Greed is good, and all that bollocks: Why we are more egalitarian than we think.

Since the advent of capitalism on steroids in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, we have been force fed a narrative that human beings are inherently competitive. This conveniently fits with the neoliberal economical and political ideology that dominates western civilisation. Thatcher and Reagan in particular, painted a bleak one dimensional picture, that life is the “survival of the fittest”, that there was no such thing as society, just winners and losers. Scientists wrote about “selfish genes” and popular culture suggested “greed is good” in an effort to normalise this behaviour. The question is, are we no better than primates who battle for dominance or is this fiction simply packaged as fact in an effort to justify political decisions and cement capitalism as the only feasible system.

Contrary to these views, it is worth pointing out that of the 200,000 years or so our species has existed, it is estimated that only 5-10,000 of these have included a society arranged in a top down manner. A hierarchical structure driven by dominance is not the default setting we are often led to believe. For tens of thousands of years, anthropological research highlights, that groups known as egalitarian hunter gatherers were the norm. Although this is well known by academics in this field, rarely does this information seep into the mainstream media. On the contrary, people are still very much inclined to believe that humans are competitive and self serving.

In an anthropological study reviewing 24 relatively recent, hunter-gatherer communities, it was found that food was shared, not just as a reciprocal action but in order to support those in need. This is distinct from primates, where the dominant individuals often eat first, with subordinates generally only consuming what’s left. It’s important to recognise that this equality highlighted does not depend on a set of genetic features, rather it is held in check by ‘counter’ or ‘reverse’ dominance strategies. Any individual seeking dominance and control was opposed by the group in order to protect themselves and their personal autonomy. Groups were generally united against anyone who appeared too domineering.

Anthropologists such as Professor Christopher Boehm studied these factors, examining data from 48 egalitarian societies investigating how they maintained their particular society. It was discovered that the motivation for egalitarian societies was a basic dislike to being dominated. Selfish and Alpha male behaviour was strongly opposed by the group using mild to moderate methods such as; criticism, ridicule and open expression of disapproval through ostracism, exclusion and death at the opposite end of the spectrum. It was thought that egalitarianism was considered a moral principle, therefore, this type of society consciously, purposefully and assertively maintained it.

Due to these communities actively subscribing to these principles most decisions were made by consensus. Individuals who were unselfish and helpful, were chosen more often as sexual partners or were generally valued in cooperative activities, as opposed to the less social who were regularly shunned. This is thought to have led to a selection of people who were genetically predisposed to pro social and public spirited behaviour. Reasons for this pro-social behaviour are simple, organisms that work together tend to survive. Not only this but inequality leads to instability within a group, leading to conflict.

Decision making was decentralised with no chiefs and organised violence between groups. There were no pervasive ideas of private property, therefore, no need for territorial protection. This way of life was also chronicled by the first European colonists in the early 17th century. It is now considered by some anthropologists that egalitarian communities are not constructed necessarily out of some form of inherent moral purity, but more likely a social choice. One that was utilised for thousands of years in a method to increase their chances of flourishing. So what changed?

It is proposed that humans have lived in a hierarchical society led by the privileged few for about 5000 years. One plausible view by anthropologists; Julian Steward, Leslie White and Robert Carneiro suggests that major changes occurred when society turned to agriculture in order to provide more food for an ever expanding population. It is surmised that this culminated in a surplus, with a need for managers and specialised roles. In turn, this led to stratified social classes.

This idea has been expanded upon, offering that certain self-aggrandising individuals exploited this surplus in an effort to ascend the social ranking system. In relation to groups, it is thought that improved coordination plus division allowed complex societies to out compete more egalitarian ones. This eventual uneven distribution of resources benefitted some more than others, becoming an ingrained feature of society. The arrival of agriculture and trade resulted in private property, inheritance and larger trade networks, only compounding any economic advantages a small number had attained over others.

Despite this, these views still fail to explain fully our deeply stratified modern society. There are numerous theories abound implying that inequality is in some way a favourable trait that cultivates efficiencies, inspires innovation and increases chances of survival. In contrast, a Stanford University study found that unequal access to resources is a destabilising force which increases the chance of group extinction. Two models were used, one using wage inequality, while the other utilised wealth distribution, but the results turned out similarly. In this study and as chronicled in historical events, unequal groups spread in search of further resources. In history this has been documented in the form of colonisation or the invasion of other nations.

All this indicates that, far from inequality spreading because it is conducive to survival, the demographic instability it creates leads to migration, conflict, cultural extinction and physical extinction. In the late 19th century the term homo economicus arose as a criticism to the underlying concepts of self interest, a theory proposed by among others John Stuart Mill. Mill characterised humans as primarily self interested with traits including;

  • Flawless rationality – making decisions in a perfectly rational manner without the influence of bias.
  • Unlimited cognitive capacity – ability to process any amount of information, regardless of quantity, quality or the complexity.
  • Access to perfect information – access to all information needed to make a required decision.
  • Narrow self interests – only interested in helping themselves.
  • Focuses on maximising utility and profits – primarly the goal is to maximise utility as a consumer, or profit as a producer
  • Preference consistency – preference and goals remain relatively consistent over time.

Although now heavily criticised, the narrative underpinning homo economicus is still pushed by governments, corporations, the media, as well as the ruling elite, but often more surreptitiously than previous decades. In the UK during the late 70’s and early 80’s Margaret Thatcher relentlessly and blatantly espoused the idea of individualism, while Reagan pushed a practically identical dire ideological agenda in the US.

In an article published on the website Evonomics, Blair Fix claims that free market ideology, which neoliberalism is based around, consists of a double lie. The first lie offers that the central tenet which postulates acting selfishly maximises the wellbeing of the group, an idea Multilevel Selection Theory disputes. Suggesting, there is always a disconnect between the interest of a group and the interest of the individual within the group. However, for groups to be successful, they must temper the selfish behaviour of individuals, often in the form of punishment.

Secondly there is the age old neoliberal untruth that free market ideology leads to freedom and autonomy, this is often espoused by US libertarians. On the contrary, the evidence declares that it actually cultivates greater obedience and subordination. Free market ideology which promotes individualism is not about freedom and liberty at all, but the accumulation of power. Power according to the author can be split into two; freedom from and freedom to. The former focuses on restrictions such as; freedom from discrimination. This prevents someone from discriminating against you. Secondly, freedom to centres around power, suggesting freedom is a ruse to command people. For example Jeff Bezos is free to run Amazon.

If free market ideology and imbedded individualism really amounts to the accumulation of power, this must surely be linked to an increase in hierarchal structures. What has been noted in the US at both the governmental level and within corporations is hierarchies have expanded. Free market idealists claim to be mortal enemies of the government and yet as regulations have loosened government has grown. One theory is that the free market is not as effective as claimed, needing more and more regulations to keep it viable. Libertarians would probably claim the opposite, offering that increased governmental interference has led to such inefficiencies.

What can’t be denied is the growth of hierarchies in private businesses. Here corporations do not use free market ideology, but multi layered stratified structures, with the complexities of these often proportional to the power accumulated. At this point we can ask ourselves a question; does free market ideology do the opposite of what it claims? Rather than freedom and autonomy, it appears to promote the accumulation of power and an increase in hierarchy.

We must also think about who promotes and attempts to normalise free market ideas? It’s certainly not the small business person. On the contrary, it tends to be owners of huge corporations, like the Koch’s or Jeff Bezos, all in an effort to consolidate money and power. These people are not promoting freedom for all, but rather a way in which they have freedom to command and control others. Along with the bogus notion of ” trickle down economic”, “freedom and liberty” is one of the biggest lies told by ruling elite in order to control the masses, thus promoting unabashed greed while normalising individualism.

Given current worldwide issues including; a pandemic, global warming, a rapidly expanding population, decreasing natural resources and perpetual wars it’s worth considering what Gandhi said.

If ever there was a time to work together, discovering better ways of doing things, unearthing our innate hunter gatherer within ourselves, now is the time. As a society we need to prevent our more narcissistic, selfish, greedy and individualistic members from dictating the terms of our existence, while fighting back in an effort to create a society that works best for as many people as possible.

