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.

Productive communication: Jubilee’s Middle Ground

I’ve had a lot of response to my posts on communication in political conversation. Figuring out the best way to communicate with people who oppose our political views can be tough. I’ve spoken in past posts about the difficulties involved with speaking to people who disagree with us, polarisation has effected us as a society and had led to divisions. A divided nation does not make for an effective democracy, learning to communicate even when we disagree with people is essential for productive debate, but also for respect.

How do we reconcile or communicate with people who disagree so deeply with our values? This is a question I have received from you all in response to my articles and a question I do ask myself. I think the best way to approach this question is to offer a resource I have found helpful and one I’d like to share with you all, the Jubilee YouTube channel. I first of all want to shout out one of my friends for introducing me to Jubilee, Arty! We are obsessed with the channel, its a great conversation starter tool. The videos often spark questions about society and make us look into our values, watching it with friends and family can allow us to have important conversations that we should be having about our society and the way it benefits and disadvantages people. We can understands others perspectives and that is so important. I heavily suggest you check out the channel.

Today I’m going to be talking about their Middle Ground series. This series brings together two opposing groups to discuss their similarities and differences. Examples of opposing groups they bring together are; LGBTQ+ and Christians, Flat-Earthers and Scientists, Rich and Poor, Atheists and Christians, Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun, Feminists and Non-Feminists, Socialists and Capitalists, Democrats and Republicans, and so on. They have so many videos so be sure to check them out, they’re very insightful. I will leave a link here for you to check out their Middle Ground playlist of videos.

Today I’m going to be sharing three of their videos and highlighting parts I think are interesting and important. I’m going to be selecting the videos more focused on political policy and societal issues to keep it related to the past posts I’ve already been discussing.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

What is interesting about this video is the diversity in peoples experiences. You’ve got someone who’s had two abortions and regrets that, a man that actually works for planned parenthood, and then a woman who works to reverse abortions after a change of mind. There’s a mixture of people who all have different experiences associated with abortion. We get a humane picture. When I say humane I mean peoples stories. Often when we talk politics or policy the actual people get left out of it. When you hear peoples stories and experiences associated with a policy, such as abortion law, it has a greater impact. I like that we get to see that in this video.

It is also interesting that when asked if anyone ever questions their belief about abortion, half of the group steps forward, explaining that some debates make them question what they believe in. One girl even says she feels that her religion drives her pro-life belief and if she wasn’t religious she would understand the pro-choice stance.

It is refreshing to see people with such different beliefs, still respectfully discussing their opinions and even mentioning that they respect the other persons faith or belief but, this is how they feel. It’s an amicable disagreement, and that’s okay. In the last question, when they are asked if anyone was shocked by a response they heard, they all admit that they respected eachothers responses. One of the women even mentioned that too much of our dialect is through screens and not in person and that creates a whole different way that we respect eachother. I think that point is important to make because at they end of the day we are all people and the internet has affected the way we all communicate and how we respect eachother. It’s a lot easier to not respect someone through a tweet or a Facebook post because you don’t see that real person, they are behind a screen, that influences the level of empathy and understanding in discussion.

Feminist and Non-Feminist

This is a really interesting video, similar to the last one, they respect eachothers views and they listen to eachothers points. They definitely don’t always agree but the effective communication is there. We see this when the non-feminist side agree with the guy talking about his mum, a teacher, being seen as lesser at work and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s nice to see that respectful agreement is taking place within this conversation, empathy is being utilised.

It is also interesting to see two people from the feminist group disagree on the statement ‘would being a man make life easier?’. This shows how diverse all of our perspectives can be, even within the same group. This is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the video by Faith, a non-feminist. Faith says she isn’t feminist because she doesn’t believe in core feminist ideals. Later in the video she explains that she is pro-life, but she was raised by strong women and she is an independent, strong woman too, but feels certain values of the feminist movement mean she cannot be a part of it. Faith believes in the strength of women and that there should be more women in government, but feels she can’t identify as a feminist due to her other views.

