15/6, the vice-chair of the BBC Trust and British arms manufacturer, BAE Systems (ie the industrial-military complex or ‘Deep State’), is a contemporary expression of how this ‘conscious cruelty’ is being played out in relation, for example, to the killing fields of Yemen.

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia exceed the amount given in aid to Yemen by a factor of ten and is indicative of how imperial power, whose corollary is the industrial-military complex, is actively complicit in a famine that is engulfing the country. As Chris Murphy, citing a Huffington Post article, put it: “I feel like a broken record, but please read this – we are plunging Yemen into famine – on purpose.” Even the Economist concedes that famine which is menacing millions of people throughout the country, is a consequence of war, not drought.

Not only is the UK government providing the Saudi regime with the BAE bombs that are being dropped on Yemeni civilians but, as historian Mark Curtis has shown, it has a long collaborative history of training and funding Jihadist Islamist groups in its various proxy wars in countries that include Libya, Iran, Pakistan, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Bosnia. The famine in Yemen is directly linked to the UK governments collusion with radical Islam as part of its strategy to extract resources from the country.

Expendable

In essence, the poor and weak are viewed by imperial power as nothing more than expendable objects to be dehumanized, stigmatized and exploited as part of the imperial game of profit maximization. Whether it’s the culling of ‘useless eaters’ in Britain, the historical asset-stripping of Africa, the contemporary conflicts in Syria and Iraq or the famine in Yemen, the principles and objectives are invariably the same – the theft of resources, the exploitation of the poor and weak and the undermining of basic human rights.

These ideas would not have come as any surprise to the politicians of the Victorian era who would have shared with Tory Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, Chancellor, Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, an ideological commitment towards ending ‘welfare dependency’ and promoting ‘humanitarian interventionism’ and the ‘responsibility to protect’. Then, as now, lofty sounding morals are regularly evoked.

One of Hammond’s prominent 19th century counterparts was ‘India’s Nero’, Lord Lytton. Like Hammond, Queen Victoria’s “favourite opium-smoking poet”, vehemently opposed efforts to interfere with “market forces”. In 1877-78 Lytton rubber-stamped the export of a record amount of wheat grain to Europe rather than relieve starvation in India.

During the late 19th century, India, under Lytton, had effectively become a Utilitarian laboratory where millions of lives were wagered against dogmatic faith in omnipotent markets overcoming the “inconvenience of dearth”.

Free market zealot

A similar Utilitarian laboratory had been established by Britain in Ireland during this late Victorian period. Under the tutelage of free market zealot, Chancellor Lord Charles Trevelyan, the Irish famine ‘relief effort’ was put into place that resulted in a politically-induced genocide no different in principle to the ‘cheque book euthanasia’ policy of the modern day Tories.

The tragedy of the famine is commemorated each year by people from all over the world. Later next month (May 20, 2017), those gathered will descend on the beautiful County Mayo coastline in the west of Ireland to take part in the ten mile Famine Walk from Doo Lough to Louisburgh – the town where on the night of March 30, 1849, hundreds of starving people arrived seeking relief and workhouse shelter.

They were met at the shelter by the local Poor Law guardians whose role was to ‘inspect’ them as certification for their ‘official pauper’ status. This would then supposedly entitle them to a ration of food to be eaten the following morning at a fishing establishment called Delphi Lodge owned by the Marquess of Sligo, ten miles away.

Many didn’t arrive at their destination having died from exposure to the harsh elements or through starvation. The few that did make it were refused the relief they were told they were entitled to and they died on their homeward journey, with the bodies remaining where they fell.

Such tragedies were common in Ireland in the mid-19th century. By 1871 the population of the country had halved, with at least 1.5 million dead. Two million fled to America, many of them dying during the voyage or on arrival. The historian and critic, Terry Eagleton, describes the famine as “the greatest social disaster of 19th century Europe, an event with something of the characteristics of a low-level nuclear attack.”

In echoing the kind of detached but scornful class-based attitude the contemporary ruling elite have towards their working class minions Trevelyan, in a rather casually racist manner, said of the Irish:

“The great evil with which we have to contend, is not the physical evil of the famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people.”

