Disintegration and Choice

Image by Moises Gonzalez.

With regular maintenance stuff lasts longer, but eventually, in spite of every effort, things breaks down: the washing machine stops drying, the car won’t start, the mobile phone refuses to connect to the internet.

Socio-economic-political systems also collapse; shaped by an ideology of some kind, they are, like all ‘isms, limited, and divisive. Looking at The State of the World its clear that the systems that govern our lives and the modes of living they support are breaking down, fragmenting. The signs are many and varied.

Autocratic regimes are on the rise and many democratic governments, influenced by right wing extremism, are adopting policies and attitudes more usually associated with autocracies.

The values and moral codes that have been in place for generations, some unspoken, culturally shared and absorbed, others formally enshrined in international law, are being ignored, discarded or distorted. The ‘Rules Based International Order’, so-called, is made up of a range of laws or conventions, which underpin geo-political engagement. The UN Charter, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions and UN General Assembly Resolutions among other texts.

Self-righteous, hypocritical Western politicians routinely refer to the Rule of Law or International Humanitarian Law, particularly when criticising their enemies (Russia, Iran, China, etc), not so much when they or their allies act illegally. The double standards of western governments knows no limits and is a major cause of global destabilisation.

As systems, structures and animating principles disintegrate, extremism and intolerance grows, polarities intensify, the threat of armed conflict and fragmentation expands; fear and uncertainty increases.

And while the underlying causes remain unchecked, the everyday consequences of disintegration deepen and become more pronounced: the environmental emergency, armed conflict/war, poverty/hunger, displacement of people, social alienation and economic inequality, are some of the major effects. Interconnected complex issues resulting from behaviour and attitudes flowing from The Ideology of Greed, which underpins the socio-political systems and the institutions of control; creaking outdated models that are incapable of creating solutions to the crises, no matter how much they are manipulated.

Take climate change for example, clearly the greatest challenge facing humanity. Climate change is the consequence of the fossil fuel economy and endless consumerism; overwhelmingly rich western nations consumerism. Along with the wider environmental emergency, climate change is caused by behavior flowing from a reductive view of life that prizes individual happiness above all else; happiness, which is in fact nothing more than pleasure, that can be achieved, the advocates preach, through the accumulation of things or experiences.

This deeply materialistic approach to life, which, far from bringing happiness, actually guarantees discontent, is integral to the socio-economic system. Constant consumption is demanded, and it is consumption, with its insatiable sucking in of energy (and people) and churning out of waste, that is fuelling climate change, has polluted the air, water and soil, and contributed to the creation of societies rife with unhealthy unhappy people.

Curbing climate change, reducing waste and curtailing pollution requires an economy of sufficiency not excess, as we have now. An economy, rooted in social justice and environmental responsibility. A dramatic reduction in consumption is essential – in rich nations at least, and a shift to ethical business practices. All of which is incompatible within the suffocating web of Neo-Liberalism.

If reducing climate change and saving the planet is not reason enough to change the socio-economic-political order, how about ending war?

In order for peace to be realised, social justice and freedom must prevail; this means ending all forms of exploitation and discrimination, inequality and injustice. Such sane measures are impossible within a system wedded to money, to competition and greed, and unthinkable while short-term self-interest is the driving factor behind the actions of governments, corporations and many individuals.

Peace also requires that the Military Industrial Complex and all military alliances, including Nato, be dismantled, again unimaginable within the confines of the current economic order.

As everything breaks down and frays, including the nervous systems and mental health of many people, the inadequacies of the present structures become increasingly apparent. This includes the existing forms of parliamentary democracy, which is non-representative, particularly within societies that are increasingly diverse.

If the slide into further chaos, including the possibility of a major war and complete environmental collapse is to be avoided, fundamental change is desperately needed. Both structural change and a change in values and attitudes, which will lead to changes in behaviour. Systemic changes designed with the aim of achieving universally championed principles: peace, social justice, real democracy and freedom.

People throughout the world are desperate for such changes, the men and women in power, less so. Their resistance comes from the recognition that such a shift would inevitably result in the privilege and power they currently enjoy being swept aside.

The choice before us is clear: maintain the status quo, continue along the existing path, which is narrowing to a point of greater extremism, intolerance and conflict and suffer, or unite, reject all forms of division and re-imagine society.

Humanity has faced such choices many times over long ages, has routinely made the wrong decisions and we are living with the disastrous effects. But now, at this moment in time, the consequences of our collective decisions are far reaching in a way that was not the case in the recent or distant past.

These are extremely uncertain dangerous times. Transitional times for sure, but transitioning to what, to a more extreme, dystopian version of the present, or transitional towards a more just peaceful world?

Graham Peebles is a British freelance writer and charity worker. He set up The Create Trust in 2005 and has run education projects in Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and India.  E: grahampeebles@icloud.com  W: www.grahampeebles.org