Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Smashing Somethings

I see the students have been revolting again. It must be horrible having to endure the hypocrisy of wearing cheap, mass-produced clothes, utilising placard manufacturing equipment sold by profit-making companies, banging drums made by exploited brown children in far-off lands and using electricity, internal combustion engines, the transport infrastructure and modern telecommunications to gather and protest about the very forces that brought it all about, while showing and telling the world as it actually happens.

The demonstrators say they are staging a "Carnival Against Capitalism" across London before the two-day summit, hosted in Northern Ireland next week. But in truth it’s not at all clear what they are really protesting about. Some are just ideological hippy-dippies (now in their sixties) who crave a simpler world of equality and kindness for all. I can only imagine they long for a return to sub-150-strong communities in caves and Hobbit houses, living on seasonal native vegetables, wearing clothes made from jute and allowing natural attrition through starvation and hypothermia in winter to keep their populations steady.

Bless them; they’re harmless and they’ll be extinct soon enough anyway. But what of the others, the ones who are crying out for revolution against the system that has fed them from birth? The ones using the fruits of capitalism – invention, prosperity, unheard of mobility – to decry what they see as a worldwide plot to enslave them in work for eternity. Well, education first, then work for eternity, obviously. Well, when they say ‘eternity’ they mean until their retirement. A retirement prolonged by medicine which has extended lifespans to way beyond what was expected before capitalism increased wealth sufficiently to make any sort of independent retirement possible in the first place.

And then there’s nothing to do while you wait to die. Nothing to do but go on extended foreign holidays, live in relative comfort, engage in leisure pursuits previously only available to the very rich, watch twenty-four-hour television from around the entire world and eat and drink comestibles our grandparents could only ever have dreamed of. A true hell on earth, apparently; damn you, Capitalism! 

What’s their serious alternative to the global economy, those would smash the system? A complete return to localisation? So if your village doesn’t have a car-maker, you do without a car? Do you organise an Amish style, village-wide car-raising? Coffee? Sorry, out of season, out of stock and it costs two day’s work for a cup. Anything electronic becomes an impossibility unless you can source the materials to make it: petroleum products, trace metals, etc. And even if you could make a mobile phone the network would be restricted to just the local cell – you could phone everybody in your street. Hardly seems worth it – you may as well drive over… oops.

Ever since we set sail for The East in search of silk and spices and treasure, globalisation has been an unstoppable force and has brought greater and greater prosperity for all. Yes, for all. Trickle-down economics may not work as well as you would like it to, but everybody is better off than they were fifty years ago and fifty years ago everybody was better off than fifty years before that. It seems such an odd thing to get worked up about.

Of course things are not perfect, but I still don’t know what your problem is. Oh, you want fairness? Good luck with that. Given that fairness is always the watchword of socialist movements and socialism usually ends up as communism and poverty, you’re nailing your colours to the wrong mast. A bit of capitalism is essential if you want anything above bare subsistence. And when you accept that, where do you stop? How much capitalism is too much? Ooh, just a bit more and we can all have a telly. A bit more still and we can get the mobile phones working. And you know, I really miss the Internet… Everybody has their price and society’s price is monumental.

Dave finally finds the egalitarian society he craved

Come up with a workable plan and people might listen. But hey, you want a return to some sort of agrarian bliss, but with all the trappings of civilisation and you want it now? I suggest that you exploit the wealth that capitalism offers you, work your bollocks off, then fuck off out of it, buy yourself a smallholding and smile your days away.

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