Wednesday 6 May 2015

An Auction of Bribes

The general election is nearly upon us and like all elections for a generation now it has felt like an auction of bribes to vote for the party which promises you the most money or services rather than a discussion over values or principles. It makes it all rather depressing. There are now voters in their 30’s who will have no lived experience of a time when political debate involved values; there was even one word. The “s” word; socialism that was all about values and principles. Unfortunately Mrs Thatcher and the rise of New Labour did away with that and we all fell in to implicit belief that there was an abstraction called “the economy” which had to be strong and experts knew how it worked and if the economy was strong that would be good for all of us. This is the “trickle down” theory that if the rich get even richer then it will benefit us all. It is of course nonsense and long discredited by reality; which is simply that the wider the gap between rich and poor the more violent society becomes. If any candidates' communication contains numbers; its not really about politics but about economic management.

Growing this fantasy called the economy is also based on the mad idea that the planet is infinite and that everything can grow forever. The economy is a fantasy in the terms it is talked about and we are asked to make sacrifices for it (just like in another era ordinary people were asked to make sacrifices for “the Fatherland”). If I exchange some vegetables I have grown with you in return for some childcare then the economy is no better off. But if I sell you the vegetables and then pay you for childcare that has grown the economy and we are all very pleased. It is an abstraction. You have never seen the economy but you are asked to make a sacrifice for it or wait for it to grow. In reality this abstraction is so complex that no-one understands it or really controls it and those that come closest, use their partial knowledge to make money. Complexity itself is anti-democratic. How can people really understand what caused the banking crisis or what a hedge fund does or what money really is? The banking crisis and scandals like Enron show that well-paid educated people in suits can behave with greed and stupidity.

Another crazy idea is that creating jobs is good. The Nazis created jobs by putting out contracts to build gas chambers. It is what activities people are doing that create real fulfilment and value, that matter in making society flourish.  Gross National Product needs to be replaced by gross national fulfilment and gross national happiness. Connected with this fantasy of the economy is the strange idea that trade is good. If you have to bring something from a long way away then it means that you are not able to make or grow it  yourself locally. It also means that fuel has to be burnt to transport it with consequences for ecological well-being. Increasing the skills and resources and diversity of each local community is the foundation for a sane society.

The election as an auction of bribes has gone on now for thirty years but more recently we have had politics as a sort of talent show so with TV debates there comes the question of who won. This is a very odd notion as we do not have a presidential system. In Britain we vote in a Parliament and then the majority party will form a government and appoint a prime minister. It is, in my opinion very dangerous if the best politician is to be the best looking or most skilled at making a cutting retort in a TV debate or has learnt best from their media advisers and spin doctors.

The most important thing in my view is to have people making decisions who are supporting the whole society to evolve towards a higher level of consciousness in Ken Wilber’s model. This can never be done by appealing to greed through bribes but by discussion on values and encouraging global thinking and feeling and a longer timescale; like the next hundred years at least. From this perspective there is one overriding issue; climate change caused by consumerism, rapid industrialisation and population pressures. If there are future generations then they will be astonished at how little this is mentioned in this election. The rich are not particularly bothered by rising sea levels; it gives them more space to sail their yachts. It is the poor who are drowned and this is already happening in places like Bangladesh. In terms of economic management; all borrowing is theft from future generations and we have been stealing from our children and grandchildren for a long time now. Government borrowing is now £60,000 for each family in Britain.  

In terms of an issue. It is morally indefensible to exterminate millions of people at the press of a button so there can never be any use for Trident or any other nuclear weapons. The whole of the military needs to be recreated as a disaster relief and peacekeeping service. Britain needs to become more de-centralised rather than power all going to Westminster. We need to protect and cherish childhood as a time of creativity for fragile and impressionable beings. So school should not start till 7 at the earliest and then be based on supporting creativity and the valuing of each child; not on tests and league tables. Manual work needs to be encouraged rather than trying to get children to universities and then society having no plumbers or carpenters. Real apprenticeships should be encouraged to support the transition to the world of work and adulthood.   

Anyway; I am not standing for election and in reality whichever candidate gets elected they will feel relatively powerless in the "boys boarding school" atmosphere of the Palace of Westminster. The world is largely run by an implicit collusion of transnational corporations, shadowy security and financial agencies and powerful groups of the rich. We still have to do what we can.

Do vote; as cynicism creates more feelings of powerlessness.