A view from the Overton window: through the looking glass darkly

 

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“The UK is a divided country” is a phrase being bandied around a lot, especially in the aftermath of the referendum, and it is of course true. We are divided. We have politically constructed categories of scapegoats, outgroups, uncertainty, disempowerment, low wages, our public services are being dismantled, and we are witnessing massive inequality and growing poverty. The recipe for anomie. Many people feel despair and are fearful of the future.

We have a nation of oppressed people wanting to see others oppressed. The real oppressors, however, are getting a free ride on the back of their own purposefully divisive and diversionary tactics. Dominant narratives and neoliberal ideology – smoke and mirrors; reductive soundbites, dodgy statistics and carefully constructed, cunning fact-proof screens. And yes, the media, directed by the government, have played a significant part in trying to shape what we see and think about, manipulating public opinion. Most of the Tories wanted to leave the EU, Cameron wasn’t typical of his party.

I don’t blame the Scottish people for wanting their independence one bit, particularly from this side of the EU referendum. But that means we will shrivel a little more. England, the husk.

But a divided country hasn’t happened just because of these things. Some of the irrational statements I have heard over the last few years include commentary about how some traditional Labour voters feel the party “let them down” and no longer reflect their interests. Well, I do hope the Tories do better for you, then. Because they’re clearly SO much better at reflecting working-class interests – the new “party of the workers” they mocked. Yet Conservatism in a nutshell is all about reducing worker’s rights and reducing pay so that private companies can make big profits from a cheap and desperate reserve army of labor. And if you reduce welfare provision and make receipt of benefits highly conditional – provision that’s already paid for by working people –  the subsequent rising level of desperation drives many to increasingly insecure jobs for much less pay in order to simply survive.

The “all the same” lie was always a Right-wing expediency, it’s about disempowering and fragmenting the Left. It worked. The Narxists got very narked, with their sense of alienation, and their peculiar brand of exclusive socialism (they are “real” socialists apparently). Yet Miliband had denounced Blairism, and would have given us a fair and progressive tax system. Not good enough, some of you said, but then some people are never happy, so with impeccable knee-jerked fallibility, you helped the Tories back in Office. Again.

Chomsky once said that sometimes, the best we can do is vote for the least damaging option. That at least would have marked the beginning, not the end, of campaigning for social justice and pushing for a socialist agenda.

Meanwhile, all of those genuine traditional socialist values of solidarity and cooperation, community and mutual aid, internationalism, equality and diversity, social justice, worker’s rights, trade unionism, well the Right-wing in Office are smashing those from our common vocabulary. And deporting them. The Tories in power, not the Labour party in opposition. But the government can only do that with OUR consent. So we must take some responsibility for that.

Now we had a further Left Labour leader, but of course for some, he ain’t good enough. The media push an elite agenda, and divert attention from the real problems that are being created by a Conservative government’s policies, and irrationally, the opposition party is hated whilst the Government get on with fucking over ordinary people, the economy and the country. Democracy is steadily being dismantled. Public funds are being stolen and redistributed to the very wealthy and powerful. Public services are being destroyed. Some people are dying because of Tory policies. Meanwhile people bicker amongst themselves and irrationally blame each other, the opposition party and vulnerable social groups. Prejudice grows. People are being permitted to hate. Their prejudice is fed and endorsed by the Establishment. Discrimination happens. Violence begins. People get killed. More people will get killed. Many remain indifferent. But sooner or later, they must take responsibility for that.

If you have ever wondered how fascist or totalitarian regimes manage to gain power, and to commit atrocities, apparently with public consent, well take a close look at the psychosocial processes involved, read Gordon Allport’s work on the growth of prejudice, where that can lead, then look more closely at what is unfolding here in the UK, stage by stage. It’s hidden in plain view, advancing by almost inscrutable degrees. But once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Most Right-wing political systems, from Conservatism to Fascism, succeed to some extent by fostering a strong anti-intellectual prejudice amongst populations. It serves two key purposes. It discourages people from thinking critically and expressing themselves independently, and it discredits those who do (even before they do) by establishing a cultural normative default that serves to alienate people who challenge established narratives, and invites derision and accusations of being “out of touch with real lives and everyday experiences.”  But those “telling it like it is” often aren’t, quite. Seems to me that people’s hearts and minds are becoming directed, focused increasingly by an external, political and economic, narrow and rigid agenda. 