Socialist ideas in a post identity politics world: A road less travelled?

The left has a major problem. Currently it has two main paths; one that is based on traditional socialist values viewing economic inequality as the major problem facing society, the other, demands that inequality of identity is our most pressing concern. Although there is some crossover, most people will regard one narrative as more important than the other. Those who have read my previous articles will be aware that I regard economic disparity as one of the biggest problems the western world faces. Generally, because this has negative effects on health, education, crime and also how we treat one another. In a capitalist world where we primarily pay to play, members of the public who have less monetary resources simply cannot access the world in the same way as others.

To be clear, by this I do not mean access to high end experiences or goods and services. I am referring to obtaining basic needs that the majority of us get to enjoy without much thought. Whilst our poorest citizens end up with sub standard education, healthcare (especially in the US), food, transport, shelter, warmth and a shorter lifespan. They are also more likely to live in unsafe environments, have little in the way of support and struggle to find employment. Thus, this group is essentially excluded from society and unable to partake in what many would describe as everyday life. Poverty and hardship such as this transcends skin colour or gender, if you are poor in the west you are screwed.

Homeless,

The other increasingly common pathway focuses on identity, which opines that certain groups are oppressed simply by possessing an immutable trait, such as; race and gender. Groups are ranked according to their perceived oppression, while individual agency or general experiences gathered through life are not accounted for. This recent incarnation of primarily a postmodernist worldview proposes that white, able bodied, heterosexual, men are the most privileged of all, regardless of any personal circumstances. Thinking in such a way it could be suggested that a white man living on the streets for example is more privileged than a university educated, upper middle class black women. A conclusion such as this could only be reached purely by using a person’s assigned physical identity.

Despite this, I’m hopeful that out of the wreckage of 40 years of neoliberalism, which has destroyed society to the benefit of the few, plus the current culture war which is demolishing any remnants of community, a new kind of political sensibility will emerge. Ideally, one that focuses on democratic socialist economic principles while adopting a liberal approach to cultural issues. This would include the now unfashionable idea of valuing the individual, based on the content of their character rather than traits we can do little about. After all, human beings are far too complicated and wonderful to be evaluated in such a crude way.

In the late 1970 through to the 80’s Thatcher and Reagan ushered in the radical free market ideology called neoliberalism. This was quickly viewed as the only economically viable way of running a country. Forty years later, mainstream political parties from the right to centre-left completely embrace this once fringe idea as gospel. Now, a new chapter is being written in the west, as certain movements are attempting to indoctrinate the English speaking world into adopting an extreme form of Social Justice, driven by Critical Social Justice and Intersectional theories. Just like neoliberalism, this ideology have been percolating for decades prior to being unleashed into the mainstream.

Contrary to what’s described in the media, the left is by no means one cohesive and unified camp. As previously mentioned it now consists primarily of two distinct groups who have very little fundamental commonalities. In one corner there are “economic socialists”, largely considered as out of touch dinosaurs by the cultural left who lurk in the opposite corner. Who in turn, are often thought of by their detractors (including me) as; postmodernist, anti-science, “champagne socialists”, with no real interest in class struggle. Which is why I propose a split from the cultural left, in an effort to address economic issues that affect people from all cultures, rather than certain prioritised identity groups.

Plenty of people out there agree with the principle of reducing economic inequality for the good of the most amount of people. Furthermore, there are countless socialists who feel disenfranchised from the narrative of identity politics and believe humanity amounts to much more than our immutable traits. With this in mind, there is room for a movement that would reject neoliberalism as the principle economic orthodoxy, while advocating for increased economic equality. Additionally, current identity politics inspired by Critical Race Theory would be dismissed as the prevailing doctrine of social progress.

So what would this look like in practical terms? Firstly, I think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offers some clues as to what should be emphasised in any genuine pursuit of human advancement.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

Loosely using a utilitarian model of thought, a primary focus would be to provide the most amount of people with a chance to flourish. With this in mind, basic needs towards the bottom of the pyramid concerning our essential requirements would have to be met as a matter of priority. If these are not addressed it is impossible to consistently fulfil needs found among the higher levels. This is why all people should have access to quality shelter, food, warmth, physical security, education, employment and healthcare to name a few factors.

Wealth redistribution can certainly be achieved by methods such as progressive taxes, but beyond this, ideas such as workers co-operatives should also be encouraged and rewarded. A resurgence of strong unions based on fighting not only for workers rights, but worthwhile pay and job satisfaction are required more than ever before. Admittedly, all this is difficult to sell to a population who have been indoctrinated by the “free market economy” ideology or those who have possibly gained from it. For the majority though, this system for decades has failed to deliver a sustained increase in our quality of life.

On the right, freedom is generally referred to as economic freedom. This is a very specific interpretation of the word, which in reality has only been achieved and enjoyed by a tiny minority. In the “anglosphere” wages have stagnated and have even began to decrease, especially since the early 2000’s. This has been reflected by incredibly slow financial growth among moderate and low income families. For the vast majority, stagnation has not been created by abstract economic trends, but by calculated political choices made on behalf of individuals with the most wealth and power.

An article by the Economic Policy Institute offered that US citizens in the broad middle classes would have been earning $18,000 more by 2007 if economic inequality had been zero since 1979. In the UK, it is estimated that real wages grew by about 2% between 1980 and 2000, followed by a slow down until 2007 and since 2008 real wages have decreased by 8-10%. All across the west it also noticeable that while productivity has increased dramatically (72.2% between 1979 and 2014 in the US), hourly wages have gone up by just 9.2% over this time.

wage productivity

It’s interesting to note that this clear disconnect between wages and productivity began in the late 1970’s early 80’s at a time when neoliberalism dominated the economic conversation. Further evidence highlights that during this period of rising inequality since 1979 the top 1% have seen their wages grow by 138%, while the bottom 90% have witnessed a modest 15% gain. The news is worse still for the working class and low wage workers, who have witnessed their wages reduced by 5%.

Many factors have been implicated regarding these disparities. First up, CEO’s are taking a larger share of the wages. In the US this ratio has increased from the CEO earning 22 times the average worker in 1974 to 296 times in 2012. Secondly, throughout the western world the minimum wage has lagged behind productivity and thirdly union membership has declined dramatically. This background information is purely to support the premise that economic inequality has grown substantially over 4 decades and these impacts are crucial to address if we want to move forward as a society.

Even a small reduction in economic inequality changes how people interact with each other, which has been proven to lead to more altruistic acts. Economically unequal societies have less participation in social and civic matters, including political activities such as voting. In addition to this, nations with larger economic disparities display a lower level of trust, which in turn is associated to a higher homicide rate and a decline in health. The mechanism behind this is based around the idea of social distancing, which is exacerbated by income inequality, leading to a decline of social capital, thus preventing strong relationships forming.

Trust plummets in more unequal societies and people start to want increasingly authoritarian leaders. Furthermore, in these types of countries people tend to believe that those at the top of the tree are more competent, while thinking competition between groups and individuals lead to the best outcomes. Finally, it is proposed that individuals in unequal societies are on the whole more disagreeable and less empathetic than people in more equal populations.

There is plenty evidence to suggest that reducing economic inequality doesn’t just positively affect most people from a physical perspective such as an increase of resources to partake fully in society, but would actually contribute to repairing many social fissures in the community, by focusing on what we have in common as human beings. This is in stark contrast to identity politics which sets out to fragment society into arbitrary groups based on things we cannot control. This ultimately will increase tribality within the population, allowing the ruling elite to continue securing all the spoils, while we fight among ourselves.

It’s not just neoliberalism that works against the plight of the working class, while destroying any form of solidarity, Critical Social Justice is equally as guilty. The primary purpose being, to unceremoniously split society into binaries, that of the oppressed and the oppressor. Inevitably, this leads to the so called oppressed groups fighting over the title of biggest victim. This has the effect of pitting group against group, distracting us from what is really important such as; climate change, health, crime, education, global armed conflict among many other topics.

shitty

To be truly on the left is to fight for universals such as; excellent education and healthcare for everyone on the planet. Our shared humanity is what binds us together, in as much as we endure pain, fragility, helplessness simply as part our human condition. There are 4.2 billion people in the world without sanitation and 2.2 billion without adequate clean drinking water, as well as genocide, torture and widespread violence all around the planet. But, Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality has very little interest in global inequality and offers nothing in the way of solutions.

