Editor’s Comment

The mind blowing array of factors that lie behind how, when and where we are born, are as vast as they are mysterious and in the world we live in have a huge impetus on the lives we go on to live. Capitalism makes this the most important decision we never make and enables the creation of both the Prince and the Pauper.

This culmination of chance, circumstance and luck has found all of us at rather an exciting and terrifying point in history. To continue on as we have, without pausing to think over the effects our actions are having on ourselves, our environment and our fellow man offers no reward other than despair. Laying out the already evident inequalities of Capitalism may seem an exercise repetitive in nature, however the need to highlight the disgusting disparities that occur around are planet is evident from the lack of action taken to balance this. That the richest 20% of the world holds ¾ of income while the poorest 20% receive just 1.5%, displays the severity of human inequality. A child born inZambiain 2008 has a lower chance seeing 30 than if born into 1840’s Britain. This is by no means a contemporary phenomenon, brought about by an economic meltdown in which everyone suffers. Indeed the pains of Capitalism are nothing new to a large proportion of the globe, so why does now represent a pivotal moment?

Many would and are suggesting that much of the kickback against Capitalism occurring around the developed world at the moment is more of a response to the austerity measures being implemented by Governments in an attempt to get a grip on their finances. However I would go further and suggest that we currently lie at a crossroads, one route holds devastation and despair, the other a possible continuation of socio-economic human development with a higher incorporation of morality into everyday action. However dramatic and devastating a prediction this may be, it does not necessarily come from an anti-capitalist position. Indeed it is entirely possible that Capitalism has the ability to guide society down the route of continued prosperity and heightened morality, just as it could take humanity to the brink of destruction. It could require a complete upheaval in how we govern ourselves economically, and in which case the ‘left’ perhaps needs to start to address the lack of a real alternative to Capitalism. What is clear though is the need to do something; to allow things to play out as they are would be the continuation of genocide through inaction. To look at the wider picture, does awareness of inequality, destruction and abuse of man and environment at the hands of our contemporaries put some of the blame at our door? If the history books open and charge the Capitalism of our time with genocide of neglect, then will it also judge the millions who knew and did nothing? Their guilt hidden in the millions of co-conspirators in non-action. Many of those now reacting against current economic management are only doing so because it is for the first time affecting them negatively, while for decades it has done for much of the globe. It would appear that Capitalism’s pains are being felt in high enough quantities, outside of its allocated areas of inequality, to restart the anti-capitalist debate.

The riots which took place across the country this summer are perhaps a sign of this, indeed the current Occupy movement claiming to cover 951 cities in 82 countries certainly is. The Guardian ran this week a fascinating piece which showed the demographics of the rioters by no means supports the Governments assertions that it was all gang related. In fact of those arrested 13% were revealed to be gang related and the only clear majority was of those from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Much like the overzealous student protesters, those occupying spaces around the world and many other groups and gatherings, it could be suggested that the riots were a reaction to a system gone wrong, one that no longer satisfies the needs of many (needs perhaps it itself instilled). As odd as it may seem placed here, a section of Hunter S Thompsons book Hell’s Angels (on the motorcycle gang most notable in 1960’s American sub-culture) can, reworded, fit for a possible description of many of the groups above mentioned and indeed many others besides.

In a world increasingly geared to specialists, technicians and fantastically complicated machinery, the Hell’s Angels are obvious losers, and it bugs them. But instead of submitting quietly to their collective fate, they have made it the basis of a full time social vendetta. They don’t expect to win anything, but on the other hand they have nothing to lose”

With a closing sentiment plucked almost straight from the final sentence of Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto, this extract speaks as much of the tensions in society then as it does of today. It describes citizens for whom society no longer has a place, at least not without at best conformity, and at worst the submission of will. I’m not suggesting similarities in action between Occupy and the Hell’s Angels or between the rioters and student protesters, merely the isolation society places them in through removing the area in which they have grown up expecting to be there for them. Be it university, work or simply the ability to own property once promised, is folly to fail in delivery and to do so invites only isolation and discontent.

Which leads me on to another aspect of Capitalism which has long fascinated me, the lack of an opt out. In the modern ‘developed’ world, to abandon Capitalism as an individual is to abandon oneself to devastation. Those who do, face a constant battle both with money and the authorities over their refusal to conform and be counted. To look at the plight of travellers or squatters is evidence enough of this need for a re-evaluation of how we approach those who for whatever reason wish not to participate in society to the degree the Government requires. One has to question if not the morals then at least the sensibility in spending £2 million on the forced eviction and homelessness of 86 families in a time of supposed austerity. The same goes for squatting, I took a journey down to the Ok Cafe this week and saw some of the brilliant and exciting events occurring there. Having run for several years Ok Cafe is a collective, if you will, of squatters and likeminded people currently located in Fallowfield. They put on daily free activities and seminars on everything from cider making to direct action and offer a free meal to go alongside.  Yet they face the constant threat of reprisals from the authorities, coupled the possibility that legislation could come into force making it illegal now that Justice Minister Ken Clarke has vowed to end the days of ‘squatters rights’. Whether in agreement with the politics and people of groups such as travellers and squatters it is clear that what little of an ‘opt-out’ to Capitalism there was is being steadily eroded.

I don’t profess to have an answer to all Capitalisms ills and at the moment I would hesitate to go so far as to suggest that we have to do away with it in its entirety. However something has to give, there are far too many inescapable issues demanding instant answer and action for things to continue as they are. The environment, population levels, food shortages, economic inequality and state hostilities have all progressed to such a point that to ignore them would be at the peril of all. Yet little is being done at government or international level, hence the importance of individual and non-governmental action. At its best it makes the issue so inescapable that action is taken and at its worst it displays that there is someone that cares. Governments are unlikely to undertake the steps needed without a huge prompt from the societies they profess to represent; the action needed requires too large a sacrifice for them. Indeed many of the possible solutions require sacrifice from many of us, to address the issue of global warming it is almost certain that we will have to change the way we lead our everyday lives. Most of the great consumer products we’ve come to idolise and rely on in turn rely on the cheap and exploitative labour argued against in this article. Any real change to balance out global inequalities could see the disappearance, perhaps permanently, of these sorts of goods and the quality of life we come to expect. To this I can only provide a fantastic quote from the fiery Bernadette Devlin ‘To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else’. There may come a point, perhaps not in our lifetimes, where as a global society we will have to make such a choice. The UN’s recent release of its projection of future population figures makes this seem all the more a reality. That there will be an extra 8 billion of us walking the earth by 2100 shows the magnitude of the problem future generations face if sustainability is not addressed. Not only do we struggle to feed and provide basic standards of living to everyone at the moment, we flat out fail, someone dies every second because of the lack of these basics. So although I stop at the point of calling on you to burn your worldly possessions and turning yourself over to the warm embrace of a socialism not yet conceived, I do say this; make peace, love and socialise! Worry less of your future employability and more on the plight of the person next to you, the person at the end of the production line that brought you whatever it is you have in your hand or pocket. Vote not just at the ballot box, but every day and everywhere, with your wallet when purchasing a product not produced in misery and on the streets when saying no to injustice no matter how slight. Worry not what you’re unable to change and focus on what you can, even if it goes no further than yourself. Then who knows before we know it, change can have been instilled that was before unimagined in its enormity and effect.

Written by: James Jarvis


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