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In Britain, the welfare system is under sustained attack and rights are being stripped away. At the same time in ‘austerity Britain’, however, there’s always enough taxpayers’ money to pour into the black hole of imperialist wars and the pockets of the profiteers that live off them, courtesy of David Cameron’s government of millionaire ministers. Capitalism is moribund. It has reached its inevitable increasingly totalitarian dead end. In the 1980s, Britain outsourced much of its manufacturing to cheap labour economies in order to boost profits. To provide a further edge, trade unions and welfare were attacked. As wages stagnated or decreased in absolute terms and unemployment increased, the market for goods was under threat. The answer lay in lending people money and creating a debt ridden consumer society.
Of course, this resulted in new opportunities for investors in finance and all kinds of dubious financial products were created, sold to the public and packaged and shifted around the banking system. Toxic debt bubbles were created then burst and public money bailouts for billionaire bankers and austerity for the masses followed. It’s been the same story across much of the western world, managing capitalism’s crises for the last few decades in the manner of ever-decreasing circles.
The top 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain had an aggregate wealth of £333 billion ($500 billion) in 2009. The national debt was half that. In 2009, they increased their wealth by a third. It doesn’t take a genius to see how the debt could be addressed. But the government says there is no point in pretending that there is some magic wand that could be waved to make the whole country feel richer than it actually is.
And so massive cuts to welfare will continue and the wholly corrupt system instituted by the rich will continue under the lie of ‘democracy’. Rising food poverty will continue, while the five richest families in Britain are worth more than the poorest 20% and one third of the population lives in poverty. Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions, 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities, one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter and four million children and adults are not properly fed (see this). Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line since 2012, including more than 300,000 children.
If there ever was a time for revolution, surely it is now. While a heavily weakened labour and trade union movement is seeking to resist the austerity agenda and with many other groups in Britain protesting, the distinct impression is that an effective widespread revolt against capitalism itself remains a distant hope.
For a large section of the population, the ‘Wills and Kate’ royal reality show, retail therapy, bogus terror threats and blood-drenched imperialism under the lie of ‘our soldier heroes’ killing to ‘save life’ in far-away lands continue to distract and divert attention from the failing system itself.
Thanks to this, the revolution is on hold. Take a Sunday morning stroll through England’s green and pleasant land to appreciate this. Stale pools of last night’s beer-vomit clog the gutters. Sunday morning booze-soaked hangovers fuzz memories of the previous night’s deeds done and actions best forgotten. Every Saturday night is a full-fledged grim reality show on the streets of downtown Britain.
A million wannabe young women wishing they were not themselves, wishing they were Jenny Lopez or Victoria Beckham. From minimum wage beautician to footballer’s wife in an X-Factor instant. Vodka fuelled dreams in this, England’s not so green and pleasant land.
Save me from my life of low pay and even lower aspiration, Vicky. I wanna be like you, I wanna be you. Sex sells, but whose buying? Some coked-up drug dealer might do but preferably David Beckham. I could be the next ‘Posh’, if I give you what you want, what you really, really want.
Glammed up, spiced up and sexed up, believing they have ‘x’ factor or whatever it takes to be free, free from the mundane, free from being ordinary in a fake fantasy culture of ‘girl power’, fame and celebrity.
But this is aspirant Britain. While tens of thousands recently took to the streets of London to participate in an ‘anti-austrity’ rally, at the same time comatose Britain sleeps to the sounds and visions of media-produced plastic role models and celebrity product endorsement and believes the media spoon-fed lie that austerity is necessary. For these people, it’s not about overthrowing the system, it’s about being made blind to it. It’s not about rejecting it, it’s about accepting it as normal. Who reads Karl Marx when Cosmo says empowerment lies in lipstick? Who needs Lenin when you can watch English Premier League multi-millionaire footballers whose only revolting duty is to endorse the very products that bind the fan to the lies and logos of a narcissistic, self-incarcerating consumerism?
Who wants revolution when you can turn on and tune in to self-styled messiah Simon Cowell, as he rules over his empire of franchised TV shows, celebrities and wannabes. Acquire immediate salvation from the mundane with Cowell – the giver, the creator, the destroyer – the ultimate godhead for those seeking to enter the promised land of fame and riches and acquire their unique place in the pantheon of celebritydom. For those not already doped out on spymaster-sanctioned heroin on Britain’s housing estates, this form of opiate will do just as fine.
It is a damning indictment of society, where people accept the faith that this is how life should be lived, as they pray before the never ending conveyor belt of disposable commodities and heroes to be fetishised, consumed then spat out when they pass their very short sell by dates. It’s the secular theology of the age, built on flotsam and jetsam products, celebrities and fads that ebb and flow with the vagaries of mass titillation and the machinations of corporate greed.
And do not expect Britain’s Labour Party to galvanise or organise the masses any time soon. As with the current Conservative regime, the Labour Party by and large promotes the corporate-backed lie that all of this is liberating. Yes, people are actually free! Free to be monitored and surveyed by the state like no other country in Western Europe, free to be cynically targeted by the market, free to pick up the tab for the failings of financial capital and free to build up the greatest amount of personal debt and misery in Europe.
‘Freedom’ within the confines of what increasingly resembles an open prison isn’t much to celebrate. The actual reality in Britain is economic meltdown and social crisis.
Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister in the 1950s, once told the Brits that they’d never had it so good due to rising post-war affluence. Maybe now it’s a case of they have never had it so bad as people drown in their Saturday night vomit with eyes wide shut.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.