Monday, 11 August 2014

The Great Race

There is a widespread belief that all the poor are poor because of the ‘bad choices' they make - which  is as absurd as arguing that all the rich are rich because of their ‘good choices'.

Arguing that we can ‘choose’ what level of wealth we want and acquire / retain is either an expression of extreme naivety and ignorance of both contemporary reality and history, or, it’s the work of a Troll. 

(Troll is an acronym for ‘thick, rightwing, obnoxious, loudmouthed lout’, or - the Type II variant – a ‘two-faced, rightwing, opinionated, labrynthine liar’. The latter is far more annoying because they crave attention and will even self-flagellate in order to get people to take notice of them.)

There can be no equality of choice without genuine equality of opportunity and there can be no genuine equality of opportunity because the  system cannot tolerate it.

The simple, inescapable fact is that the capitalist system is based on a fundamental inequality. The only way those who lack economic and / or political power can force positive change is in combination with others to change the system – and history is littered with the evidence of the use of the State by the powerful to prevent the powerless from combining to force change.

The rich and powerful used to argue that god gave them their wealth and power but the pesky little notion of human rights pretty much put the kibosh on that and so the ideology of the ‘meritocracy’ was born. We have the same grossly unequal division of wealth and status but it is justified on the grounds that the rich and powerful are more meritorious or deserving because they are more talented, hard working, better educated etc. They make GOOD CHOICES.

The flip side of that dirty little coin is the notion that the poor are less deserving because they are stupid, feckless, lazy etc. They make BAD CHOICES.

The simple, inescapable fact is that the global capitalist system does not and cannot accommodate ALL people being rich – or even ALL people being well off.  It creates and perpetuates a global class of poor because it needs it.

The ‘poor’ are of course not homogenous – there are degrees of poverty. In relatively affluent NZ we have very few utterly poor people but a growing number of relatively poor. Most working people are kept afloat by credit extended to them by foreign owned banks which gouge profits out of their debtors, and our relative affluence rests on a vast pool of impoverished people in other countries. The presence of the world's utterly poor are a reminder to the relatively poor of countries like ours what might happen to them if they challenge the definition of success or seek to sabotage the Great Race.

Capitalism sets up a continuous and compulsory ‘race’ to what it defines as ‘success’ -ie the accumulation of private wealth in the form of money, land and things. The higher placed you are in the race, the more wealthy you get and the more status, things and advantages you can buy.

By any objective measure, the accumulation of more wealth and things than one can ever need or sensibly use may be said to be the very opposite of ‘success’. It may in fact be said to be a symptom of a highly disordered or poorly formed personality – an extreme form of ‘hoarding’.  It is very telling that, in a poor person, hoarding is judged to be pathological; in a rich person, it’s judged to be a virtue.

There is a cabal of people whose function it is to present the 'race to success' as both essential, desirable and inherently fair, i.e. to skew reality.

A key part of their function is the portrayal of those who have won the race so often they now don’t need to run at all but just collect their winnings, and those who are in the process of winning or being well placed - as being more talented, skilled, harder working. These people are deemed to have  made GOOD CHOICES.

These lackeys also have the job of portraying those who always trail in last, don’t make the finish line or can’t even get to the start line, as being less talented, lazy, feckless, to have wasted their time watching tele instead of training or traded in their running shoes for fags and booze etc etc.  These are the people who have made BAD CHOICES.

An example of the pernicious work of these lackeys is the labelling of the ‘feral underclass’.  These people are so much consigned to the realms of the barely human they don’t have children, they ‘breed’ or ‘spawn’, and proto-fascist commentators can call for their sterilisation and not only keep their jobs, but be feted for their perspicacity and courage for 'telling it like it is'. 

The system's lackeys have to do this sort of thing to disguise the rather obvious fact that the tiny minority of the most advantaged people - the global elite - either don't have to run the race at all or they get to jog along on wide, smooth, level inside lanes.

In contrast,  the outer lanes not only become progressively more crowded with runners, they get more steeply cambered, narrow and uneven.

What makes the race even more inequitable is that the start is not staggered to allow for the far longer distances of the outer lanes. 

Grossly and intrinsically unfair though it is, if the outer lane runners complain or combine to boycott the race until it is made more fair – or – worst sin of all – question the rationale of the race itself– they will find themselves pushed even further back from the start line or forced to run in hobbles or blind folded.  They may even be banned from the race entirely and join the ranks of the utterly poor whose only function is to remind the relatively poor of what might happen to them if they don’t keep running in their allotted lanes.

Of course, a few of the middle lane runners manage to elbow and barge their way onto the inner tracks, and a tiny number on the outer tracks get well placed by virtue of  extraordinary talent or extreme viciousness or sheer luck. These few exceptions are highlighted by the lackeys to add weight to the lie that where you get to run and where you are placed is down to the CHOICES you make.

But the fact is that, however hard those in the middle and outer lanes run, most of them can never win or even be placed.  Some of the middle lane runners console themselves with the thought that at least they are beating all the deadbeats crammed into the outer most lanes. They know that the innermost lanes are reserved for the exclusive use of the elite – as it has always been – and may know deep in their hearts that it is both grossly unfair and morally indefensible but, instead of protesting the unfairness, some of them get quite brutal in their defence of it and turn on those with fewer advantages than them. 

This of course helps the global elite who continue to glide along on the smooth path of privilege  secure in the knowledge that the ranks of the disadvantaged are being kept busy blaming and beating up on each other. 

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