Britain dutifully bows down to the ruling elite.

Congratulations to the people of ‘Great’ Britain for voting the ruling elite into power yet again. You certainly do know your place. Now they have a mandate to treat people with disdain and contempt, for the next five years. I always thought people in the US were dumb, but there is a new kid on the block vying for the title. How can a party offering no credible policies, with a history of inflicting misery on millions, with a leader who hides in a fridge when things get mildly difficult remain in power. I could glibly say you get what you deserve, but that would be grossly unfair to the millions who can see through this charade of thinly veiled fascism.

It would appear that many people from where I grew up in the north have had a lobotomy, believing all that the billionaire controlled media had to say pre-election, because surely they wouldn’t lie to the peasants. Would they? Or is it Brexit that swayed them? Now that you have your country back, so you say, is it suddenly going to become compulsory to sing “Ing…….err…….land” at nauseatingly high volumes while consuming copious amounts of beer? Is having a tattoo of a bulldog on your arse from the age of 10, going to be a new kind of branding?

hooligan

Well done, you are now free, from what, I’m not entirely sure. The Conservatives will continue destroying workers rights at a frenzied pace. Expect full steam ahead with zero hour contracts, bogus self-employment, underemployment, all topped off with an ever eroding safety net. So when the walls come tumbling down following a job loss, nothing will exist to help you out of the mess. Well done, you must be very proud. “But we’ve got our country back”, you may cry. Have you, have you really?

The result would suggest that large portions of the populace have little capacity to critically think. “But we’ve got our country back” I hear once more. “But clearly not the NHS for much longer” I reply. I’m sure some will complain that I’m calling people stupid for their political beliefs. To clarify this, yes, that’s exactly what I am doing. If only some of these individuals could have put their crayons down or possibly read a book without pictures at least once in their lives, maybe things might have turned out differently.

In contrast to the US, where they were voting for change, regardless of what that looked like, it was ultimately a vote against the establishment, albeit misguided. Conversely, the UK have voted overwhelmingly for the establishment. I’m sure the Tories are delighted you all know your place in the societal pecking order. At the bottom, with a very expensive Oxford lace up shoe, made by peasants, kicking you repeatedly in the balls, while you ask for more. After 9 years of crippling cuts to public services, austerity, a decrease in wages and a health system which is about to be privatised, you still voted for a Conservative government. Amazing!!! But not in a good way.

Admittedly, the ruling elite’s propaganda machine has been running on all cylinders and it’s clearly worked like a dream. In contrast, vast swathes of people are about to enter a dystopian nightmare, orchestrated by people who just couldn’t care about you any less. Put a fork in the UK, it’s done! Scotland will rightly feck off into the sunset, as England will be led by a man who can barely form a coherent sentence. Supported by a cabinet who know nothing outside of their privileged, privately educated, corporate run universe from which they rarely venture out of.

BRITAIN-POLITICS-CONSERVATIVES

You could have made it more difficult for the establishment, a glimmer of resistance protecting yourself from the bombardment of excrement raining down from billionaire penthouses would have been nice. Maybe more people could have searched behind the headlines of the Sun and the Mail to dig a little for the truth. Instead the population by in large responded to a hollow slogan, “Get Brexit Done”. At which point you ran in like a little puppy dog hoping your master would tickle your tummy. Instead of fighting for something better, you gave up, handing the nation to psychopaths, billionaires, millionaires and right wing ideologues.

The establishment will be laughing their collective cocks off, sat in their private London clubs drinking brandy and smoking cigars. Patting each other on their backs for getting the working class plebs to vote for the abstract construct of Brexit, over real issues such as; healthcare, education, public services and increasing poverty. The people of Leigh, Bolsover, Blyth Valley, and Durham among others should be disgusted with themselves, scoring an own goal of monumental proportions.

You had a chance to elect a decent man, who has fought for peace and fairness all his life, who wanted a better place for everyone. But you blew it Britain. Now you will have to live with the consequences, while explaining to your children and grandchildren what you did on that fateful day in December 2019. My sincere condolences for those who chose wisely, who could see behind the slurs and right wing bile. Good luck in the future, I suspect you will need it.

The Conservative party: For the rich, selfish and naïve.

If you are stinking rich and you don’t give a shit about anybody else, then the Tories is the perfect party for you. In short, they are a bunch of pompous, entitled, unempathic bastards, who I would suggest reflect a large proportion of the people who generally vote for them. You would have to be very well off and/or a self-obsessed moron to think voting for Boris Johnson would be the smart thing to do. As a disclaimer, if you are expecting to read something measured, balanced, with lashings of cold hard facts (although they do appear later on), look away now, as this piece will be unashamedly biased.

For the last few weeks I have tried to get into the minds of people, particularly the working class in an effort to discover why those who have very little would vote Tory. My basic advice at this stage would be to read some information regarding what each party is proposing. However, this is relatively simple to summarise, the Conservatives are offering zero and the Labour Party is attempting to make life better for as many people as possible. So put down the Sun or The Daily Mail spouting some bollocks or other about Corbyn being anti-Semitic and investigate what each party actually wants to achieve. What you should discover is unless you are a millionaire or billionaire, or possibly someone who is dealing with unresolved self hatred, voting Tory is not going to help your cause.

You may be angry about Brexit, your family could be lifelong Tory voters, you might even believe all that the Daily Mail has to offer, such as; Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser, an IRA member, an Anti-Semite, a Russian spy, a traitor or an evil road hogging cyclist. However, non of this rubbish is going to help you to make a rational decision on the 12th of December. All that this will ultimately uncover is that you have been duped by a multi billion pound propaganda machine, that will throw as much money at this election as required to maintain the status quo. You could erroneously be thinking that a Boris Johnson led Conservative Party is ideally suited to “Get Brexit Done” as their pithy slogan implies. My question would be, what have they being doing for the past 3 and a half years? After all, they are currently in government.

jc bike
Jeremy on his mean machine

It’s abundantly obvious what the Tories have done, they have systematically run the country down by using the discredited theory of austerity to supposedly ‘balance the books’. Cunningly the middle class have been coerced into blaming the working class, as shown by their reaction to Brexit and their collective arrogance towards people who chose to leave. Meanwhile, Johnson and Farage have conned the working class into thinking the primary problem is those ‘bloody immigrants’ and that leaving the EU will solve all of their problems. The real culprits of course are the very people who have created this web of illusion and ultimately distraction. This consists of a powerful amalgam of corporate interests plus a right wing government with little concern regarding the wellbeing of its inhabitants.

The Tories has presided over nasty vindictive policies for almost a decade, chiefly designed to penalise the most vulnerable and powerless in society. I have provided a little taster regarding the effects of some of these policies. To start with, there is a general misconception that right wing parties are better for the economy, this is a shameless lie unless of course you are rich. Since 2010 the Conservatives have increased the national debt from £850bn to £2.27tn and counting. Across the country four million kids live in poverty, the number of rough sleepers has increased nationwide by 165% since 2010, while food bank use in the last 5 years is up 73%. Furthermore, the pound is worth approximately 15% less against both the Euro and the US dollar. Economic experts? Maybe not.

On observing employment or the lack of, the OECD calculates that there are about 3 million hidden unemployed people, which works out to be 13.2%. Shockingly, 10 million workers are in insecure employment such as; zero hours contracts, underemployment or false self-employment. Additionally, it’s estimated that 80% of the 5.3 million self-employed workers now live below the poverty line, with workers in general still £13 worse off than 2007. The Conservatives have also been guilty of utilising cruel benefit sanctions and millions have been left with no funds through the Universal Credit system.

In the public domain, government and council departments have been slashed by 25-30%, with half the councils close to bankruptcy. There are 20,600 less police officers, 7,000 fewer prison officers, plus 11,000 firefighters nationwide have been cut. The NHS has 43,000 unfilled nursing posts, which has been compounded by the abolishment of student nursing bursaries. There are also 10,000 fewer medical professionals and a loss of 5 million bed spaces per year. The NHS has persistently been the target of increased privatisation and this is expected to spiral following Brexit, as US corporations will be invited to pick over the carcass.

Grenfell tower

Sadly, I could ramble on for another ten paragraphs regarding callous Tory policies, but hopefully by now you get the point. The Conservatives are offering nothing that would benefit the vast majority of people, in fairness they have had 9 years to do something vaguely positive. I suppose in all honesty they have fulfilled plenty of their objectives for example, systematically destroying peoples lives up and down the country, at the same time as enriching those privileged few. With a victory this week, the Tories will steer more assuredly towards the far right, as the inappropriately named moderates have largely been cast aside. In affect, all the Tory government will provide under Johnson is further disdain, contempt and hatred of the working class.

Cabinet Ministers Liz Truss and Priti Patel described British workers as “the worst idlers in the world“. Dominic Raab has suggested that British employment legislation is a “straitjacket” for the economy. Good old Boris Johnson has previously advocated for charges within the NHS, while Dominic Raab and Michael Gove have both expressed their desire to privatise it. The Conservative’s unimaginative motto is “get Brexit done”, a win on Thursday and the misery will continue unabated, with basic human rights and environmental protections high on their hit list. So, if you happen to be working class and are thinking of voting for the Conservatives, it’s time to stop this masochistic behaviour and do yourself a favour by choosing Labour.

Mental illness and economic inequality: A compassionate case for an egalitarian society.

There are many contributing factors leading to a deterioration of one’s mental health; environmental, genetic components, ethnicity and of course abuse in all its varying forms. Each of these elements can have a profound effect on someone’s psychological wellbeing. However, there is one particular aspect that is linked to practically all mental health conditions and that is poverty. More specifically we are talking about economic inequality or what can otherwise be termed as relative poverty.

