“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” – Orwell, 1984.
Something of a political master-class has happened under this government, with the seeds clearly routed in the ideological switch of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher and her New Right, social Darwinism, small state conceptions and ethos. With an ever increasingly individualised society, where people are encouraged to be more focused on their own and their significant others’ happiness and well-being rather than the collective good, there has been an ongoing reduction of critical discussion regarding what happened in the 1980s by mainstream channels, how this affects society, people and the economy now and how these policies and ideological directions are not inevitable as it is so often claimed.
Related to the changing direction of the 1980s was the concept of globalisation and the idea that ‘inevitable’ market forces were driving us to be ‘efficient’ when really this was an ideological choice and direction and something that people in power have control over. Rather, the term globalisation is used as a way to avoid critically looking at these varying processes and policy directions.
As the above Orwell quote denotes, those in power – so the establishment, which critically includes the mainstream media – influence the narrative of the present, future and the conception of the past. For instance, in a time where we are told that there is no alternative, that cuts and austerity is the only way and that “we are all in this together”, the following is conveniently forgotten about or misrepresented:
- After the Second World War, debt was nearly 250% of GDP – currently it stands under 70%, and rather than cutting and making the ordinary person suffer, there was a sense of community, responsibility and compassion and the welfare state was created. However, now we are told “there is no money left” and that they have to cut a supposedly ‘ballooning’ benefits budget when in reality we have lots of money – the government is not like a household that has limits to its money production, despite what Thatcher would have had you believe -, they have the capacity to print money when they need to, as they have done through quantitative easing. But dwelling on this would undermine the narrative.
- The cause of the crisis is ignored. The crisis has been developing for years, it links back even to the US dollar becoming the reserve currency at the Bretton Woods Conference in the 1940s. The Triffin Dilemma saw the US remove the linkage of the Dollar with Gold and this helped move towards the free market, volatile currencies you see now. It helped with a movement towards financialisation, where dangerous supposed ‘innovative’ financial practices came into play. This alongside the neoliberal ideology of the 80s onwards helped create excessive risk taking and dangerous practices where high risk was seen as a price worth paying. Through measures such as Collatarised Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps, the US and also countries such as the UK started to see a rise in bad debt with the system unable to tell if bonds were backed up by mainly good assets or not. Mortgages were sold to too many people that couldn’t afford it, and in an effort to keep expanding the financial system these dodgy bonds and assets have found their way around the financial system internationally. Despite the financial sector, bankers and other financial dealers such as hedge funders creating the crisis, these guys have been rewarded and instead the ordinary person is being affected.
Thus such ignorance to detail enables the media and the current government to pedal lies about who was to blame for the crisis – so here comes your redirection towards benefit claimants, immigrants, single parents and so forth – with the real causes of the crisis ignored. The government blames, for instance, Labour’s so-called ‘unsustainable’ spending ignoring how the Tories matched Labour’s spending plans up until 2008, when the crisis hit. They either then recognise the £1.5 trillion bank bailout or they support the entire banking sector collapsing.
The government is supposed to have “saved us”, we are supposed to be grateful that they have came to our rescue and made sure that we don’t have to live through Labour’s ‘reckless’ spending again. This ignores the reality that, as mentioned above, public spending is low historically – private debt is around 400% of GDP – and that Labour did some real good stuff that this government has been undoing for the last 4 years. In fact, this government is undoing the legacy of the post War era where the welfare state was created – doing this through deception to further their ideology.
There is no wonder that the SNP and many people in Scotland want out of the UK; with only 1 Scottish MP but a Tory led government dictating to them with the above narrative, based on lies and a nasty ideology, it’s a no-brainer. If I was in Scotland I’d want out. However, if Scotland were to break away, from a selfish point of view, ordinary people in the rest of the UK will suffer because of the strong progressive vote and MPs Scotland returns at elections helping neutralise the Tory vote – or people just not voting as apathy is a key vote winner for the Tories.
But then, if they were to say yes people on the left might start working together a bit more as they realise they need to do so to stop the Tories. They might realise that the left need to work together rather than spending so much energy attacking people that have a similar creed to them. There needs to be more realism and pragmatism and also a serious realisation that if the Tories were to get in again at the next election, then their continuing control of the past, present and future would not be pretty…
UPDATE (19th of September 2014):
After thinking about the #indyref more, despite hoping Scotland would go independent for itself and its future as a fair and equal country, I need to redact my “I hope Scotland stay in the UK from a selfish point of view” statement. Even when being selfish, it would have made lots more sense for Scotland to go independent for the Left and the UK’s future. Scotland is a very progressive, forward thinking part of the UK that doesn’t deserve to have such little influence in so many big decisions that are inflicted on it by a right wing, centralised Westminster, especially after Thatcher onwards. It would have shaken things up in the UK – statistically, the Scotland vote has only influenced 4 elections since WW2; but ideologically they have been part of that socialist strength we fight for and helped make the UK a better place to live and influenced debate. Scotland going independent would have really threatened the establishment and we wouldn’t be facing the potential of empty promises of more power with u-turns looking like they are going to happen – alongside a nationalistic English sentiment happening; as we might have actually started to question why Scotland wanted to leave and look at the real sources of inequality and unhappiness – namely neoliberalism and undemocratic practices.