Pleading

Lord Clarendon, an establishment Anthony Wedgewood (Tony) Benn, of his day, pleaded with the Liberal PM, Lord Russell to intervene, stating:

“Surely this is a state of things to justify you asking the House of Commons for an advance. For I don’t think there is another legislature in Europe that would disregard such suffering as now exists in the west of Ireland, or coldly persist in such a policy of extermination.”

Clarendon’s call for Russell to intervene wasn’t heeded and neither were similar calls to prevent famines in other nations during the Victorian colonial era – China, India, Egypt, Korea, Brazil, Russia, Ethiopia and Sudan. In the latter two countries alone, an estimated one-third of the populations died.

The European empires, together with Japan and the United States, rapaciously exploited the opportunity to wrest new colonies, expropriate communal lands, and tap novel sources of plantation and mine labour. As Mike Davis points out:

“What seemed from a metropolitan perspective the nineteenth century’s final blaze of imperial glory was, from an Asian or African viewpoint, only the hideous light of a giant funeral pyre. The total human toll…could not of been less than 30 million victims. Fifty million dead might not be unrealistic.”

Resonates

The famines of the Victorian era continue to resonate today throughout Africa. Then, as now, they were a symptom of social and economic policies that result in unnecessary deaths. Even in the 19th century this was well understood.

The radical journalist and humanitarian, William Digby, principal chronicler of the 1876 Madras famine, as well as famed naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, for example, both viewed mass starvation as an avoidable political tragedy not ‘natural’ disaster. Published in 1898, Wallace characterized the famines in India and China, together with the slum poverty of the industrial cities, as “the most terrible failures of the century.”

Millions died, not outside the capitalist system but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. Indeed, they were killed by the theological application of the sacred principles of Smith, Locke, Hobbes, Bentham, Malthus and Mill in much the same way as hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of today’s poor, mentally ill and disabled have, under the Tories, died as a result of the neoclassical economic Chicago School’s application of the sacred principles of Friedman and Stigler.

The consensus view among the ruling class of the Victorian era was that famine was deemed to be a morally justifiable “salutary cure for over-population.” Today, over three million of the world’s children die needlessly from hunger. Indebted countries are forced to export food as a “free-market” commodity while the producers are denied their own produce and many of them go hungry, and their children starve.

That is what happened in Ireland and India. In Trevelyan and Lytton’s day it was known as Liberalism. Today it is known as ‘neoliberalism’. “England made the famine”, wrote the Irish socialist, James Connolly, “by a rigid application of the economic principles that lie at the base of capitalist society.”

In essence, nothing has changed. The ruling class attitude towards the poor and sick who suffer as a result of the political consequences and actions of those who rule over them, is as deeply embedded today as it was a century and a half ago.

What Kind of A Society Are We Prepared to Fight For?

By Daniel Margrain

Pushing Earth of a cliff

In my February 21, 2017 article for Scisco Media I focused on the “conscious cruelty” inflicted by recent Labour and Tory governments’ on some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society. The piece proved to have been quite popular, reflecting a widespread hatred of a largely out-of-touch political class whose underlying set of principles are not much different to those that typified the rise of Nazism during the 1930s.

I pointed out that New Labour “feminist” ideologues like Harriet Harman and Yvette Cooper were complicit in ensuring that Tory attacks against the sick and disabled would be implemented. The notion that both the Tories and Right factions within the Labour party consider Britain’s “low-lying fruit” as a drain on society to be eliminated, is not as far-fetched as some might believe.

This was certainly the view of Pat Hibernian McQueenie who commented:

“Good piece, it is time for JC and JMCD to remove the linen glove and put on the Iron Fist. If these two Politicians are removed from their posts the British Working Class will cease to exist. A new Class will be born or I should say reborn The British Slave Class will be implemented by the Right Wing.

Queuing at Work Premises I would use gates but there are not that many Left anyway all you who voted for the Tory be afraid be very very afraid. Death Camps will spring up in isolated places and I think you know the rest. All of You Should Have Watched “THE NAZIS A WARNING FROM HISTORY”

I hope whatever God if any You Worship Forgives You because I a disabled Human Being who worked all his Life from 9 until being struck down at the age of 59 WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU SELFISH SCUM SOCIETY You are the Worst Stupidest EVER.”

