Most radical thinkers have grappled with frustration at the sheer potential and the corresponding disappointing reality that frames our way of life. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world, but today unemployment figures have gone up (with employment vacancies showing NO sign of improvement, regardless of what the government may claim) whilst EMA has been abolished and the NHS is decapitated. Considered in the context of £81bn cuts, where disabled people are seeing their welfare being cut by up to 20%, the political potential and reality are at a point of rather extreme disjuncture.
Some claim that all EMA is for is so students can go down town, get drunk and have a kebab. Whilst this may be true for some, I could never rule the event out entirely, this is certainly not true for the majority. The £30 is branded around, but we must not forget that EMA has three levels of payment at £10, £20 and £30 a week. Consider the findings that 7 out of 10 poor students would drop out of education (most likely onto benefits – hardly a ‘cost’ saving, nor should it be judged in such terms). Oh and of course, the protests occurring across the country aren’t given a moments thought or reflection. Our political system doesn’t give those affected the public space to voice their expression and argument.
Instead, hegemonic mechanisms are employed by the state, with the police controlling public boundaries and confining protesters to limited areas so they can protest in ‘silence’. Dissent is rarely given much consideration in our political system, it is cast away as some threat to the political protocols and ‘stabilises’ that maintain the supposed consensus. The consensus that sees the LibDems vote like lambs; even supposedly avid Save EMA campaigner Simon Hughes voted with the government. Times are sad when politicians such as Simon Hughes can be coerced into being silenced, into turning his back on his achievements and the respect he has amounted as a politician over the years.
As always, I cannot help but mention the wonders of Murray Bookchin. It is useful to reflect on a piece I read of his earlier on relativism and it’s nihilistic problematic features that threaten to undermine objective potentials where people can live in cooperation, freedom and self-confidence with a better distribution of material resources. Where the enviroment isn’t exploited, but is rather treated with care and respect for the diversity and potential the natural word has. Bookchin has his own visions of potential reality, but what he was disturbed by at the end of his career was the growing individualistic uncompassionate barbaric attitudes of political actors. This is well expressed by the current coalition government.
The government is acting without care, without consideration of the despair they are reducing so many people to. Their argument that these cuts are ‘necessary’ is hardly going to help those who lose their job, potentially their home and what they knew as their life. And what makes this situation even more disturbing is the actual potential for a different action plan; one where the government realises it doesn’t need to cut, cut, cut. The current ‘plan’ makes no sense as jobs fall, unemployment rises, welfare goes up, demand decreases, inflation goes up and wages go down (to account for the falling rate of profit) helping create a problematic spiral. Instead, investment with sustainable concern is required. Currently, by and large, people see growth as the answer; however, if this continues the economic, political and social problems will remain and keep returning in booms and busts. Investment but with a restructuring of the economy is required for a sustainable zero-growth economy.
The potential is far from our existing reality. Bookchin came to the conclusion that he wouldn’t see the potential for society actualised; it is not a guarantee we ever will. Therefore, it is important to continue to build and fight against the regressive actions of the government, as without counter-action, the reality becomes more bitter by the second.