Posted: 07 Jun 2017 10:09 PM PDT
This election could transform our captured, corrupted nation. The outcome, as ever, belongs to those who turn up
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 7th June 2017
How they mocked. My claim, in a Guardian video a month ago, that Labour could turn this election around, was received with hilarity. “Fantasy Island”, “pure pie in the sky”, “delusional”, “magical thinking”, “grow up” were among the gentler comments. The election campaign, almost everyone agreed, would be a victory lap for the Conservatives. The only question was whether Theresa May would gain a massive majority or a spectacular one. Now the braying voices falter.
Could it really happen? No prediction, in these volatile times, should carry much weight. But this we can say: a Labour win is no longer an impossible dream. It is certainly a dream, for those of us who have been waiting, longer than my adult life, for a government beholden only to the people, rather than to the City or the owners of the newspapers. But it is now a plausible one.
And why not? On policy after policy, the Labour manifesto accords with what people say they want. It offers a strong and stable National Health Service, in which privatisation is reversed, clinical budgets rise and staff are properly paid. It promises more investment in schools, smaller class sizes and an end to the stifling micromanagement driving teachers out of the profession. It will restore free education at universities. It will ensure that railways, water, energy and the postal service are owned for the benefit of everyone, rather than only the bosses and shareholders. It will smoke out tax avoidance and bring the banks under control.
While Theresa May will use Brexit as a wrecking ball, to be swung at the workers’ rights, environmental laws and other regulations the Conservative party has long wanted to destroy, Labour has promised to enhance these public protections. It will ban zero hour contracts, prevent companies from forcing their staff into bogus self-employment and give all workers, whether temporary or permanent, equal rights. The unemployed will be treated with respect; both carers and people with disabilities will be properly supported. Those who need homes will find them, and tenants will be protected from the new generation of rack-renting slumlords. Who, apart from the richest beneficiaries of the current regime, would not wish to live in such a nation?
The great impediment was supposed to be Jeremy Corbyn. It is true that he failed to shine in opposition, missing golden opportunities to expose the government and contest its policies. For those of us who were willing him to take the battle to the government, these shortcomings were intensely frustrating.
But how different he has looked since Labour did what it should have done 18 months ago: propose a coherent political programme of its own. Despite so many years of protest, his greatest strength lies in proposition, rather than in opposition: his gentle style is better suited to explaining his own vision than to contesting his opponent’s. The more exposure he receives, the better he looks, while the cameras expose Theresa May as charmless, cheerless and, above all, frit.
She won’t stand up to anyone who wields power. She will say nothing against Trump, even when he pedals blatant falsehoods in the wake of terrorist attacks in this nation, exploiting our grief to support his disgusting prejudices; even when he pulls out of the global agreement on climate change. She is even more sycophantic towards this revolting man than Tony Blair was to George W Bush. She won’t confront Saudi Arabia over terrorism, over Yemen, or over anything else. Far from it: both as home secretary and as prime minister she appears to have suppressed a report into the foreign funding of jihadi groups in the UK, which is said to focus on the role of the kingdom. When there’s a conflict between our security and selling weapons to a despotic regime, brutality wins.
She won’t stand up to the polluters lavishly funding the Conservative party, whose role explains both her weakness on climate change and her miserable failure to address our air pollution crisis. She won’t stand up to the fanatics in her party calling for the hardest of possible Brexits. She won’t stand up on television to debate these policies because she knows that the more we see, the less we like. The party machine’s attempt to build a personality cult around her fell at an obvious hurdle: first you need a personality.
Who, in this fissile age, would wish for a prime minister with no discernible convictions, no perceivable moral core? Who, when we need courage in government more than at any time in the recent past, wants a prime minister who rolls over to everyone from the Daily Mail to King Salman al-Saud? Who, as we face negotiations with the European Union that will determine the future of this nation – negotiations that demand the utmost delicacy and care – wants a government peopled with buffoons, blusterers and bullies?
For many years, political enthusiasm in the UK has been snuffed out by a joyless, lifeless managerialism, practised by both the Conservatives and Labour. Its purpose was to reconcile a semblance of democracy with the demands of banks, corporations, US power and the offshored rich. The greed and intolerance of the press barons and their fellow tax exiles weighed more heavily with government than either political principles or the aspirations of the powerless.
There were real differences between the parties, but these narrowed as Labour embraced the neoliberalism of its opponents. The major parties became ever less willing to change social outcomes. As hope was stifled, turnout in elections plummeted. But this week the point of voting is undeniable. The choice with which you are faced on Thursday carries more weight and meaning than it has done for decades.