My piece also appeared to have struck a chord with Elizabeth Newport who wrote:

“Labour’s apathy since 2010 over the appalling benefit reforms upsets me more than the fact the tories have done it. I expect the tories to scapegoat and demean the vulnerable, that’s what they do, but I expected Labour to make their lives very difficult and for charities to be extremely vocal.

The truth is no one cares about the vulnerable, the electorate voted the tories in knowing what their plans were. Labour rolled over on the welfare reform bill. When we have all died from stress and poverty or killed ourselves they will find a new group to scapegoat. I can honestly say that as a mentally disabled person I have never felt so hopeless with regards to any political changes. I was a single parent in the early 1990’s when single parents were blamed and targeted. This is even worse.”

Elizabeth is partly right. The Tories did not mention who their intended target was for the cuts. Not one mainstream journalist leading up to the election pressed then DWP minister, Iain Duncan Smith, for clarification, and therefore, the Tories had no mandate with which to implement their stated programme of cuts.

Pathological

Although it could be reasonably argued that people rarely base their decision to vote for a party on a single issue, the notion that poor people vote in large numbers for the Tories who clearly have them in their sights, is only incomprehensible if one is of the opinion that such people are immune from directing similar forms of pathological hatred against those who are even poorer and weaker than they are.

Of course, the far-right tabloid media play a major part in fanning the flames of hate. But it’s insufficient to put the blame solely on them. Despite falling sales, Murdoch continues to shift millions of copies of the Sun on a daily basis and nobody is physically forcing working class people into the shops to buy it. It’s not just the Tories who pander to the whims of Murdoch either. New Labour under Blair and Brown, were only too eager to appease the racist demographic in the country.

Charity-industrial complex

A corrupt corporate media-political system dominated by power and money means that, literally, the government is getting away with murder. This injustice was articulated by Iam Klaatu in the comments section:

“I do not understand why this is allowed to continue? There are so many breaches of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Articles 23 and 24, and even United Nations condemnation! And under Articles 2 & 4 of the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, we have EVERY RIGHT, to see not just politicians and Lords, but EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBLE, from politicians, civil servants, job centre staff and managers, they can and WILL be made accountable for this crime against humanity!

The passive approach among what I refer to as the “charity-industrial complex” also play a complicit role. Klaatu continues:

“So why doesn’t Scope, MENCAP, MS, Cancer Research, etc etc etc , get off their backsides and unite, and stop this genocidal policy??? Or are they afraid of seeing their funding cut??? Their apathy is sickening!!! David Cameron, has even made patron of a charity, whose people are just one group of people that HIS government has hounded and starved to death!…It is an outrage!!!”

Eugenics

It’s my view that what we are witnessing in Britain today, is an early manifestation of a policy of eugenics which will become increasingly more obvious in the years ahead, particularly as robots begin to create a growing pool of idle ‘useless eaters’ among the existing white collar and blue collar workforce. Eventually, a critical-mass point will be reached in which the government of the day will be forced into making binary political choices.

Future governments will be faced with either funding a Universal Basic Income system or resist the necessity for change and, therefore, be prepared for mass civil disobedience on the streets of our towns and cities. As successive governments over the last 40 years have preferred the punitive ‘stick’ rather than the incentivising ‘carrot’ approach, the introduction of a UBI system is far from being a formality.

Of course, none of these potential policy proposals can be announced publicly by the government of the day, or by their media mouthpieces. Rather, the aim is to introduce them incrementally. It’s clear that the eugenics policy is one that is already well under way in Britain in 2017.

The latest in a series of appalling stories to have emerged, concerns Nicola Jeffery, a single parent from south east London. Nicola has fibromyalgia which causes chronic pain across the body. She is one of thousands of people with “invisible disabilities” whose benefits have been axed by the Tories as a result of new “reforms” to the personal independence payment (Pip) benefits system.

The “reforms” are part of a wider long-term strategy of welfare retrenchment, austerity and cuts to those most in need. The aim is the destruction of civilized society. All associated notions of civilization that people have come to take for granted – NHS, social care, fire service, education, public child care provision etc – are being whittled away and sold off for the benefit of private capital and shareholder’s, many of whom are working class people.

So we have to ask the question, what kind of a society do we want?

It’s no longer acceptable to solely blame the Tories for the problems we face. Many ordinary people who vote for right wing parties, including a corporate-corrupted Labour party dominated by a neoliberal core of war-monger’s, Friends of Israeli ethnic cleansing and austerity apologists, have to start looking in the mirror and begin educating themselves about what’s going on in their own communities; their own country; their own world.

