Weather the Crisis, or Deal with the causes?

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.33.34 PMDo we need a far far deeper transition than the paltry options we are given?

If people are so desperate, do we need to make far larger changes?

Do we need to begin by listening to those who we find intolerant and repugnant, to understand what is hurting so bad?

The posh boys from their posh schools: abandoned, buttoned up, having to appear smug and all knowing because they don’t know the first thing about how they really feel.

The racist thugs: venting spleen because they’ve been told so many times how worthless they are, and so must make someone else into a worthless pile of dust.

Nicola Sturgeon is not pretending when she describes her sadness seeing what is happening across in England.

We have our sectarianism and bigotry up here, but I have noticed ever since I moved back up to Scotland in the 80s, that when people speak in a public space here they/ we assume those listening to be social democrats, we assume a social solidarity and care for others (however much that may or may not be true).

Whereas those speaking in a similar space in the ‘Home Counties’ of southern England always assumed they were surrounded by Tories (even if they weren’t). [Except just after the 2008 crash when even bankers on trains to London were overheard saying “We’re all socialists now”. And I thought that was a good sign at the time; until I realised they meant we’d nationalise their debts and let them carry on as before.]

Is 2016 turning the page on 2008?

Would it be good to rise above parties and push for a declaration of independence from the real foe: an economic system that drives so many to desperation (whether gilded in paedophilic wealth or smashed in miserable poverty)?

Do we need a Transition movement of whole societies as well as of communities?

Do we need to build the resilience, the food growing, the energy and manufacturing, that can withstand the hard winters that would follow us calling the financiers bluff and their having fled [remember http://www.wewilldrivethemtotheairport.co.uk/]? Withstand the hardship of the financial economy crashing in its billions, before the real economy is yet resilient enough, before we are resilient enough, to live within our social and ecological means?

Would we have allies? Not countries, but citizens from elsewhere, even whole localities, movements? Would there be blockade busting allies to bring the supplies needed to get us through those winters?

Could we then repay those allies generosity as one by one countries seek to take back their lives? Might each country that has come through quietly let its citizens send support to those trying to escape the gilded lies and smashing grind where they are?

And is that all a fantasy, a dream, before returning to the mundane realities of steering our way through a Brexit or a humiliating (for Tories) climb down as they seek an eternal postponement of Article 50, while our European neighbours move from their earlier shock, to their current outrage, to tomorrow’s scorn?

Is it important NOT to dream just now, not to make this a bigger challenge than it already is? But instead to support a very capable Scottish Government to present stability to the world, to speak loud and clear that EVERYONE living here – from England, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, everywhere – all who live here are welcome and belong.

Or should we do both?

Should we use this unexpectedness moment to try to begin to meet the far larger challenge too? That of changing our sense of what is possible, so that we have a chance (this dominant global society has a chance, and therefore everyone else has a chance) to survive?

And would that feel like the Balkans must have felt when the war was finally over? What Europe felt like in 1945?

Only (unlike 1945) this time are we capable of making the deep social changes that created the Welfare State, without first undergoing a new war? Because our economy is already fed by a war on nature: a war which, the more we win, the more we annihilate our future.

Can we use this moment to see the depth of our crisis, and to dare dream the utter change required, or is this a moment simply to shore up what is good, and defy intolerance?

If not now, then when and how will we address the deeper crisis, the deeper war?

If now, and if we fought our way out of this war on nature and war on the poor: What would the air taste like, the morning feel like, at the break of the day that ends the war?

Would it be no different than this morning and tomorrow’s? Taking the kids to school, walking to the shops, working, chatting, tapping on these screens. Or would it be very different if in those public spaces the spell was broken and we knew that others knew that we had seen the war we were raging, and had decided we’d take the risk to no longer fight.

What would it feel like if we are no longer just trying to pay the bills, trying to get to the next weekend, the next holiday, the next job, the next stop, desperately trying to block out what is really happening to the people of the planet, the planet, and ourselves?