By the time I walk out of the polling booth, I will have voted for four parties in ten years: the Greens, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and, at last, Labour. In every case, I have sought an escape from the unelected powers that govern this nation. Until now, I have voted with resignation, sometimes edging into despair. This week, for the first time in my life, I will vote in hope.
The election now hangs on whether the young people who claim that they will vote Labour are prepared to act on this intention. We know that elderly Conservative voters will make good their promise: they always do. Will the young electors who will lose most from another five years of unresponsive government walk a couple of hundred metres to their polling stations? Or will they let this unprecedented chance to change the nation slip through their fingers? The world belongs to those who turn up.
Those dreams we have entertained for so long: on Thursday we can realise them. Those visions of a better life that seemed impossible a month ago: they now depend on turnout and turnout alone. That unfamiliar, tingling sensation that’s been troubling you of late? It’s called hope. Don’t let them take it away from you.
So much between remains unsaid.
So much space between heart and head.
And you say: Is this life? And I say: Is it?
The way we dreamed it would always be?
And each wonders: Can you ever, and will you?
And can you ever and might you?
Just once, even in a moon that’s blue,
touch the fear in me with the fear in you?
DONALD TRUMP AND BREXIT…WHY?
I have read the reactions to Trump’s Presidential Inauguration address with some degree of amazement. It is not so much the hubris and arrogance and narcissism that Trump displays, or his Inaugural Address which was also extraordinary with its ‘America First’ demagoguery and blatant nationalism.
I should suppose that hubris and narcissism are not uncommon traits among politicians. No, what is unusual here is that not only are they not hidden beneath a mask of goodwill to all men and women but they are displayed and celebrated as qualities that effective leaders require. This is both the reason we softie liberals look on in horror and the reason he attracts the voters who place great store on plain speaking, on God and Country, and on them damn elitist metropolitans with their global conspiracies.
But what has amazed and discombobulated me somewhat more has been the ferocity and plain viciousness of the responses from a supposedly liberal intelligentsia. What is coming to be known as the alt-left and particularly, women.
The extraordinary cruelty with which Trump is attacked from the feminist alt-left consists of continual reference to his physical presentation, to attacks on his sexual potency (remember all the fuss about those small hands?) To his wife’s looks with smirking reference to her unfeasibly perfect breasts. To his supposed idiocy and buffoonery and his hair. To allegations (completely unproven to date) that he is a user of prostitutes and in the pockets of Putin. Rumour gathered by some freelance spy with a dodgy dossier presented as fact. That he is a liar and deal-breaker. Even the revered Gloria Steinem in a Guardian article referred to the jelly that emerges when Trump opens his jacket. Extraordinarily rude crude and meaningless and I imagine the howls of protest from all these liberal feminists if a woman was to be defined purely on the grounds of her physical appearance. Is it not that very thing that we have all been fighting for these last thirty years? That we are judged equally upon our capacities and talents and not, like a tribe of hapless baboons focusing on our breasts and penises and bank accounts and inspecting each other’s bottoms for fleas?
The other astonishing thing about Trump’s ‘America First’ diatribe is how remarkably it misses all the chronic issues that face us now and in the not too distant future.
These can be ascribed to three external impending disasters and three internal ones. The external pressures are-Global warming and resulting climate change, chronic and mostly permanent geo-political instability, and rampant technological innovation completely outstripping humanity’s ability to integrate and adapt to it.
The three internal crises are the chronic un-freedom of children due to fears for their safety, the internal alienation sweeping the western world with huge levels of mental health problems and the growing sense of and actuality of massive levels of inequality and the birth of a hugely enriched global elite with a sense of gross entitlement that matches their ludicrous levels of wealth.
Add to this the death throes of the three major Sky-God religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and we have an explosive mix which bodes ill indeed for future generations and the survival of the non-human world.
None of this was addressed in Trump’s speech. Indeed, it headlined a commitment to exacerbate the very crises that face humanity. It was aggressive, parochial, ignorant and stupid. It celebrated paranoia, greed, suspicion, racism, militarism and the continued exploitation and rape of the world’s resources. Imagine if instead of America First it had been called Earth First?
Let’s take these apocalyptic horsemen one at a time: It is now evident that two degree warming is irreversible. It may have been possible, if we had created a global movement to save the planet and transfer from fossil fuel dependence in the seventies, that about now we would have left the oil and gas in the ground and be largely solar, hydro, wind and nuclear in terms of meeting our energy needs. That is now a dream. Not only is every scientific community on the planet absolutely united about the coming warming but the climatic impact is unknown in terms of the complexity of the global weather systems that are held in a quite beautiful and sustaining balance of complex interrelated parts. These impacts will be shocking and will hit the most vulnerable initially. But what is most astounding about Trump’s America First speech is that not only is there no reference to this impending catastrophe but there is a commitment to drill for more oil, more gas, more fracking wherever and whenever it is to be found. A two degree rise appears even preferable to what is now coming down the road. A four degree rise? Six? A four metre rise in seal levels? Twelve? It has been a preventable catastrophe that future generations will look back on in dumbfounded stupefaction, should they survive to look.
