… a mix of 2 words: exhausted and constipated.
We are up against powerful vested interests who profit from the status quo. They are well resourced, have loud voices and strong motivations to keep things as they are. In numbers they are a minority, but we’ve become a disenchanted and apathetic majority. Having a vote is not enough – we need a voice.
We’ve learnt from political failures of the last 150 years that with the deep-rooted challenges we face, there are no simple answers. We came up with one-size-fits-all solutions and saw their shortcomings too late. Look at the ‘isms’ – from Colonialism, Marxism and Fascism through to Neoliberalism, all these worldviews recognized the need for the political pendulum to swing and they satisfied a need for a while. Then the pendulum swung too far and they started knocking over everything we held dear. Theories became all-encompassing doctrines and they choked on their own contradictions.
It’s getting hard for us to look our future or our children in the eye – we have such low expectations.
There are no absolutes in social and economic problem-solving. Neo-liberalism became a worldview that’s now a cultural norm. All ‘isms’ – along with economics – are based on oversimplified assumptions on the way people behave.
Treating neo-liberalism as a solution to our problems was the problem.
Life would be easier if there was one overarching doctrine to which we could all subscribe. That’s why ‘isms’ are so appealing; for a while they really appear to explain everything. Neoliberalism became a faith, and faiths don’t need facts. David Sloan Wilson says, “…nonreligious belief systems are a greater cause for concern because they do a better job of masquerading as factual reality.”
That’s what makes them so dangerous.
They make us think that the solutions to our problems must be the solutions to everyone else’s and to force ideas like democracy on others with missionary zeal. To justify the invasion of Iraq, George W Bush said: “The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.” 13 years and 1 million casualties later, the Middle East in unending turmoil, global terrorism rife, and as Obama says, “ISIS is the child of the Iraq war.”
What goes unchallenged is the banality of these simplistic policies and how the same old remedies that haven’t worked in the past are wheeled out repeatedly. Forgetting that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a sign of insanity. John Maynard Keynes “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” See this link: ONE
It’s not only political solutions that can’t be expressed in absolutes, demands shouldn’t be expressed this way either. NIMBYism and single issue organizations like the occupy movement or the twitter revolution, failed to engage and lost. In a world where wealthy interests dominate politics, if each part of civil society act individually they won’t get far, but acting together would be a game changer. It’s about imbuing politics with a collective and passionate commitment for change.
Thatcher, Howard and Abbott were masters at providing ‘sweeteners’ or giving form to the divisions in society or pandering to our fears. Afterwards we realized how little was gained and how much was lost. This applies to the left too. When Thatcher was asked for her greatest achievement she replied, “Tony Blair and New Labour.”
Our adversary is neo-liberalism or any other oversimplification on how society should work. Better to base objectives on recalling what doesn’t work and on science, which can provide some truths about human nature.
Social science tells us what contributes to a happy and cohesive society and it’s not increased wealth. See this link: TWO
Preventing inequality of opportunity and wealth from reaching obscene extremes is a key factor in society’s wellbeing. See: The Spirit Level | The Equality Trust. Unless inequality is kept within reasonable limits, the freedom of all citizens – not just the poor – will erode. This has repercussions from increased crime and domestic violence to teenage pregnancy.
We were told that if the marketplace was left alone, we would be well looked after. But the rising tide lifted only the superyachts and left everyone else floundering.
US Supreme Court judge, Louis Brandeis, said, “We can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.” See this link: THREE
Governments must be neutral towards how individuals pursue their wellbeing. But they can’t be neutral in respect to the pursuit of wellbeing as a goal; it must be an expectation that citizens will achieve a good life by following their laws and policy settings.
We’re seeing the dictates of the market forming policy. Hence climate, environmental and market systems are are close to critical tipping points.
All the major challenges we face are complex and we will not be able to reason our way to a remedy as most of their solutions will be counter-intuitive. This is why they are our major challenges. See Link: FOUR
Science can better guide politics. Political objectives have no meaning unless based on past experience, trialling processes or known facts. They’ll only deliver probabilistic and partial answers but they help locate the signal amongst the noise in a world continually skewed by forces beyond our control. These methods put an end to witchcraft, disease and the flat-Earthers. Used properly they can put an end to dysfunctional government.
Those who created the problem will not be the ones who come up with a solution. As Einstein said, “Problems cannot be solved within the mindset that created them.”