Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Change the Narrative, Create an Alternative Narrative, and Destroy

George Orwell's 1984 describes how a totalitarian government can manipulate people into believing the most grotesque, inhuman absurdities. It can delude people into thinking they're free, even though they're miserable and trapped in a system they can't control. It robs them of the words, the capabilities, to even understand what is wrong, to explain it to themselves.

To a great degree WE live in a totalitarian culture. We're told we live in a "free market" when, actually, we live under an economy dominated by oligarchies that control the governments, and therefore, the parameters of whatever competition there is. Canadians are told that theirs is a country that has no enemies. That we never had slavery. That we are protecting the First Nations. That we are tolerant and fair, democratic and free.

In reality, Canada has few enemies because we're not important enough. But we've created an enemy with the cocaine-fueled Crown Prince Limpdick of Saudi Arabia and from the muted response from our so-called "allies" we see we have very few friends as well. Slavery WAS practiced in pre-Confederation Canada. And we backed the pro-slavery Southern Confederacy in the US Civil War. We didn't (and don't) protect the First Nations. We exploit and abuse them. We attempted deliberate physical genocide against them (through the starvation policy of our Founding Father Sir John A Macdonald), and cultural genocide (through the residential schools) and it continues to this day with the underfunding of services; the mass incarcerations; the almost total inaction on the suicide epidemics in First Nations communities.

I could go on about our shortcomings but this isn't my main point. Just as Canadians are fed national myths; so are the British: That England was a beacon unto the world. That Winston Churchill saved Europe and perhaps civilization. The United States of America has the biggest whoppers; that they're "free" despite the fact that they have the largest proportion of their population behind bars than any other country on Earth. That they're "brave" when they attack civilians with robot drones remotely piloted from bases in Nevada. That they're anti-imperialist when they have military garrisons scattered in hundreds of bases around the planet. That they're democratic when they're blatantly dominated by a super-corrupt oligarchy.

The awesome writer Caitlin Johnstone has been writing an awful lot lately about how the oligarchy's power is based on their control of the narratives that create our worlds and that the biggest thing is to simply reject these narratives and their power will disappear.

Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. The world is better off being controlled by the collective will of the people rather than the will of a few sociopathic oligarchs, and we absolutely have the ability to take that control by force whenever we want to. All we have to do is shift value and credibility from plutocrat-generated narratives to popular collective narratives, and cultivate an aggressive disgust for all attempts by the powerful to manipulate the public dialogue
Read her if you don't already.

What she says is true though. But I think that something more is needed to more effectively destroy the power of elite narratives. And that is a counter-narrative. We need the story of the mass of humanity. We need a story that justifies the claims of the vast majority of the people who have ever lived. Furthermore, we need a coherent path to power of the many, for the many, for all.

Obviously I'm talking about my own hobby-horse: "Workers as Citizens." And, again, I fixate on this idea because to date I have heard no coherent argument against it. I'm enamored of my own idea perhaps because I'm a self-centred conceited narcissist, or perhaps because I think it makes a helluva lotta sense.

If you don't know already "Workers as Citizens" says that workers, as human beings, should enjoy human rights within their workplaces. A human being is not an object to be used and discarded. If you need to employ other human beings to make your business dream a reality you must concede that they are human beings and make them citizens of your enterprise. It is a COLLECTIVE UNDERTAKING. Especially since it is as labourers that we earn the means whereby we can physically survive. So much that is important hinges upon employment: physical survivor of the workers and their children; self-respect; physical and mental health; etc.,  that it is ludicrous that we allow ourselves to be rented and discarded by the capitalist class so easily. Especially since their power over us stems from the political creation of a landless proletariat with zero rights to anything at the dawn of the industrial era.