There’s some in the group who do not agree, that’s obvious though, not everyone’s going to agree, this is literally feminists and non-feminists communicating. They definitely reach some tension at certain points. In one part of the video a non-feminist states that there is no wage gap and that women choose lesser paying jobs because of culture, this is going to offend a feminist and is also not factually true. One of the feminists states that as an attorney she is paid less than her male colleagues for the same job and compared to some, she is more qualified. We see this situation happen in many workplaces and for a non-feminist to say this is because a woman chooses a lesser paid job just doesn’t make sense, especially if the job is the same. Conversations that become close to our personal lives become more emotional and we feel attacked when people don’t agree about obvious situations such as the pay gap, which has been proven countless times. Frustrations rising in this scenario make a lot of sense.

The phrase ‘disagree-agreeably’ was mentioned towards the end and this is exactly where we need to strive too. Productive communication can’t take place in an environment where respect and listening are non-existent. There is so much noise, but no listening and understanding; these are imperative for communication to be successful.

Democrats and Republicans

Alright, so this one gets a little heated. Let’s just dive right in.

They do all seem to agree on media bias and the misuse of news channels. Josh (democrat) points out that we live on different information spaces, we all have access to different information which can make it hard to communicate. Both groups do however say that the other party is worse in media bias, so they are clearly not agreeing on one being worse than the other, but are defending their own side. This is probably because of the different access to different information.

On the ‘should me make America great again’ statement the conversation becomes heated. Charity (democrat) discusses how America was not a good place for minorities and people of colour, which is 100% true. There should be no desire to go back to a time where there was less equality. The conversation gets heated because of a more personal comment when Charity (democrat) refers to the group having white privilege and Christy (republican) who is Hispanic is upset by this comment. This whole conversation breaks down because Charity wants to explain her point but Christy won’t let her speak because she is clearly upset. This creates a lot of commotion in the group. Michael (republican) says the statement is based on going back to economic strength and growth, not racism. There is mention of the statement ‘make America great again’ being too broad which I also think is a fair comment to make. If someone says ‘let’s make America great again’ and also is referring to the social issues and racism, that was in even worse shape than our current society, then that is wrong and shouldn’t be something we want. I think the reason why the statement ‘make America great again’, shook up tensions in the group was because people were interpreting that statement in many different ways, there was no shared understanding to begin the conversation and this stunted productive communication here.

Interestingly when speaking about the right to carry a gun, Josh (democrat) actually believes that there should be a right to carry a gun and that it’s a false view to think all democrats believe we should not have this right. Michael (republican) believes there should be more access to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Between these two people who have different political views, we see some cross over in belief. Another democrat, Alan, says that gun safety is what should be focused on and that there should be more regulation on gun control, which they all seemed to mutually agree with.

In the final question they all agreed that the nation is too divided. Hope (republican) says she shouldn’t have to lose friends over her political beliefs, but she is, which she says proves the nation is divided. The group say that we need to agree to disagree. Being willing to come to the table and have productive conversation is so important. This was a good end to the video and I think an important note, we need to be able to agree to disagree and to have respectful conversation or we will remain divided.

Concluding thoughts

A lot of the times we can think of our opposition as some radical psychopath. But these videos show us that our opposition can agree on some beliefs that we hold. We can communicate. We don’t always have to agree, but we should still be respectful when having social-political conversations. These videos show that even when people have polar opposite beliefs they can still communicate. I hope these videos showed that respectful and productive communication is not a lost cause for our society. When communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you, remember that you don’t have to agree, but if we want to see any lasting change in policy etc. we have to learn how to communicate with our opposition. These videos show us that this can happen, but mutual respect has to be there, we have to agree to disagree, we can’t force our beliefs onto someone.

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it interesting! Be sure to check out Jubilee’s other videos on their YouTube Channel. I also wanted to add a thank you for 100 followers! It means a lot that you enjoy reading my posts and that you find them interesting, so thank you for following and please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you! I’ll be back soon for a post on mental health during the Christmas period so be sure to come back for that post!