These three tweets retweeted into my timeline this morning have caught my eye. They attribute the following statements to Channel 4’s economics editor, Paul Mason – mainstream (if fairly independent and questioning) media to boot. And they run as follows:
“We’re trapped inside neo-liberalism” says Paul Mason, Economics Editor, Channel 4 News.
If I was to form a party, it would have two core tenets, says Paul Mason:
1. Kill neoliberalism
2. Move beyond capitalism
I’d nationalise all grids, all networks. And bring in universal basic income; a subsidy for moving to a non-work economy—Mason #futureshock
Now if someone like Mason can be saying, publicly, stuff like this – fairly revolutionary stuff in the context of so much unchallenged austerity (or if not unchallenged, at least untoppled) – what must be going on behind the Bilderberg scenes?
Let’s just take apart the trajectory of austerity: a very old childhood friend of mine once explained to me how they’d been told the 2008 crisis was deliberately triggered. At the time, I dismissed this as conspiracy baloney (without saying I did), but to be sure this crisis didn’t half come in handy. Ordinary people were becoming wealthier; leisure time was being dedicated to ever-growing active participation (or meddling, depending on your point of view) in democratic process (as well as cut-price holidays to all corners of the world!); citizens in general were getting a taste for the better times, both culturally and more importantly economically. Salaries were rising; demands for decent, dignified working conditions becoming more widespread … all in all, life was getting hard for those top capitalists amongst us of a lazy bent (not by any means the majority, of course; but perhaps far more than a minority if we define them in terms of the riches they lever).
So 2008 was a great excuse to empty hard-earned savings from the pockets of the reasonably ordinary – the ones really to be feared in times of significantly peaceful disruption. (The extremists are never a problem: it’s easy, rightfully so, to get people to side against them. But the people you should never keep your eyes off are the decent, thoughtfully silent majorities.) By emptying such savings, we were emptying peace of mind. And by emptying peace of mind, we were emptying the ability of most to react creatively before the war that the elites were about to wage on them.
‘Question, naturally, is: why wage a war on your own people? Why, in a supposedly liberal economy, would you want to destroy the ability of your customers to continue buying your products and services?
I suggest two or three reasons to explain austerity’s implementation:
- In times of crisis such as these, when markets splinter and smaller units of production begin to attack existing interests, it’s normal for the latter to want to neutralise the dangers. I’m not attributing evil motivations here; I can understand, from my irrelevantly tiny experience as a businessperson myself, what drives people into – and keeps them within – what we might term the jungle of capitalism. So austerity is a perfect tool to put into place a siege: a process of attrition, if you like, which only the biggest can survive.
- The second step is to argue that people must become independent of the state, so as not to occupy the role of scroungers who live off society (this also, partly, with the objective of distracting us from the reality that large organisations and transnational corporations are anything but independent of their political sponsors). And whilst all possibility of being independently and sustainably employed has been progressively eliminated by step 1, as described above, and all possibility of feeling decent about being dependent on the state has been eliminated by step 2, as described here, we create a society of subjects absolutely unable to and terrified of using their imaginations for anything like getting out of the holes they suddenly find their leaders have located them in.
- Therefore, as society’s overriding discourse becomes one essentially of the need for both corporations and flesh-and-blood persons to sink or swim on their own behalf, the reality is actually as follows: on the one hand, these corporations absorb the wealth that once belonged to the public sector, living as parasites (or symbiotically – I am still not sure which) on the public host; on the other hand, these flesh-and-blood persons, whilst rubbished for being poor and being simultaneously exhorted to stop being poor by themselves, become even more dependent on the state for their mental and physical wellbeing.
In the end, the three steps as described above reposition our leaders, both political and business, in roles of great power and immense hierarchy over the ordinary folk: the paradox being that whilst independence is being savagely preached in public discourse, in truth the reality has reimposed a grand and terrible dependence of almost everybody on pyramidal structures we thought once well-vanquished long ago.
So is that the be-all-and-end-all of austerity? Just that? Isn’t there a loose end – a humongous loose end – dangling at the end of our process?
Why undermine the spending of so many “units” of consumer purchasing-power? Why deliberately reduce the potential market for value-added products and services? Why aim to make everyone as poor as church mice?
Here, then, comes step 4: whilst the first three steps were necessary to re-establish corporate capitalism’s equilibrium and rules in the face of open-source movements, libertarian politics and much nastier elements out there, once re-established such an equilibrium, the plan will be also to re-establish that lost purchasing power. Of course, before that is done, the public sector (the NHS, education, fire services, Legal Aid, police services and a whole swathe of other support environments) needs to be privately mined for as much public wealth as can possibly be transferred in the meantime. But eventually, even economic behemoths such as health services will run their course. And private citizens’ spending power will return to the agendas of almost all politicians – clearly alongside, that is, their cosy business leaders and interests.
So it is we come to that step 4 which I’ve mentioned previously: the universal basic income (UBI) which Mason has publicly espoused. Imagine, now, after austerity’s been a) used to re-engineer terrified dependence on the status quo by formerly independent, creative and thoughtful souls – unpredictable souls, mind (maybe that was the real problem) – and b) used to re-establish important controls over society’s running by equally dependence-forming transnationals, how easy it would now become to introduce such a basic income, as well as get widespread and publicly relieved acceptance.
To understand the issue and the establishment’s fears, of course, we’d have to examine what might happen were it to be done in a different way: in a world, pre-austerity, with a) the sense of security provided by so many hard-earned savings in so many hard-working pockets; b) coupled with the guarantees and safety nets a society with secure welfare systems in place would offer; and c) in addition to the joy of not worrying any longer what the end of the month would bring … well, to introduce a UBI in such a context would mean the predictable and probably short-term collapse of the big interests we’ve been talking about and their hierarchies.
However, if you use austerity first to position society as you need it, ensuring that ordinary citizens forget what different futures might have been, as you force them to suffer a decade of lost generations … well, then, a life as a kept consumer-patty doesn’t seem such a bad choice or outcome after all.
Am I right? Is this analysis just the ramblings of a daft amateur thinker?
For you to judge, dear readers. For you to judge.
Have a good day, as always. And don’t forget – whatever the miseries around you – to continue to strive to be creative in your thoughts.