Some friends of mine have been very down of late, mostly on themselves, but in connection with the state and direction of the world. Something in them turns upon themselves and finds blame and shame in not transcending 10.000 years of human folly in a single lifetime. These are good and beautiful people who struggle and fall and struggle again, as do we all. They have no more reason to berate themselves than does any one of us, and less reason than most. Perfectly imperfect, as they say. It seems to me that they have a virus in their software (I have it myself, you have it too) that infects them with guilt – passed down thoughts that attach to feelings like limpet mines. I love these people. I see their light and value it.. They have thrown me lifebelts and held me afloat many a time. Why would they so often find themselves blind to their own power?
The current incumbents of the seats of political power talk a lot about self reliance. They believe that human beings are isolated, rational actors functioning not in a society, but in an economy. This restricted view of people – which they insist upon as the only acceptable standpoint and pour into every corner of our mass media – is enormously damaging to our well-being. It creates a climate in which the momentum and trajectory of circumstance is entirely discounted, and the inheritance of generations is ignored. This allows them to both blame the poor for their predicament and to claim authorship of their own privilege. It’s convenient. It is a stock-taker’s philosophy that sees the world not as the world itself but as cross-referenced lists of trade-able integers with no inherent value outside of their price on the day. It says the name of the thing is the thing itself. It is not.
More poisonously, it is an instrument of division. This shallowness denies interdependence and scorns collectivity. It takes it as gospel that competition is the only way, even if it ultimately destroys everything that sustains us. As individuals we are encouraged to imbibe this toxin and internalise it – to condemn ourselves in shame should we find ourselves anywhere other than the shangri-la of the photo-shopped, consumer dream or at the head of some legion of the righteous. We are driven to distraction by it, and then told that to reach out to our fellows for support is a weakness, and that we should stand or fall alone.
They call this self reliance.
But true self reliance recognises the self in all others, and knows that no one stands alone, nor can they anyone claim authorship of all their fortunes, for good or ill. We all have our ancestors, with their inspirations and their idiocies, pressing us from behind like a flood. We also have cross currents battering us from all sides as the stories of billions play out. Responsibility and accountability are collective as well as individual. The personal is the political. To imagine that we can or do stand alone is a delusion. Neither we nor our planet are made that way.
If we are to make the changes necessary to confront the challenges we face – which are enormous and many – this stock-taker’s creed must be abandoned. No ONE is blameless, and no ONE is to blame, but everyone is needed to turn the ship around. All hands on deck! We need to each remember that.
To use inherited or borrowed wealth to build a factory is not self reliance. It is as much dependence for the owner as for the worker. The distinction is one of status, not of state, and the pretence that one is noble and the other base is an insult to reason. It is not self-reliance to put one’s life and goals in the hands of a state or an institution any more than it is to put one’s life and goals on hold as a resistance to state and institution. It is not self-reliance to run to the hills and depend upon others to suffer in one’s stead. There is no thing that we can do or be to claim exemption. We are bound together.
Yes, of course we must do what we can for ourselves, (grow food, make and create, build, bond and re-skill) but in times like these it is hard to both be awake to the impending calamities and to steer an individual course. We find ourselves where we find ourselves and, realising that the selves we identified with for so long were constructed in the presence of these book-keeper’s fallacies, must re-appraise and re-imagine a self that can be relied upon. Why would we imagine it would be easy. It took a thousand generations to bring us here. It will take millions to re-make.
So, in the midst of all this many good people set about themselves for not solving this puzzle alone; for not finding a path out of a maze that shifts and squirms with every movement of every other. But it cannot be done alone. We are each a product of all, and cannot be separated. We are accountable for our past – for wins and sins and misdemeanours – but only responsible for our present. Our greatest responsibility is to see ourselves as we are – as one in a tide of billions with history at our backs, not figures on a balance sheet or “autonomous economic units”.
We have to break with the past, both individual and collective, to see the present clearly.
I say to my friends whose fathers’ and mothers’ sins still rattle down the years – did you crash the world economy through greed and scorn and ignorance? No, you did not. Did you plunge millions into war and suffering so you could strut the world stage in brutal pride? You did not. Did you skulk away into safety or clamber the ladder to nowhere with never a backward glance? No. Not guilty. So give yourselves a break. OK, so when you bid the tide recede, it declined. Not your fault. We are human and our psychology is as it is. Don’t believe everything you think.
Today let’s just put one foot in front of the other and not beat ourselves up, shall we. If you think we don’t need you, you’re wrong. We need you. Stay, and reach out your hand.
The beauty of it is, of course, that they can then lay off hundreds of thousands more people and drive wages down so low that a virtual slave class exists for them to exploit until the ship goes down.
It’s hard to be amusing about the tories. They’re a party who got their private security to stop the BBC filming as 70,000 marched past their conference, booing. Not that the Beeb needs much prompting to crawl up the governments arse these days.
UN special Housing Investigator concludes that the bedroom tax that is making thousands homeless, pushing hundreds to suicide and enriching private landlords at a greater cost that the old system runs contrary to human rights and should be scrapped. The Tories are cross about this. Maybe Obama should invade