In a paper published by the Lancet Psychiatry, Dr Wagner Ribiero investigated the correlation between income inequality, mental health problems, the use of services and resilience. This inquiry was conducted via a systematic review and meta analysis. What Ribeiro found was that widening economic inequality is associated with higher rates of mental health incidents, particularly with regards to depression and anxiety. However, additional studies suggest that schizophrenia, narcissism and psychotic symptoms are also more common in unequal societies.

Furthermore, this proposed link appears to be much more prevalent in English speaking countries, particularly in the US and the UK. Which incidentally are two of the most unequal countries in the developed world. As an example, Sweden is also considered a rich country, but with markedly less economic inequality than the UK. Similarly to the UK it boasts a comprehensive health system, but in contrast Sweden has substantially lower levels of social and mental health problems. Findings by Wilkinson and Pickett which were published in their book ‘The Spirit Level’ similarly highlighted a disparity between the ‘anglosphere’ and mainland Europe with regards to mental health issues and economic inequality.

mental health and inequality

With all this in mind, if we truly care about society as a whole and how our species can flourish, it makes sense to investigate this pathway in a little more detail. As previously mentioned, a key driver that is persistent throughout the research is one of economic inequality as opposed to absolute poverty. In a nutshell, impaired health and in this case mental health is less about being poor and more about but feeling poor. It is proposed that relative poverty is related to feelings of social failure and inferiority, in addition to social isolation, alienation and loneliness.

Perceptions such as these are exacerbated when we live in societies that encourage us to incessantly compare ourselves to much richer individuals. A practice which by no means is healthy, possessing all the qualities of a sadistic form of motivation and self-punishment. Without doubt, we have all been on the receiving end of this regularly in the form of advertisements, TV, magazines and social media.

One theory used to explain the correlation between mental illness and relative poverty centres around the brain’s dominance behavioural system. This processes information around subordination and social dominance, a system which is likely connected to a broad range of mental illnesses and personality disorders. It is purported that externalising disorders, mania proneness and narcissistic traits are related to heightened dominance motivation. On the flip side, anxiety and depression are linked to subordination and submissiveness. However, as we will see this isn’t the only suggestion on offer.

Dr Robert Sapolsky neuroendocrinologist and Professor at Stanford University proposes a further explanation. Dr Sapolsky suggests that relative poverty generates stress, which in turn produces an overactivity of hormones and neural responses, including the secretion of cortisol. Surviving at the lower end of the socio-economic scale is associated with raised levels of stress. It is also well documented that elevated cortisol levels is a risk factor for depression, with relatively poor kids displaying higher levels than richer kids. While it is surmised that this constant battle to return the body to a normal non-stressed state predisposes people to premature ageing.

High levels of glucocorticoids (of which cortisol is one) affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and learning. Regular exposure to excessive glucocorticoids via stress impairs memory and learning by reducing the excitability in this area. In a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is central to fear and anxiety, glucocorticoids increase the excitability and expands neuronal connections contributing to a heightened response.

Together this can offer one explanation as to why a condition such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shrinks the size of the hippocampus, while expanding the amygdala. Glucocorticoids can also impact the mesolimbic dopamine system, responsible for reward, anticipation and motivation. This disruption predisposes individuals to the anhedonia component of depression and a vulnerability to addiction. Anhedonia is described as a reduced ability to experience pleasure.

Brain, skull and meninges

The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is a region of the brain pivotal for long term planning, executive function and impulse control. An excess of glucocorticoids in the PFC results in poor decision making, primarily focusing on short-term gains. As mentioned, stress leads to raised levels of glucocorticoids, making it more difficult to choose long-term health over instant gratification. This is one explanation as to why people with substantial stress increase in weight, smoke and drink more than people with less stressors. Unsurprisingly, this is also a reason why a lower socio-economic standing can effect long-term decision making. When day to day living is proving difficult and life is seemingly so precarious, the future can appear to be a place of much less importance.

Lower socio-economic status creates chronic financial concerns, that exhausts and distracts the individual. Although people may on the whole have more money than individuals from developing countries, being poor in relation to the rest of society contributes to being despised, shamed and humiliated. Economic inequality automatically emphasises the importance placed on social status. In unequal societies, the dramatic disparities in income can make the rich appear as superior beings. There is also a tendency among capitalist countries to equate an individual’s wealth with their internal worth, thus compounding any negative self-perceptions for the people who find themselves battling to make ends meet.

GK2

Status anxiety increases in relation to the inequality of a nation. We live in a world where many people worry about how others view us and how we are judged. Whether we are seen as capable and successful or as a failure, all adds to our stress levels and has a profound influence on our mental health. More unequal societies are also likely to feel less trust towards one another, falling from 60-65% in the most egalitarian of nations to about 20% in the most unequal. All this can contribute to a reduction in participation within society, for instance being less likely to volunteer and partake in local activities. This is often displayed through an increase of violence, combined with a lack of willingness to help one another out.

All of the above contribute to increasingly stressful social lives and social anxiety, as we worry about how we appear and perform in the world. Responses to this threat can be exhibited as defensive narcissism or alternatively through low self esteem and a lack of confidence. There is a strong implication that mental health and neoliberalism are interconnected, even exploited. Raised social anxiety and narcissism feeds consumerism, using purchases and possessions as a method to give off a good impression, while attempting to create a sense of self worth. In sum money becomes essential as a means for many of us to communicate our self-worth.

People in unequal societies not only work longer hours, but save less and borrow more. In these nations debt rises in a desperate attempt to maintain appearances. Our collective emotional vulnerabilities are seized upon by corporations and advertisers callously using our fears for profit, confirming that status anxiety sells. Meanwhile, economic inequality negatively impacts our mental health, friendships, societal bonds and community life, all of which is integral for our general wellbeing. If somebody does not possess a sufficient income, full participation in society becomes virtually impossible. Particularly in a world that prioritises GDP while celebrating personal wealth and corporate gains over the wellbeing of our fellow human beings.

There are a variety of compelling arguments suggesting why we should reject neoliberalism, of which mental health is just one element when considering if our current system is really the best we can do. We have well and truly reached a fork in the political and moral road. Simply put, we could persist with our current dominant political ideology, whereby, a tiny group of people will continue to accrue the bulk of money and power, forever loading the dice in their favour. Or we can challenge the status quo, constructing a society that works for most people. Furthermore, neoliberalism does not work in harmony with our beleaguered planet or the vast majority of people who inhabit it.

Effective change must involve questioning all that is used to support the present doctrine; politics, media, education, the law and in particular how we do business. No area of society should be off limits when trying to imagine and construct a better world for us all and future generations. I wrote this article predominantly to highlight the extent to which economic inequality can contribute to mental distress and to ensure this too is added to the list of reasons why we should fight for a serious paradigm shift towards a more compassionate and fairer world.

Tackle the policies, not the man: Personal insults will not win back the working class.

The UK has recently acquired yet another upper class Etonian, much the same as David Cameron. A man who has no political principles or moral convictions, someone who will say anything to obtain and maintain power. This is a potential gift for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour if they play it right. Unfortunately, I predict this will be another opportunity lost. I suspect the left in the UK might just mimic the Democrats in the US resorting to name calling, hollow allegations and memes.

Already the signs are there, literally, with protests featuring placards with “not my Prime Minister” on them. This eerily reminds me of the bourgeois middle class in the US, who threw a collective tantrum after the defeat of corporate stooge Hilary Clinton in 2016. Rather than reflecting on why people are drawn to such characters as Trump, many in opposition lazily resorted to pointless ad hominem attacks and his alleged actions of the past.

not my PM

This line of protest may well be considered a valid tactic on Twitter and Facebook, but is it really a pathway to changing the political landscape? I suggest not. Within minutes of any political disagreement on social media vast numbers of people regress to adolescence, often resorting to the petty ‘strategy’ of slinging personal insults at those who dare to disagree. When trying to unite a nation, in particular, attracting the working class back to their traditional parties, these methods only serve to polarise and harden opinion.

In the UK the left historically fought for the working class, but many now feel abandoned, even politically isolated, after decades of blue and later red neoliberalism. Subsequently, many people have voted for change regardless of the outcome. For a left leaning party such as Labour to enter government they need the working class, while the working class require a party or political movement to truly champion their cause.

Labelling whole swathes of a population racist, misogynistic, dumb or simply stupid, won’t endear them to you or promote healthy debate. Brexiteers and corporate Democrats, both who lost recent votes insist on suggesting they are the enlightened ones, while approaching life from an exceptionally myopic and rather advantaged perspective.

For those who struggle for money on a daily basis in areas such as the former industrial heartlands, there is still very much a class war going on, which incidentally they are spectacularly losing. This partly explains why citizens who are financially at the lower end of society in the western world have developed strange bed fellows such as, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and to a certain extent Boris Johnson.

All of these characters are ridiculously privileged, having absolutely no affinity to the very people they pretend to support. Weirdly from the “Rust Belt” in the US to the former industrial north in the UK, right wing parties continue to attract working class voters. All this, despite the Republican’s and Conservative’s open declaration of support for corporations, the rich, low taxation and minimal funding of any state services.

Often the phrase “it’s like turkeys voting for Christmas” does the rounds during election time. This sadly, fails to ask the hard but obvious question…….why? Why are people content to vote against their best interests? Or more reflectively, what have the left done wrong to lose the very group that would benefit the most from traditional left values and when did this start.