We all acknowledge racism and prejudice exists, but here in the west we are living in some of the safest times in human history. This has been achieved by primarily socially liberal movements such as; the civil rights movement and second wave liberal feminism. It is clear that both universal liberalism and identity politics oppose social inequalities while seeking to remedy them, but each use substantially different approaches.

As opposed to identity politics, the liberal solution focuses on the individual and our shared humanity in order to attain a cohesive society, allowing everybody full access to rights, freedom and all the opportunities a society has to offer. Unlike identity politics universal liberalism is not a political position per se, but a philosophy founded on individuality, liberty, equal opportunities and universal human rights, which grew out of the Enlightenment.

It is worth pointing out that for decades these liberal ideals sat very comfortably on the left. Of course, this was until the arrival of the postmodern inspired Critical Social Justice Theory. Despite it’s persistent claim, Critical Social Justice is not in any way an extension of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In fact this ideology could be considered as the antithesis of civil rights, focusing on group dynamics and not the individual which was what the original movement was founded upon.

Whether this proposed blend of economic and social theories will take hold remains to be seen. What does seem apparent is the left’s adoption of Critical Social Justice Theory will continue to fragment and diminish the prospect of any left leaning governments across the western world. However, if we can implement the notion of respecting our fellow human as a unique person, by making sure all members of society are considered equally valuable, supported and given the best environment to flourish, maybe we can start to advance together. My hope is, that we can rediscover what binds us together, while respecting, appreciating and celebrating our differences.

Psychopathic billionaires: A danger to the planet and everything on it.

Many people intuitively feel that billionaires are out of touch with reality, some going as far as to declare they are psychopathic. In 2010 it was announced that executives including CEO’s were made up of three times as many psychopaths than the general population, which is said to be 1%. However, recent data indicates that this number could be much greater, with a figure closer to 20% suggested. Coincidentally, this is a similar percentage of psychopaths that generally can be found in the prison system. Countless billionaires should have been prosecuted for destroying the economy in 2008, however, this group continue to shape society by moulding government to suit their personal desires.
Reportedly, billionaires and psychopaths share certain personality traits. Firstly, the rich show less empathy than the average person. A 2008 study revealed that the wealthy presented less compassion and attentiveness than their less affluent counterparts. This was observed when rich and poor strangers were paired together sharing life changing moments, such as a death of a loved one or a divorce.
Social psychologists indicate that human beings establish connections with people who are considered to have the most value. The less well off tend to place a great deal of emphasis on social connections and will generally listen more to others. In contrast, those with reduced material value or power matter little to the well-heeled and neither do sincere emotional connections. This disconnect can lead to damaging societal issues within a population.
Another documented trait of psychopathy is egotism. Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman conducted a study of 25 wealth advisers over 8 years and found that their proclaimed success was a total illusion. Kahneman offers that despite these people perceiving themselves as recipients of superior skills, it was discovered that the biggest factor for any success within the finance sector was luck. The rich and powerful regularly claim that they prosper due to exceptional vision, judgment and management skills, but these bold assertions appear to be a fallacy. Kahneman describes this as the “illusion of skill”.
Furthermore, when a group of 39 British business managers and executives were tested for psychological traits, it was found that this group scored similarly to convicts. Some scoring even higher for traits such as; flattery, manipulation, a strong sense of entitlement, a willingness to exploit people and a lack of conscience. Research psychologist Dr Kevin Dutton at Oxford University developed a scale based on traits such as; fearless dominance, self centred impulsivity and cold-heartedness to ascertain potential psychopathy.
Dutton used this scale to analyse past and present leaders. His criteria suggests that scores above 155 and 139.5 for men and women respectively indicates psychopathy. Interestingly, Donald Trump registered 171 using this system. It’s important, however, to put this into context, noting that Dutton has never examined Trump in person, moreover, he is not the only President of the US to display psychopathic traits. Dutton expanded on these results proposing that psychopathic features can help advance those in areas such as politics, business and banking, making tough decisions easier to make due to a lack of empathy.
Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Despite superficial charm and charisma, psychopaths generally show little remorse regarding how their actions may affect people. In fact, this group often blame others for any negative outcomes that result from their behaviour, while attributing any successes to their superior ability. Despite traits witnessed in psychopathy such as, ruthlessness and dissociative behaviour being viewed negatively in daily life, within the corporate sphere they are very much in demand. It’s not too outlandish to assert that some psychopaths do actually derive joy from manipulating others, rather than feelings of guilt or regret that the vast bulk of people would exhibit.
Contrary to the stories we are told regarding the generosity of the wealthy, professor of social psychology Paul Piff discovered that a person’s generosity increased as social economic status fell. Throughout his studies people in the lower classes of society felt a need donate a greater portion of their wage to charity at an average of 5.5%, compared to upper class participants who considered 2.1% as a reasonable amount. Piff also noticed that lower class participants displayed much greater spontaneous compassion, in contrast, the rich often needed prompting to show these emotions. Piff proposes that greater resources, freedom, plus independence fosters self-focused and social-cognitive tendencies that imply the rich are more likely to display unethical behaviours.
Piff has investigated this phenomenon in a variety ways. In one experiment he concluded that somebody driving an expensive car was more likely to cut in front of other vehicles on a 4 way highway. Further probes into this behaviour also discovered that drivers in what could be perceived as more prestigious vehicles were increasingly likely to drive over a pedestrian walkway instead of stopping for a waiting pedestrian. This incidentally is in violation of the Californian Vehicle Code and reinforces Piff’s unethical behaviour hypothesis.
Delving deeper into this phenomenon, in a separate study researchers used a jar of individually wrapped candy, which was said to be for the children participating in another activity. Even though it was stated that people partaking in Piff’s study were free to take some, it was clearly noted that upper class people took more candy than lower class participants, which ultimately meant less for the children.
These are just a few examples of studies that have been conducted within this field. So, with all this information in mind the question must be asked; why do we even listen to billionaires? In the US the ‘American dream’ revolves around the idea that if you work hard you can achieve anything. This fable suggests that the US is a meritocracy, a myth many Americans still wholeheartedly believe exists. Using this ‘logic’, however, it implies that billionaires must be the smartest and hardest working people on the planet. But is there really any truth to this?
I guess this brings us to the central question, do we actually need billionaires, what value do they add to society and should they even exist? Stephanie Kelton former advisor to Bernie Sanders argues, “you don’t make a billion dollars, you take a billion dollars. You take it from your workers. You plunder it from the environment and you strip it using patents and protections”. All over the globe there are billionaires with several homes to their name, while others sleep on the streets. Although billionaire parasites living in Manhattan apartment blocks are often far less moral than their bench dwelling fellow human beings, they are regularly held up as examples of excellence, by a system that only measures the bottom line.
What all this indicates is, we are witnessing a widespread catastrophic ethical and moral failure driven by unbridled capitalism. People are on the whole are treated vastly different according to their power and ultimately the amount of money they possess. The fact that we even question the validity and the need for billionaires is a sad indictment of how western society has become so accustomed to massive economic inequality.

