1 – Post-Covid: Fears
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced almost all people to re-assess what is essentially valuable. People are all too aware how much we depend upon care-workers, health professionals, shop workers, delivery people and cleaners. You can hear the birdsong. The air tastes fresher. Wildlife has wasted no time repopulating. Complete strangers are going out of their way to help one other. How valuable – the Internet, social forums, mobile and video communication. And those for whom work has been life may be, for the first time in that life, discovering themselves and their families, or a new life!
Is this the new morality, emancipated by enforced economic hardship? Even Richard Branson discovering the process many unfortunate individuals have suffered applying for bank bailouts or state benefits? Of course, he has people for that. A new empathy? A new evolving social collective? Many commentators assert this is a realistic potential. Ideology it seems is within grasp. It has always existed within each individual and what seem like ideals now, have only ever been basic human rights. The object suppressing those rights has been forced to back off. Everyone so grateful for the liberties these invasive restrictions have reminded us of. But for some, this liberty costs far too much and freedom is not what they crave. Sweden gets away with no lock-down, whilst Japan pays the penalty for alleviating it too quickly. Will the economic impact form the basis of a new capitalism, since we all learned just how little, materially, we can get by on? Does it present a realistic opportunity that should not be squandered?
Is it rather the painful realisation of the effect of four decades of neoliberal economic policy that minimised scope for ownership, manufacturing, competition and development? For the uninitiated ‘neoliberal’ is basically – “how much can I off-load, reduce costs, liabilities and workforce and do as little as possible to gain the maximum possible?” Profit doesn’t even have to do anything or go anywhere, as long as it secures bargaining power around the negotiating table. Hence the Fourth Industrial Revolution and global market economy the iron lung, incubating divisive agendas under the newly raised national protectionist borders between those recently regarded as allied nations.
Elite capitalists know how to maximise crisis, not just during it but the choices it offers for long-term opportunism. And with another protracted recession under-way, on goes the struggle of political automatons, contriving knee-jerk responses to daily developments beyond their knowledge and control. Having to appease a concerned public, but with one eye on long-term contractual obligations or mitigation. Inexpensive masks, protective clothing, testing, pop-up hospitals, mutual cooperation and collective industriousness and those preferred manufacturers that altered everything to meet demand for ventilators, all unfathomable casualties in this direst crisis. Or rather the sacrificed healthy lives of those most dedicated carers and the ones they cared for. Demand surely, here, has not been the governing factor from the start of this outbreak, but what is clear is that money money money… is still the arbiter of life
While Brexit negotiations continue behind closed doors, dozens of civil servants supposedly did not check the EU inbox offering a helping hand. One such servant making a public statement on Newsnight confirming a political decision was made. Five minutes later he retracted it, following immediate denial by Matt Hancock who conveniently stated that… no, we were always part of the EU collective… since 2014, did we not know that?
So many gaping holes and self-congratulatory spin, whilst people face daily threats to their lives. When it is going to end is anyone’s guess. Many eagerly await a post-mortem on the inner workings of government – the “do not criticise them too harshly during a crisis” phrase worn to a wafer.
Dilemma 1 – The Status Quo.
Neoliberalism has forced taxpayers to submit virtually every industry and plenty of public land to foreign ownership, whilst now having to sustain protectionist political aims; foreign policy the prime political football for scoring own-goals.
Boris has unfortunately become the fall guy for the egg that should have splattered many Tory leaders faces before him. But this is the imposition of the 1% elite they have pandered to. The chicken, come home to roost. The trodden eggshells of the cracked trickle down theory. Well, it has been a masterful policy for its protagonists. Is Richard Branson really that concerned about losing millions? It is their game, their disposition. The “success” they have farm-fed us. To say the contrary now falls into the realm of fantasy or academic speculation. Get real. At the start of this crisis, why did we not see key workers strike for better pay and risk-bonuses, holding lives to ransom for profit? Because they are not out to corner their market, or even ask for extra considerations. What has emerged is that millions of everyday unknown undervalued people are willing to risk their lives for others. What a betrayal of that, if we continue to place money before lives.
So, what the public desperately want now is to return to some form of normality. Two weeks is more than sufficient for some to spend on a beach, or to navel-gaze, or to question their worth socially or individually, while their mortgages default and businesses collapse. Six weeks is unbearably indulgent. This is also what government and commerce will be calculating. But they will not be thinking in normal terms. They will be reassessing terms far surpassing the abuses that have become the new ‘normal’ under austerity. Since everyone’s security has been threatened to the very core, anything that reduces that threat – even placing public health in danger again – might be a temptation some would take their chances with. What compounds this danger is dependency upon a mobile app that will tell people entering a tube station which end of the train they should get on. Only the ones using it, of course. This is proposed by the so-called ‘experts’ with serious reputations, careers and responsibilities to maintain.
Can ‘normality’ ever realistically resume? Has any of the 21st century been normal? When someone is repeatedly abused, they will cling to the slightest hint of civility or even moderated violence, whilst being unaware or completely disbelieving that a better life exists for them outside. This is how neoliberals constantly groom society to shut down broader speculations. Whatever status quo is restored, it is bound to be a different shape than its predecessor. That is down to whoever shapes that reform. If it remains the protagonists of former abuse, then what do we expect? So, we need to urgently scrutinise the powers at the public’s disposal and they must include economic power; liberation of the masses from the financial pogrom of neoliberalism.