A quick and admittedly slightly glib answer to the problem, particularly in the UK could be summed up with one word, Blair. In truth, many leaders of traditional left leaning parties have ignored the plight of the working class, while searching for voters among the middle classes. But Blair even stated in a speech to the centrist think tank Public Policy Research “I want to make you all middle class“, as if this was some sort of aspirational comment. By many, this was seen and with good cause, as an abandonment of the working class. The Labour Party membership not surprisingly dropped from approximately 405,000 in 1997 to 156,000 by 2009.

I’m sure some people who claim to be on the left may suggest that we don’t need the working class, especially those who voted for Brexit. I would argue, that ending neoliberalism, reducing economic inequality, working for a sustainable future, protecting our human rights are all more important issues than the side-show that is Brexit. All these aspirations are heavily dependent on engaging and winning over the working class who largely feel neglected by previous incarnations of so called progressive politics.

Memes inferring a likeness of Boris Johnson to Donald Trump and targeting his repeated gaffs aren’t going to help persuade people to move over and vote for Corbyn’s Labour, for example. We’ve seen the same tactic aimed at Trump in the US having little to no effect. Working class Trump voters often reply with, “but the economy is doing better and unemployment is down”. This is where people in the UK need to deviate from the US strategy by pushing back on the issues, while not focusing on Boris Johnson’s bumbling demeanour, dress sense or hairstyle.

However, if we look back at Trump and his supporters claims, just using GDP as one metric, growth under Trump is admittedly consistent, but Obama had even greater periods at times during his presidency. Regarding unemployment, this has consistently been on the decline since 2011, although primarily due to the rise of the gig economy and other precarious methods of employment. For the left in the UK, finding out why working class voters have switched to right wing parties and challenging their assertions, while offering well thought out answers is better than calling Conservative’s heartless bastards. As true as this may be, it does not help the debate.

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One Bullingdon Club photo, two UK Prime Ministers

The UK is now on to its second upper class former Etonian and Bullingdon Club Prime Minister within 5 years of each other. If this photo isn’t an example of a failed democracy, I’m not sure what is. Johnson’s recently unveiled cabinet is equally disturbing, starting with Chancellor of Exchequer Sajid Javid. Despite his humble Rochdale roots, Javid is a former investment banker in the US, who can hardly be described as a man of the people. Next, the recently appointed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is even considered a right-winger among his own party. Raab studied at both Oxford and Cambridge University, just like most kids do (1% of the UK population graduate from Oxbridge).

Boris Johnson’s pick for home secretary is Priti Patel. Ms Patel is keen on the death penalty, but not so much on basic human rights. The daughter of Gujarati Indian parents who fled Uganda in the 1960’s, she seems desperate to kick the ladder away, advocating for stricter asylum rules and stronger enforcement of immigration laws. Along with the Prime Minister, this completes the line-up for the country’s top four political jobs, handed to those who have nothing in common with or any interest in the real world.

This is an ideal time to catapult an anti-neoliberal narrative into the minds of working class people. Although some people may not be convinced by Jeremy Corbyn (I’m not one of them), this a perfect opportunity for him. His main problem, however, continues to be elements within his own party who are determined to hamper any concerted effort to deliver discernible change.

Personally I see Jeremy Corbyn, as the first step, someone who can get the UK back on track. This involves moving away from a government that benefits the rich and idolises money, to a system that supports all of humanity. This progress could, therefore, be used as a springboard to promote further radical change in the future. Firstly Labour need to win their traditional base of support back, that of the working class and that will be a huge challenge.

 

 

Wealth over wellbeing: How neoliberalism stole our freedom.

Freedom, it’s a funny word and from a practical sense oddly illusive. I’m going to make the case that the meaning has been hijacked both figuratively and literally. In the early 2000’s George W Bush irritated me on a daily basis, when he justified the destruction of Iraq, as “defending our freedoms”. Not only was he was happy to go to war on a whim with his best mate Tony Blair without any supporting evidence, he also had the audacity to pluralise “freedom”. Surely, we do not have a multitude of “freedoms”, we either have “freedom”, contributions to freedom, degrees of freedom or even none at all, but I digress. So what is it, and does it actually exist in the western world?

Firstly, we need to define it. Mirriam Webster’s Dictionary states:

Freedom

1. The quality or state of being free: such as:

a) The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.

b) Liberation from slavery or restraint or power of another: Independence.

c) The quality or state of being exempt or released from something onerous.

d) Unrestricted use.

e) Ease, facility.

f) The quality of being frank, open or outspoken.

g) Improper familiarity.

h) Boldness of conception or execution.

2.

a) A political right.

b) Franchise, privilege.

Evidently freedom can be described in a multitude of ways, however, throughout the Neoliberal world the notion of freedom is much more specific. In 1962 Milton Friedman, US economist and one of the primary proponents of neoliberalism (which was largely referred to as free market economics) published a book called “Capitalism and Freedom“. In this, one of his main ideas opined that, economic freedom must be a prerequisite for political freedom. This was a view supported by right wing/ libertarian thinkers and luminaries such as, Ludwig van Mises, Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Friedman argues that freedom should include economic freedom. This idea goes beyond simply proclaiming that individuals have a right to act freely in the market, but that the market itself should be free from government regulation.

Neoliberalism in theory, through economic freedom was alleged to allow autonomy and creativity to develop. What has occurred over time is practically all meaningful decisions boil down to money. Whether this involves shipping jobs off-shore to increase corporate profits, offering zero hour contracts or smashing the union’s ability to negotiate decent pay and workers rights, all resolutions are shaped by the bottom line. Government’s from the late 70’s in the UK, or early 80’s in the US and New Zealand started to operate in the same finance driven way. In New Zealand ‘reforms’ (code for cuts) were severe and brisk. Historically in NZ this period is referred to as Rogernomics, after the then Finance Minister Roger Douglas.

In typical neoliberal fashion, most state owned assets in New Zealand were sold off either partially or fully. Tax rates for high earners were massively reduced (66-33%), replaced by a regressive goods and services tax. Unemployment rose dramatically from 3.9% in 1985 to 10.7% by 1992. For Roger Douglas this was considered a triumph, as inflation dropped from 15.4% in 1985 to 6.4% by 1988. Douglas’s obsession with inflation was injected with steroids following the arrival of a National government in 1990, as levels of people out of work climbed to unprecedented levels. Compounding this misery, unemployment benefits were often reduced. The consensus of the time erroneously suggested that high payments reduced any incentive to work.

Using narrow metrics such as, inflation and national debt reduction, one could argue that this ideology, referred to by Naomi Klein as “shock doctrine” was a success. On the contrary, if we acknowledge that neoliberalism was purported to positively affect employment, income levels and economic growth, it’s clear that this was and is still an abject failure. In New Zealand the economy shrank by 1% between 1985 and 1992, contrasting with the average OECD country who saw growth of 20% over the same period. Poverty increased dramatically, with 1 in 6 people living below the poverty line in 1992. Even when employment eventually did improve it was primarily due to a huge rise in part-time work. During this time, unsurprisingly income inequality rose sharply as the nation’s richest citizens enjoyed the bulk of the gains.

inequality

New Zealand is just one example of the overall neoliberal social experiment. Of course, there have been similar stories all over the western world as people and their jobs were sacrificed in the name of profit. So the question must be asked, who’s freedom does this doctrine protect? It certainly wasn’t the miners in the UK during the 80’s or the forestry workers in New Zealand and it definitely isn’t the many homeless who live on the streets. While the wealthy continue to acquire greater freedom to become ever richer, many of the working class have lost or are losing their freedom in the form of dignity and autonomy due to a lack of employment or bullshit jobs. All this suggests that according to the neoliberal doctrine, unlimited freedom for the ruling elite, economic or otherwise clearly outstrips any humble needs required by the vast majority of its citizens.

The middle classes are another group tied to this perpetual neoliberal nightmare. Firstly, most of these people have sustainable enough work to allow them a veneer of freedom, obtaining suitable housing, food, education and other services. However, this group is only given the illusion of choice in the form of unlimited obtainable goods for which to purchase. This commodification of freedom is a powerful opiate in which to keep the middle classes occupied as they purchase more crap than they need, in order to fill a gaping hole in their meaningless empty lives. Another way to anaesthetise the middle classes is by proposing a differing form of equality, in the shape of identity politics. This divides people into ever increasing competing tribes, often based on gender, race and sexuality.

This type of political participation is well suited to the professional and middle classes. It offers a way of feeling virtuous, all the while providing a faint whiff of moral superiority. One now has a way of feeling righteous without pandering to those uncultured grubby working class types, who are often labelled racist, uneducated and sexist. In the 1990’s identity politics burst onto the scene, largely endorsed by the likes of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. Now it provides a standard blueprint for mainstream politics, allowing governments to adhere to unbridled capitalism while appeasing the masses. This political “sleight of hand” cunningly shifts any blame or guilt away from the rich and the middle classes back to the most powerless in society, namely the working class.

Identity politics also has the added bonus of providing the middle classes, who have less to worry about, a way feeling smugly principled in the comfort of their own suburban four bedroom detached house. This pious morality and elevated sense of superiority manifests in just about every Brexit debate ever witnessed online involving a Remainer. This politically insulated group have an incredible ability of failing to understand why anybody in their right mind would vote against the EU. Despite the fact that many working class families in locations such as; South Wales, the North and the Midlands have witnessed a catastrophic collapse of industry and by association the disappearance of skilled jobs from these areas.

The funny thing is, the real or old left have always cared about minorities, as it was felt these groups often made up the most precarious and vulnerable people in society. In this current political climate, however, the idea of considering yourself for example as colour-blind is in itself now considered racist. The game has dramatically changed, now groups compete for the title of most oppressed, seeking to eradicate racism and sexual discrimination, with further racism and sexual discrimination. Apparently, this time around it’s all OK, as we are told this is the good type of bigotry. With the ‘woke’ certain to be on “the right side of history” and thus delivered from evil.