Trump has assembled a cabal of oil, gas, big pharma and big agro and military interests that beggars belief. A group of right wing ideologues funded by billionaires and secretive think tanks and global banking interests will now be running the biggest economy in the world. It is the supreme irony that it is the sense of being left behind and forgotten that permeates the American working class in their rustbelt that has put this corporate global elite in charge of the American machine.
Geo-political instability sounds punchy but it is in fact like a creeping disease. The Calais jungle, mass immigration, Syria, Isis, the middle eastern time bomb, the Russian expansion west, China, the massive corruption that infects much of Africa and Asia. The impending fracturing of the European Union, people smuggling and trafficking, sexual slavery. And atop it all sits a heartless organised criminality that feeds off the poor and the dispossessed like a vampire. The impact of this on children is almost too unspeakable to contemplate.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a result of terror. Of the terror of men, women and children slaughtered in their beds, hospitals, in their markets and schools and at prayer, deliberately targeted with hideous weapons such as barrel bombs and chlorine. Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin have brought back atrocity with a vengeance. Isis has brought back a medieval barbarity to the battlefield and proven an attractive death cult for young muslim men as well as a hideously effective fighting force on the battlefield feeding on rape, murder and dreams of paradise in the arms of virgins.
None of this is going to change with America First, in fact it’s all going to get a lot worse. Terror works well for autocrats and ideologues. It works well for the Trumpist cabal. It works well for the Putinistas.
To be continued:
A good lie ain’t easy by Nico Lee Reviewed by Tony Dougan Mega Dodo Publishing 2016 Available March 2017 from Amazon and other 'real' bookshops
Full disclosure. Nico emailed me after reading my book reviews on Amazon and my blog- heartofbalance.blogspot.com
As a non-professional writer and poet who has been writing all my life I am terribly needy for validation and recognition. Add to this mix the querulous vanity of the artist and the chronic empathy needed to create and you have a spaniel with a pen wagging his stupid tale at the slightest tickle behind the ear. So of course I agreed to write an independent review of Nico’s novel and only later was I once again reminded of the sheer bloody hard work that reviewing entails. Of the necessity of the utmost care. Three readings and a score of meditations later here is the review.
READING 1: Oh my God! Oh my God! OMG!
I am so courteous to exclamation marks I always open the door for them and doff my cap to any question mark I come across and flatteringly compliment its graceful art of balancing on the single ball while issuing an interrogation. Nico Lee has no such respect. He herds vast regiments of exclamations without cease. He summons legions of question marks to roll off the end of the sentence like lemmings. He uses trios of full stops everywhere. The grammar is beaten, thrashed, humiliated and genetically modified into strange hybrids.
The non-sequiturs head off into the sunset on a train of three dots…
What is this book about? A road trip ostensibly but a road trip possibly across the highways of the author’s subconscious?
Reading this book has been like spending relentless hours with a mildly autistic, overly well-read teenager who is hanging’ with his homies who have all misplaced their ritalin.
It’s like H.P Lovecraft sired a child with Jack Kerouac and then found Ezra Pound and William Burroughs had swapped it for their baby at the Maternity Unit in downtown Providence. The brood mare-the surrogate mother-being Poppy Z Brite with a sperm donation from Thomas Ligotti-(or did Poppy seduce him following a literary conference in Lallaland, Mississippi, mistaking the bookish horror jock for a promising serial killer?)
Who are these three brothers and a mysterious English girl hurtling from town to one stop town across a highway to nowhere? They are Boyd, William and I. And the girl is Sarah:
‘She laughs, sashays to the bathroom on chubby calves.
“I’m gonna take a shower now honey, y’all wanna join me?”
I follow, too tired to argue.’ WTF?
There follows a poetic discourse on burlesque involving a cross dressing John Steed from ’The Avengers’ then, fifty lines later:
‘When we get out of the shower Sarah puts on the glasses that make her look like a tougher Johnny Depp but still…nothing much, nothing much.’
It means the anatomy of burlesque involving John Steed in a corset took place in the shower!
I am a discombobulated reader.
There follows a series of discourses on film, politics and literature. One example:
‘I’ve only started to use the word ‘presidential’ as an adjective to describe my penis since Obama got in.’