CEO to ave worker ratio
The above graphic details the enormous disparities regarding pay around the world. Massive inequality exists within every country throughout the ‘anglosphere’ and in most of Western Europe. It is vital to understand that extreme inequality destroys the very fabric of society. To accommodate the rich and powerful who fight to maintain the status quo, we have been led to believe that selfishness, greed, individualism and hyper-competitiveness are good traits. But these are attributes of a psychopath or a narcissist, often displayed by the very types of people heading some of our most important institutions.
In contrast to bogus theories such as homo economicus banded about by capitalist economists such as Milton Freidman and Friedrich Hayek or wackos such as Ayn Rand, it has been postulated that we succeed as a whole when we work together. Scientists posit that we have innate cooperative instincts, developed over hundreds of thousands of years, working and living in highly cohesive groups. Cooperation has proved to be the best way of surviving, while suppressing individual greed and self centredness. It has been offered in contrast to the neoliberal narrative, that to deny this way of being is to disrupt human nature.
Substantial levels of inequality changes the way people interact with each other. In Europe, studies have demonstrated that countries with larger levels of economic inequality are less likely to help each other. These societies have also shown less engagement with social and civil activities, including lower voter turnout. It has also been strongly proposed that unequal societies are associated with reduced levels of trust. The mechanism involved surmises that as inequality increases so does the social distance between members of society, thus manufacturing a belief that the haves and have nots are almost a different species.
This weakening of societal bonds leads to mistrust, an inability to form relationships, which is ultimately linked to an increase in crime, homicides and worsening health. The suggestion is, that these societies lack the capacity to prevent violence through the construction of safer communities. It has been postulated that an encouragement of social competition, can promote violence, primarily because an unequal society cultivates feelings of hopelessness, while inciting fear. These emotions can manifest as thoughts of inferiority, contributing to people being less inclined to behave in a socially acceptable manner.
All this begs the question, why do we listen to these psychopaths when it comes to ideas regarding how to run society? They are no more qualified than you or I, but we have been brainwashed to value the ability to make money so highly that we equate it not only with success, but enlightenment. This very small privileged group of people continue to persuade others on how the world should function (for example at Davos), simply to shape the world thus accruing more money and power. Their billions create movements such as climate change denial groups, while extolling the virtues of low taxation and limited banking regulations. These actions as we have witnessed help nobody, apart from them and their psychopathic buddies.

Bill Gates
Billionaire’s are not your friends, or a fountain of wisdom, or even someone who should have a profound influence on how society is constructed. These individuals only ever care about themselves, while assuring everyone that this is how humanity naturally operates. The stinking rich proclaim they are simply infinitely superior at the very game they promote, conveniently forgetting any cash they may have inherited or the thousands of dollars that have been thrown at their education.
We are repeatedly encouraged to play this game, one which most of us can’t possibly win. All the while, being told that their success is built purely on hard word, effectively insinuating that the vast majority of the global populace are failures. It’s time we changed this false idea by working together to make this a better place for the most amount of people. While we remain fragmented and hung up on relatively trivial issues such as Brexit (in the UK), or pointless impeachment processes (US), psychopaths will continue to win big, meanwhile, the planet and all who inhabit it will lose out to this tiny group of lunatics.

Just like that: How the Tory magic trick was done.

In the aftermath of the UK election, the Labour Party have now started to rip themselves apart. With centrists crawling out the woodwork to reclaim the party apparatus, while political vultures pick over the still warm carcass. Many have used this election result to discredit any ideas of socialism in the near future and indeed this result may have sent shockwaves down the left side of the political divide. But to focus purely on this, would simply be sidestepping what actually occurred on Thursday the 12th December 2019.

There are clearly two distinct themes that are emerging; firstly Corbyn was deemed not trustworthy by much of the public and secondly people were totally consumed by Brexit. So the question must be asked; how did a party with one of the most progressive manifestos since WWII get so soundly beaten. I’m sure lots of people will suggest that between 2017 and 2019 Corbyn took a wrong turn regarding Brexit. This was seen in many eyes as a major change of position from supporting the outcome of the referendum, to one of fence sitting. Although, this may well be true, it also misses a key point. A better question would be, how did Brexit become so emotive, to the extent that people voted for this over well funded health care, education and public services.

Rationally this makes no sense at all, the idea that people would vote against their own best interests is hard to fathom, but this in effect is what has occurred. There lies a crucial part of the problem, Labour’s campaign was built on logic, whereas, the Tories tapped into people’s emotions. All the Conservatives had to offer was a slogan “Get Brexit Done”, no tangible policies, just 3 simple words. Clearly, this was enough to mobilise the masses who have been thoroughly convinced that this will solve the bulk of their problems.

knobhead

When encountering a potential Tory voter on social media or even in person it is noticeable that there is a distinct lack of critical thinking involved during any discussion. You are repeatedly hit with a barrage of short phrases which are very tabloidesque, such as; “we need our country back”, “it’s because of free movement” or “Corbyn’s a traitor”. If this fails, you are often told to shut up and respect their point of view, no debate just blind obedience. It rapidly became apparent that, the more Corbyn supporters hit back with stats, academic papers and 9 years of historical proof the more entrenched opposing views became.

Simply put, you cannot combat tribal inspired politics, driven by emotion with logic or reason. This has been recognised for over 100 years, starting with people such as, Edward Bernays and Walter Lippman, two of the main founders of propaganda. Their job was to elicit an emotional response for a particular goal to aid the ruling elite. Noam Chomsky described it as manufacturing consent in his 1988 book and this is exactly what occurred last week. The Tory campaign understood the importance of this much more than Labour. They quickly realised that Brexit was a powerful tool and had split the nation by more than geography, political party, education and class. This was an extra tear in the fabric of society that an unpopular and desperate government could utilise.

Brexit has dragged on for 3 years. If the government wanted to “Get Brexit Done” they could have, but they didn’t. They used this anger towards a lack of movement on Brexit as political capital, a situation which they had themselves created to fuel leave voters. Once Corbyn had decided to take the Labour party away from supporting Brexit in an effort to unite the people, the trap was set. The Tories had in effect created a huge tribe with one unifying goal, that was to leave the EU and nothing else mattered. This sentiment was cultivated by the Tories using the politics of fear, which was considered by the Athenians centuries ago as one of the three strongest motives for action.

A narrative needed to be created to invoke a sense of being under siege. This can be demonstrated by people who casually suggest that immigrants have taken their jobs, or that their presence in the UK has lowered wages for UK born citizens. None of this is true, as many academics have documented, but this didn’t matter for this election, it was the reaction of the people that was important, for the political right. The working class in many former industrial areas had a bogeyman to fight, created by the very people who had caused the problems, the neoliberals. Now this tribe felt they had an enemy whom they could vent their fury at, that being; the EU, people who supported it and immigrants.

The ruling elite diligently manufactured the consent of many of the working class, all to maintain the status quo. This is an establishment made up of billionaires and millionaires, with the resources to construct a sustained campaign to both create an illusion and discredit any opposition. Billionaires almost entirely own the media in the UK, while the BBC have generally colluded with any government narrative throughout this current Tory stranglehold. Noam Chomsky talks about the 5 filters of mass media; here’s a short film to explain this. As a bit of fun, try and pick out how many of these strategies you think were being used by the Tories and the media during the lead up to the election.

These methods of course are not unique to one political side or another, but the Conservatives this time around utilised these techniques extremely effectively, while Labour attempted to communicate with the electorate using facts. The result ultimately was a landslide. Once the right wing created fear among the populace, they miraculously found a cure and that was Boris Johnson. Johnson is a right wing populist, this type of a politician tends to use rhetoric around restoring order be it, fighting crime, preserving a particular culture or as in this case “getting the country back”.

There is now reasonable evidence to propose that populism thrives when people feel a lack of political power or control, that life is unfair and at times when they feel they are not getting what they deserve. But for populism to work it requires two opposing factions, this was already established in the form of leave and remain voters. Opposing views and the formation of identities can occur rapidly in the age of social media, as people connect often with others they agree with, creating an echo chamber.

The curious thing about Johnson is, populist candidates generally portray their campaign as a fight against the establishment. However, Boris Johnson is a member of the establishment, he therefore, had to reframe the terms of reference. Firstly, he labelled the EU as a cruel regime, oppressing the people of Britain. This manoeuvre allowed him to position himself in direct opposition and declare himself as a heroic figure rescuing the nation from the tyranny of Brussels.

A further necessary component of this magic trick was to portray Jeremy Corbyn as a danger to society, a traitor and untrustworthy. Not only was this done by an eager mainstream media, but this image was further embellished by centrists within his own party. Daily lies about the Labour Party’s unfounded anti-Semitism, his baseless links with the IRA or any other terror groups has been ceaseless over a four year period. The media used their considerable power to wage the biggest campaign of persecution against a politician in recent memory. The reasoning was simple, at the time Corbyn was a huge threat to the elite and this had to be prevented at all costs.