In truth, the middle classes are only offered a limited bandwidth of freedom, that of the right to choose which new car to buy or maybe the colour of kitchen to install. In addition, they get to experience feelings of intellectual and moral dominance other those who have been systematically crapped on for roughly 40 years. As long they don’t look up and ask the big questions, such as, is there a better system than this, all will be hunky-dory on planet bourgeois. Freedom is an illusive beast, while the middle class have a slither of freedom, the working class generally have none.

So where is freedom’s natural habitat? Is it to be found in our democracy? Do we even have a democracy? If so, is it functioning? Furthermore, are democracy and freedom even compatible? I would like to suggest freedom is a not zero sum game, but quite often one person’s exercising of their rights can generally have an impact on other people, rather like “cause and affect”. Can we maximise the amount of people having access to freedom? What would be the human cost? To satisfy this, would our idea of freedom be compelled to change? So many questions, all lacking satisfactory answers.

As a thought experiment; consider a family who may exercise their freedom to buy a SUV to pick up their kids from school, plus embark on a couple of long haul holidays each year, purely because they feel they work hard and therefore deserve it. This in isolation could appear totally innocuous and reasonable. Over time, however, it may well be argued this would contribute to rising CO2 in our atmosphere (note the word contribute not cause), leading to sea level rises. Climate Change according to the data available will have a profound effect on atolls such as the Cook Islands, ironically a holiday destination. The rise of oceans will have a deeply detrimental affect on people such as the Cook Islanders, impacting their homes, food sources and their livelihood. So who’s freedom is more important?

In business Jeff Bezos has a right to make a bucket full of money to fulfil his idea of freedom, which incidentally amounted to over $150 billion until his recent divorce. Mr Bezos who presides over the Amazon retail empire, while accommodating his substantial financial appetite also has a reputation for treating his workers, who’s labour create his wealth, particularly badly. I’m sure some people reading this may declare that people don’t have to work for him and this is of course true. Sadly many communities have seen whole industries vanish due to neoliberalism and with little transferable skills many often have to grab whatever is available to feed their family.

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What’s more, in a quest to rake in even more obscene amounts of cash, Jeff Bezos isn’t too fond of paying taxes and like many of the rich, he has the means to navigate around the tax laws. In addition, during Amazon’s early days there was a concerted effort to undercut any opposition with the express intention of eliminating all competition. In a neoliberal and indeed a libertarian universe this is considered fine and dandy. Through his pursuit of freedom (aka capital) Bezos has consequently left a trail of people who had their freedom trampled upon. This includes his workers dignity, who are expected to process 300 packages in an hour, at times urinating in bottles to reduce ‘idle time’. Or indeed, the freedom of small businesses to provide customers with choice and indeed a decent income for themselves.

If the system most of us reside in is chiefly concerned with money, implying that this leads to freedom, by that logic those with the biggest pile of dosh must obviously have the most freedom. I’m sure some people sympathetic to Mr Bezos will offer that his lack of tax payments fall well within current laws. But this legal leniency conveniently omits the glaring truth that the rich can lobby (bribe) political representatives to adjust or remove troublesome legislative roadblocks accordingly. On top of this, taxes enables society to function for the many who are reliant on the state for a wide range of services, such as; education, health and the implementation of the law.

Sickeningly, an overt use of money and power is routinely exercised during the US election cycle, undeniably with significant outcomes. For example, in the 2014 US midterm elections the biggest spenders generally won, this occurred 94% of the time in the House of Representatives and 82% in the senate. As Neil Diamond once sang in the song Forever in Blue Jeans, “money talks”. In stark contrast to the wealthy movers and shakers, the rest of the populous get to vote every 3 to 4 years or so nationally. This charade offers a modicum of democracy, despite that the overwhelming majority of real power lies in the hands of a few.

Each time these democratic extravaganzas (elections) arise it is made ever more difficult to take part. This is particularly true in the US and to some extent the UK. For many it is difficult to build up the enthusiasm in order to exercise our fleeting democratic rights. Realistically, we get to vote for someone who has nothing in common with most normal folk, often with no interest in them (apart from their vote) and who generally doesn’t represent the ideas or principles of the people. Furthermore, voting restrictions in the US, such as ID legislation has created more barriers to this alleged democracy. This travesty is currently taking place in a country which reported a 55% voter turnout in 2016.

Specific ID requirements are also being pushed by the Conservative government in UK. It’s worth noting that the parties supporting these types of policies are right wing entities, in the form of the Tories and the Republican’s. It is strongly suggested that these restrictions disproportionately affect some of the most marginalised people in society. Groups such as the homeless, older voters and others from minority backgrounds are less likely to possess the forms of ID accepted though these changes.

Freedom appears to be very much a one way street. What we have is, neoliberal parties intent on erecting obstacles preventing certain sections of the community, who are often sympathetic to left wing ideas a chance to vote. Predictably, both right wing tribes in the UK and the US have stated that these proposed measures are intended to prevent voter fraud, which incidentally is negligible on either side of the pond. This a typical tactic, whereby a solution is created for a problem that doesn’t exist, which usually possesses another often darker purpose

So, answering the questions above; do we have freedom in the western world? Clearly this depends on your interpretation of freedom. Using a neoliberal definition, most of us only have a limited amount of freedom, with many of our fellow citizens being excluded from participating in society at a very basic level. The bourgeois middle class and even most individuals in the upper echelon, only have freedom primarily with regards to consumer choice, with some possible minor political clout.

However, this group is still wedded to a system that prevents many from dispensing with their meaningless jobs to pursue more worthwhile and satisfying endeavours. Undoubtedly this bunch are in a bind. By renouncing their comfortable and for some, well paying dreary existences, this could result in decreased consumer freedom and economic status. Conversely, this type of rejection of the status quo may well lead to a new psychological flexibility, devoid of this maniacal pursuit of status.

Referring to an earlier thought; do we live in a democracy? It’s worth pointing out that neither of the last two UK Prime Ministers, Theresa May and the newly crowned Boris Johnson were voted in by the nation’s populous. In contrast both were selected via a tiny section of Conservative party supporters with a distinctly myopic perception of the world. This route is also popular in Australia, where inner party coups, resignations and early retirements have recently been the norm when choosing a new Prime Minister. Judging by this current trend of handing over the baton of power at the very top level thereby bypassing the general population, I would offer that the future of democracy is shaky at best.

The merging of the state and powerful corporations renders the voice of the many effectively irrelevant. Claims of a democracy are devoid of any substance, while freedom is only permitted within the narrow parameters of a neoliberal framework. This unholy alliance between business and government is where the true power lies. Meanwhile,  each citizen has the privilege of choosing between different flavours of the same product every few years. Is democracy synonymous with freedom? If what we have is a democracy, then the answer surely must be no. Although, if we can cultivate a society where direct democracy is available on every conceivable level of society, then maybe freedom still has a chance.

koch bastardsUnder this more numerically inclusive vision of freedom, Billionaires such as the Koch brothers could conceivably argue that their freedom to wreck the planet while making a truck load of cash would be inhibited. Here lies the problem, if someone pursues self-determination to the nth degree, another’s freedom possibly set at a more modest or basic level will unquestionably be in jeopardy. Maybe as an alternative we should take a utilitarian approach, in other words, endeavouring to secure freedom at a humanitarian level for the most amount of people first.

In this spirit, the optimal outcome would be to ensure; food, shelter, warmth, education, healthcare, security, an equal say in societal decisions and other many tools enabling people to flourish in life. Not everyone can obtain the highest level of freedom that they desire at the same time. Therefore, an individual’s quest for unlimited levels of autonomy must be tempered and prioritised to ensure all members of society have a base level of freedom providing all an opportunity to engage in society.

 

 

 

 

Antifa: friend or foe?

I’ll nail my colours to the mast right from the start. I am primarily a Libertarian/ Democratic Socialist, mainly in tune with the works of Rosa Luxemburg and Mikhail Bakunin. I certainly agree with a more civil path to implement change. You could say a peaceful revolution, and no that isn’t an oxymoron. I strongly suggest that we must have direct democracy on every conceivable level. The class struggle and the fight against suffocating economic inequality is vitally important.

We need a message and a reason to bring people together, such as the quest to end neoliberalism and grotesque inequality. For me this makes sense, as someone who also has a strong utilitarian streak, this would have a positive affect on the most amount of people, regardless of their identity. This is why I reject identity politics, because it fragments society and counters discrimination with more discrimination. So the question is, does Antifa who claim to fight fascism, represent me, the majority of the left and the working class?

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The simple answer is no. Violence rarely solves anything and cannot create a stable platform for long term democracy. On both sides of the political spectrum, something that has been created on the back of hostility generally requires strong arm tactics to maintain it. This has been witnessed in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Chile, Argentina and Palestine. If your starting point is violence it can only escalate in a desperate attempt to keep control.

So who are Antifa? This is essentially a difficult question to answer, because it is generally used as an umbrella term. Plus they’re a fairly secretive bunch. On the whole Antifa have claimed the moral high-ground and yet they attack people who offer no physical threat to them, only a difference of opinion. When I looked on the Portland Oregon Antifa group, called Rose City Antifa, I saw a malleable use of language and an abundance of double standards. Even by their own admission, fascism is difficult to define. So let me help them out, because it surely must be difficult to fight something you can’t define. Here’s Merriam Webster’s crack at it;

Definition of Fascism

  1. Often capitalised: a political theory, movement, or regime (such as that of Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic government, headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.
  2. A tendency or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control early instances of army fascism and brutality – J.W Aldridge

In contrast, Antifa’s FAQ’s page makes for exceptionally opaque reading regarding a definition of fascism. It is wordy and yet doesn’t actually say a great deal. The term fascism has been broadened to the point of being a meaningless catch all term. In effect fascism seems to be, whatever they choose it to be. If you ignore their ideology and focus on their actions you could be forgiven for thinking they are describing themselves. The “FAQ’s” section is littered with hypocrisy and inaccuracies, which are clearly used to justify their warped existence.

