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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00023314

Britain’s Implosion Shows Us How Collapse Is Spreading Around the World ... Society After Society Is Choosing Self-Destruction Over Transformation. Why?

Image Credit: Ed Conway

Original article:
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
Britain’s Implosion Shows Us How Collapse Is Spreading Around the World

Society After Society Is Choosing Self-Destruction Over Transformation. Why?

Written by Umair Haque

Sep 28th 2022

If you want to understand global collapse, well, we’re going to start with a little notion called the Revenge of the Proles. You see, right about now, it’s self-evident that civilization’s in dire shape — take a hard look at at fascism winning in Italy and Sweden, while the planet burns and drowns, and ask yourself how much longer this can really go on. But the winkle that problem points to is this: we’re choosing self-destruction over transformation.

As a civilization, and as nations. Instead of making progress, now, we’re making turbo-charged regress. Don’t take it from me, take it from Bill Gates or the Secretary General of the UN. Collapse is all around us — but what’s really troubling, baffling, and idiotic about it? Is that it’s a choice. It’s a choice that we’re making — or at least enough of us are that the rest of us are just handcuffed passengers on a Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train going off the tracks. We’re screaming in disbelief — hey, you idiots, this is a bridge, and you’re driving the train off the…

Whoosh…wow, it’s so pretty…falling off the rails.

Now. If you really want to understand all that — not just global collapse, but the idiotic, surreal fact that nation after nation is choosing collapse over transformation and reinvention, like some kind of suicidal zombie gnawing away at his own face forever — take a look at Britain. It’s a country in willful, deliberate, almost gleeful collapse, cheering itself all the way off the goddamned abyss. It exemplifies the idiotic trend of choosing to collapse like no other.

The scale and scope of the way Britain’s collapsing can’t really be overstated. It’s shocking and horrific and alarming and all the rest of it. This is a country whose new government plunged it into the kind of currency crisis that’s usually the effect of hedge funds raiding a country. It’s government was so fanatically right wing that it proposed borrowing half a trillion dollars to fund…tax cuts…for the richest 1%. Even the markets laughed in stunned disbelief. You want to…what? The pound plunged — and the central bank had to defend Britain’s economy from its own government, desperately buying up pounds, because now there was a fire-sale for them.

All that might sound abstract — the stuff of high finance. So let me make British collapse more real. This is a country where people are going to freeze to death shortly — and one of the heads of the NHS has warned of it. The government doesn’t care. What’s left is for public libraries to try and become “warm banks” — places where people can huddle and shiver against the winter. Meanwhile, the average person’s savings and mortgage just got blown up, because when a currency implodes, prices go up, and so do interest rates, usually skyrocketing. Meanwhile, schools can’t afford to turn on the heat, and are giving kids…blankets to stay warm.

Dickens wept. What happened here?

What happened is that Britain became one of the world’s leading exemplars of a grim trend in the 21st century. Collapse. It’s spreading like a pandemic. Nations are falling like dominoes. And what’s truly weird about all this is that, just like in Britain, this is what people chose. Collapse wasn’t some kind of inevitability — it was a choice. People gave the middle finger to…everything…roaring in rage…and set fire to their own society.

Why? Why is this happening?

You see, for people like you and me, it’s maddening to watch. Exhausting. The idiocy is just beyond. It is surreal watching people set fire to their own societies — and then turning right around, and exclaiming: oh my god, are those flames?! Wait, I didn’t realize the house I was dousing in gasoline and then throwing a match at was…mine!

Christ, you idiot.

People. Which people, though? Distinctions have to be made if we’re going to make sense of this.

Looking at the 21st century, A Person Who’s Name We’re Not Allowed to Say might observe the following. The economic system and paradigm of the day has failed a certain social class. The working class. And instead of uniting to overthrow their oppressors and all the rest of it — something perverse happened instead. Shouting rage, despair, and hate, the working classes set fire to their own societies.

This is the part that’s so maddening to watch. It isn’t everyone in society that feels like this. In fact, our societies are starkly divided. Into sane and insane, hateful and decent, kind and thoughtful versus people who’ve lost their minds and only care about getting a fix of hate and rage. And it’s unfortunately true — a fact of the modern era — that all this mostly breaks down along class lines.

It’s the working class, by and large, that’s setting fire to our societies. What’s left of it, anyways — better to call it an underclass at this point, because it’s pretty rare for people to have work anymore, which is the root of the problem. Meanwhile, what’s left of the educated middle class watches all this in horror. Jesus, the proles are taking a hammer to the windows of the Capitol…they’re electing fascists in Italy…they’ve made a “formerly” Neo-Nazi party Sweden’s second biggest…they’re the ones who back the fanatics in Britain who’ve reduced the country to a laughingstock and a banana republic both.

