When did we get to such a deplorable state- where a person’s value and worth, where the sum total of their being is defined by their economic contribution? Am I wrong to make such a claim, am I an incensed leftie that is going further than reality allows? Look at the recent discourse on welfare and immigration- the two biggest topics in the media over the last 6 months- both dominated by what cost they have to the public purse. When did this happen? When did money, rather than humans, become the concern of politics? To borrow a term from Noam Chomsky- when did we put profit over people?
I can understand the common worker being angry about immigrants and scroungers sucking them dry of money when they already have so little to live off as it is. But this simply isn’t what is happening- you’ve just been fooled into believing that by a political elite that have no choice but to serve the whims of mega corporations. The corporations themselves are the ones taking your money, they’re the scroungers, and they’re the ones that deserve the anger and bitterness- not benefit claimants or foreign workers. So let’s remove the money paradigm from these issues and attempt a more humane approach to many of the issues that face us today. Benefit claimants are by definition people who can’t get a job, be that because of a disability or the failure of the job market. Currently the discussion runs something like this: “Why should I pay for them to have a flat screen TV when they do nothing for it?” Glossing over the fact that the majority on benefits will have been or will in the future be in a job and thus paying taxes, we must realise that this kind of callous, selfish reasoning is exactly what the mega-rich thrive off, and exactly what has caused the world’s problems. Rather than thinking of the financial cost of having a welfare state, why don’t you start to bear in mind the social and spiritual cost of not having one? What have we come to as a species when our decisions regarding the provisions we put in place for the most vulnerable are dominated by financial concerns? When those that take these provisions are demonized and scapegoated? What happens to us as a society when we put money ahead of all else in our decision making? I’ll tell you exactly what happens- we end up with the majority of wealth and power in the hands of an elite few whilst the rest of us fight over the scraps- we end up with the system we have now, in a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle.
We are told that the government is striving to “make work pay” and we know by that the only kind of payment they mean is money- and they’re hopelessly failing at even that. The average worker in Britain works for just over 40 hours a week, and if you count the same amount of time (roughly) for schooling, that’s almost a third of our lives (thank God for weekends). Count the fact that we sleep for roughly another third of our lives, that’s left us with one third left for, you know, life. Now that’s all fine if your work brings you joy and fulfilment- but does it? The Tory mantra is “keep working, keep slaving away, keep pushing up those profit margins” and all parties are interested in getting those employment figures up, not pausing at all to assess whether people actually enjoy these jobs. Many will say it doesn’t matter as long as it puts food on the table. But it’s A THIRD OF YOUR LIFE! If refusing to accept the inevitable boredom and dissatisfaction for a third of my life (half of my waking one) is idealistic then clamp on the chains for crimes of naivety because I refuse to accept that that is the best we can do. Marx (just to annoy the right-wingers reading this) talked of alienation in an industrialised world of increasing divisions of labour- and it cannot be stressed enough the repercussions this can have. When we focus on stuffing people into whatever job we can in a desperate bid to secure better employment figures before the next election, we ignore the psychological and sociological implications of a society that doesn’t enjoy its work. Try doing an activity you don’t like for 8 hours- it can make you irritable, bored, disengaged etc. Not only will this be bad for the quality of the products being produced (here is not the place for a detailed critique of mass production, many more capable others have done that before me) it’s damning for the psyche of the workers involved as well. The saddest example of this is the mentality that work is not meant to be enjoyed, of the average worker hating the sound of the alarm and counting down the days until the next holiday (much like our school days as well- take note Mr Gove). We need to really start addressing whether people are happy from something they spend half their waking life on or not, and if not, what can be done about it?
The above are but two examples of how our society has become twisted to the corporations mentality- we have been blinded so all we can see is the monetary implications for various issues, and thus miss the social ones. It’s about time we stopped this, it’s about time we could talk about such things as love and compassion in the political sphere without being laughed at or seen as soft and unable to comprehend complex economic matters. Some policies might save us a bit of money, but you really need to start asking yourself what is it costing our society? Already Britain is being seen in Europe as a nasty, isolationist country. For time immemorial there have been deep divisions between rich and poor in this country. In a new global age we should be working towards harmony within and without, not counting the pennies and dancing to the corporations tune. Know your enemy, it is not the immigrant or the benefit claimant. Your enemy is a zeitgeist that tells you all that matters is having money- enjoyment in your work doesn’t matter- just your income and company profits. The wellbeing of James Turner Street residents and the free movement of people doesn’t matter, just what they’re taking out of our purses. It’s about time we did away with this zeitgeist and crafted for ourselves a new one. It’s about time we assessed what was really important to us, what we’d really like to prioritise if society would let us. It’s about time people were put back into politics.