As an example, they offer that fascists are hostile towards Enlightenment values, which is hard to argue against, however, many of the issues Antifa fight for are antithetical to these very values they claim to defend. The Philly Antifa group offer that they defend trans rights, which is fine, but much of the trans argument is not based on the values of the Enlightenment, such as; science, logic and objectivity. In fact, the very nature of self identification is subjective and not grounded in any scientific rigour, such as the notion that sex and gender is on a spectrum. These ideas share more common ground with Postmodernism, which incidentally strongly opposes the Enlightenment.

There is no argument that Mussolini was a fascist, so too was Pinochet, General Videla could also claim the mantle of a full blooded fascist. A man who headed the Junta in Argentina, who among other generals oversaw the disappearance of 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983. But these are not the sort of characters Antifa are targeting. In contrast Antifa’s victims fail to occupy the same lofty and frightening fascist credentials of the men mentioned above.

Their recent assault on photojournalist and Quillette Editor Andy Ngo would seem to support the suggestion that this is less about halting fascism and more about preventing any dissenting voices to emerge. Without doubt Ngo has been a vociferous critic of Antifa, but quite clearly posed no physical threat to them whatsoever. For his troubles, he received punches to the face, had his equipment stolen and a milkshake thrown on him (which seems to be the trendy tactic of identarians these days). In the end, this cowardice attack landed Ngo in the emergency room with head injuries.

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On the Rose City Antifa website, these ‘moral guardians’ claim to do battle against xenophobia, racism and homophobia and yet Andy Ngo is a gay, Vietnamese man. It would appear Mr Ngo is the wrong kind of homosexual son of immigrant’s. All this strongly infers Antifa’s moral claims are flimsy at best and more likely blatant lies in an effort to legitimise their violent actions. I fail to be convinced that Antifa possess any principled convictions, only a childish desperation to get their own way, like a petulant child.

Antifa is claimed by the right wing media to be made up of Marxists, Communists, Stalinists and any other ‘ist’ they can possibly dream up on Fox News. This is all done generally without any knowledge of what Marx even wrote about. This group I would hazard a guess, would be happy to be connected with such ideologies, feeling it would add some form of credence to their misguided cause. Both sides appear content with these convenient labels and so the idea of Antifa being on the far-left has stuck. However, when we dig a little into a couple of Antifa’s webpages, the idea of a proletarian Antifa carrying the fight to fascists and the bourgeois doesn’t ring true.

On the Philly Antifa site, their front page suggests they “are in direct conflict with Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all other flavours of Fascism”. Firstly, if you direct you gaze back to the definition of fascism, most of these issues, although distasteful, uncivil, and surely scary if on the receiving end of such bigotry, are not directly connected to fascism. Secondly, on any of the Antifa sites I’ve browsed their is no mention of fighting for the working class, securing workers control and abolishing capitalism. This is an important point, as this crucially was Marx’s main thrust.

Marx’s primary work (unsurprisingly called Capital) consisted of critiquing capitalism to the nth degree. However, confusingly for a supposed leftist group there is no sign of a counter narrative calling for a push against capitalism on their sites. Undoubtedly, according to the content of their websites this appears to stir little interest among the ranks of Antifa. In fact their main objectives could be considered centrist/3rd way goals, as championed by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Justin Trudeau in Canada. Obviously these areas that they mention as their core issues, are unsavoury and it would be great if we could live in a world where discrimination of any sort wasn’t a factor, but equally these views do not constitute fascism.

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Trudeau virtue signalling

Third way politics headed by people like Tony Blair presented identity politics as a way to combat societal views considered unacceptable in his idea of a utopian world, while deflecting the populous away from the fact he was a neoliberal disciple. Democrats and Labour Parties around the world suddenly found themselves with a new enemy to rally against. Primarily anyone who didn’t think the same way as them. Meanwhile, the likes of Blair and Clinton continued to deregulate the financial sector with little resistance. This neoliberal blueprint has since been handed down to successive Prime Minister’s and President’s. During this time, the disenfranchised working class have been labelled public enemy number one, for not subserviently going along with this masterplan.

It is apparent that Antifa has more in common with the corporatist status quo, than they would care to admit. Incidentally, they only seem to have resurfaced since the arrival of Donald Trump. This is significant, because many workings of the government have changed little since Obama’s departure. For example the US have continued with their usual aggressive foreign policy. Of course, Trump is a narcissistic, sexist, bigoted idiot, who has no moral integrity, uttering anything so that he can maintain power. However, Antifa are more concerned with this loud mouthed political puppet, rather than the government machinery that continues to perpetuate massive inequality, climate change inaction and endless bombings of sovereign nations.

I have a very strong suspicion that Antifa are comprised of middle class, relatively well educated, financially comfortable, identarians and are the attack dogs of the liberal elite. This political class have recently been rejected by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump. With many people voting against both Hilary Clinton and the chance to remain in the EU. This maligned group are now used as a conduit for hate, therefore, a seemingly appropriate target for these masked thugs. Cunningly, conflicting or opposing worldviews have been rebranded as hate speech, providing a justification for such violence.

This slide from a differing point of view, to suddenly branding an opinion as hate is known as concept creep, where definitions broaden and behaviour that is less extreme is suddenly considered dangerous, such as ‘problematic’ opinions. It’s this very idea that supports the notion that “words are violence“, leading to punishment, which includes no platforming, censorship or violence. This is then passed off as a valid response and classified as a form of self-defence.

Far from being defenders of the free world Antifa are authoritarian and these self-proclaimed arbiters of morality silence all murmurings of dissent in any way they see fit. This includes the shutting down of free speech, peacefully or otherwise. On the Rose City website this group admits that it is no fan of free speech, describing it as “not applicable”. They would also prefer the state to take a back seat when tackling far-right views or fascism, so that these vigilantes can directly confront transgressors. This is worrying as Antifa clearly have no idea what fascism is, making fighting it I would imagine, pretty tough going.

Equally disturbing, is the leeway mainstream media grants this group, playing down or at times openly supporting their actions. This should be seen as a red flag, signalling that this is not an anarchic left wing group, but a violent wing of the liberal elite, emboldened by selective mainstream journalism. The media regularly appear very keen to report that Antifa has a long storied history, all in an attempt to add a shred of legitimacy or decency to their questionable cause. This again is an effort to silence detractors, implying that if you are against Antifa you must be in support of fascists. Joe Rogan recently described them as middle class, privileged kids doing cos-play. I think they are slightly more dangerous than that, primarily because they hunt in packs and pick soft targets.

Does Antifa speak or act for me as a self proclaimed member of the left? Absolutely not. Do they support and protect the working class, the traditional core of the left? Not even in the slightest. They are defending the capitalist status quo, under the pretence of activism. Antifa are bourgeois, middle class, privileged thugs and bullies. They are more outraged by regrettable but relatively isolated incidents of racism or sexism than a system that has created a despicable level of inequality. This political ideology of neoliberalism is strongly connected to poor health, rising crime rates, sub-par education, a planet that is collapsing from over consumption and a precession of never ending wars.

Antifa has a myopic moral perspective, protecting dubious theories such as intersectionalism. They preach an authoritarian, puritanical, doctrine that has a religious quality to it, demanding full obedience at all times. As a group they fail on every conceivable level to protect and support the working class, the homeless and the powerless. All the while, endeavouring to do everything within their power to control how we act, what we say and how we think.

“How the left was won”. The planned demise of a working class movement.

The left as it was once known is withering away. Of course there are pockets of resistance, the much maligned Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters being a prime example. There are certain politicians who show signs of leftist principles based on the pursuance of economic equality, who then feel the need to balance it up, succumbing to the pressure of identity politics. This is principally because many of the identarian left also make up the rank and file of Bernie Sanders (US), Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and Jacinda Ardern’s (NZ) supporters. To ignore them would be committing political suicide, in a world where winning is paramount to implementing any sort of change within the ‘democratic system’.

This erosion of the economic left has occurred from many directions, from within and indeed externally of the leftist citadel. In the mid to late 70’s Keynesian social democratic policies were running out of steam and so entered Thatcher in 1979, with an individualistic ideology known as neoliberalism. This is a brutal system of capitalism that had been waiting in the wings for the day Keynesian economics eventually spluttered and finally collapsed. Thatcher began an overt attack on the working class, that still persists today, as she laid to waste any remaining industries, selling them off at an alarming rate, for the rich and middle classes to benefit from.

Thatcher

The ‘Iron Lady’ made no attempt to hide her disdain for any semblance of a community, as the UK miners can attest to. The UK and also New Zealand a little later from 1984 entered a rabid world of competition and consumption, where more was better and if you didn’t succeed, you only had yourself to blame. Sadly today, this attitude is considered the societal norm across much of the world, where people fight for whatever metaphorical scraps are left on the table. Neoliberalism for many is the only political system they have ever known. With this in mind it’s not surprising the left with a more collectivist, traditionally compassionate perspective struggles to gain traction among the wolves of capitalism.

It makes sense that right wing policies from the Conservatives, Republican’s and National would attempt to manipulate the working class to gain more profit for their mates, but these attacks also occurred from inside “camp lefty”. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair made it clear that they were switching targets in the 90’s, coveting the middle class vote. While the relaxing of financial restrictions, such as Glass Steagall in the US echoed these sentiments. In the UK, Brown and Blair allowed the banks ever more leeway, contributing to the financial crash of 2008.

