Harnessing Discontent to Build Rather than Destroy

There are powerful forces in our world unleashed by growing inequality.   They are a significant part of where Donald J Trump found the people who were so angry they stopped thinking and voted for him.  They fueled Brexit.  They are being used to whip up anti-immigrant and religious hatred across Europe.  A key source of inequality has been the series of trade deals designed by huge corporations for their benefit and the benefit of those who own them at the expense of workers whose jobs are disappearing, wages and benefits shrinking.  Youth are looking at futures significantly worse off than their parents.  Huge debts, unstable work opportunities with no hope of the home ownership their parents enjoyed.  They will not have the homes they grew up in.  Some inequality facts:



This is a global phenomena




There are positive visions that we can adopt to build a better world and there are negative ones that can be used to destroy and sew chaos.   Stirring hate between groups for political purposes – the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge – has often been a tactic of political extremists from the right and left.  The outcomes legitimize the worst fringe extremists.   A warped nationalism is often part of the tactics.   “Just as love for one individual that excludes love for others is not love, love for one’s country that is not part of one’s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.”  Eric Fromm, The Sane Society.  The America first rhetoric is idolatrous worship.  We need to turn to the positive visions.

A vision of Global Co-operation as explored in my book or Rutger Bregman’s proposal for a ‘universal basic incomes’ to eliminate poverty in his book Utopia for Realists are both visions of a better world.  They seek not to pit people against each other but to link hands and spirits in a common constructive endeavour.  Both ideas would eliminate poverty.  Both would provide space for people to make the contribution to society they wish to make.

But is it realistic to think bold new visions are more than idle dreams?  Says Bregman:  “I’ve heard for three years that many of my ideas are unrealistic and unreasonable and that we can’t afford them,” he says, by way of preamble to a more comprehensive reply. “And the simple answer is ‘Oh, you want to stick to the status quo? How’s that been working out?’” (Andrew Anthony in the Guardian 26 Oct 2017 (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/feb/26/rutger-bregman-utopia-for-realists-interview-universal-basic-income?CMP=fb_gu)  Growing inequality into the foreseeable future may be someone’s vision but it is surely even less realistic.  It is insane.

People who see themselves and their children being sacrificed to feed growing inequality should be angry.  And they can and should do something.  They will get more satisfaction out of building a better world than being betrayed by the false promises of billionaires who unlike them do not pay taxes.

Oxfam, Inequality and Co-operation

“The Oxfam report An Economy for the 1%, shows that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, a drop of 38 percent. This has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400 million people during that period. Meanwhile, the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. The report also shows how women are disproportionately affected by inequality – of the current ‘62’, 53 are men and just nine are women.”  https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report

This is the opening paragraph describing Oxfam’s newest report on inequality released for the DAVOS meetings .  It is this performance by the global capitalist economy that fuels the unrest that is opening the door to the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge.  Elders are told their pensions are no longer secure and there will soon be too many of them to care for.  Young people are told to forget stable careers, having pensions and benefits, paying off huge student loans or owning a home.  Parents see a bleak future for their children and grandchildren. This is not the output of a functional economy but a faltering one.

Is this the climate that could allow millions of good people who are desperate for change to be manipulated by the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge to vote for a billionaire who does not pay taxes, cannot seem to tell the truth and who is a self-confessed sexual predator?   Is this what causes angry and bewildered people to elect a leader who will cut government services, lower taxes on corporations and the rich, and allow destruction of the environment their grandchildren will inherit?

From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation suggests an alternative.  There are practical steps young people and elders can take.  Many people took steps to shift to an alternative during the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota.  More about that in a later post.  In the meantime read the Oxfam’s report, An Economy for the 1%.  Then think about how we can create a new economy individually and in groups.