Worlds are colliding
In his speech yesterday Corbyn uttered a sentence which so perfectly encapsulates the world of 2017: We are in a death match for the kind of world we want to live in.
In the one corner are people who believe that government exists to represent the will of the people. In the other, are those who cling to the idea that government exists to represent the will of the market, that tax cuts and subsidies are magically responsible for job creation and if we all just give it up for the big omnipotent brains trust of investors in the cloud, life would be perfect.
I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. Money and wealth have been vacuumed out of the economy by legal tax havens and systems which no longer let the people responsible for creating wealth (us) share in its rewards. Profit is flowing only in one direction and it is not towards your bank account. It turns out when you hide money from the economy, it doesn’t operate all that well. But you wouldn’t know it from the way we still talk about it. Australia is in a recession. But the papers, rather than focus on what is right in front of them, choose to celebrate 103 quarters of not-having-a-recession. And if occasionally “The R Word” does come up, it is prefixed with the word ‘technical’. We are in a ‘technical recession’.What is the difference between a recession and a technical recession you ask? Well to quote my colleague Andrew P Street, delivered with heavy sarcasm, “the first is Labor’s fault and is a disaster for which they must be destroyed, the second happens under the Coalition and is perfectly fine so stop talking about it.”Your failure to attain job security, or a job at all, is your fault, we are told. But to quote change strategist, Joe Brewer, “those people are culprits in perpetuating a great lie of this period in history. The standard assumptions for how to be successful in life a few decades ago simply do not apply anymore”. How to be successful in 2017: Be rich. Come from rich parents. That or be an economic consultant for government. If you are rich and powerful enough, you can overthrow whole countries and coordinate wholesale slaughter of civilians in the name of an economic ideology, and never see a day inside a court room, let alone a jail cell. Kissinger, Rumsfeld (and his daughter) and Cheney are directly responsible for military and economic coups in at least four conflicts: Russia, Chile, Cyprus and Iraq. Though much has been written about them, not a single one has had to answer for their crimes. But I file my taxes late and I must pay a fine? What the shit is this?
Anyone born in or around 1985 will understand first-hand what it is like living in a 21st Century Economy. We entered the job market right as the economy was crashing around our ankles. Most of us have never had a raise, and wouldn’t even know how to ask for one. We started out over a barrel and it has only gotten worse from there. I was lucky enough to get the tail end of the era where training existed. Where managers existed not just to protect the company but to create a career path for those in their employ.
In twelve years I have only worked for one person who actually took an active (and formalised) interest in my career. (Thanks Gareth). And while I am grateful to be the recipient of two doting editors early in my career (thanks Andrew, thanks Farkers), they were under no obligation to pay attention to my professional development. Their mentorship came in spite of the system which treats junior journalists like Woolies check-out-chicks: cheap and replaceable.
Journalism isn’t an outlier in this situation. I have interviewed employees in major investment firms and trading companies – people who are responsible for handling millions of dollars a day – who equally related that they are being thrown in the deep end with no boat, no paddle, no map or flotation device. Another stunning reminder of just how on our own we are. The captains of industry have plundered the castle and pulled the drawbridge up behind them.
‘The market’ will claim the economy cannot afford these things but this is part of the mythical language that enters the conversation when the truth gets too much to bear. Profits are soaring, while wages are actually going backwards. Likewise profits soared during the Global Financial Crisis but despite this, there has been no true economic recovery either in wages, employment or income insecurity. The money to fix all of our problems exists. It simply has been taken out of circulation. So we can now come to understand the terms of our enslavement.
I often wonder how much power workers could take back from their owners (and let’s face it, that’s what they are. Or at least, lessors), if tomorrow everyone refused to go to work. We could rebuild the New Deal if only everyone could get on the same page. But instead we are fighting amongst ourselves. Distracted by identity, race and gender politics. And that is how ‘They’ want it. So long as we are turning on each other, policing speech and shaming people off the internet, there will be no obligation towards real and lasting change. Not to get all Good Will Hunting on your ass, but seriously, this is not your fault. It is not your fault.
It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.
The only way this will be our fault is if we refuse to do anything about it.
The system we live in today is the result of a 30-year-neoliberal project of repression, suppression and exploitation, along with a corporate government take over. Remember this when you find publications like the New York Times runs headlines referring to Jeremy Corbyn as “A Very British Radical“.
It is not Corbyn per-se that is the greatest threat to the establishment, it is what he represents: A world where workers profit from their productivity.
And we can’t have that.