To appease their newly found middle class and professional class voters, these disciples of the “third way” focused on social justice concessions. This fight for rights for minorities was music to middle class ears, who had little money worries, just everyday dilemmas such as; where to go on holiday that year, or whether to build a summer house or install a new kitchen. Meanwhile, industry after industry was decimated and areas such as the North, the Midlands and South Wales, became one huge call centre, up until these jobs were inevitably shipped off shore, leading to even more unemployment

call centre

Now in the UK, the gig economy (bullshit jobs to you and me) account for 4.7 million workers, doubling in just three years. These jobs possess sparse workers rights, no paid holidays, little security and often requires employees to take on two jobs to cover the bills. This is not a basis for a secure society, but the disparity between the haves and have nots can be witnessed in voting habits. Starting with Blair and Clinton, these traditional working class parties gave up on the very people they were supposed to represent, in search of a less grimy class of voter. This societal neglect has since been returned with interest by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump.

The middle class and lefty elite’s reactions on both sides of the pond, was to blame the very people who been shafted for decades, calling them xenophobic, racist or just plain dumb. I’m sure victim blaming is a massive taboo among the identarian left, but alas, maybe they are just the wrong kind of victim. In centrist, middle class land, the gender wage gap (which is a dubious statistic at best) and the crusade to get an even 50% of men and women in all high powered jobs, seems to be on the forefront of the identarian mind. Often they are people who come from very comfortable backgrounds, have attended university, possess very little life experiences, but insist on taking the moral high ground, but chiefly only on issues that directly concern them.

Maybe, just maybe there isn’t enough women who want to be CEO’s in top corporations to make up the 50% quota, or even MP’s or engineers for that matter. Lets be honest, who would blame them, CEO’s are often “Alpha Male” narcissists, who put their life and family on hold, working 80 hours a week for the sake of financial success, both theirs and the company’s. Incidentally, I have never seen identarians protesting to make up 50% of oil rig workers or other dangerous jobs. It also becomes eerily silent when highlighting areas women dominate, such as education (60% are of university graduates are women), new graduate medical students, psychology and publishing.

I am using this as an example to show the disconnect regarding the priorities of middle class, bourgeois, educated, professionals and the working class. Who’s main preoccupations are centred around feeding the kids, paying the bills, debts and getting decent work. If we look at “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs“, many working class people are desperately trying to get out of “Maslow’s Cellar”. While the champagne identarian pretend socialists are focused on growth needs, self-actualisation and trying get into the penthouse. To the centrist middle classes (who often classify themselves as left), the working class are an eyesore, an inconvenience and an enemy of civility. Personally, I would describe them as being crapped on from a great height, repeatedly for 4 decades and who are increasingly desperate for change.

8 stage maslows

The problem is, the working class have little representation. Most unions are toothless and throughout the western world working class MP’s are as rare as “rocking horse shit”. In the 1920’s 70% of Labour MP’s in the UK came from working class backgrounds. Since the 1980’s this has plummeted to today’s figure of just 8%. The powerless clearly lack any representation from people who can actually enact change. We are now awash with career MP’s, who are more interested in keeping their positions, with little experience outside of the political bubble. This is significant, in a recent study it was shown that working class MP’s have much more interest in welfare policies than careerists. In contrast these professional politicians are increasingly likely to adopt policies for political or strategic reasons in order to win over swing voters and ultimately elections.

None of this is set to change, as the working class will continue to be marginalised, silenced and underrepresented. In all likelihood this group will continue to avoid traditional left leaning parties such as Labour and its ilk. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s hard work in this area, many people from the working class still consider Labour and the Democrats, as not representative of their values and concerns. The legacies of both Clinton and Blair are of course huge reasons for their warranted mistrust. I will conclude by suggesting that this has been a purposeful act by the right wing, the centrists, the media and the identarian left in order to quash working class concerns, while elevating their own self-serving agendas.

 

 

We were lefties once and proud; the identarian hijacking of the left.

As the days go by, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to declare myself as someone from the left. Although deep down I know this is where my politics and morals lie. This is a not a change of heart on my part, but a concerted effort by the mainstream media and right wing politics to redefine what being on the left actually means. I am one of those ever increasing number of people who are bewildered, confused and lost politically. The left has moved from trying to reduce socio-economic factors, towards a type of politics deeply focused on race, gender and sexuality. This can be witnessed all over the anglosphere; Australia, Canada, US, UK and New Zealand.

It is important to note that within these listed countries, radical changes to the political/economic status quo is completely off the table and has been replaced with politics of the self. This appears to enthuse millennials for the most part, who according to Dr Jean Twenge show traits of elevated narcissism. These concerns which are also studied at many universities, are largely known as “grievance studies” and sit within the realm of identity politics. Does that mean people from shall we say, the economic left are opposed to combatting issues of discrimination? Of course not. But, I and many like me would prefer all people do well, regardless of genitalia configuration or melanin levels. Currently, if we do not subscribe to identarian extremism we are lazily considered racist, sexist and anything else with ‘ist’ on the end.

Economic lefties generally suggest that most of society’s issues have their roots in embedded neoliberalism. This hypothesis can be measured, it’s objective and largely based on logic. It is this preference to objectivity over subjectivity that gives this point of view legitimacy. Using economic inequality as a major cause of concern will bind large groups of people together, with a common goal. To affirm this, many studies have been performed linking this specific problem to poorer health outcomes, decreased educational standards, an increase in crime rates and a decline of social mobility. Plus, neoliberalism with it’s dedication to eternal growth is systematically destroying the planet, as a miniscule cabal become ever richer.

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In days gone by, the left was often thought of as one big umbrella, fighting for a better life, unifying as many people as possible. The bulk of its supporters were from the working class, who generally did much of the hard graft for little pay. Along with the unions it was the aim of the left to increase living standards across the board. It was irrelevant what your background was, all were welcome in the fight against the ruling elite. It was a message that was inclusive and appealed to many people, pulling people together. In contrast, identity politics seeks to prise society apart, ranking groups on perceived oppression, based on a criteria we can do very little about. This proportioning of the blame is clearly not a strategy that is going to galvanise people to foster positive societal change.

The left have regularly placed extra emphasis on minority groups, mainly because they were at an increased risk of being disenfranchised. But this isn’t nearly enough in this new political movement. As decades of people attending “grievance studies” classes have been told, they are oppressed and the white, cis, man is unreconcilably privileged. This treatment of so called oppressors bears a striking resemblance to original sin, albeit without any chance of redemption. This perceived dynamic, disregards any influences from economic status, education, actual direct acts of oppression or other periods of individual agency. On the contrary the group that you are identified with reflects all that there is to know about you. All this seems to lead towards a path of internalised hatred and a lifetime of guilt for the alleged oppressor.

There are many reasons why the left are almost universally linked with identity politics and the thousands of SJW crazies seen on YouTube. Firstly, in the US where much of this originated, there is no economic alternative plan. The politics of both parties are generally neoliberal, the only differences are chiefly tax levels and the Democratic Party embrace of identity politics, plus false narratives such as the gender pay gap. These alleged systemic issues are often based on shaky studies and poor stats, but are conveniently used to push a divisive acceptable discourse, thus serving the purpose of government.

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Nancy Pelosi leading virtue signallers anonymous

We have to consider that the people pushing for this identarian mandate are on the whole empowered, middle class ‘educated’, relatively economically comfortable women, who have reasonable connections and a developed network to have their voices heard. The poor and the homeless have none of the above and are reliant on advocates to have their voices heard. It is therefore, of no surprise who obtains more airplay and what agenda is purported as the most pressing issue. After all, over 70% of the homeless are men, but their sex alone is enough to have them labelled as privileged. This is a ludicrous state of affairs, when you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the homeless fail to have their very basic concerns met, yet overblown issues about gender pay equality and the push for more female CEO’s appears to be more important.

Marginalised segments of society such as ex-forces personal who find themselves on the streets have very little in the way of support. It’s a group that find no compassion from many, in particular identarians, who view these men as the epitome of ‘toxic masculinity’, the scourge of humanity and a source of the world’s problems. Many of these men suffer from PTSD, die prematurely or have severe psychosocial issues, but absurdly defining all 748,629 gender identities is considered more essential. The majority of this silent population come from working class backgrounds with very little opportunities, hence why they joined the military, often at a young age. Any claims of SJW’s being wholly compassionate is a sick joke, similarly to the right who only support the rich, identarians only advocate for people who are a reflection of themselves.

Ex army

For the right wing, linking identarians with the left is a stroke of genius. It rolls all of their enemies into one big bolus, making it easier to digest. Identarians, Marxists, Democratic Socialists, Libertarian Socialists and the like are lumped into one big mass and labelled ‘Cultural Marxists‘ by people such as Jordan Peterson. This is all done without any in depth of knowledge about Marx, but it allows the right to direct their vitriol in one direction, rather than having to deal with such trivialities as nuance. Countless websites, blogposts, YouTube videos have all helped to demonise anyone to the left of Mussolini. Interestingly, with the left identarians penchant for narrow, puritanical rule making and their obvious opposition to free speech, I’m not sure if Benito would more likely find a soul mate within this group, rather than an adversary.

The mainstream media certainly gains from a brand of politics that is split along identity lines rather than economic issues. Just six corporations own the vast majority of media outlets in the US, while the UK and NZ witness similar monopolies. It is certain that the global corporate behemoths complete with power hungry billionaires do not want the ‘great unwashed’ to critically think about any alternative economic and political systems that may lead to their own demise. It is in their interests to perpetuate an acceptable narrative, thus quelling any dissent the populous may have regarding the current system. This fragmentation of a coherent opposition to neoliberalism allows this political and economic zombie to continue down the road of self destruction.