Does it start with a dream? Probably not.

It probably starts with an action.

“Mum/ Dad – What did you do to end the war?”

Allowing the hope (despite all the refusal to hope, the learnt dismissiveness / cynicism that promises to help us cope); feeling the hope can drop you into the depth of the despair.

But there, where the howling rage and the raging hope circle, if you know that others care as deeply too, then does the world still belong to ‘them’? Or is there only ‘us’?

Not the false unity ‘Us’ pushed by dictators/ elites as they exploit us (“we’re all in this together” meaning “the poor will pay for my economic and social crimes”).

But if “there’s only Us” means “I can see you are smashing others (out of greed or fear), regain your humanity instead” then it’s not that miracles happen and people transform before our eyes, but does that give us a far stronger place to stand?

From the place of refusing the violence and the lies and the manufactured greed and hopelessness, you can see the horizon.

The world turns. Nothing stays the same. Everything changes.

Do we choose to bow to changes as if they are imposed and inescapable, choose to be battered by the wind and stay in the small shrinking harbour of our private lives;

Or do we accept the changes that are surfacing, look to their deeper cause, and use this fierce wind to sail fast?

If we stop retreating in the face of night, can we turn with it as the world turns, and work our way through to the coming brightness of a spring day?

Is this a time to call out the deeper crisis, or a time to simply weather the one we’re in?

Comments (13)

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  1. John Fullerton says:

    How many questions is that, Justin?

  2. Drew Campbell says:

    Crisis? Wot crisis?

  3. Iain Miller says:

    In my opinion, a federal UK within a federal EU is the only way to save both Unions …..

  4. Scottie says:

    Thank you. We live in NE England. We are not particularly well educated, no one has been to university. We all work or are apprenticed and we all spend our holidays in Scotland. Mostly we voted Leave, not lightly, but after difficult discussions. We know the next few years will be hard but life is hard here already.
    I think we had hoped for at least some sympathy from Scotland, but it began to seem that you all thought we are racists, bigots, Little Englanders. This post has give me at least hope that we will still be welcome and we can talk about the future, however it develops, as friends. Once again, thank you.

    1. Alan says:

      I agree that those sort of accusations aren’t very helpful in understanding what’s going on here. But I think you’ll find there is quite a lot of sympathy north of the border.

      For analysis see the essay I linked to below: Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit:

      But consider the longer history of these regions as well. They are well-recognised as Labour’s historic heartlands, sitting on coalfields and/or around ship-building cities….Thatcherism gutted them with pit-closures and monetarism, but generated no private sector jobs to fill the space. The entrepreneurial investment that neoliberals always believe is just around the corner never materialised. Labour’s solution was to spread wealth in their direction using fiscal policy: public sector back-office jobs were strategically relocated to South Wales and the North East to alleviate deindustrialisation, while tax credits made low productivity service work more socially viable. This effectively created a shadow welfare state that was never publicly spoken of, and co-existed with a political culture which heaped scorn on dependency. Peter Mandelson’s infamous comment, that the Labour heartlands could be depended on to vote Labour no matter what, “because they’ve got nowhere else to go” spoke of a dominant attitude. In Nancy Fraser’s terms, New Labour offered ‘redistribution’ but no ‘recognition’. This cultural contradiction wasn’t sustainable and nor was the geographic one. Not only was the ‘spatial fix’ a relatively short-term one, seeing as it depended on rising tax receipts from the South East and a centre left government willing to spread money quite lavishly (albeit, discreetly), it also failed to deliver what many Brexit-voters perhaps crave the most: the dignity of being self-sufficient, not necessarily in a neoliberal sense, but certainly in a communal, familial and fraternal sense.

