Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ending the decade - rationally speaking

Rational - adjective:
agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible

Words. Rational words. Words of concern. Words of dissent. Aren't they all, the zillions and zillions of them, ultimately superfluous in the face of what actually occurs, what the powerful dismissively, uncaringly, unilaterally, conspiratorially, calculatingly, wantonly, finally do?

Just think of all the campaigning, the street demonstrations, the hard-boiled evidence, the just legal opinions, the challenging letters, the humanitarian pleas, the mass condemnations directed at the warmongers who murder with impunity, the financial masters who profit and wreck lives, the climate vandals motivated only by selfish intent. The results? The bombs keep dropping on innocents, the bankers steal away with more public booty and the planet remains on a collision course with oblivion.

Tony Blair continues to walk in our midst, a criminal at large, a "peace envoy", no less, not simply unrepentant but mindfully self-assured about his 'divine' part in the genocide of Iraq. What 'rational' state would permit such a quantum abuse of power? The one, we must assume, which offers the Chilcot inquiry as a 'rational' investigation of those matters. Shouldn't we fear not only those who rationalised the intelligence in pursuit of war, but also the dark intelligence of those appointed to rationalise the crimes of the rationalisers?

Meanwhile, fear, of the economic kind, continues to stalk people's lives, the rational consequence of an irrational free market system. The massive daily exercise in hegemonic ideology underpinning capitalist society helps maintain the relentless message that banking bailouts and rampant speculation of public money are all good, rational practices; that more neoliberalism is the only rational way out of the 'mess' (as though all was well and rational 'before'); and that we will all, according to 'rational' Treasury forecasts, be ultimate beneficiaries of the great state handout to the fat cats.

The coming general election will see another intensive assault on the poorest and socially vulnerable to pay for the great 'New Deal' in saving the financier elite. Economic recovery, so it goes, remains ever-dependent on the stability of the banking sector and protection of its executive class.

Usefully, some rational evidence is now at hand to show just how irrational that dependence is:

"Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than bankers, a study suggests.

The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid. It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy. They reportedly destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress". The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption."

We live in a society where poor souls sit hungry and cold outside Tesco and other supermarket cities with their groaning shelves of food, all serving to keep an owner class in fabulous wealth. One might rationally say, go inside and take what you need. Act rationally, not according to the irrational rules of super/market society. Don't deprive yourself of life's basic necessities when they are all readily available. Rationalise according to your higher human rights, not what the market deems the supremacy of property rights.

That, of course, would be condemned as not just illegal, but dangerously anarchic; threatening to the 'rational' order of things. To those appalled by such gross inequality, it should make perfect rational sense.

Taking with moral intent, balancing, sharing, acting in compassionate consideration of others, thinking sustainably: these are all the hallmarks of rational non-market behaviour.

Corporate behaviour, on the other hand, predicated on zero-sum competition and greed, cannot, by rational definition, also be governed by reason or sensible judgement about human well-being. The irrationality of financial speculation underlying the present bout of economic woes - for those at the bottom end, not the high financiers - is testament to that rationally deducted truth.

And there's no more rational illustration of profit-led anarchy than the climate change crisis.

Copenhagen signifies man's most staggering capacity for blind irrationality. Even when presented with all the evidence of climate disaster, even when given the rare collective opportunity to correct the problem, the chance is not just lost, but, worse, sabotaged and dismissed by politicians protecting corporate interests.

Having just sent another thirty thousand troops to Afghanistan, Barack Obama, Nobel 'peace' man, flew into town and presided over the biggest exercise in hand-wringing stagecraft the world has ever witnessed. The poor nations, those now facing the gravest threat of flood, hunger and mass death, argued with rational conviction that a deal must be secured in order to avert the looming catastrophe - and were, predictably, blamed for the gathering's collapse. The victims victimised. It was ever thus.

Words? Even rational words? Is it any use in stating the obvious, mentioning the plain, scientific truths, re-issuing the warnings, reprising the dire implications, the prospect of imminent death warrants for millions? Power decides. Power spins. Power walks away.

Is that all too pessimistic a summary, a prognosis? Perhaps. It's always easy to forget that other kind of power: the power of people to mobilise, resist and effect rational change.

I think, for example, of how Palestine has, in the words of Omar Barghouti, now reached its "South Africa moment." Whatever the massive task in ending Israel's occupation and brutality, that shift in international support for the Palestinian cause didn't seem on the cards even a decade ago. Rational persuasion, much of it from sustained and patient campaigning - applied words - has helped change that. A year on from the slaughter of over 1400 in Gaza, many more people have come to see that holding 1.5 million people captive, deprived and fearful inside a human laboratory isn't a very enlightened or rational way of treating human beings. Nor, even for some now-realising Israelis, is it any rational way to maintain their own perceived security.

The same rational objections to state murder and political deceit are also encouraging demands for the architects of such crimes to be brought to justice. Beyond the servile rationalising of the war-friendly media, the word "Blair" has become, like a brand name, synonymous with mendacity, mass murder and the singular art of saving one's neck.

And with that rational take on word association, here's three key terms to reflect upon, with hopeful and, perhaps, not so hopeful significance, for the coming decade:

Universal jurisdiction

The Goldstone report, citing Israel's gross violations in Gaza (and the West Bank/East Jerusalem), carried a specific call for universal jurisdiction to be incorporated into individual state laws, providing a much stronger hand for campaign groups seeking grounds for indictment against the higher powers. As with the recent arrest warrant granted in a London court against Tzipi Livni, the growing application of universal jurisdiction takes us another step towards the possible arraignment of senior warmongers.

Corporate dependency

Irrational capitalist greed has necessitated emergency state action, primarily into the banking and financial sector. Of course, bankers' generous bonuses continue while banks hound struggling mortgage defaulters. There's no progressive agenda here. Socialism it's not. But the crisis intervention does, effectively, signal the end of the neoliberal ascendancy and the supreme fiction of free market 'wealth creation'. It's another rational, if harsh, lesson in understanding and rejecting the false promises of market life.

Climate countdown

Alas, one is forced to assume the most rational, realistic reading of the climate issue: ongoing environmental decline. Copenhagen was never a "sell-out": the rejection of any serious plan for carbon reduction was already decided behind the scenes, instructed by corporate lobbies and executed by their political appointees. Yet, still rationally speaking, there remains the enduring prospect of counter-action from below, from concerned and active citizens, based on the reasonable, rational assumption that too much is at stake to allow the forces of irrationalism to kill the planet.

Still time, in short, to wake up..."before they turn the summer into dust."

Peace, love and encouragement towards rational words and action this coming year.


No comments: