WE live in a time of economic, social and cultural change unmatched in living memory. The danger of global economic and environmental collapse only ever looked this dire in the midst of world wars. The system is holed below the waterline and interventions such as fiscal stimulus and austerity have only slowed the rate of failure while creating a far less equal society.
As London’s wealth grows to levels unparalleled in any capital city in the world, the income inequality between London and the regions that support it also grows. Inequality within the city is beginning to mirror third world-sized gaps and historical precedent points to this state of affairs being unsustainable, leading to economic collapse and unrest.
The signs are there already – our economic system has failed, it is on life support and not getting better, voters are rejecting the status quo and turning on the political elites, hence Brexit, and they are turning to mavericks and outsiders – Marcon, Trump and to lesser extent candidates such as Corybn and Sanders for old style socialism. In Scotland, new political and philosophical battle lines have also been drawn between old style negative xenophobic nationalism as defined by Better Together style unionism and EU Leave campaigners, and the positive civic and international nationalism of Scotland’s independence movement.
So I believe that we are living in a state of transition between two economic systems, between the corporation and profit centred neo-classicism that died in 2007 to become a “zombie economy” and an emerging society and people-focussed economics. Radical and positive ideas such as basic income, annual ground rent, sovereign money and interactive blockchain democracy are emerging, and a new school of economic thinking is coming to the fore.
So we should see this as an era of unprecedented opportunity: a new renaissance and awakening. Instead, many perceive a time of great uncertainty and danger, and they long for tradition and a mythical stability they feel will result from rejecting change and embracing old comfortable belief systems in a forlorn hope that it will revive their old comfortable lives. The irony is that old-style British nationalism and socialism are regressive concepts which will simply emphasise the system’s flaws and create yet more uncertainty.
Flight, fight or freeze – the cliched choices for a frightened human being, and it seems that extraordinary amount of people have chosen to freeze. Half a nation caught like rabbits in the headlights of the oncoming juggernaut of political and economic change. But why? In the UK, we have an overt culture of traditionalism which is ever present in our media, in our systems of governance, land ownership and attitudes towards taxation and welfare. It creates a force that resists all change, that holds the current nations of the current United Kingdom back. You could call it institutionalised privilege and entitlement.
I have never been a fan of the Royal Family but I used to accept the argument that they bring more tourist dollars into the country than they cost to run. I now reject such simplistic mathematics as I can now see that the institution of Royal Family is the symbolic head of the regressive British nationalistic zeitgeist which even threatens the wellbeing of its subjects.
At times of great uncertainty people yearn for past greatness, and the media promotes stories about Royalty. TV channels and film studios commission movies and programmes about Victoria and Dunkirk, remakes from the 1970s such as Poldark, and new programmes that paint the aristocracy in a noble light with no basis in historical accuracy such as Downton Abbey. Every second programme is called “The British-something”. It is propaganda that helps people to feel good about freezing rather than seizing the opportunity to fight for a better future.
The institutions of the United Kingdom seem bullet proof. They are hard wired into the brains of the population as core beliefs, the symbols of Britishness. People crying when Big Ben went silent demonstrates this classical conditioning that Pavlov’s dog would understand even if they cant. The Royal Family, the pound sterling, the myth of a benevolent empire and our system of land ownership, the pomp and ceremony of the opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayors Banquet, the Privy Council, the honours system. Every one a brick in the wall built to hold back the waves of progress. Attack any one of them and you are attacking a wide group of shared core traditional beliefs.
Alex Salmond knew that when he adopted the ‘keep the Royal family and keep the pound in your pocket’ strategy in 2014. The Union alone was his target and he got closer to hitting the bullseye than he had any right to. All land reformers, all sovereign money campaigners, basic income supporters, environmentalists, nationalists and federalists need to know that our Government, our institutions and those trapped in a conservative cultural cage of their own making will protect every brick. For if one falls, the whole system will collapse.
However, a crack has appeared. A weak point in the wall of tradition and conservatism, and its called the House of Lords. For decades its has looked outdated and corrupt with no moral justification for its existence, but now since David Cameron’s cash for honours scandal and attempt to rig democracy by stuffing it full of tory peers, the Lords is vulnerable.
One house for the plebs and one for the aristocracy, what once looked like a diplomatic compromise is now an embarrassment to democracy.
This week the Electoral reform society took aim at the Lords and exposed the fact that there is a something for nothing’ culture among peers, that 115 Lords, or one in seven, failed to speak at all in the last year despite each claiming an average of £11,091 in attendance allowances, while 18 peers failed to vote or speak but still claimed £93,162.
Calls for the House of Lords to be reformed have been ignored and now there are more and more serious voices calling for its abolishment and this is a crack in the wall. If the Lords falls, then the whole system is blown wide open, resultantly the institutions will resist reform and cause resentment of the scandalously silent peers and anti-democratic, undeserved privilege and possess to grow. Eventually something will give and change is going to come.