The 1970s Neoliberal’s unleashed growth, promised a reduction in the gap between rich and poor. The little boats would rise in the tide with the bigger boats. (Thatcher) It would widen democracy, destroy violent and vicious nationalism–a new renaissance. We are now in the most negative nationalist period since the 1930s with all the danger that goes with it. Our shores are littered with pollution and the wreckage of little boats that did not rise in the tide with the big boats but were destroyed in the wake of the ever rising tide of neoliberalism. (Analysis news)
Neoliberalism is easy to understand, as Adam Smith predicted.
“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”
keeping it simple again, the process is one of divide and rule. What has been sold to us for the last fifty years or so as some kind of economic sophistication has been mere sophistry. A system of language designed to be unintelligible to the outsider in order to lock them out. And for that matter is unintelligible even to the insider.
So what did the neoliberalists do first under Thatcher, in this promised new renaissance? Major themes were smash unionisation, deindustrialise, privatise social resources and create the gig economy. Think miners strike and the sale of social housing, deindustrialisation and the rest is history. Along with the hollowing out of public space and place that went with it and the taking out of discussions of minds that don’t always agree, replacing them by a market economy that all decisions need to be balance through. How we reclaim that important public space and a place in the narrative once again will be difficult but is in no way impossible. But what is it that Margaret Thatcher went after first? The basic living conditions of shelter, a decent income and a voice at the table. These are the same basic anchors that are needed in reclaiming our public space and voice. Because they were the first things to be destroyed in colonising it.
Neoliberalism has failed, the system is broken and we can not rebuild a new one using the masters tools. We need to use our own trusted tools to build agency, a narrative, solidarity and confidence in our own abilities to challenge and disconnect from a corporate political dependency that will take us all down with its failure.
How do we fight back? How do we win things? One of the ways could be. For instance as my friend Gilda Hass, L.A. Co-op Lab, Los Angeles, observes. “If you look at renters as a growing majority. What you have before you is a sleeping giant of potential political power.” Meaning, while we can not build the industrial scaled unions we once had and were destroyed in the past, we can find the same numbers we need and more that could be organised, even in the renter sector alone. Then the question would be. Where do we find the other sleeping giants within our communities that we need to awaken?
The above paragraphs already give the answer: Everyone needs to eat, everyone needs clothes to wear, everyone needs shelter, everyone needs to get from A to B… and so on. Therein lies the sleeping giants. People need stability in their lives and a sense that they can think of a future. We are a traumatised people and need to remain traumatised for neoliberalism to work. We have become so dislodged from our protective social anchors that once seemed (humanly) normal and have reconnected to a false fantasy world dreamed up by the infantilised psychopaths of neoliberalism.
Getting back is a tough landscape to work in. It is slow, frustrating and hard won, as anyone engaged in it will testify. It means forgetting about a lot and at the same time learning a lot.
It means working around the diverse and pragmatic questions that mean different things to different people and trying to find the means between them of understanding towards building solidarity. But we need “overarching projects” to do that. Projects that have universal appeal to build that power, such as public housing, a public transport system, health care place based learning and so on.
In the words of John Lennon. “You don’t know what you got until you lose it.” (or recognise it) And we are losing it fast. We are entertaining ourselves to death, looking in all of the wrong places and ignoring the evidence and rich community resources we have to work with. While corporations strip-mine the equity and dignity from communities with the gig economy rendering community solidarity to a series of precarious relationships where radical inclusion becomes radical exclusion and a fear of others. Where do we place ourselves? We have all of the ideas before us if we start to see the wood. If the divide and rule question is to be answered, we need to explore why and where the sleeping giants are at rest and awaken them. While discovering what are the lullabies that put them to sleep that renders many of us passive, docile and impotent to the desperate call and needed for a collective, action for change?
The Social Energy Collective