      There are lots of areas in Scotland that can relate to this. And also the accusations of dependency. If you go on the Guardian’s bulletin boards you’ll find lots of commentators mocking the Scots for being on English welfare and dependent on England (they mean S.E. England). It’s like listening to an abusive spouse: “You can’t leave bitch, you are nothing without me.”  That’s the true meaning of Better Together. There’s nothing warn and fuzzy about it. But Mandelson was wrong. Scotland dumped the Tories and then Labour for the SNP, which has offered the possibility of  a positive, progressive way forward and an exit from financialisation and neoliberalism. In England there hasn’t been a credible political alternative like the SNP but Brexit shows that Mandelson was still wrong on that count as well. People who are disrespected and have nothing to lose are dangerous. And the Tories are delusional if they think this is something they’ll benefit from. The legacy of Thatcherism is economic decline and ripping the country apart by region, education and generation. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead but the toxic brew she left behind is just reaching its boiling point.

      1. Blair says:

        As the son of a coal mine electrician I was aware of pit closures and Maggi Thatcher and grew up as a Thatcherite. I was shocked by the nasty tory’s who forced her out especially as the people voted her in for a 3rd term. It was only later I clicked about North Sea Gas and its affect on the political decisions regarding coal.
        My own sons are shocked to be out of Europe like most of the younger generation. I escaped the Tony years through studying with the Open University. I was too busy studying Neural Networks and AI at the time. Messed up my thinking but not as bad as those who labour folk who followed Tony.
        I can see where the young are and why older generations pulled the plug. The way forward seems to be big data and cloud based. I had learned about Hopfield Netwoks etc. 1990’s The idea or vision of using 3-phase came about by pure chance August 1992.
        I now think I know what is meant by the term life long learning…Learning from failure & mistakes giving the greatest result and introducing new problems. There is no magic solution just hard work and networking with others together we can be better. Everyones opinion should count but what about the children and their children are we going to leave their future to unqualified politicians who spin things or to artifical neural processors. The cloud is a world view.

        Should Scotland concentrate on the virtual world big data model or forge another path.

        What ever everyone decides Christina should be given a chance to see what can be done using my 3-phase work

        Aiming to achieve system where people get to choose whats best.

  5. Alan says:

    This analysis by Will Davies at the Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmith’s on why this is different from 2008 is worth a read: What sort of crisis is this? (also republished on Open Democracy):

    Brexit has a completely different rhythm, which is why comparisons to Lehmans don’t reveal very much. The weirdest thing about the past week has been the eerie sense of waiting for something to happen, the collapse of sterling not-withstanding. All that’s happened so far is pretty much exactly what experts and policy-makers predicted, whereas experts were temporarily stumped during September 2008. Investors aren’t panicking, they’re simply responding as everyone said they would. It’s the long-term future that is much more worrying. If Lehmans was a housefire (which was spreading), this is more like someone choosing to buy a house that the surveyor has found to be suffering long-term subsidence, but going ahead with the purchase anyway. Not only do the emergency services not care, they can’t help you anyway. Meanwhile your insurance company (who you never liked in the first place) told you repeatedly they couldn’t underwrite it. Buyer’s remorse, indeed.

    Where they are framed as such, emergencies can be used to entrench the status quo even more firmly, making a situation more reliant on existing powers, rather than less. This is clearly what happened with neoliberalism from 2008 onwards: the state and banks benefited from the ultra-fast pace of economic meltdown to implement measures (often with little deliberation, sometimes overnight or over weekends) that would rescue the status quo. Hence, states successfully sustained the flawed model of capitalism which privileged the financial sector for another 8 years, while pushing the costs elsewhere. But Brexit is a crisis of the state first and foremost. This makes it slower but ultimately far more transformative and frightening.

    1. Alan says:

      Also worth reading by Will Davies: Thoughts on the sociology of Brexit.

    2. Alan says:

      Reading these the issue of Scottish independence really becomes one of getting out with whatever you have before the UK gets really ugly. Westminster isn’t capable of fixing what they have wrought.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Scotland has been a welcoming home, more especially over the past decade, for rapidly increasing numbers of people heading north to escape the socio-economic mess south of the border and also to take advantage of the superior public services and social benefits provided north of the border, as well as lower house prices. The main political outcome/reality with this, however, as we discovered in the 2014 Referendum, is that the majority of these people are not Yes voters; they may also be heavily oriented towards Brexit.