The Person Who’s Name We Can’t Say would probably have watched all this, and frowned. Because in truth, it was an old theme in history by now. It had happened exactly a century before, in fact. Then, in the 1920s, precisely the same fatal cycle had occurred. The economic paradigm and system began to buckle and break. The proletariat grew impoverished, while the rich became ultra rich. Debt levels exploded, and mobility fell. And yet instead of uniting to transform the system in a positive way, what happened? The proles had a regressive revolution, in nation after nation.

Fascism was born, and it was a working class movement everywhere that it happened. The same is true today. Take a look at America, Italy, Sweden. It’s true that not every member of rising neofascist movements there is working class, but this isn’t grade school — it’s truer that the working class forms the weight and mass that gives these movements real political power. In troubled, humiliated Britain, it was the working class abandoning the Labour Party that paved the way for the kind of fanatical leaders who made the country collapse in shocking and startling ways, like kids freezing, or the currency collapsing.

The Person Who’s Name Can’t Be Said would be as troubled and irritated and maddened by all this as, well, you and I are. Because it’s not supposed to happen this way. You see, it’s just…idiotic. To choose this. If the proles were rational, sensible, if they thought about it for just a second, then they would have chosen the path of transformation — of redistributing wealth, of building a functioning society that lifted everyone up — not the path of…burning it all down, and handing power over to….demagogues, who proceed to do things like cut taxes for the ultra wealthy, or deconstruct the very systems of healthcare and education and money that the proles need the most.

It is absolutely maddening to watch this kind of irrationality at work. The Person Who’s Name Can’t Be Said would commiserate with you and me, even though, historically, he was their first great defender. What the hell is wrong with people, he’d ask, just like you and I do.

What’s wrong, in the end, is pretty simple. People have been driven out of their minds. Too many were never well educated to begin with, and therefore, putting society in the people’s hands by way of democracy was always a gamble. That gamble depended on them not being driven mad. With the fear and despair of poverty and insignificance and betrayal and abandonment. Do that to anyone, and they’ll lose their minds, no matter, how smart they think they are.

What happened was something like this. Incomes stagnated around much of the world, especially at the lower end of the scale, and inequality spiked. Working classes in once-rich countries found themselves at the bleeding edge of the processes of de-industrialization, their jobs shipped offshore, which meant that soon, their communities and towns went broke. Their kids had no futures, and they had no money to give them any with. Meanwhile, new faces arrived on their shores, and resentment grew.

And so the cycle of demagoguery and scapegoating began in earnest. Demagogues pointed the finger at scapegoat after scapegoat for the woes of the working class, and the working class listened, because the demagogues were the only people in society talking about their woes at all. But this cycle had a perverse effect: it was to stop working classes from doing the rational thing, uniting and demanding a better society for all, made of better systems that they needed most, whether money or healthcare or education or jobs. Instead, driven mad by poverty, its fear and despair and rage, they believed — really believed — that scapegoats were responsible for their woes.

You know that part of the story, but it’s important to understand how it stopped the sensible, rational, obvious thing from happening. Proles didn’t develop a class consciousness, and think to themselves, hey, we all need a better deal, made of decent jobs and systems and a social contract that works for us again. Instead, they began to accept hate and spite as a substitute for a functioning society.

It happened in nation after nation. America’s Trumpists scapegoated Mexicans, and accepted the thrill of hating them over any improvement in their own lives. Britain’s proles were taught to hate Europeans, and loved the cheap thrill of having someone to scorn. In Italy it was Africans, in Sweden it was refugees, and on and on. And in all these places, though the far right was rising and rising in power — not a thing was done to improve working class lives. How could it be? Scapegoating innocents never improved the average person’s life even once in history.

This vicious cycle is the key to global collapse right now, as it was a century ago. Then, fascism was born, in working class movements that would beat scapegoats on the streets. Today, fascism’s a little more sophisticated than that — not much, but a little — helped along by a gullible media stupid enough to ask questions like, “She loves Mussolini, but is she a fascist?”

All of that brings me back to Britain. What’s going to happen next in Britain? Well, its fanatical leaders — the ones the working classes brought to power, remember — are going to attempt a project so fanatically right wing, even America’s Red States balked at it. They’re going to let corporations and hedge funds bid to control entire zones. In other words, democracy and the rule of law will cease to exist, and everything from hospitals to schools to courts to policing will be private. And then, anything goes — from child labour to money laundering to no labour guarantees.