Taking responsibility

Many of the problems stem from the fact that for far too long, too many people have not been prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, nor to evaluate how the individual decisions they make on a daily basis impact on society in general. The easy option in which people are prepared to look the other way for perceived short-term gain, can no longer be tolerated.

People who litter and fly-tip on our streets and fields, drive aggressively and at speed in built-up areas, in addition to engaging in other forms of anti-social behaviour, need to be politely confronted. We also need to minimize our individual carbon footprints the best we can, buy locally sourced and organic produce and reduce our consumption of meat.

The attitude for many seems to be that as long as they, as individuals, are not directly being affected by the travails going on around them, then they would sooner prefer to be oblivious to them, irrespective of their adverse impacts.

This lack of awareness and compassion for others, rooted in selfishness and crass individualism, is the bane of society and civilization. Although it might not be the case that the individual or close family member is seemingly unaffected, the nature of the direction of travel in society is such that in the absence of viable alternatives, it will nevertheless become the case further down the line.

Finite planet

Although it might not be the situation today, tomorrow or the day after that, the fragile nature of the planet humanity inhabits, means that the infinite grabbing of finite resources will eventually result in insurmountable negative repercussions in which even the super-rich will not be immune. After all, environmental degradation affects everybody and air pollution is democratic.

Never has Pastor Niemoller’s famous aphorism been more relevant. Climate change is altering the very fabric upon which the functioning of civilized society rests. What use can a depleted planet wrought by a system that prioritizes the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake, serve for an elite that continuously craves it? The answer, of course, is that such a planet is of no use to any living thing.

The time to save humanity from itself is fast running out which is why we need to act. However, political shifts at the ballot box alone won’t be enough. We need collectively to go beyond naval-gazing towards positive action. We need to start getting informed about the real issues that humanity faces going forward and start to begin to look for radical solutions.

But we can only do this if an informed public is in a position to be able to correctly identify the cause of our collective malaise. Instead of devoting our energies on attacking the Other for the problems we face, we need to identify and target the source of our oppression. This means we have to think Big.

The local-global nexus, has arguably never been as relevant as it is now. This is because unlike previous epochs, we are the potential authors of our own destruction. In the past, as we moved from one socioeconomic and political form of organisation to another, we confronted, head on, the challenges we faced.

From hunter-gatherer societies through to feudalism, humans were master’s of their own destiny and they survived and prospered along the way. But during the latest capitalist phase, we have seemingly failed to acknowledge our limits as a species.

We cannot reason that lack of knowledge is the cause for our downfall. At the crossroad point along the metaphorical super highway, we made the informed choice to turn rapidly right in the certain knowledge that at the end of the road was a cliff whose precipice we were fast approaching but decided to continue along it’s fatal path regardless. For a species that claims to be at the top of the intellectual food chain, we sure are dumb.

Falling off a cliff

The truth is, we’ve not only sped to the cliff’s edge akin to being passengers of an out-of-control juggernaut, but we are plunging, free fall, towards a giant burning cauldron. We possess parachutes that are, in theory, capable of saving us from the affects of free-fall, but are fast reaching the point where the only eventuality will be hitting the ground with a thud.

Currently, we are at a critical stage between an insurmountable fate and a precarious survival. One of the things that can save us from our mass hypnosis and passivity in the face of a self-inflicted untimely death, is mass collective action. But collective activity in the strict political sense of the term is not enough either.

We also have to start radically changing our behaviour as consumers. This means a dramatic shift in expectations. It’s no longer reasonable for people to expect to spend £2 on a tee-shirt that has been produced by sweated labour in Pakistan, or to feign ignorance in order to justify other forms of immoral decision-making. Crucially, we need to stop buying ‘things’ we don’t need with money we haven’t got.

Because consumption is effectively the oil that lubricates the capitalist system, alternative forms of collective action on a massive scale will naturally correspondingly alter the way the current set of consumption-production relations function. This can only be beneficial for humanity and the planet.

Like the impact of a stone that lands in a pond whose ripples gradually spread further afield, the individual choices we as consumers make, in conjunction with our political choices, can eventually begin to set us free. But we need to hurry up because time is fast running out.

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