I am lucky enough to have been born in a country that is still rich and prosperous. A country that had what we were told was a proud history of Empire and conquest. A country that others looked up to, and led the world in the creation of useful things like democracy and industry.
I started reading Marx in my twenties and realised that there was a lie at the heart of the world I lived in. On paper I was free, but it was the freedom to starve. On paper I could vote for someone, but the way the counting of my vote was done made it meaningless. Every few years someone got elected to represent me, but apart from that it was hard to see what use my vote was. Most of the people who got voted in were powerless too. I owned no land, no thing that could give me some kind of income or feed me if I looked after it. All I owned was what everyone else has: myself.
There were a whole plethora of rights I had. Things like equal treatment before the law, not being imprisoned without being charged with something, the right to privacy, the right to clear your name if slandered or libelled. Lots of them.
But if you can’t afford your rights, you don’t have them. Even if you can afford them, if one of the security agencies gets hold of you you might still find they’re a bit, conditional. There is a cognitive dissonance at the heart of the way we live. On paper we’re so free, in practice we’re all ninety days from being kicked around by the cops for trying to sleep on the street.
This perspective does make you feel like an alien. Like you came from another planet. I was part of a small political group and we only really had each other. We’d also acquired some really crazy beliefs on top of the ones that uncovered normal society lying all the time. Bizarre things like Albania being the only socialist country in the world, which I won’t detail here, but they created an even stronger barrier between us and the rest of the world. Thirty years later I found the party I was a member of online, and they’ve switched their allegiance to the DPRK, because of course they did. Another group I worked with that had more intellectual credibility are now apologists for the very system they wanted to overthrow, and receive large sums of money from very shady people because of course they are, and of course they do.
I came back from that place in my head and went to University, got a degree, and started pretending I believed the lies we were being peddled about things getting better. Of course then, when the deregulation was making things grow so fast, but the reasons for the regulations in the first place hadn’t yet wrecked everything, it seemed that all of us in the rich and prosperous country would carry on getting richer. Even the poorest among us would see their lives improve and the surplus in the economy would mean the good times would continue for everybody.
When you live in a system that’s predicated on growth and the systems you need to survive can’t support growth forever you’ve got a problem. Either there has to periodically be great destruction of resources that resets things back to low levels of activity and destroys the surplus like there was in the twentieth century, or the people who want everything for themselves must do things that make everyone else poorer to keep profits up. They socialise the risk but keep the profits and benefits private.
So inequality has risen through the roof, and the poorer areas of where I live have gone from shit to impossible to live in. My skills have insulated me from the pain. I have no idea how people live on incomes that are so much smaller than mine. I only just get by.
Everywhere I go, everyone I talk to, seems to have Empire coloured goggles. They don’t have a clear understanding of where their own privilege comes from. The favourite word of the political class is we, expecting dumb sheep like us to join in with their latest scheme to hurt other people. So hidden away is this that no-one seems to notice the burden it places on us all. Kipling disingenuously talked about the white man’s burden, it’s farcical and insulting. It is in fact the white man’s blindness that is a problem. You must kill the empire in your heart, where you were born doesn’t make you special or different. There is no special exception because of where your mother was when you fell out of her womb, give up your delusions before they kill the world.
We’re like turkeys voting for christmas, and acting like humans are nice because they feed us. We need to get away from this delusion, and do it fast.
_Excerpt from my new Novel *Better Way* https://leanpub.com/better-way _