Why are we divided? Some people blame the government and media for their corrosive rhetoric, some say Tory social Darwinist, supremicist ideology and policies that have influenced the nation and pushed people further to the Right are to blame. Some people blame the general public’s stupidity and gullibility. Some people blame “patronising” and “arrogant” academics and all things intellectual. Some people blame the EU. Some people blame the Labour party. A few people have even blamed me. Some people blame the wealthy. Some people blame our faulty decision-making through rubbish cognitive processes that apparently need “nudging.” Some people blame the poor, or single parents, unemployed people, immigrants, sick and disabled people.

“I take full responsibility for this” said hardly anyone, ever.

I blame those people who choose to opt out of collective responsibility-taking and participatory democracy. Oh yes, democracy is not something you HAVE, it’s something you DO. To be divided as a nation requires social groups to want to oppress other groups, and for bystanders to permit that to happen – you have to participate in the process, even if that participation is just as a bystander who says and does nothing or as a person who is prejudiced at a gut and knee-jerk level. 

We really do have to take some responsibility for that.

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Picture courtesy of Dave Sid Poole


Some poignant reflection on what it is to be a socialist

Socialists have always tended to be internationalists. Whereas nationalists believe that the world is divided primarily into different nationalities, geopolitical zones, socialists consider social class to be the primary divide. For socialists, class struggle, not national identity, is the driving force of history. And capitalism creates an international working class that must fight back, united and cooperatively against an international capitalist class.

People who have a nationalist inclination, who view the social world parochially and hierarchically, are more likely than others to hold prejudices toward low-status groups. This is especially true of people who want their own group to dominate and be superior to other groups – a characteristic known in social psychology as “social dominance orientation.” It isn’t only the elite that hold this perspective, either.

But economic and social challenges such as inequality and social injustice will never be addressed by simply drawing a new set of geographical borders.

Any group claiming dominance over another – including the “working class” – is displaying social dominance orientation. The oppressed can be oppressive, too.

It is time to recognise those artificially constructed divisions and unite, for we have nothing left to lose but our chains.

“So comrades come rally
And the last fight let us face”.

The verses of the Internationale were written on 30 June, 1871, in the immediate aftermath of the brutal crushing of the Paris Commune during La Semaine sanglante (“The Bloody Week”). The policies and outcome of the Commune had a significant influence on the ideas of Karl Marx, of course.

The author, Eugène Pottier, was hiding in fear of his life. The lyrics were intended to convey the historical experience of an important workers’ struggle to a worldwide audience. For Pottier, liberty, equality and fraternity meant the promise of a society in which poor people, like himself, had justice.

The Internationale has long been the anthem of the labor’ movement throughout the world. Its power to move people has survived the repression of fascism, the cruel parody that was Stalinism and free market capitalism. Those who sing it need know nothing about it’s history to feel a strong sense of international unity. The Internationale is simultaneously about history, political argument and is a powerful rallying statement. Pottier established a reputation as the workers’ poet. It earned him a seat on the Communal Council representing the 2nd arrondissement.

The sheer power of Pottier’s Internationale lies in the fact that he was able to encapsulate his personal experience of specific events and express them in universal terms. And that identification and recognition is socialism in action.

The Second International (now known as the “Socialist International”) adopted it as its official anthem. The title arises from the First International, which was an alliance of socialist parties formed by Marx and Engels that held a congress in 1864. The author of the anthem’s lyrics, Pottier, attended this congress.

 The Internationale has been translated into many languages, it is a left-wing anthem, and is celebrated by socialists, communists, anarchists, democratic socialists, and some social democrats.

The original French refrain of the song is C’est la lutte finale / Groupons-nous et demain / L’Internationale / Sera le genre humain.

That translates as:

This is the final struggle

 Let us group together and tomorrow

 The Internationale

 Will be the human race.

Right now, that makes me feel like weeping in sorrow.

Related

UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

Don’t believe everything you think: cognitive dissonance

Inverted totalitarianism. Oh dear

The ultimate aim of the “allthesame” lie is division and disempowerment of the Left

Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late

 


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12 thoughts on “A view from the Overton window: through the looking glass darkly

