Out of the Wreckage

I’d like to begin by wishing everyone a happy new year! I hope you all managed to have a lovely holiday period despite the impacts 2020 has had on all of us.

I’ve definitely had a dry patch with ideas for posts. I kept coming up with ideas that felt easy or boring and I realised that I didn’t start this website to aimlessly post without any real intention. It was to allow me to learn and to share what I’d learnt with all of you. I love to read, learn new things, and to write, that’s why I made this blog. Getting back to that root motivation has been important to me. I would rather post quality over quantity and share something truly interesting and beneficial with you all. Something I’ve put real work into learning about and producing. That is what brings on today’s post and future posts to come.

Reading is a huge factor to inspiring me and allowing me to learn new things, it triggers thoughts and usually is what motivates me to learn more. I got a lot of books for Christmas so I’m excited to learn from them and share what I learn with all of you. That being said, let’s get into today’s post.

Neoliberalism

I recently finished the book ‘Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis’ by George Monbiot. Within the book he discusses ways to improve governance in order to lead us to a better future. The book is politically and economically focused, introducing effective solutions to the key issues we face in society. Monbiot highlights issues and areas of corruption and how they are causing a strain on democracy and society. He begins the book by talking about how neoliberalism has essentially doomed us from the outset.

Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, and the shift away from state welfare provision. Simply, neoliberalism favours the market and aims for a restriction in the welfare of the people. It desires less government spending. Neoliberalism has warped itself into our political and economic systems, even our daily lives. Monbiot explains that we are so used to it’s presence it’s hard to even step back far enough to see it.

We are all cogs in a machine going around scrambling individually to get to the top, a point that an overwhelming majority won’t reach. We need community, we need empathy. These two factors are key in Monbiot’s rethinking of politics. It is sad to say that without these factors society will continue on it’s path of self-destruction. The rich only get richer and the poor sink even further, struggling to survive and unsupported by their government. A neoliberalist world would view the rich of society wealthy because of their own merit, ignoring any aspects of society that gave them a foot in the door such as education, inheritance, and class. These unequal boosters would be classed as the natural order of society.

Neoliberalism’s definitions have evolved over time but it is essentially solidified in competition. We are all trying to get ahead of eachother, and that is part of the problem. Humans are essentially capital. Society rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. Neoliberalism views effort to create an equal society as morally corrosive. Limiting competition and enforcements of tax to support a welfare state are viewed as inadequate and hostile. Neoliberalism believes in the full privatisation of services, everything is a transaction. Ideals of welfare prevent the natural winners and losers of society from being discovered. Neoliberalism is cold and unkind to anyone who slips below the line, but sadly in a neoliberal society, most of us would be classed as below the line already.

We certainly have not gone to the far extremes of neoliberalism yet, but world leaders have tried, such as Margert Thatcher in 1979. Huge tax cuts for the wealthy, abolishing trade unions, privatisation, and even attempting to remove universal healthcare. Thatcher was stopped of course as we know but, these cold methods of neoliberalism live under the fabric of society and affect so much more than we realise.

Biased Perceptions of the Poor

Have you ever wondered why there is such an increase in mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression in our generation? It’s because of comparison and competition. In a world where we are constantly told to do more, be more, and get ahead, even when our own circumstances restrict that from happening, psychiatric impact is bound to weave it’s way into our lives.

In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind come to be defined and self-defined as losers. The rich are the new righteous, while the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classed as social parasites.

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage

Our society tells the poor that they are a loser and it is purely all their fault, not the system, and that lack of empathy needs to change, in a neoliberal society, it won’t. Deprivation happens because of soaring housing prices and unstructured employment systems, not because someone mindlessly threw it away like a disposable income. People are struggling to make ends meet, unemployment is rising. Perceiving the poor as losers or the failing flock of society is unfair. People need help and in a society woven with neoliberal ideology, help won’t always be there.

In the last five years the need for food banks has increased by 74% in the UK according to the Trussell Trust. The total number of people using a food bank this year was 1,900,122. The Trussell Trust put out a statement to say that food banks were already experiencing record levels of need before the pandemic and this need has only risen since the impact of the pandemic planted it’s roots. The Trussell Trust and it’s partners are urging governments to use their power more to ensure everyone has the essentials they need in this financial crisis.