The idea is to create 40 Shenzhens in Britain. As if Brits are going to live in Foxconn style dormitories, work 18 hours a day, and make iPhones. LOL. Britain doesn’t make much of anything anymore. But that’s besides the point. See how badly the proles got tricked? Conned? The absolute opposite of what a prole should ever want is something like a company town on steroids — an entire region controlled by a hedge fund, which is going to do things like charge them a thousand pounds for an aspirin, or make schools into little factories, or announce that elderly people can’t use hospitals because it’s too costly, or abolish the idea of the weekend and overtime and make it mandatory to work at least 14 hours a day on no contract — just keep going down the dystopian list.

And yet this is the endgame in Britain. The diametrical opposite of what the working class should have ever — ever — wanted. A project so fanatically right wing that even Kansas and Texas laughed at going that far, abolishing any form or kind of public governance or institution whatsoever. Because when you do that, when there’s no law, no public anything, no rights, nothing but raw power and money and who has the most of it….what’s left to protect a working class person? To even guarantee something like not being ruined by the most ruthless kind of exploitation imaginable?

Nothing stands in the way of that anymore — not in Britain.

That’s why Britain exemplifies collapse in the 21st century. Its working class made the most laughably bad choices any social group has in modern history. Britain isn’t Peru — there was no Shining Path pointing a gun at its head to make these choices. Instead, its working class was just driven out of its mind with fear, by despair, through the temptations and thrills of hate. And yet in nation after nation, this is where things are heading. What do you think the endgame is now in Italy? Sweden? If Trump comes back to power? Something very much like what Britain intends — except maybe with Gestapos.

The Person Who Can’t Be Named, of course, is Karl Marx. His Big Idea was that the “proles,” failed by capitalism, would unite and have a glorious revolution, instituting socialism in its wake. But that is not what happened in the 1920s, and it’s not what’s happening now. Instead, fascism happened then, and it’s what’s happening again now.

Marx was right about capitalism failing — but he was wrong about socialism magically coming next. Instead, fascism does. And it would have driven him nuts, just like it maddens you and me, because, of course, fascism is just the proletariat choosing its own immiseration, its own exploitation, only more of it, harder. America First — or Britain First!! It just ends up meaning working classes end up even worse off. Because now they don’t have much of anything except hate. Fascism doesn’t build functioning social systems, contracts, positive institutions — sure, you get a Gestapo and maybe a concentration camp, but what you give up is a chance at a better life, having working anything else, from healthcare, to education, to, in this era, water, food, energy, or money.

Sound like a good deal? It’s a goddamned idiotic deal, which is why the Revenge of the Working Classes…on themselves…is so facepalm inducing to watch. Sure, maybe you make some scapegoats feel terrible, and maybe you even really hurt them. But…you absolute moron…you’re only hurting yourself more. Like in Britain, where proles once had a vaguely functioning society, blew it all up for the cheap thrill of hate, and now have an imploded currency, get to freeze in winter, and don’t have a single working social system left.

The wrinkle in fascism this time around is a Big One. Yes, this is like the 1930s. Except we’re on a dying planet. Last time around, what capitalism failing did was ignite fascism, and lead to a World War. This time around, its igniting fascism all over again, only it killed the planet too, and those two things are an even more horrific combination. Think about how Europe’s new far right parties — like Trump — openly admire Putin, who’s making a bloody war on Ukraine, trying to monopolize much of the world’s fossil fuel, all of which is leading to a global recession, which is going to…you guessed it…make the average person even poorer. Doom loop much?

We have a Big Problem this century. Well, a lot of them. But chief among them these days — most visible — is the Doom Loop of the Proletariat. They didn’t choose socialism as capitalism went down in flames, and destroyed their lives, communities, towns, futures. It’s gotten so bad that they’re even giving up on social democracy. They’re choosing fascism instead, in nation after nation.

And fascism feels good — to an idiot, anyways. But fascism doesn’t build anything. It only destroys. And in this era? We need to rebuild even more than the 1920s, because the next stage isn’t just possibly World War. It’s a dead planet, on which nobody much can survive, at least not in the form of civilization we’re accustomed to.

The Revenge of the Working Class is real. What they don’t get is that it’s on themselves. Wrecking democracy and civilization, substituting functioning societies and working social contracts with hate…it’s not going to feed your kids, keep the heat on, or keep the lights on. It just creates more poverty, which creates more despair, which leads to more hate. The problem is that people no longer seem to care, because it seems they get off on hate so much that the Doom Loop is worth it to them. They’re addicted to hate, maybe, is the simplest way to put it, and that addiction is destroying our civilization now.

I don’t know if Marx would have known what to do about all that. Once in a while, I’d like to ask him. Because he was a lot more sympathetic to people than me. He was the great defender of the proletariat, the one who always believed in them. These days, it’s hard to see how human civilization survives their Revenge…on all of us, including themselves.

Umair September 2022

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