Think about it. In the state of nature, you take what you can get. You take what you want. If there is not enough, obviously you starve. But if you're hungry and someone has more, you take it from them. Hunter-gatherer societies were noted for their egalitarian social structures though. If you had enough, you shared it with the community. Property created inequality. Many people farmed and gave a portion to an elite who prided themselves on not having to work. (Smaller numbers of people made bricks or forged metal tools or served as soldiers and etc.,) But even in these societies most people were farmers who were entitled to farm. Western European societies came to gradually abandon domestic slavery (unlike, say, Tsarist Russia with encumbered serfs well into the late-19th Century). It was through the Enclosure Acts whereby the British Parliament took away land from the peasantry and then enacted laws making it illegal to sleep outside; to be on the highway at night; or any number of activities that impoverished people are forced into. The goal was to push these people into the towns where they would have no choice but to labour in the dangerous, inhuman factories that were beginning to arise in 18th-Century England.

This state of affairs is basically where we are today. Those of us who "own" our own homes are obligated to the banks for much of our lives. We don't own our homes and they can be taken away from us if we lack the financial resources to continue paying for their (increasingly rising) costs. The rest of us (more and more) do not own our own homes. We rent and we have no resources other than our incomes from work. We have nothing without work other than uncertain public unemployment insurance programs and meager general welfare assistance. And it is pretty clear that the capitalist class would like to eliminate these "labour market distortions" because of the "rigidities" they create. (And, sadly, most workers, especially low-income ones, would also be happy to see the safety net go, as they imagine that they are working to support those who will not.)

The counter-narrative of "Workers as Citizens" doesn't involve defending the welfare state. (That will happen organically.) It involves elevating the humanity of those who work. Furthermore, it uses the rhetoric of those it opposes against them. It does not advocate a revolutionary upheaval that those in power would be entirely justified in resisting. It does not advocate collectivism over individualism. Every individual worker must be given their human rights because every individual is equal. "Workers as Citizens" incorporates the whole liberal notion of rights and equality and freedom and pushes them to their logical conclusion.

It does not ask of people to imagine a radically different society with different decision-making bodies and new laws and new powers (such as expropriation, or "proletarian dictatorship"). All it does is it asks people to take the world as it is and imagine themselves as free, autonomous individuals with rights within their workplaces. And where do they get this power? Not through the physical takeover of their workplace. But through the passage of legislation. Just like stephen harper's C-51 took away our Charter Rights n' Freedoms, the passage of "Workers as Citizens" takes away the dictatorial powers of capitalist employers over their work forces.

Because, let's face it: The bulk of people don't follow politics too closely. They don't think about the structures they work within. (They simply adapt to them.) Decent liberals will talk about a Tobin Tax or the relative merits of a Carbon Tax versus Cap & Trade while your average shmuck is wondering what sporting event is being televised this evening. When they think about politics it's to self-righteously slam all politicians as "the same" (which is to say liars and thieves) who are giving their money to crack-whores on welfare and bullshit "refugees" who are actually Islamic terrorists or Latino gang-bangers. These people aren't going to read a whole electoral platform. I don't even read those things. Here in Ontario in 2018, Doug "drug-dealer" Ford won an election without even having one. People vote with their gut. And guess what people? To win, we need more people on our side. This HAS to include people that we might call "deplorable." And you're not going to appeal to them with arguments about social justice for other people. You have to appeal to their own self-interest.

After this legislation has been implemented; imagine what flows from there! You could still have imbecile financial sector parasites buying up the stocks of a company and becoming the new owners, but when it comes to laying-off thousands of workers to pay for the debt incurred to buy the stock? Nothing doing. The workers have a vote and, obviously, they tell the parasites to find the money some other way. Is the company in trouble? Just like the government budget, the workers in a workplace have the right to see the company's budget. If there really is a crisis, everyone decides where the cuts are made. New environmental regulations to protect the planet? The management says "fuck that" and proposes closing-up and moving to some impoverished country where there are no regulations. The workers reject this and the company stays.