Dilemma 2 – Morality.
Every argument proposed for green energy, conservation and the shelved global warming crisis make perfect economic sense and profitable sense. Yet even with the price of oil becoming negative for the first time in history, there is no urgent move towards an eco-revolution. The Green New Deal, placing this on a global war footing (as Covid-19 is supposedly), remains ignored. Why? Simply because the 1% have their methods and are fighting their corner and are very comfortable with it, thank you very much. Their plates are full. As insane as it is (they and their outrageous propositions are) to most political onlookers they stand a chance against each other and all effort must be geared to that.
Governments have little choice in it. Just as a threatening criminal that gets away with blatant violence can own a local community, so governments and elites harness entire nations through internal bullying, international militarism, arms and trade deals and industrial espionage. The people they ‘serve’ are expendable in the global economy; their dilemmas force them to play god and you get the feeling some enjoy it. Neoliberalism, to many capitalists, is a natural historic process, but that remains a very primitive one-sided argument.
So all new economic method or model organisations constantly appeal for a new morality, or any old one will do. Authors, economists and philosophers sell constant updates pontificating over what is and what should be, whilst some celebrities stick their necks on the line to contradict the commercial system that, until now, afforded them their status. But many shy away, so it is welcome. And this is right, that at last some stand out amongst all the on-line incessant chatter that seems to dissolve amongst the inane second by second updates. Without celebrities, no one attracts attention. Will celebrities save us, though? This fixation is a prominent danger. Unless they point us to the unknown people who already offer us the real solutions, this is all diversionary somewhat comfortable sound bites. Do they know who those people are? Our solutions do not lie with celebrities. They are the first to recognize, they are not ‘the people.’ Nor is any already failed socialism or communism.
Until empowerment is indiscriminate at source and de-centralised it cannot be representative and inclusive and is not genuine. There has to be a better way than marginal representation focussed around significant individuals.
Another danger, as exhibited in the approach to Covid-19, is in academic self-interest. Whilst most academia is freely shared globally, inclusive of international enterprises and expert collaboration – corporate academia is secretive, protective and competitively elitist. Illustrated by pharmaceutical companies and manipulation of health strategies.
But amongst so many idealists and campaigners for human and labour rights, how much actual forming of practical process and empowerment actually results from the plethora of research? The general public are not apprised of the thousands of annual conferences, populated by tens if not hundreds of thousands of dedicated researchers into alternative solutions to neoliberal issues. Add to this the expanding work of charities, NGOs, not-for-profits, four thousand circular, alternative, complementary, crypto, non-monetary and free-sharing economies; millions of individual efforts like that of Tom Moore and finally all the unpaid care of families and neighbours. The totality of their achievement, in contrast to the amorality of neoliberal capitalism, seems piecemeal and offers most desperate people of different circumstance only disillusionment, or unsustainable effort. Slaving for formal employers seems preferable, no matter how convincing the evangelism of those who have been freed from it.
Yet these are the very insights the public need to capitalise on to regain control economically. The power is under their noses and it does not even have to change how they behave. Ideology is impotent unless it can be formed using practical accessible measures. The biggest single practical blockade is money. So it needs to be bypassed through another economic avenue.
And so to public outcry, protest movements and political reforms. Here too we have seen unprecedented levels of change across most of the globe, altering political dynamics. Much of that change originates from no set ideology or allegiance, yet they hardly ever make fleeting news. The only way for the public to find the source of this change is to dig into the on-line archives. And in the final analysis, most of those movements alter little practically and make significant side steps from their initial moral manifestos, when confronting the charging head of neoliberalism. So, why should people pay any attention to them? Because despite all outcomes, they successfully mobilised masses of people.
Whatever morality needs implementing, someone has to make moral judgments and impose and police that morality. Who is going to do that? A centralised body of conflicting career oriented people that bully, deceive and compete for individual positions and place in history, or the unseen people that put everything on the line to care for others and get things done with next to nothing? Is there a way to facilitate a chance for everyone, individually, to become economically self-sustaining and even profitable? What can we decide for ourselves? How do we achieve what we need without dependence upon an apparently failed and divisive moral perspective?
Is the hope of revolutionising neoliberal capitalism and capitalists an unrealistic dream? Talk is cheap. The realities that have hit us all indiscriminately, due to Covid-19, offer us not just desperation, but another opportunity based on those realities. Previous campaigners posed those realities as dreams, because they seemed so unattainable. But this also is a kind of subterfuge that separates interests, akin to the kind of reinforcement of prejudice and dependency projected by some who passionately campaign against abuse. This new awakening has exposed a significant and undermined part of our true nature before our very eyes. And this opportunity to grasp control of our common rights may not be on offer for long. We should examine how we can reach out and grasp them now.
The next article will look at this process: how neoliberals promise dreams but shackle people to their living nightmare and how we wake up, by being able to re-assign value to the power within every person. The power to trade economically without monetary constraint.
Contributed: Kendal Eaton, author ‘A Chance For Everyone: the Parallel Non-Monetary Economy’ – achanceforeveryone.com