Now the dust is starting to settle, the country is left with Johnson at the helm. He is an unlikely people’s champion, an Etonian who is related to half the royal families in Europe. Not only is he an improbable hero, he patently isn’t the saviour of the working class. Johnson’s remit was to motivate enough people in order to keep him and the Tories in power. Brexit was merely the vehicle for which to achieve this. The new Prime Minister will not be leading the people into any mythical promised land, rather they will be led like lemmings off the end of a cliff. The population of the nation now have more austerity, economic inequality, privatisation of the NHS and ever deteriorating public services to look forward to, led by a right wing, elitist, populist.

And “just like that“, the trick was done.

Won’t get fooled again? The Brexit sideshow that could distract the UK from real change.

The people of the UK go to the polls on December the 12th bitterly divided by class, geographical differences, education, economics, race, culture and of course Brexit. Forty years of unbridled capitalism and now we have working class people supporting an Etonian, upper class Conservative Party and a metropolitan, middle class, Eurocentric group who may vote Labour (or Liberal Democrat), but hate their leader. Among this, there is still a very sizeable group who see Jeremy Corbyn’s politics of anti-austerity, pro people and fervently against the ruling self-serving elite as a way out of this neoliberal hell.

You would like to think it would be intuitive for people who have very little and have witnessed their town or city obliterated, while being turned into a giant Amazon warehouse to vote for someone who opposes this. Alas not. It is also difficult to imagine people voting against someone whose aim is to directly fund the NHS, thus providing better and cheaper services. In contrast to the Conservative’s who plan to expand the external market for exploitation by massive corporations. Sadly, this is exactly what is occurring in many impoverished regions.

The health of a society, the education of kids, utilities for the elderly in the winter and public transport should not be a business opportunity for the rich to gain off peoples’ daily predicaments. After decades of this, it has become a way of life, with a number of people not knowing of a time when things were different and now many individuals are unable to look outside of the corporatist matrix. We have been told we are “worth it”, that we are inherently competitive, while social cohesion has been destroyed and the population reduced to consumers.

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Neoliberal ideology has stripped us of our compassion. The idea of a strong functioning community and the notion of not leaving people behind who are struggling seems a distant memory. This has been replaced with a ultra punitive society, that locks more people in prison than any nation outside of the US and regularly celebrates the very people who make sacks full of money from our labour. This is a system that encourages us to buy shit that we really don’t need or simply can’t afford, in order to feel better than the family living next door. We buy newer or bigger, all to prove we that we are superior to the other lot, whoever they may be.

The upper class who control the media, who lobby the government, while hiding their dosh in British Overseas Territories through trusts, convince the aspiring middle classes to look down on the primary culprits. Who are invariably defined as uneducated, working class types sat on their collective backsides all day. The middle class Conservatives hate them because they apparently drain the government coffers while adding nothing to the pot, meanwhile the middle class ‘moderates’ despise them, because they are considered racist, stupid and probably a supporter of Brexit.

People from impoverished areas are cajoled by the likes of Nigel Farage. The story is told that immigrants are stealing their jobs and that the nation needs to be in control of its borders. This is despite the fact that most immigrants arrive in the UK qualified to do the jobs that the country requires and provide skills the nation lacks. Are these people stupid? No, they are desperate and have gained nothing from 40 years of ultra-capitalism. Additionally, being a part of this ‘magical’ organisation called the EU doesn’t appear to have helped most people in the former industrial heartlands. When mainstream politics fail, often individuals look to the margins for change. Leaders who will say anything and offer the world to gain favour. Enter Mr Trump and Mr Johnson.

Brexit is yet another fissure for which to divide the population of the UK. Whether this was intentional by David Cameron and his staff is hard to know, but since then it has been manipulated skilfully to shatter any cohesion the UK once had. As it stands right now with a Conservative government, whether the UK leave or stay in Europe the world will still cater for the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. The EU is by design a capitalist, pro corporatist entity. It promotes “free trade”, “free movement” of capital, business austerity, low pay, flexible labour markets, privatisation of public services and the destruction of the welfare state.

To see the EU’s true colours we only have to look at Greece and other nations hit hardest by the economic crisis. The vast majority of bailout funds went straight to French and German banks, while very little actually made its way into the economies of these beleaguered countries. As part of the conditions for these bailout packages collective bargaining rights have been drastically eroded, estimated to have been reduced by an average of 21% across the 10 hardest hit nations. In Greece, workers rights have been reduced by an estimated 45%. The EU has continued to make an example of Greece, with privatisation and austerity, forced upon them at every turn.

Does this mean I support Brexit? No, in all honesty I’m pretty ambivalent towards Brexit. But what the EU isn’t, is some benevolent social democratic club that protects the UK from the vile Tories. Of course, the Tories can do all of those things previously mentioned and much worse without the help of a bureaucratic behemoth in Brussels. The Tories have devastated public services, workers rights and given half a chance they would rip up any remaining human rights that exist. So what’s the answer? Quite clearly, none of the above. I’m sure a portion of the metropolitan, superbly educated, suitably housed, well paid professional classes may benefit from the EU, but many people elsewhere have experienced little in the way of joy.

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Falinge Estate, Rochdale.

The north of England where I am originally from have 10 of the 12 most economically declining cities in the UK, two of which I worked in for the NHS, performing clinics in some of the most run down areas. As money has been syphoned into the South East (primarily London), real wages in these former industrial areas have consistently fallen or at best stagnated. The EU isn’t going to save the working class, but a bold plan from Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn might just start to turn things around. Sadly many people would rather cry into their G & T’s about Brexit than get behind a set of policies that would benefit the most amount of people.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate who will go after the real perpetrators, these are ruling elites who use their money and influence to lobby government, while stashing trillions away in overseas trust accounts. It’s not the poor, the disaffected, the unemployed, the working class, immigrants or anyone else who are destroying societies in the UK or anywhere else. Already this week Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to take on “tax dodgers, bad bosses, big polluters and the billionaire media owners”, while pledging support for public services in particular the NHS.

Further to this, Labour is the only party totally committed to protecting the NHS from further privatisation. NHS officials have reportedly been in talks with US pharmaceutical firms preparing for a post Brexit trade deal. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is the only party who clearly have the people in mind. If we look at the last manifesto of 2017 the main features were; to scrap student tuition fees, renationalise water, mail and rail, increase spending on public service including the police force and fire brigade, end zero hour contracts and crucially increase taxes on the rich and corporations.

This assault on the rich and powerful by attempting to close tax loopholes is in my opinion the primary reason Jeremy Corbyn has been savaged on all on sides and even within his own party. He stands to make the ruling elite accountable, something that hasn’t been attempted for decades. If you are opposed to what Labour proposes, you seriously need to ask yourself why. Have you been propagandised by the elite, convinced that politics is only performed by the rich and powerful for the sole benefit of them. If so that isn’t democracy. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport that rolls around every 4 years (or less). Democracy is a 24 hour a day activity, you may not partake, but I guarantee the people with the power will. I can assure you, apathy and petty squabbles on this occasion will not win the day.

 

 

Infinite growth on a finite planet: The ecological case against capitalism.

In light of the hysteria provided by both sides surrounding Greta Thunberg, questions have started to formulate in my mind; “can we get out of this environmental mess by primarily using market solutions or is this, as I strongly suspect, just wishful thinking”? These thoughts permeated my grey matter predominantly because many people supporting and backing Greta seem to think or certainly indicate that this is the most viable way. Or do they, as some people have suggested, simply consider this is as an opportunity to re-boot capitalism?

One of the first questions we need to tackle is, what are the conditions necessary for capitalism to be successful and is one of these a fundamental requirements continual growth, as suggested by adversaries of the status quo. In opposition to this view, there is a group of environmentalists who suggest that the end of growth doesn’t necessarily mean the demise of capitalism, these can loosely be termed as “steady staters” and are supported by environmentalist titans such as; Bill McKibben and Prince Charles. So does capitalism need perpetual growth or is this a spurious myth purported by those ‘nasty’ socialists?

Let us start with the basics, money becomes capital when it used as a fund for ongoing investment designed to increase itself, rather than being spent or saved. What makes a capitalist system is when the entire economy becomes dependent on the investment of capital. Both trade and production are financed in this way, with the production of goods and services chiefly created to generate profit to be reinvested in further production.