There is an estimated 14.4 million people in the UK living in poverty, 23% of the population. 4.5 million of those people are children. These figures were recorded before the impact of the pandemic, which means people’s lives will only get more deprived. In a neoliberal society, those people don’t matter, they simply failed at the game of life. They were not born a natural winner. This kind of ideology is wrong and leads to staggering levels of inequality and social deprivation.

Neoliberalism is already here

In the UK, we don’t live in a fully neoliberal world of course, privatisation does not fully exist, if it did it would be detrimental to the welfare of society. The rich would become so overwhelming rich that society would simply fall to pieces. When privatisation is at it’s peak it would mean we would have to pay for services. When people can’t afford services, they don’t get them, that’s it. Whilst this is happening the rich are investing into these privatised services, earning from the essential needs of the people. These elements of neoliberalism linger in the fabric of our society today.

Investment in essential service

If we go over to the US and look at Kelly Loeffler and other US senators, we see a similar issue taking place right now that really shows the impact neoliberalism has on society. In January, Loeffler invested millions into PPE stock whilst simultaneously stating that the hysteria building around coronavirus was just democratic nonsense that was misleading the American people. She knew, like many other senators, what was coming, so she benefited from it whilst still downplaying the impact coronavirus would really have on the US. She would earn money, whilst people died from the pandemic. To phrase this another way, whilst 350,000 people died from coronavirus in the US, whilst people lost their jobs, families and businesses, Loeffler was earning money off of their pain. If this doesn’t horrify you then I’m not sure what else to say. In a neoliberal society, Loeffler is simply a winner because she manipulated the market to earn money. The people struggling are the losers, and that is a cruel way to live.

This is what happens when services become privatised, the rich gain even more money from essential services we all require. Neoliberalism benefits the rich of society, after all, neoliberalism years ago was endorsed by millionaires which started it’s long political narrative and history.

Political influence from the rich

The rich already have an overwhelming influence on politics, particularly in the US. It’s well known that the large corporations and business heads give money to the parties that offer the polices they want. “Corporations and the very rich spend their money almost exclusively on politics that favours their interests; less taxation of the rich, less redistribution, less protection for people and the planet.” Monbiot refers to this as the pollution paradox. Large companies need to pay their way into politics and they do this by paying for grassroot and thinktank organisations to speak on their behalf. They buy up political space and capture the system.

In other words, this is not democracy, but plutocracy.

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage

Don’t be fooled though, in the UK donations to parties still takes place here. While there are limits on campaign spending, there are no limits on how much a donor can make. This means the rich can buy their way into parliament to speak. British MP’s will deny this but an Oxford University research study showed that the probability of this denial being true is ‘approximately equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot five times in a row’. Do what you will with that information.

Concluding thoughts

Neoliberal ideology overtime leads to the disempowerment of democracy. Neoliberalism is essentially a market world, without money, you can’t speak, you can’t make change. Voting without money would essentially mean nothing. We can’t continue on a path that puts all the power in the elite’s hands, it is purely unequal. George Monbiot’s book explains how we can change this path and steer towards a politics that navigates us out of the wreckage. We as humans have the capacity of altruism but neoliberalism supresses this, instead pushing for alienation, competition, and individualism, strongly turning away from community. Monbiot states that, “by confronting the politics of alienation with a politics of belonging, we rekindle our imagination and discover our power to act.” The reason neoliberalism has such a strong hold is because we haven’t reimagined a way out of it, created a new direction for society. Once we do this a new politics can grow at the heart of community.

7 thoughts on “Out of the Wreckage”

  1. Reblogged this on I can't believe it! and commented:
    I haven’t had time to read George Monbiot’s book ‘Out of the Wreckage’. This excellent post by Zoe O’Kill gives a good summary – and an excellent overview of our predicament related to the insane neoliberalism that our politics seems to be increasingly in thrall to, both sides of the pond.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Zoe, I do follow George but have not yet read his book. To me he makes a lot of sense and I fear we are headed for some dark times financially because of our system, which is the same here in Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

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