Ideas

Writing our own story

Our lives are stories, woven of events and ideas, beliefs and dreams. Right now, what we are told about inequality and poverty by many people in power is flat out wrong. They tell us that, “wealth trickles down,” “the market knows best,” “poor people just need to work harder” and even “poverty is inevitable.” Right. We need to unravel these stories and expose the truth about why a tiny number of people have grown extremely rich while billions of us continue to struggle in poverty. And we need to write our own story.

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Free our mind-space

Nobody wants to suggest we should stop trading or advertising our wares to each other, or abolish trade and markets. The point is that there is nothing natural about being so totally immersed, at all stages of life, with the idea of perpetual material acquisition. We should be respecting everything we’ve learnt about the biology of our brains and leaving them enough time and space to develop as they have done for millennia, as they evolved to do, rather than using every trick in the book to pre-program us from childhood with an obsession for an instinct that, on its own, is destined to disappoint.

So, let’s get a better balance. Let’s stop the one-dimensional shriek of advertising from invading the most intimate theatres of our children’s lives – schools, play areas (real and virtual), the family home. And let’s turn down the volume for the rest of us by removing advertising from outdoor spaces; billboards, the sides of buses, subway stations and the like. Let the public space be as neutral as possible, free of the intrusive demands for special-status for that one part of our nature that responds to constant material acquisition.

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.