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  • Writer's pictureJack Martindale

Licensed Lunacy

The instability raging across the globe is under COVID-19 inevitable. The direction politics in the UK and USA is inexcusable. A fierce tide of individualism entrenched through the encouragement of a selfish obsession with the onus of responsibility being thrust upon us with a cruelty in celebrating the endeavors of the rich whilst ignoring how this system so fuels the ever increasing plight of the poor.

Priorities are then the integral thing that I hope this evil pandemic shall force us all to reassess and awaken from the blindness or selective vision that our politics has been conducted across the recent past.

There existed some sort of progressive attitude that transcended across the Atlantic. Think of the UK’s post-war consensus witnessing the birth of an encompassing welfare state and the racial equality legislation that swept through the USA. Rights of so many movements were born that we now so take for granted; abortion, homosexuality, gender equality etc. etc. etc. Of course there always existed a wealth of cracks beneath the surface. Inequalities still blatantly continued and underlying tensions ever infused society. Although at least there was a society and one in which it seemed that there was an entitlement of flexibility with the ability to be owed some sort of guarantee that you could to an extent have your cake and eat it in cooperating with the system.

Houses were more widely accessible and the job market was more meritocratic in terms of how there was a lesser degree of correlation between the wealth that you were born into and your financial success in adulthood. Then along came Thatcher and Reagan with a neoliberal vision that was not only incongruous with much of the vision of their political parties (‘One Nation Conservatives’ and Republicans who prioritised freedom) that marketed everything in sight. As much as I could harp on about this forever, it’ll guarantee boredom to most readers of this, so I just park this point in stressing how their legacy is entrenched so fundamentally in the way that society has operated since this time and through the minds of all who have been born since. I could not summon a duo to have ever had this much poisonous influence.

Before, citizens of the UK and USA seemed to have a better and clearer relationship with their democratic systems. Without wanting to glamorize the past – it wasn’t so rosy and there were always many exceptions with people that felt alienated and did not want to engage with the democratic system – voting affiliations were far more clearly understood. If you wished for a more liberal society with better protection for workers you voted for the Labour Party in the UK and for the Democrat Party in the USA. Whereas if you favored the rights of the status quo and owners of capital you voted for the Conservative Party in the UK and Republican Party in the USA. There are far more complex cultural elements to this sweeping generalization in both nations, but that is the simplest explanation that I could begin to offer.

Senseless voting in light of this has always existed. I mean, the ‘floating voter’s’ have always been the minority that shape electoral outcomes, yet I’ve always struggled to understand. Once upon a time I may have just resigned them as just being incredibly self-interested and voting purely in accordance to what they see as the most beneficial outcome of an election to themselves. Whilst I may not have successfully rid myself entirely of this preconception, I see that in fairness, they may just be without any ideological vision and vote in accordance to what they believe would benefit the most people at the time of casting their vote. Always taking an interest in politics, this can’t help but appear short-sighted and I don’t know if I envy or pity people not able to see every element life having political undertones.

Reeling in from this side, in recent years there has been such an absence of affiliation between the affluence of an area and who the residents of it vote in our flawed First Past the Post (FPTP) voting systems. What I find most disturbing is how political representation elected now seems to be brazen in neglecting the interests of the constituents it serves. The Left vote has traditionally always been centered on urban centres i.e. the regions with the highest concentration of people and dependence on industry on both sides of the Atlantic. This fact may remain true in metropolises such as London and New York City, but it is not in many working class areas where the workforce is not largely engaged in performing tertiary (office work) vocations.

The fact is that many of the manufacturing and labouring jobs have dried up and become redundant. What’s disgraceful is that there has not been any efforts made to ensure a replacement for these professions to harmonise society to a greater extent. Manual work may often have been risky and intensive, but it could have been comparatively well paid and respected. As testament to the increasingly ever consumer societies that we’ve now become, in giving the example that Owen Jones offers in Chavs: a demonization of the working class, shop-floor work represents the replacement for the old factory. Like in other essential jobs such as care work, it is appallingly paid. All this represents is how failing our society has become at offering a guarantee of reward to its citizens for contributing towards it functioning well.

What antagonises me no end is how the uselessness of the UK and USA’s political systems in healing our wounds over the past has just propagated the extreme right-wing to be in the powerful position that they are now. Learning from the past has never been a politician’s forte.

I can already hear argument that money is power and that the media is all owned by right-wing corporations coming from branches of the left. “Well of course it is!” is all that I could offer as a response. Yet I do not think that this excuses the losses of the Democrats in 2016 and the Labour Party in 2019. The politics UK and USA are incomparable to a large extent, but I saw a wealth of common themes in their two most recent national elections.

Again, I could talk about the failings of the Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn forever and although I know far less about Hilary Clinton to explore that argument, it seems blindingly obvious in their losses that they were just the wrong people chosen to be representing their fight. The UK’s battle is the only one that I’d feel able enough to dissect at any level and it frustrates me no end to be accused of being to the ‘right’ of the Labour Party for not backing Corbyn as leader. I campaigned for the election for him and the reason that any sane Labour Supporter knew that he was going to lose is not because of his policies. It wasn’t due to their being too radical. It was down to the fact that the extent of Corbyn’s metropolitan middle-class charisma did not resonate with the people that they were designed to benefit. Sad, but it’s true. Great campaigner I’m sure, but wrong man for the job. I do not understand how the brains of people who thought that Corbyn’s lack of being focused on image provided something refreshing to politics. To me their mind sets seem to suit saying such things that I’m unable to understand such as an equivalent of “the winner of races should not need to be decided in terms who crosses the finishing line first”! Give me strength…

Corbyn and Clinton may not share much in common beyond not being the right people to be in the position that they were in and oh, how this shows. Both the Labour Party and the Democrats have lost their industrial heartlands in that the working classes have been so alienated, as exemplified through the Conservatives now representing places such as Durham whilst the republicans have broken through into Michigan. This is shocking as manufacturing heartlands are feeling as though they have lost their traditional voice and therefore allegiance.

Brexit (which let’s face it, was the topic that the U.K.’s most recent general election was fought around) and Trump’s victory have been won in terms of the working class feeling side-lined and without anybody standing up for them. The dismal states of the political systems on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s interesting that both the U.K. and USA are both a global laughing-stock due to their leaders and delayed response to COVID-19. It was only during the last decade that the debt for wartime rebuilding that the UK owed to the USA was repaid and we could be completely free of their influence. The trajectory that we are following with what can be regarded as ‘the richest third world country’ [USA] is mind boggling.

I’m not a religious man, but I’d like to in my atheist’s equivalent to a prayer, call on our society’s to acknowledge the need for infrastructure in allowing for people to attain a sense of well-being. I’m not blaming any living person specifically for the state that we’re now in regardless of whoever you may have ever voted for. What we need to do now is to recognize that the division of labour and rewards needs to be attributed more fairly in our society, otherwise I do not think that we are drifting as far away from global conflict or anarchy as many people would like us to believe.

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