Turning against unbridled capitalism should be our most immediate common goal. The current system is one that only benefits a minority. While those who have not gained but still support it clearly lack the imagination to realise something better for themselves. Now that identarians have accepted the moniker of the ‘left’ or even ‘far left’, handily provided by their foes on the right, maybe the word ‘left’ is devoid of any meaning. In contrast, our unifying ideas need to be clear and full of substance. A dramatic change in our political and economic ethos is the only way to enrich the most people, allowing them to flourish and contribute to society in a meaningful and sustainable way. What we name ourselves is largely irrelevant, but as always it’s open to discussion.

May I present Jeremy Corbyn: The best Prime Minister the UK will never have.

There is no doubt that there are enough dark forces conspiring together, purely with the sole purpose of ensuring Jeremy Corbyn never sets foot in number 10 Downing Street. On a seemingly daily basis mainstream media, opposition MP’s, members of his own party, the middle class ‘remain brigade’ and of course many billionaires are all queuing up for a pop at Mr Corbyn. There is no way in hell that the pompous British establishment will allow a socialist, albeit a very mild democratic one to take the reins of a nation that is a mainstay of neoliberal ideology.

Just a brief glance at Corbyn’s vision for the country prior to the last election, it is clear that these proposals are less guided by GDP and more focused on the growth for all people. This is a hugely refreshing approach, but one that generally does not sit well within the ruling elite. Nor to the many indoctrinated by Thatcher and later Blair, this is tantamount to sacrilege and worthy of a prolonged stay in the Tower of London, without an en suite bathroom.

Corbyn has dared to challenge the deeply imbedded neoliberal mafia, who stash their cash in far flung corners of the globe. Offering very little in the way of tax, but plenty in the way of advice on how the country should be managed and indeed who should do it (Richard Branson for example). Jeremy has even had the audacity to suggest that people making billions by exploiting workers from the UK (Jeff Bezos) should pay tax (how dare he).

It has been made clear that Labour under Corbyn would have a fairer tax system, while endeavouring to close loopholes for evaders and avoiders. Critics often question whether this is even possible, but I can virtually guarantee you that this is not a critique on the practical applications of such a proposal. More likely, this is an effort to put doubt in peoples minds, as they continue to protect a system that works for the 1%. Unbridled, runaway capitalism in many quarters is being held up for scrutiny and it has been found wanting.

There’s is nothing that mainstream media love more than an anti-Corbyn story. If there isn’t one around do not fear, a so called journalist will always be on hand to make one up. Going as far back as 2016, it was found that over half the news articles written about Mr Corbyn have been critical or antagonistic in tone, this compares to two thirds of editorial and opinion pieces. Meanwhile, he has been linked to Hamas, the IRA, Iran, Hezbollah and Arsenal Football Club, with no evidence at all to back up these lofty claims (maybe a little on the last one).

Over the last few years varying publications have called him a traitor for such treasonous acts as; not bowing deeply enough at a remembrance service, claims of being associated to a Czech spy and of course inciting terrorism. There is also the matter of repeated and baseless allegations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. Ultimately the Daily Telegraph of all rags accused the Labour Party of being racist.

media bollocks
Mainstream media’s campaign of lies

It is common knowledge that the Labour party is deeply divided between Corbyn’s anti-austerity driven supporters and the remnants of New Labour, who nowadays appear old, crusty and frankly bitter. This group on the centre/right of the Labour Party are desperate to regain control, which is highlighted by the constant manufactured crises, generally followed by a leadership bid. It can be argued that by incessantly sabotaging Corbyn, they clearly have much more in common with the Tories than the current Labour leadership.

Their method of choice to dislodge Corbyn has centred around numerous, tedious anti-Semitic assertions, manufactured purely to force a change at the top. Any actions or words spoken by Corbyn and his close allies are manipulated, repackaged and used against them with relative success. An example of this was Jackie Walker who is of black, Jewish heritage, being hounded out of Momentum on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, to the delight of the Blairite faction.

The truth of the matter is, there is no evidence to suggest Labour harbours any more anti-Semitic views than any other party, or even society as a whole. The question routinely posed by ‘moderates’ on the centre/right of the party goes like this; “don’t you think Labour has a problem with ant-Semitism”? Firstly, don’t be fooled by this seemingly benign line of enquiry. This is a rhetorical trap, a game that ‘moderates’ seem to revel in. If your reply is no, you will be savaged for suggesting that the Labour Party is entirely free of anti-Semitic bigots. If you reply in the affirmative, this will be taken as an admission of guilt and that their narrative is indeed correct. The whole point of this is to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn’s image and reputation, therefore, hastening the Blairite faction to call for yet another leadership election, on the basis that he is unfit to stand in opposition. This is not some form of elevated morality the centre/right faction of the party possess, more it’s an opportunity to retake control of the party.

We shouldn’t be surprised that this group is exceptionally adept at playing politics. After all, Blair’s hollow revolution was entirely based on spin, false data, lies and an affinity for using identity politics as a tool of control. Corbyn’s opposition found within his own parliamentary members are not the only centrist/ moderate group he is up against. The largely middle class, bourgeois ‘Remainers’ are also baying for his blood. This particular sect has huge support in the South East particularly in London, who are seemingly more concerned with cheap goods and holidays, than the growing economic inequality. ‘Remainers’ often chime in that many jobs are dependent on the EU and although this may contain an element of truth, in the North of England where I’m originally from, it is home to 10 out of 12 English cities most in decline.

This much maligned geographic group have also witnessed a drop in real wages, which are still less than they were 10 years ago. It is completely understandable why many folk in the north don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings towards the EU that many individuals in the capital have. Regardless of these valid grievances voiced by people north of the ‘Watford Gap’, ‘Remainers’ appear to have developed a certain piousness, which manifests in feelings of moral superiority.

Numerous areas in the north, the midlands and South Wales in particular, have witnessed whole industries decimated and communities carved up like a Sunday roast, all occurring during this now celebrated time in the EU. Surely people in these regions can at least be forgiven for voicing concerns, that the current state of affairs hasn’t worked out all that well for them. Therefore, when you have nothing to lose, voting for something like Brexit carries little risk and any kind of change can appear better than nothing.

Dyson ceramic
Dyson ceramics factory, Sheffield.

The stark differences between both groups as displayed during the Brexit vote, are never more obvious than when examining class. In social categories  AB and C1 (high, middle management to professionals) both men and women voted in favour of remaining in the EU, conclusively so for women. In categories DE and C2 (skilled/ semi-skilled and manual occupations, plus the unemployed) the vote was in favour of Brexit, particularly among men. Despite all this, rather than trying to understand the plight of the working class, they have simply been dismissed as; stupid, poorly informed, gullible and racist.

The truth of the matter is only 34% of leave voters cited immigration as their primary concern for choosing Brexit. Many people who voted to leave are more concerned about low wages, a lack of decent jobs, education and affordable housing. This is just another example of the working class being marginalised, ignored and told to get back in their place. To make things worse these genuine worries are exploited by cretins such as Nigel Farage, in an effort to bolster his self serving populist crusade.

I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is acutely aware that he has to connect with the working class, who have been neglected during four decades of neoliberalism to achieve electoral victory. However, as we’ve observed in the US, populism is seductive and a hard spell to break. Further to this, Corbyn is swimming against a tide of media hostility, whose billionaire bosses would stand to be on the losing end following a Corbyn victory.

To compound all this, he still has to continuously grapple with a section of the party who have very little in common with his principles and consciously make life substantially difficult at every given opportunity. As mentioned earlier this segment of the Parliamentary Labour Party have more of a shared worldview with middle class ‘Remainers’, who on the whole prefer their politics to be of the neoliberal variety, with a large helping of identity politics on the side.

Corbyn is merely trying to challenge the status quo, in doing so, he has unearthed a multitude of enemies.  As a collective, these groups will be exceptionally difficult to defeat, hence my pessimistic title. Jeremy Corbyn should be a unitary figure, but after 40 years of unbridled capitalism and self-interest, Corbyn on the contrary polarises public opinion more than ever. Aside from the US, the UK is one of greatest examples of ingrained neoliberalism.

People have grown accustomed to being a consumer first and a member of the community a distant second. Society is ranked by what material goods are acquired and even the most civic minded citizen can be easily caught up in this mindless, self destructive drive to buy more and more shit to fill our relatively meaningless lives. These my friends, are the issues that constitute the miles of crap Jeremy Corbyn has to wade through in order to affect change for the better and sadly I don’t fancy his chances. Of course, I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

 

 

 

 

Are the Koch’s and Bill Gates really that different? Oligopoly, the ultimate game of power and control.

I’m sure many people would contest that comparing the Koch brothers who deal in fossils fuels with Bill Gates who provides vaccines in Africa a bit of a stretch. However, I’m going to suggest that they have much more in common than we’d like to admit. If we observe their methods and ultimately what is achieved, there are some striking similarities. Sure, conservatives like the DeVos’s and the Koch’s morally conduct their affairs differently to Zuckerberg or Gates, but are they really so distinct? You could sensibly propose that Bill Gates’s life is more virtuous than the Koch’s. This indeed is a compelling argument. But is it true? When we consider the two groups; right wing neoliberal oligarchs and philanthrocapitalists (also oligarchs), apart from obscene amounts of money, both sects share their unquestionable desire for power and control.

