Sunday, 15 September 2019

Shameless Subversion: Con politics explained

In news commentary and academic writings, one still frequently comes across attempts to encapsulate Con politics as some kind of ideological doctrine that merits critical examination. Analysts and scholars try to compare the merits of Neo-Conservatism/Neo-Liberalism with progressive alternatives, and discuss them in connection with rival philosophical and economic theories. But that is simply falling for the Con.

Con politics is not an ideological doctrine at all. It is a manipulative strategy to win support and power to advance its advocates’ position and wealth. It has no coherence except for an underlying focus on saying anything – regardless of their vacuity, incompatibility with other things said, harmfulness, or untenability – so long as it can help to deceive more people into backing its quest for political power.

Let us look at a few examples.

Con politics pretends to be religious, to be on the side of God. But its ‘God’ is a mask for hatred and intolerance. When sacred texts enjoin people to love their neighbours and care for strangers, they ignore them in favour of self-styled preachers who spread venom against the weak and vulnerable instead. When the Pope or an imam speaks out against bigotry and violence, they are dismissed as unrepresentative of the ‘true’ faith. Con politicians have no real religious integrity, just a readiness to invoke ‘God’ arbitrarily to justify whatever nasty rhetoric and policy they want to run with.

Con politics positions itself as being supremely concerned with security, but it promotes the spread of weapons at the domestic and global level so that insecurity grows, and more money can be made for the makers and sellers of weapons from handguns to missiles. In the name of security, it also calls for mass surveillance and intrusion into citizens’ privacy, except for its wealthy supporters who can keep their offshore accounts secret.

Security is swiftly thrown overboard when liberty can be shouted out as the ultimate value. Freedom from government control is the cover given for irresponsible businesses selling unsafe products, exploiting workers, and polluting the environment. Freedom of speech is the cover given for spreading lies and hate-mongering. Adam Smith is deified and his writings, like those of any ‘divine’ texts, are misinterpreted and selectively quoted to create the myth of the ‘free’ market devoid of Smith’s advocacy for appropriate government intervention.

Freedom from state intrusion is in turn jettisoned whenever it fits with the latest Con trick. It proclaims the need to keep government at bay, except when it comes to preventing women from making abortion decisions, sentencing people to death on the basis of trial procedures which are flawed, or punishing people for wanting to end their days of terminal illness with unendurable pain.

The Con cloaks itself with the flag and false patriotism. It talks about the country’s greatness even as it pushes for diminished support for the health and education of citizens. It condemns the poor, homeless, disabled as people who have not made enough of an effort to help themselves. It sends young men and women to fight and die on foreign soil while it concocts excuses for its rich advocates to stay out of military duties.

Above all, it embraces fascist sentiments and attacks its critics as ‘fascists’; it pumps out fabrications by the hour and denounces those who expose its deceptiveness as purveyors of ‘fake news’; and it shrugs off public accountability while censures honourable people who challenge them as ‘enemies of the people’.

Con politics is a shameless subversion of all that is good and decent in society. No one should waste time on discerning what doctrine it espouses. Just expose it as the Con that it is from beginning to end.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Where is the Jobs Manifesto?

Politicians are increasingly divided into two camps. On the one side there are those who are convinced that they can win power by stirring up xenophobia – build a wall to keep Mexicans out; scream for Brexit to keep EU citizens out; blame immigrants for everything. On the other side there are those who frown on such xenophobic manipulations, and want to take power away from their champions. Unfortunately, the second group have been so concerned with exposing the egoism and deceit of jingoistic charlatans that they have forgotten to address what citizens most need from their political leaders – a manifesto for jobs.

Jobs are important not only because they enable people to meet their basic needs in terms of sustenance and shelter, but they also hold the key to giving people a sense of identity, self-respect, and autonomy. We all want to make a difference, to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, to be recognised as being ready to shoulder responsibilities for the wellbeing of others.

While xenophobic demagogues have been spreading their lies and fanning hatred, the crisis of low pay and job insecurity continues to worsen. The best way to defeat them is to deal with the underlying socio-economic problem of precarious employment. A political commitment to generate decent job opportunities for all is what is urgently called for. And in case anyone thinks that is not possible, here are at least four things that can be done.

First, place a legal obligation on firms profiting from the spread of labour-displacement technology to invest in training for workers to take up roles in companies that focus on quality personal service, and in business development support for enterprises with such a focus. Secondly, provide advice and start-up investment for the setting up and growth of worker cooperatives, and offer guidance on protection from demutualisation. Thirdly, tackle staffing shortages in key public services such as health, education, policing, and housing with a sustained programme of training, recruitment, and retention. Fourthly, give backing to local development projects where local service and employment needs are prioritised through devolved management, and day-to-day personal contact and relationships are appreciated in preference to automated communications that are remote and unresponsive.

There are many progressive economists, community finance pioneers, and experienced strategists for sustainable employment who can refine and expand on these and other ideas. Although it is important to unmask the con perpetrated by xenophobic ‘populists’, the battle for prosperity and decency cannot be won unless the spectre of precarious employment is cast away.

If we want people to turn away from scoundrels and hatemongers, we must come up with a robust and unequivocal manifesto for jobs.