        1. Broadbield says:

          I have some friends like that – a bit like the expats in Spain who want everything to be like home back in England but with sunshine, except here it’s the “quality of life” syndrome. We need to try to persuade them towards Independence (one of them said she would have voted Yes, if it wasn’t for Alex Salmond – sad really) with hope rather than expectation.

  6. Blair says:

    As an Incorporporated Engineer I would always recommend deal with the cause. This is a complex problem which like other complex problems can be differentiated into easier managed portions for diagnosis, modification or repair.

    The core of our systems problem is our governments are not functioning in a democratic stable way. Causes can be traced to voter apathy, a political class, party rules, inappropriately education, poor managment of resources, poor communication structure, rules of governance, poor executive representation and corruption!

    The political class network, the product of a defunct empire is just not suited for global environment because the control and feedback systems are just not there and light regulation does cannot regulate international trade.

    A small change to party rules covering goverance followed by more executive changes to governments operating systems, in line with a complex change management systems based approach (backed by training for want to be politicians) would be a starting point to introduce a stronger more representative government.

    Yes to listening. In this case Scotland/UK has within its people the skills to start repairs immediately. Why our politicans are not seeking out all the talent is a mystery. All that is needed is the democratic support from its soverign citizens or their representatives to support the change and instruct parliament to do what is necessary.

    We are not all together but we should be and we could be.

    We need to modify how we allow, start, regulate and tax individuals and companys so that we can trade our ideas, skills and information within a Knowledge Based Economy. There is little point in investing in education if we cannot function properly within the market place.

    Society must be free to move in order to start relationships and trade without barriers at an individual level our governments by trying to keep control by limiting choice are inadertently preventing progress. Mass movement has to be a consideration as we need to be able to adapt to world events whether natural or man made.

    We must act now and act together, significant damage has been done by our governments past actions, implementing change, lack of maintenance, communicating with spin, blatant lies, greed, corruption and failure to represent everyone in society (e.g. prisoners). We are told UK cannot afford it but in my opinion society cannot afford to wait for our childrens sake.

    The British people now have to decide, do we want the way forward lit up so we can see and others can follow?

    Not a fantasy, dream, virtual reality game but of a vision so vivid our neighbours will witness a transformation by a process of mutual transformation they too will act.

    Soverign people must collectively demand the changes in the time honoured way. Our governments a state and its in a state but its fundumental core value is still there.

    We must welcome people and haste them back. Our children are learning, playing and making international friends on-line, its little wonder they voted differently. We must find away off giving our children real life with real dangers for they need to be equipped with tools most adults no abdolutely nothing about.

    We have been reckless fighting wars equipped with insufficient government backing using inappropriate information at the wrong time. Our politicians appear to have no concept that real soldiers die leaving real familys behind, its not like a Call of Duty game or simulated experience. If politicians want war they should sign up first.

    We must lay down all weapons of war.

    We must become aware of technological advancement in Neural Processing and Artificial Intelligence systems like Cortana or Christina (3-phase) as our children are using these systems and could be taught by these systems.

    It all started with a vision. Scotland had a vision with #indyref1, lost but learned they also had thoughts on Europe and won but still did not get their wishes. I voted YES for Indyref1 and Out for Europe because of christina.

    We can all learn.

    Europe referendum 2? No chance, not until She says YES.

    You now have more information, decide, communicate, virtual independece is possible.

    Believe the Unbelievable Scotland is going places within and outwith of this world.

    Christina also links to Twitter.

    – “The Christina Project”

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Stimulating, Blair. However our neoliberal political class and their moribund civil servants will sadly only ever recruit Establishment timeserver ‘experts’ (usually completely lacking in innovation) for advice while many far greater minds remain marginalised. Consequently there is no vision, never mind strategy, for Scotland.

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