The first question is one we’ve considered from various angles over the years on this blog. The second is, of course, timely – although the important emphasis here is on the ‘complete’. As we’ll see, they’re very, very connected!
Trying to pursue a socialist argument in a world largely sold on capitalism is always a struggle. You have to deal with every issue and answer every question in line with the rules of Monopoly, but you don’t want to play Monopoly: it’s a stupid game – there are far better ones – but no-one understands you – or wants to understand you – unless you do.
- Q: So, Jeremy, how will your policies ensure that the UK GDP continues to grow after Brexit?
- A: I don’t particularly care if it does. It’s a physical law that nothing can increase exponentially for ever: something goes ‘bang’ in the end. We need to look beyond economics for the real answers.
But, of course, if Jeremy says that, he gets carted off to a rest home. So, instead, he has to pretend that he’s interested in GDP, and that taxing Starbucks will help it. Well, it might or it might not – that’s close to irrelevant – but, already, we’re having to have the debate on their terms.
And this ‘squeezing the apples when you’re trying to buy oranges’ happens at every level: at home, at work, in the pub, in the street, council chambers and government. There are bigger issues to worry about than economic models: we really don’t want to be talking about those – but we usually have to.
So, what’s the solution? There are a few possibilities. Chris Williamson, for example, often talks about ‘countering right-wing popularism with left-wing popularism’. Sort of, they hit us with fascist memes: we hit back with caring ones, etc. But that only works in certain situations, up to a point; it’s not a long-term solution and, dare we say it, it’s possibly reduced our levels of honesty down to those of the fascists. When it comes to a fight, the left is capable of being just as dirty as the right and, ultimately, that damages us: only the truth can (or should) survive in the end.
A slightly more robust approach is (somehow) to force your opponents to play your game rather than theirs. We’ve already admitted this is hard so how would we try? Well, it’s usually a question of trying to focus on fundamentals …
It takes a little bit of time to develop the arguments but how about starting with something like this … ?
What will it take for the human race to still be around in a thousand years?
(In fact, the same arguments could easily apply for a hundred, or perhaps even ten, years but deliberately looking a way into the future can help focus the mind on the big stuff: to somehow look past the veneer of economic theory to those fundamentals we were talking about.)
- Conventional energy sources will run out at some point: there’s no science that says otherwise. We can argue about how soon but there will come a point when we have to be working 100% with renewable energy.
- We’ve only had nuclear weapons for a few decades and we’ve been lucky to escape several close calls already. This is a simple statistical principle. There’s a vanishingly small probability that we can survive any significant time period. We have to have a non-nuclear planet.
- As technology takes hold, the world gets smaller. Resources have to be shared or local disputes will for ever threaten global stability. There’s no point in world-wide connectivity if individual countries still have walls around them: there’s harm but no good in that. National boundaries have to go.
- Technology is going to change our lives wholesale but whether for good or bad, isn’t a technological question: it’s a political one. For all the good it might do, technology must be managed ethically, for people – and that implies constraints. Profit-centric capitalism cannot provide those constraints: it has to be replaced by something else.
Although heavily summarised for brevity in this post, these ideas effectively give us the four pillars on which the long-term future of humanity depends:
- No Non-Renewable Energy
- No Nuclear Weapons
- No Countries
- No Capitalism
If you can somehow get a discussion going on these terms then you have a chance. GDP suddenly looks less critical. Even Brexit looks like a transitory argument (which it is). So let’s start from here. (‘Let’s play my game – not yours.’) What should our politicians really be doing to make sure we’re still here in a few hundred years? Discuss. Good luck!
But where does Donald Trump fit into all this? The answer is astonishing – and rather scary …
Because most people – including most politicians – will have, depending on political allegiances, different views on points (pillars) 1-4. (They should really accept all of them but few people are prepared to look at the bigger picture like this – to look far enough ahead.) But you have to search quite hard to find someone who absolutely loathes the concept of all four of them. Even, say, Theresa May doesn’t hate renewable energy outright, for example. You’d have to be seriously ‘special’ to fundamentally disagree with all four pillars: a plonker of the highest order.
Stand up, Donald Trump!
Because that’s exactly where, and what, he is. Here we have four essential criteria we have to satisfy for the human race to continue as a going concern – we need all of them, remember, to have any chance … and Trump hates every one! The most powerful man in the world is an (unintelligently but) outspoken critic of every significant principle we need to put in place to survive as a race. Failing in any one of these will probably be fatal for us and he’s trying to stop all of them!
Of course, Trump isn’t really the problem at source. He’s the end product of a society that’s lost its essential spirituality: that places self before anything else. The seeds were sown long ago and now the roots of our selfish world are strong. Capitalism gorges on all of this individualism.
But he is the figurehead. He is the living symbol of much that’s evil in the world. He is socially, ethically, morally, environmentally, legally, economically (not to mention, politically) deficient as a human being. He’s the obvious target and, in a certain sense, he’s all we’ve got.
That’s why, in the UK this weekend, and everywhere he goes anytime, he has to be met with protest, resistance. He has to be told, ‘we want to live – but you’re killing us!’