Marx simplified this using M-C-M’ (M=money for investment C=commodities & M’= money from the selling of commodities), this stated that money is used to invest in commodities which is subsequently sold for more money. The whole point of a business is to make more money than you started with, therefore, the economy in it’s entirety must continue to grow.

Growth predictably has a huge impact on the environment as the system and economy must keep increasing, thus taking its toll on our natural resources. Total growth/wealth must be backed up by the overall volume and the value of goods and services to be exchanged by it, thus representing an increase in wealth. Defenders of capitalism will argue that as consumption switches from goods to services economic growth can be separated from the use of materials. However, recent studies suggest that an increase in consumption of resources so far in the 21st century has matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.

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Another reason why capitalism is compelled to grow is competition. Marx suggested that this factor is probably the most important driver for ensuring expansion. The central feature in capitalism is the mythical “market”, here all bets are off and anyone can be outflanked or undercut to get an edge on their rivals. This world consisting of fundamentally volatile, economic agents tend to react quickly, continually seeking ways to lower costs while increasing sales. Historically speaking, there have been periods of stability, such as during wartime efforts and post war rebuilding. However, since the 1970’s the market has become more fierce due to the arrival of international competition particularly from Asia.

Another factor that compels capitalism to expand is credit. As well documented banks create credit out of thin air, providing loans and overdrafts injecting new money into the economy. Ordinarily, this would end up increasing inflation, however, banks lend money for businesses who seek finance for initial production. If capitalist production starts in debt, it must require an expansion in the overall value of goods and services that can be exchanged for money, due to the loan being made with the promise of additional sales income returning as a result. If the entire economy is in net debt, then it must increase in size to afford to pay it back. In effect, the economy is continually playing catch up. This issue was first posed by Rosa Luxemburg.

It doesn’t end there, another problem whether we care to admit it or not is, between 1950 and 2000 the global population grew from 2.5 billion to 6 billion. Over this period, consumption of major natural resources increased sixfold on average, and much quicker for other resources such as natural gas (12 fold). Additionally, half the world’s great forests have been destroyed and it is expected that a similar fraction of the Earth’s animal and plant species may be extinct by the end of the century. So, are corporations inherently evil? Some certainly are, but on the whole they are simply doing the job they are designed to do, which is to benefit their shareholders.

Fossil fuel companies continue to extract oil regardless of any damage, cost to the land or the people, in places as diverse as Nigeria and the Arctic. IKEA the 3rd largest consumers of lumber in the world, continues to level forests in Siberia and Malaysia to feed Chinese mills, in order to build cheap flimsy furniture for it’s western consumer hungry market. Apple are compelled to destroy the Congo to extract “rare earth’s” all to construct the next iThingy, so first world activists can use them to organise climate change marches. Massive corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer Crop Science and DuPont wipe out bees, butterflies, birds and small farmers, while extinguishing crop diversity to control the worlds food supply. These are just a few reasons highlighting why capitalism and sustainability simply do not go together.

deforestation

Here are 4 unofficial laws of ecology and 4 laws of capitalism. It doesn’t take too much reasoning to conclude that these two sets of values are diametrically opposed;

  1. Everything is connected to everything else. Ecosystems are complex and interconnected.
  2. Everything must go somewhere. This summarises the second law of thermodynamics; in nature there is no waste, matter and energy are conserved, waste from one process is recycled in the next.
  3. Nature knows best. This proposes that any man made intervention in a natural system is likely to have a detrimental effect upon it.
  4. Nothing comes from nothing. This law offers, that the exploitation of nature always carries an ecological cost.

Now for capitalism;

  1. The only lasting connection between things is the cash nexus. Thus expressing the point that all social interactions between people and relationships of humans to nature are reduced to mere money relations. A good example of this is GDP, which is invariably used as a measure of how a nation is doing, which in effect is a sum total of financial transactions.
  2. It doesn’t matter where something goes as long as it does not return to the circuit of capital. This reflects that capitalism is linear as opposed to nature which is a circular system.
  3. The self-regulating market knows best. In capitalism the market governs all life. As an example this turns the idea that food is for nutrition into a means of earning profit, sacrificing nutritional value for bulk.
  4. Nature’s bounty is a free gift to the property owner. This proposes that ecological costs associated with the appropriation of natural resources and energy are rarely factored in to the economic equation. Marx suggested that classical liberals saw nature as a “gratuitous” gain for capital.

What drives these continued contradictions between ecology and capitalism is simple, profit. So while there may well be new sustainable forms of technology that would help to a degree the environmental problem, these decisions are made by capitalists under the system of capitalism. Thereby, the primary motivation regarding any future technology is profitability. “Big Green” supporters more accurately could be labelled “Green Capitalists” such as Bill McKibben and Al Gore, who generally suggest little more than we should leave fossil fuels in the ground. Which is of course is true, but not the entire story.

This message gives the erroneous impression that climate change is caused primarily by fossil fuel driven electrical power plants. Therefore, if we switch to renewable energy and usher in the “green new deal” (GND) we can all return to normal. The problem with this is, fossil fuel powered electricity only accounts for 17% of greenhouse gas emissions, with other big players including; industry 14.7%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6% and land use changes (primarily deforestation) 12.2%.

Alas, the GND will not be our saviour and nor will Greta Thunberg despite her recent impassioned plea. Greta’s corporate backers and her supporters from the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) have unsurprisingly the same goal, this is not about saving the planet, but saving capitalism. As the global economy is experiencing stagnation, this movement is more interested in uncovering new financial markets. For the ruling elite, this is a golden opportunity to seize unprecedented growth and profits, estimated to be around $100 trillion. As briefly mentioned one of the main strategies to preserve capitalism is the GND.

The “green new deal” will not rescue us or the planet if it is implemented under the current system. With this in mind, let us review some of the proposals under the “green new deal” to uncover what it would consist of, it’s limitations and who would benefit from it. Firstly, for those who are unaware for whatever reason, the original “new deal” was a period of time consisting of democratic reforms and massive investment in infrastructure within the US. It began in 1933 and was designed to stabilise an economy destroyed by the “Great Depression”. Capitalism had stalled, leading to a distinct possibility of mass starvation and revolution. Millions of people were either unemployed or employed under terrible conditions.

Although this period has been romanticised by the like of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, make no mistake this was less about supporting the needs of the working class and much more about protecting capitalism. Firstly, the banks were bailed out. Sound familiar? While big business was subsidised in an effort to provide the infrastructure and backbone for the US to become a major developed capitalist nation and eventual superpower. The President of the day Franklin D Roosevelt wanted market based solutions, using the housing crisis to bolster the banks, by inventing new markets for capital, in the form of the modern mortgage system, which eventually led to the 2008 economic crash.

Of course, there were benefits for working class people, thousands of parks were built, plus museums and schools nationwide. Other notable victories were social security/unemployment insurance, however this didn’t apply to all workers unlike similar schemes in other developed nations. The payments were just enough to hold back mass starvation, but they were temporary and not distributed evenly. The whole period of the “New Deal” has been vastly exaggerated, partly to prove that transformative change can be achieved within the system of capitalism. In effect it was an elite driven project manufactured to stave off a revolution and to push the population to war, which FDR had been preparing for since about 1937.

As stated earlier, the premise of the “green new deal” is to secure the future of capitalism rather than the planet. The GND claims that it would create “green jobs” in order to kick start the economy. But the GND might not provide long term employment and could actually cause the planet lasting damage. It’s probable the GND will not provide full employment or anywhere near to it, as green production fails to completely replace non-green production. Green production could conceivably lead to wars in a desperate fight for “Green Territories”, in fact land grabs are already occurring in Africa and Latin America.

On a planet wide scale, the “global green new deal” has been proposed by the UN. We need to be mindful of who some of the collaborators are; the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This list alone should sound alarm bells inside any mind who seeks long term sustainability on the planet. What we are witnessing is a powerful merging of multi-national corporations and the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), who are pushing similarly to the original “New Deal” for market solutions to a deeply complex crisis.