Say there's a nice hippy guy or girl with all sorts of flower-power ideas about what the factory could be producing instead of useless consumerist junk. Also, they have ideas about reducing waste. Presently, nobody listens to them because it's all a waste of time anyway. But say they have the right to speak freely? And say that there are other workers who have no vested interest in the status-quo. The hippy could get a hearing. "Why don't we do this?" At the very least, people will be exposed to new ideas with the understanding that they could actually make these things come to pass if they so desired.

I could go on, but I want to get to the third section of this post. "Destroy." Obviously much would be destroyed by "Workers as Citizens." Much that NEEDS to be destroyed. The power of the capitalist class would be irreparably broken. The fortunes of the top 10% would inevitably be greatly diminished. The whole apparatus of propaganda, surveillance, inequality, racism and incarceration would be undercut. And the elites would know this. They would have difficulty arguing against a parliamentary implementation of a law elevating the human rights of workers within their workplaces. But they would try. They would distort. They would divert. They would attack the integrity of its advocates. They would promise catastrophe if it were implemented. And, obviously, they would physically attack those advocates.

This is all explained in a brilliant post from the wonderful Ian Welsh: "The Creation of New Worlds Imagined Through Myths"

New worlds, new realities, can only be born in the destruction of the old world.
Because that destruction often entails much suffering and death, often we put off the creation of the new until the old is completely untenable. But by doing so we usually make the transition much worse than it would have been otherwise.
Capitalism needs to end. It needs to end because it has failed the climate change problem: it didn’t deal with a problem so catastrophic it will forseeably kill a billion or more people and which might end in human extinction. Capitalism knew this was likely to happen, capitalism didn’t just not deal with it, but capitalist institutions fought (and are still fighting) to conceal that it would happen and against doing anything.

To create a new world we will inevitably have to destroy elements of the old one. But we like to pretend that things can be done peaceful and easy. You know, I'm sure that Justin Trudeau is not that bad a fellow. And when talk was cheap, before he got power, he could speak sincerely with David Suzuki about the need to seriously fight climate change. Once he got power though, he knew (as he'd tried to put off thinking about before) that it would be impossible to do this without stepping on the toes of Big Oil. Of the USA and China. Of Bay Street. Of the whole denialist economic system. So, like so many of us in difficult situations, he put his head down, mouthed banalities and hoped nobody would get too mad at him. He knew he had nothing he could say to justify his inaction to Suzuki, so he simply stopped talking to him and hoped he'd go away. (Along with the reality of Climate Change.)

Are we any different? I don't think so. We know that on the one hand, we are ruled by amoral, greedy, psychopathic monsters. But what do we do? We continue to participate in bullshit elections with bullshit election platforms that our bullshit parties have no intentions of seriously pursuing. Between elections, we have tiny gatherings of the converted to "demand" things when we have absolutely no intentions of backing up with negative consequences should our "demands" not be met. We believe we can petition our monstrous psychopathic overlords to act against their own self-interest simply because we have facts and morality on our side.

Revolutions are not created by reasonable people acting reasonably. But nor are they won by deluded people acting irrationally. So let's dismiss the anti-Parliamentary radicals right here, right now: Do you have a massive revolutionary movement behind you? Yes or no? You do not. Why not? WHY NOT??? What have you been doing to try to rectify this? Do you have a strategy for taking power away from the present elites outside of the official political process? You do not. Do you believe that dressing in black once in awhile at public events and breaking some windows will bring the capitalist system to its knees? It will not.

One thing that is definitely needed is the destruction of the comforting delusions of super-radicals that their isolated actions and their total lack of strategy will somehow, someday, lead to everything falling into their laps.

Another thing that needs destroying are the mewling fantasies that a social-democratic system can be implemented without addressing the relative power imbalances that exist between progressive and regressive (capitalist-authoritarian) forces.

What could is the truth if anyone who speaks it is assaulted, physically smashed, and incarcerated?

The birth of the new world, however necessary, will have to be a seriously fought one and it will require pain. Let's hope it's the pain of the Dick Cheney's and the Stephen Harpers and the torturers and the militarists and the oligarchy in general. And not ours.

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