Out of the wreckage
A new politics for an age of crisis
How many dinner parties have you been at in recent times when you have righted all the worlds wrongs? I know most of the ones that I go to have some discussion around housing and jobs and sport. We tend not have all the answers but then the problems still remain. Our words from the night never really gain traction. How many family occasions have you been to when someone tells your why America voted trump or Britain voted to exit from the Eu? Or better still why people were protesting water charges! Regardless of their views on the subject they seem to be experts on the rationale behind many factors. Yet these factors remain.
Monbiot has a plan for a new politics. It lies in story telling and community and that’s as good a basis as any in my book. He reminds us that neoliberalism brought about the financial collapse in 2008 but as there was no alternative or “new story” available people didn’t embrace change. “To change the world, you must tell a story: a story of hope and transformation that tells us who we are”. These stories can be told over the dinner table as people break bread with each other. We can build networks in the local community and most of all participate. As these communities grow political movements will look to them in search for your votes and power. Communities should have some control over municipal budgets. It is happening in small pockets around the world but when people see the direct link between their tax and its spend they are more involved in where the finances should go.
And so what happens when we are all beavering away in community groups? What about house prices or environmental matters? Monbiot is promoting social wealth taxes. Put land into community trusts and pay a tax on land (whilst owning or building) this isn’t too dissimilar to the idea around property tax, or ground rents from before. Also why not have a sky tax which makes polluters pay depending on their detrimental effect on the environment. These monies don’t go to nations or government but to people owned communities. It’s not that far of a step when you talk about it.
It’s not all new ideas here either. I remember interviewing the green alliance back in the 80s. The alliance became party as the greens starting winning seats at local and government elections in Ireland. Their main policy besides environmental issues was a universal basic income for all. This would replace welfare and be a starting point for everyone. Monbiot pushes this as a way of creating an egalitarian society.
The one big threat to us all is global warning and how we feel the need to keep increasing our usage of resources. Monbiot plainly states that “Commercial activity, broadly speaking, consists of extracting resources from a hole in the ground on one side of the planet, inducing people to buy them, then dumping them a few days later in a while in the ground on the other side.” That can’t sustain itself. The UN have stated that in current rates of soil degradation the world has 60 years of harvests. We can’t keep going using growth as a barometer of success. Kate Raworth’s work is highlighted. Raworth has written that up to now people feel economies need to grow to enable them to thrive. In reality it should be economies need to allow us to thrive in order to grow. Put simply we should concentrate on our social foundation – the basics of life – food, clean water, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, housing, income and social networks, accompanied by gender equality, peace, justice, democracy and social equity. No one should have to fall out of this foundation. Anything outside starts to push the environmental limits and should be viewed as such.
Of course political parties are supported in many cases by large donations and these may have a bearing on a parties perspective on global or local issues. Monbiot argues that funding of a party should solely be membership fee matched by equal state funding, making it illegal to receive donations. It would lead to greater state spending and less spent by parties but little influence by major corporations. Our reliance on party politics needs to reduce. Monbiot argues that we need to take ownership of issues. As members of society we should campaign and organize effectively in small numbers and work together. After all “Most people are socially minded, empathetic and altruistic. They would prefer to live in a world where everyone is treated with respect and decency.” These are the silent majority.
A nice way to start a new year. Positive and full of questions