And in conclusion: ‘…I bet George W. had a small cock, especially for a Texan.’
A rumination on Moby Dick is followed by: ‘When I first read Conan-Doyle (there is no hyphen in the name) I conflated the falls with the Rickenbacker guitar. Images of Moriarty falling to his death double-tapping the flight of the bumble bee.’ This is genuinely funny in a neurotic way and the book is full of such ‘comedic’ moments.
Then on page 67 Sarah drops a bombshell:
‘I…I think I might be pregnant…’
I read to the end like a dutiful digger of holes and start my review questioning the very premise of the book. My review begins:
‘The narrative mania rolls like an express train of punch-drunk narration that negates both plot and descriptive nuance. Who are these characters but ghosts that hurtle out of the author’s pen onto the page as barely disguised simulacrum-neuroses opportunities for the authors divagations?’
And most embarrassingly of all: ‘Where is the intellectual glue that binds sentence to thought? Where is the dialectic in the work that must drive STORY?’ OMG!
I hate writing critically negative reviews, because I know the care and hope and intelligence that goes into making a work of art. So I decide to sit with it for a while and read it again. For some reason the book has unsettled me and sits like a worm in my mind. Like a cracked mirror it is facing me with my own, earlier acknowledged, servile relationship to language. Why can’t I, like Nico Lee, kick it against a wall till it breaks? Why can’t I pull it into unlikely shapes until it screams? Don’t all the great makers torture their material until it submits to their will? Isn’t this how it becomes true?
And the kicker: Why can’t I be this original?
So that’s it. I eventually realise that this is a great little book! The divagation’s of the writer ARE the point. They are relentlessly sad and funny little sonnets and this is as much a work of poetry as prose weaving little descriptive dramas around a barely seen core of confused gender and sexuality, the fear of parenthood and settlement, death and loss and the growing sense of alienation in the post-modern world. The meme of Evil Knievel’s great and crazy Canyon leap. Get this:
‘Reading. Reading Raymond Chandler. Reading Marcel Proust. And Gertrude Stein. Reading Chandler, Stein and Proust. Will probably. Not definitely. But certainly probably. Reading them together, en masse. As a block. As a Bloch? Proust joke, unnecessary? (Yes).
I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Reading. Reading in Sarah’s beloved old British Library. Or on a train, or in a hotel. Reading. Reading Proust. Reading Chandler. Reading Stein. Reading Chandler, and Stein, and Proust. Reading them all at once. Would probably. I say probably. Probably only. Probably only but here’s the confirmation. Reading all three. Reading Chandler and Stein and Proust. Would probably make you think in very long paragraphs, full of short repetitive sentences.’ Brilliant!
Reader! Read it! I urge you!
Dirty industries spend more on politics, keeping us in the fossil age.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th January 2017
Make America Wait Again. That’s what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.
Trump is the president corporate Luddites have dreamt of; the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone.
Recent research suggests that – if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement on climate change is not taken – ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of seawater, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.
The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.
These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.
In their careers so far, they have championed the fossil fuel industry while contesting the measures intended to prevent climate breakdown. They appear to have considered the need of a few exceedingly rich people to protect their foolish investments for a few more years, weighed it against the benign climatic conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish, and decided that the foolish investments are more important.
By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart; he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500 billion deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Mr Putin.
The deal was stopped under the sanctions the US imposed when Russia invaded Ukraine. The probability of these sanctions in their current form surviving a Trump government is, to the nearest decimal place, a snowball’s chance in hell. If Russia did interfere in the US election, it will be handsomely rewarded when the deal goes ahead.
Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.
The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Trump’s appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
It was once possible to argue, rightly or wrongly, that the human benefits of developing fossil fuel reserves might outweigh the harm. But a combination of more refined climate science, that now presents the risks in stark terms, and the plummeting costs of clean technologies renders this argument as obsolete as a coal-fired power station.
As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13 million jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It’s not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it’s also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.
Understandably, commentators have been seeking glimpses of light in Trump’s position. But there are none. He couldn’t have made it clearer, through his public statements, the Republican platform and his appointments, that he intends to the greatest extent possible to shut down funding for both climate science and clean energy, rip up the Paris agreement, sustain fossil fuel subsidies and annul the laws that protect people and the rest of the living world from the impacts of dirty energy.
His candidacy was represented as an insurgency, challenging established power. But his position on climate change reveals what should have been obvious from the beginning: he and his team represent the incumbents, fighting off insurgent technologies and political challenges to moribund business models. They will hold back the tide of change for as long as they can. And then the barrier will burst.