Thunberg herself has stated that the climate strikes will continue until Sweden is aligned with the Paris Agreement. But this recommends the expansion of nuclear power, the financialisation of nature and further privatisation on an enormous scale. Technologies such as carbon capturing equipment and “sustainable investments” are seen as the way forward to ‘save’ our beleaguered planet. In 2018 Al Gore proclaimed that sustainability is history’s biggest investment opportunity, while disclosing that “climate wealth” is not for the many but rather the few.

These elite ‘opportunities’ are offered by entities such as Generation Investment, a firm who lists approximately 125 companies which they use, but offer that they are not chosen based on sustainability rather on “the quality of their business”. Some of these multinationals have terrible ethical track records and include names such as; Amazon, Colgate, Nike and Mastercard. So let us explore this “green revolution”, to figure out how it plays out in real life and uncover the winners and losers. The chosen company for this little case study is M-Kopa Solar “power for everyone”.

m-kopa solar

M-Kopa Solar is a pay per use solar power provider, in the form of solar kits that has been lauded for providing their services to impoverished African communities. Incidentally this is a company run by rich white capitalists for rich white capitalist. Countries that have been targeted up to this point are; Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. While they have been funded by such liberal luminaries including; Richard Branson and in particular Al Gore.

M-Kopa estimates that about 80% of its customers live on less than $2 per day. By 2015 M-Kopa had made $40 million (USD), but this company accrues the bulk of their money not through selling solar products, but through credit. M-Kopa charges poor Africans high interests rates for the use of their products, with even higher dividends returning back to the pockets of the rich.

Customers must pay a deposit, while paying off the rest of the loan on a daily basis. If they fail to make payments they are swiftly punished, the device can be shut off remotely meaning a loss of electricity. On a continent where 600 million people are without electricity, 300 million are without clean sanitation. What exactly is M-Kopa offering? The answer, Televisions, a 24 inch solar kit TV at an astronomical $648.88 (USD) on finance or $546.61 (USD) for cash. This for someone living on less than $2 a day is extortionate, especially when considering a similar item can be bought on Amazon for $157.99 (USD). Clearly this has less to do with providing a service, rather a plan revolving around psychopaths making money out of a shitty situation, while exploiting the most vulnerable in society, as per usual.

One of the scariest prospects in all of this is what’s called the “New Deal for Nature” which lays the foundation for payments for ecosystem services (PES). This in affect is the commodification of nature and is created by an intricate web of NGO’s and corporations, sold to us under the guise of environmental protection. The result of this is the financialisation and privatisation of all nature throughout the entire planet. Capitalism and the markets are so much in control, while being thoroughly disconnected from reality that economic growth is considered more valuable than our planetary ecosystems.

However, for all of these grand plans and schemes to materialise changes in legislation are required. NGO’s such as those already mentioned plus many others who are involved in this global scam are designed to create popular demand from the citizenry to support legislation required to benefit industry and the ruling elite, rather than the planet. This is cunningly re-packaged and named climate change solutions, while Greta Thunberg’s carefully cultivated persona is being used to manufacture consent. In this way, corporate power and the ruling elite do not have to directly impose its will on the people, we will impose it on ourselves, accepting false solutions to climate change, which are the very ideas the elite have been working on for years, all to benefit the few.

This ‘magic trick’ is performed through the idea of emotional investment. The more emotionally invested you are, the less critical and objective you become. This can be witnessed by the knee jerk reactions people are displaying when even the most mild of criticism is levelled at Greta or the movement she represents. The whole plan is to mobilise the public into emergency mode and was first presented in 2016 by “The Climate Mobilization” NGO in 2016, through a paper called, “Leading the public into emergency mode: A new strategy for the climate movement“.

Greta Thunberg’s well documented message, “I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is”, was designed to encourage the public to recognise and accept there is a life threatening situation in order to go in to emergency mode. Once this occurs on global scale, it will enable the release of “a huge amount of resources toward solving the crisis”. This crisis will rapidly become the main priority for society. The whole point for “The Climate Mobilization” and psychologist founder Margaret Klein Salamon is to create something akin to “war-time mobilization”, however, rather than saving civilization which it claims as its mission, it will in truth bail out the corporatocracy.

MKS

In contrast, while we are in non-emergency mode there are clear budget restraints, with less access to capital. Effectively “emergency mode” will trigger a social and industrial revolution and the construction of a modern industrial economy. Of course, as discussed earlier certain individuals in particular regions of the globe (western corporations) will benefit more than others.

Besides leading the public down this faux activist cul de sac and re-booting capitalism, it also provides the added bonus of derailing any radical ideas regarding climate change outside of the realm of capitalism. Anyone who dares to question the gospel according to St Greta of Thunberg is considered a climate change denier, a frightened white old man, a conspiracy theorist or even prejudiced against people with autism and sometimes accused of all of the above at once. As expressed earlier, any strategy that has the protection of the planet and the people at its core while striving for sustainability, is compelled to look outside of capitalism.

As mentioned many times before, a system supporting infinite growth on a finite planet is simply impossible. To conclude, yes there is such a thing as climate change, yes it is one of the biggest challenges we face as a species and no this current pathway will not help us in the long run. To use an old English saying, “you can’t have your cake and eat it”. Meaning, we can’t continue to live in a consumer led society and expect everything will turn out rosy. Other ideas such as those put forward by Eco Socialists may prove to be of more value, especially if we really are trying to save the planet.

Neoliberalism: Why does this persist and do we have a choice?

This blog is designed to open people minds, to encourage you not to accept everything your national government tells you and to employ a certain amount of critical thinking when reading or watching information in the mainstream media. I appreciate some things that will be discussed here will be hard for some people to accept. This is understandable, as questioning the validity of your government feels uncomfortable at first and puts your very understanding of democracy in the spotlight. I also understand that there is a lot of political apathy right now, but this not the time to bury our collective heads in the sand. This is a moment when we need to understand what is happening in the world, why and who benefits. It’s time to arm ourselves with the knowledge to uncover the ruling elites thinly veiled lies, to look outside of the mainstream media to get a good grasp of the situation. To enable further investigation, or to simply fill in the blanks, I have added varying links to prominent people or events, hopefully this will be useful to the reader who may be relatively new to some of these issues.

In this blog I have generally called the system of power in most western countries as neoliberalism, as described by David Harvey in his book of the same name. This system of ‘governance’ or in my opinion of control is generally referred to as capitalism in the mainstream, however, it bares no resemblance to the capitalism talked about by Adam Smith back in 1776. The current financial system we have in place is a system primarily credited to Milton Friedman and other economics Professors from the University of Chicago in the 50’s. It is this doctrine that I refer to as neoliberalism and it is this very system that we need to dismantle.

It is very noticeable that mainstream politics in western nations particularly in countries such as; the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have all lurched to the right in the last two decades. However, it is recognised that recent events in the UK, such as Jeremy Corbyn being elected as Labour leader and Justin Trudeau becoming the Canadian Prime Minister may have a leftist effect on these countries, but this remains to be seen. In general, however, most politics which is defined by the main parties as centrist are generally well to the right. Even more alarming is the situation in the US, where there really isn’t anything tangible to choose between the two parties and both being heavily backed by corporations intent on having their ‘special interests’ met.

This system is primarily the cause of massive levels of inequality, that haven’t been seen in the western world since the great depression of the US in the 1930’s. Neoliberalism only works for the much publicised 1% and in reality it’s probably 0.1% of the population that benefit the most. This should come as no surprise as it’s this group that drives government policy and who are the most active in rigging the game in their favour. Figures from a Guardian article in 2014 stated that the wealth of the 0.1% has risen from 7% in the mid to late 70’s to 22% of total wealth in the present day. Another depressing fact is in the US the aforementioned 0.1% have more wealth than the bottom 90% of society. Is it me or does just feel fundamentally wrong? Furthermore, when you start to dig a little deeper, you begin to realise how far the ‘ruling class’ is prepared to go to seize control of as much power as possible.