I will offer that power and control are intrinsically linked. Some semblance of control over your own group, rival factions or even the general populace is required to gain power. That said, to control certainly on an external level, requires some exertion of power, either through elections, coercion or even physical force. The extent and methods required depends on your resources and who you intend to control to obtain power or conversely who you will overpower to wrestle control. At this stage it would be sensible to lay out what these seemingly opposing tribes, both morally and politically have in common and of course how they differ. To finish I will argue that the overall goals of oligarchs regardless of their flavour are strikingly similar.

By the very existence of their extreme wealth, I think it’s safe to assume that all oligarch’s share a strong, deep conviction towards the ‘free market’. Each side fully subscribes to the idea of utilising their wealth to shape the world, often at the expense of democratic processes. Unsurprisingly, many would argue that the Koch’s and Bill Gates share nothing in common, concluding that one wants to continue extracting fossil fuels at the expense of the planet, while the other tries to save lives.

But, if the outcome is all that matters rather than the process, surely we must ask ourselves hard questions regarding the importance of democracy. This dilemma arises due to billionaires not being democratically elected and yet able to use considerable influence to effect major changes, good, bad or indifferent. It has been offered by philosophers and social psychologists alike that huge wealth generates social distance or “ethical independence”. Put simply the rich have no need to cooperate or partake in democracy to get what they require.

Neoliberal leaders often fit into the more recognisable guise of bombastic, power hungry CEO’s, trampling on all that resembles competition. There’s no doubt that these individuals exist, see Jeff Bezos for details. Worse still, the system justifies their behaviour by spinning yarns of ‘homo economicus’, ‘trickle down’ economics and picturing them as ‘job creators’. However, in our midst are those who present as an arguably more agreeable face of power and control. They appear on Ted Talks, are promoted by the mainstream media and portrayed as modern day saviours. These are the neoliberal ‘left’ or philanthrocapitalists and their influence on society is as pervasive as the Koch brothers. Carefully crafted characters such as Gates and Zuckerberg are considered to be oracles of the 21st century. They mould our world from a position of exclusivity that is only experienced by a handful of people and yet we so easily defer to their perceived wisdom.

FAvH
Friedrich Hayek

Historically speaking, the stage that allowed these actors on both sides to perform so freely is neoliberalism. This was first conceived by among others, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises in the late 1930’s, but failed to gain much traction in the west. This all changed when Keynesian economics started to falter in the mid 1970’s. When the time arose, the objective for Thatcher (UK), Reagan (US) and Roger Douglas in New Zealand was to change the moral and political record. A collective society based on human capital, full employment and relative equality was abruptly abandoned, for competition, individualism and the idea that wealth is virtuous. Out of the rubble of a dismantled social democratic society, rose a small number of individuals who were uniquely positioned to capitalise on increased privatisation, laxed trade regulations and an ever financialised world.

This accumulation of capital is rarely reinvested in society and the people within it, but used to create a system that accrues ever more wealth, power and influence. The elite are in a position to apply pressure at the governmental level for maximum effect, with some tactics being cruder than others. Neoliberalism provides the means that ensures money is sucked out from underneath the mattresses of the poor to the heavily guarded vaults of the rich. These mechanisms are the ‘nucleotides’ of the neoliberal DNA; international trade agreements, decreased market regulations, low taxation, privatisation and reduced government spending are just a few examples.

For decades this ideology of neoliberalism has been supported by the likes of International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These institutions have been instrumental in forcing desperate sovereign nations to adopt strict austerity measures to reduce debt, by offering an all strings attached bailout package, as witnessed in Greece. In effect these loans had nothing to do with Greece’s economic problem. These were purely constructed to pay off their debts to French and German banks. It has since been recorded less than 10% of the cash borrowed was actually used to reform the economy and to help the Greek people.

As if the world’s oligarchs don’t have enough systemic advantages, many invest heavily in ‘think tanks’ and varying institutions solely to persuade government’s to tip the scales further in their favour. One such right wing funding source are the previously mentioned Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are co-owners of Koch Industries the largest privately owned energy company in the US. The Koch’s favourite past-time is trying to discredit climate change science and policy solutions. In this arena they have spent a massive $127 million funding 92 organisations between 1997 and 2017. The Koch’s claim to be Libertarians, supporting; drastically lower corporate and personal taxes, minimal public services and a massive reduction in regulations.

Koch brothers

Their undeniable self interest doesn’t stop at muddying the waters regarding climate change. The Koch’s fund a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), aimed at making it more difficult to prosecute corporations for violations of environmental and financial law. It’s important to realise that the Koch’s do not do all this in isolation, rallying 100’s of wealthy conservative families in an effort to preserve and promote their privileged way of life. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity are a huge and rich organisation, designed to battle against the Democrats, supporting ultra conservative Republicans, espousing ideological policies, while blocking anything in Congress that may oppose the Koch’s best interests.

They are the masters of organising ‘astroturf’ groups. These are alleged grassroot citizen organisations or coalitions. Groups such as ‘Americans for Prosperity’, the ‘Heartland Institute’ and the ’60 plus association’ support entities such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and their fight for free speech. Which of course is nothing of the sort, it is a mere cover up for anti-science rhetoric, supported by 47 groups all affiliated to the Koch’s. Further to this, the Koch’s spend millions each election cycle and helped fund the Tea Party, spending upwards of $45 million. The Koch’s also donate millions each year to candidates that suit their ideology, this includes past presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Interestingly, despite spending roughly $900 million during the 2016 election cycle, the Koch’s have already declared that they will not be funding Trump next time around.

In contrast to the Brothers Grim, power and control can also be acquired through more insidious mechanisms such as philanthrocapitalism. Many of these characters involved in this practice are labelled by the right wing media as lefties. This theory seriously suggests that these rich, well connected, privileged people who attended top universities, while using capitalism to rake in huge profits support politics of the left. Just to clarify the Democrats and the left are not synonymous with each other. Politics in the US like much of the west provides nothing more than varying shades of neoliberalism. For the CEO class such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, the question is, how can philanthropy be used to reinforce a flawed political and economic system such as capitalism.

Supposedly charitable acts, as seen by Bill Gates are conceptualised using market based solutions, looking at costs and benefits. It’s fair to say that philanthrocapitalism is no more than the social justice arm of a destructive global free market. Gates has certainly taken advantage of his huge giving-power to influence global health policies, including the World Health Organisation, where he is their top donor. The Gates Foundation has spent over $1 billion on policy and advocacy, even investing in training programs for journalists at major media organisations. Further to this, the foundation has heavily funded research which has later gone on to be published in scientific journals. These types of activities must be seen as a threat to global democratic decision making. The Gates Foundation also sits on the board of H8, a self appointed group of 8 health related organisations, who have been instrumental in setting up the health agenda for the G8, a group of self important, self selected nations.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Both the pretend left and right wing oligarchs, share another mission, that is to pay as little tax as humanly possible. The Koch’s do this rather bluntly by using ‘astroturf’ groups and lobbyists to coerce the government into lowering tax levels and provide tax breaks. The ‘smarmy’ army to ‘their’ left in contrast use charm offensives. In 2015 Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, to much fanfare, proclaimed that they would donate 99% of their shares in Facebook (valued at the time at $45 billion) to the “mission” of “advancing human potential and promoting equality”. Which all sounds very nice, I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s the catch, Zuckerberg did not set up a charitable foundation which would have automatically held a non-profit status. Instead of this Zuckerberg established limited liability company (LLC). The mainstream media unsurprisingly failed to mention this, instead they continued to gush over this blockbusting moment of perceived altruism.

Unlike a charitable foundation a LLC  allows someone to make investments in a for-profit company, while also permitting the owner to make political donations. Within this framework Zuckerberg is free to lobby for changes within the law and can do whatever he desires with his money. You may ask, “what’s the problem, it’s his money’? Indeed, but is this really the actions of a charity? Zuckerberg can also cunningly use this method to avoid tax. This can be achieved by donating the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax. Clever huh?

In a nutshell this means Zuckerberg has made a ridiculous amount of money, for which he is unlikely ever to pay tax on. As a society, do we really want people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates deciding the direction of our societal needs? All governments have flaws, but at least there are checks and balances deciding where the money is required, with more than one person making the call. These oligarchs could have quite easily aided society by paying tax just like everybody else, but of course this does not afford them the power or control that they feel they deserve.

So, what have we learnt apart from, don’t trust rich people? Well, we know billionaires span the entire (neoliberal) political spectrum from; George Soros to Sheldon Adelson, from the Koch’s to Michael Bloomberg and from Tom Steyer to Robert Mercer. Many of whom remain hidden like puppeteers, but some use public recognition to their advantage, such as Gates and Zuckerberg. We really shouldn’t be remotely surprised that billionaires manipulate governments and society to benefit themselves in some way. I am aware that much of this article is US centric, however, this is not something that is unique to the States. Similar patterns of oligarchic control can be witnessed all over the world, but particularly within the ‘anglosphere’.

All acceptable politics and political parties within the west are shoehorned into a narrow corridor of neoliberalism, with only minor differences separating them. Parties and the politicians from which they belong are criticised and held to intense scrutiny, but rarely is this kind of ferocious attention applied to the primary problem. This being a political/economic system that is thoroughly in chaos, held together by outdated concepts, some questionable politicians and billionaires who desperately fight to maintain the status quo. It’s the same system that assures the elite of ever increasing bank balances, thus securing more power and control over our ailing planet

Lets be honest, this is not a system for you, me or billions of others like us. In many ways capitalism is no different to feudalism, both possess hierarchies, each system serves the chosen few and neither has any interest in the rest of society. I suspect it’s about time we constructed something anew, outside of this tired and repetitive dynamic. How about we construct a society that works for everybody, oh and we need to do this quickly because the world’s a bit screwed up. No pressure!