  1. Still Kitty those within the Labour party are trying to blame Jeremy Corbyn for not doing enough!?The same people who had a problem with him at the beginning , I believe we should all fight as one ,if the Dissenters those who can’t accept Corbyn as the Elected leader (Voted in by the people) then unless they start to conform Labour will be stuck in opposition! Although I voted Remain,many of my friends (who are still Labour members, I am not as fed up with the infighting) they voted Brexit more out of anger that even the Labour party MPs and Councillors are NOT Listening to what we the voters are telling them! I tried so hard via Streetlife to point out where the Brexit campaign were at best misleading ( in truth “Lying through their teeth” Osbourne and Knickers didn’t help the Remain team much either,due to them a large proportion voted Brexit)
    It’s time the infighting stopped!and the fight to “Lead” began! Everyone should stop blaming everyone else for the results of the referendum,group together and figure out what Labour can do to make this go as easy as possible! And work out how the hell we are going to get the Tories out! Labour MPs are supposed to speak for the People A Voice for the Electorate! Not a voice of disharmony or for MPs own private agendas!
    I don’t believe all the people who voted Brexit are Racist or Idiots as some in social media are stating! I really believe some believed the lies stated by Brexiteer,s ! I think they just got fed up with Austerity,being Broke and seeing those who have less than them Suffering and being blamed by Tory rhetoric and mainstream media for causing the crisis we have been in since the crash if it’s not the unemployed or disabled it’s the Immigrants or asylum seekers fault! The Bankers and the big Corporation’s Getting huge bonuses still most paying next to no tax rubbing the ordinary working person’s nose in it, Openly ! That’s why the vote went the way it did! (Sorry I am tired and perhaps I may not have got my point across)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s the problem, I don’t think anyone really thought about the consequences!
    Being within the EU there was a chance of Reform Out we have no chance to reform it. I am sure many on reflection regret their vote!
    Farage and others including Boris soon dropped their pledge to the NHS ! Even if 5 million signed a petition to hold a re vote because they Now realise they Voted on a lie!£350 million per week more towards the NHS ,shame people did not see Reality ( If Farage makes a statement,then the opposite is normally nearer the truth)! I can’t see a second referendum happening,it would give Farage all the ammunition he needs to say “told you this Government will not follow the voice of the people” catch 22

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The EU also provided a level of international scrutiny that probably held our government accountable, and on a leash to some degree. It’s an authoritarian government that doesn’t value democracy or human rights. With that constraint gone, it’s going to get pretty scary. And Cameron was relatively to the Left of his party, God help us if we get someone from the far-Right flanks, which we probably will.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These are sad and confusing times. Your essays always confirm my thoughts; I am so grateful that you keep on writing. Sometimes it concerns me that you write so eloquently, cogently, and with such excellent prose, many will not be able to decipher and understand your arguments. I personally love your style! I would like to think we can educate the public sufficiently to understand what you are saying. But sadly, it appears that too many people rely on the media hype that is pitched at the lowest common denominator – sound bites that brainwash.

    I am stunned and saddened at the current climate – but that is not new – I have felt this way most of my adult life. After all we did in the USA in the late 60s and 70s to change things (and it happened in the UK as well), I was truly hopeful. But those hopes were dashed long ago and it seems like no matter what we say or do, we are still on the losing end. Perhaps this is just the way it has to be – the pendulum still seems to be swinging further to the right. And, when taken to the extreme, sadly, more of those on the left seem to be those who are adversely affected to the point of actual death. Reducing further the number of people to protest the cruel policies …

    I am amazed you have not given up. I wrote political cards for around 6 months in 2013 and it was fruitless and hopeless. I don’t know what the answer is. It seems no matter how hard we try to bring to light the truth about how things are going, not enough people are hearing it. More and more we need to work harder, for longer hours, and less pay – and families are suffering unless they are part of that Wealthy and Powerful Elite that is continuing to win. I don’t want to put my head in the sand. I am retired and one of the minority of older people who voted to remain. Isolation does not work. I wish with all my heart to see a fairer, kinder, more compassionate world where EVERYONE is able to live decent lives… and not only do I wish it, I have been an activist for this for decades.

    However, once again I am disappointed and despondent at the way things are going. So I support you. I have just donated a small amount to help keep you going. WE actually are all ONE, but until that is truly understood, we seem to be in for this crazy roller coaster ride…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Linda. I know exactly how you feel. Watching a society take all this government is doing and responding irrationally, and in a bewildering, self detrimental way, undermining every chance we have of ever recovering from the damage, and calling it “protest”, it’s so painful. I’m afraid for my children’s futures.

      I’ve been quite close to giving up this past few days. But I don’t think I can, partly because I really believe everyone should own some responsibility for the kind of society we live in and do something to contribute – and writing is about all I can do atm, and partly because without a sublimation opportunity for the pain I feel, I’d probably sink so deep I’d never surface again.

      Isolation does not work, no. Tory governments never work for the benefit of most people, but still we keep getting them. Sadly, I don’t think many will understand what’s going down until it reaches the bottom. x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is the final struggle

    Let us group together and tomorrow

    The Internationale

    Will be the human race.

    WE THE PEOPLE HAVE NOTHING TO LOOSE EXCEPT OUR CHAINS!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

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