Undoubtedly, the ruling elite have always looked after their own interests any way they can, clearly this is not a new phenomenon. From an US perspective a good example of the beginnings of the current plutocracy would be , John D Rockefeller who founded Standard Oil and managed to turn his business into a monopoly. Rockefeller broke the backs of any union activity, most notably during the ‘Ludlow massacre’ in 1914. The National Guard supported Rockefeller, in particular, protecting the miners continuing to work during the strike, killing 15 women and children in a union organized tent city, assembled when striking miners lost their company homes. Rockefeller continued to amass his fortune whilst running roughshod over anyone who got in his way. In an attempt by the US government to dismantle his monopoly, Standard Oil was split up into 34 separate companies in 1911. Well known names such as Mobil, Exxon, Chevron were born out of this decision. A move that proved extremely profitable for Rockefeller, receiving proportionate shares in all 34 companies. At the time of his death in 1937 Rockefeller was reported to be worth $1.4 billion and was thought to be the first private citizen to accumulate such wealth.

A relevant entry point regarding US foreign policy in relation to securing US corporate interests would be Guatemala. President Jacobo Árbenz was democratically elected in 1950 and determined to transform Guatemala into a modern self-reliant society. This did not sit well with the US and in particular the United Fruit Company. Árbenz was planning huge land reforms which would severely disrupt the United Fruit Company’s production, as land in Guatemala accounted for one-quarter of the company’s land in Latin America at the time. The US promptly took action, after the first attempt to overthrow Árbenz failed, President Eisenhower agreed a budget of $2.7 million to help overthrow the President. The CIA used tactics including; psychological warfare, political action and subversion. One key component was to try to convince the rest of the world that Árbenz’s government was aligned to the Soviet Union. An allegation concocted to destabilise Árbenz determined to construct a self-sufficient state. Inevitably, the CIA’s plan for the coup d’état was successful and Árbenz resigned on June 27th 1954 and subsequently went into exile. Following this. the US supported Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas and his army for the invasion of Guatemala from neighbouring Honduras. Not by coincidence, the Director of CIA at the time Allen Dulles was also a former President of the United Fruit Company (note a similar theme occurs when we look at Dick Cheney and Iraq). This coup plunged Guatemala into 40 years of civil war with over 150,000 victims over this time. This strategy has been utilised repeatedly all over Latin America with horrific consequences.

These are not an sporadic incidents, Noam Chomsky stated in numerous books that the US government have historically used a multitude of reasons for their interventionist foreign policy. During the ‘cold war’ they adopted the fable that their actions were to halt the spread of communism.Is_this_tomorrow At the same time US households were also fed huge doses of propaganda for decades in the news and in popular culture depicting the Soviet Union as the evil empire. In truth, what the US was trying to deter rather than communism was what’s known as the ‘domino effect’ or the ‘good example’. The basic premise is; if one small country can strive to be a democratic and economically viable country, non-reliant on foreign business, this could possibly convince other countries to do the same. This would fly in the face of US corporate interest as the US exploited (and still do) the low wages that were paid in Latin America  in order to increase profits. The ‘red threat’ cover wasn’t only utilised in Latin America, in Vietnam alone total deaths between 1965-1974 are conservatively estimated at 1.3 million people.

Sadly for the US when the Berlin Wall came down they had to change tack, but the US governmental storytellers in Washington were saved by Islam. After the tragic events of 911 to justify the invasion of Afghanistan and the fabrication of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) to support military action in Iraq, the ‘war on terror’ was born. With an US population living in constant fear, helped along by the corporate propaganda machine stoking the fires of doom, this rather handily justified practically any action either home or abroad, all in the name of security. The ‘War on Terror’ has been a blatant attempt to secure rapidly depleting oil supplies in the Middle East and to increase profits for the corporations involved in the lucrative military industrial complex. Across all countries involved in these wars it has cost an estimated 1.3 million lives, all under the absurd guise of democracy. While domestically it has been capitalised by the US government to usher in draconian ‘anti-terror’ measures under the name of Homeland Security, including torture to innocents and the destruction of civil liberties. Unsurprisingly the situation in the region is worse than ever, with no end in sight.

Without doubt, this has been a fantastic time for the US arms manufacturers, private security firms, the oil industry and of course the military, who have seen their budget sky-rocket year upon year and private profits soar. Corporations that do well generally enjoy strong links with members of the US government, people such as former Vice President (2001-2009) Dick Cheney who was the CEO of the multinational corporation Halliburton from 1995-2000. As of 2013 Halliburton had made approximately $39.5 billion primarily on the back of the war in Iraq. Somehow the phrase ‘conflict of interest’ seems appropriate, however, this rarely applies to the ruling elite. These people continue to scratch each others backs, making obscene amounts of money, whilst obtaining power and political influence. In the meantime, their catastrophic influence has inflicted abject misery on the doorstep of innocent civilians all over the world.

As a summary of foreign policy it seems appropriate to display how far the tentacles of empire have stretched under the dubious title of US foreign policy since 1950. It is also important to point out that in many cases, particularly more recently in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria, the US haven’t done this alone. They have certainly led the charge, but they are not without accomplices. Former Prime Minister of the UK Tony Blair was more than happy to partake in the charade surrounding WMD’s, lying to gain the support of the British public so he and George W Bush could have their war. Here is a list of countries that has experienced the wrath of the US since 1950;

  • Guatemala
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Nicaragua
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Bolivia
  • Uruguay
  • Columbia
  • Haiti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Congo
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Kuwait
  • Syria
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Korea
  • Vietnam
  • Laos
  • Cambodia

This is not an exhaustive list of countries that have suffered at the hands of US interbention (either covert or overt) since 1950, but 30 sovereign nations seemed enough to prove a point. I suppose the next sensible question is; where does this fit in with the neoliberalism that we experience in today’s society?

Firstly we are a planet of finite resources, however, neoliberalism relies on continual growth, where success of a country is measured generally by gross domestic product (GDP), which is frankly a crude economic measure. GDP is what the masses predominantly hear in the media as some sort ‘gold standard’ of success. Implying that each country has to keep growing incessantly, we therefore, start to associate an improved GDP with a favourable outcome for all. For one, continual growth in a finite world just doesn’t make sense, secondly there are many other ways to measure a country’s wellbeing other than GDP. In pursuit of continual growth the ruling elite, are taking more and more risks to secure ever dwindling resources. A few examples are; military action in the middle east (an obvious one), drilling in the Arctic and fracking.

Desperate measures such as these have caused a numerous deaths in the middle east, plus millions of displaced people, leading to a massive strain on neighbouring countries both morally and financially. The fossil fuel industry are now employing increasingly expensive and dangerous methods to keep the money flowing in. At the same time huge corporations are pressuring governments to remain dependent on fossil fuels so the corporations can maintain their political power. All the while the planet we live on is becoming ever more vulnerable and climate change is not just going to disappear. In a meta analysis dated 2013, it was noted that amongst abstracts of journals that had a distinct position on climate change, 97.1% believed that climate change was a problem perpetuated by humans. As the recent United Nations climate change conference COP 21 demonstrated; if we allow climate change action to be organized mainly by corporations and governments, no worthwhile solutions to our global problem will be forthcoming. I have no doubt that this is the biggest issue we face and that the ruling elite present the biggest roadblock for us if we are going to resolve the problem of climate change.

I will round this off by talking about an obvious problem with the neoliberal system, that of inequality. A recent headline emerged last week stating that the 1% now have more wealth than the other 99%. Another startling fact is, 62 of the richest people in the world have more combined wealth than the bottom 50% (3.5 billion people). This is obscene. There is so much evidence to suggest that massive inequality is detrimental to everybody, including the rich. Just a brief look on the internet at sites such as the equality trust indicates that severe inequality leads to poorer health outcomes, education, crime and general wellbeing. It’s time we started to arm ourselves with knowledge, look after our needs as a society and take the power back. We are in need of a collectivist movement of compassion and humanity, not individualism and unabashed greed.

Can we destroy neoliberalism through our respective political systems? I hope so, but I must confess I am relatively pessimistic, due to the vice like grip the ruling elite currently possess on the political system. I tend to agree with the best-selling political writer Chris Hedges who suggests that real change will occur outside the current political arena. It is heartening, however, to witness the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US. If nothing else this is a positive change in politics, maybe we can get away from the personalities in politics and talk about the important issues we are currently facing.