Sunday, 20 May 2012

"History does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth’, it ‘wages no battles’. It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.." The Bearded One.

Likewise today we hear talk of "the economy" and "market forces" reified..or should I say if we are its dependent children.

If our elected (mis)representatives, or indeed unelected misrepresentatives, are going to continue to defend a world in which the rich get richer and the rest impoverished, they must not be allowed to claim it is the result of some otherworldly process. It is a process very much of this world.

Of course, the ability to act is not a simple matter of deciding as individuals to opt for plan B..or C. More to the point, the ability to achieve change is far from assured. The fallacy of historical inevitability has been removed from the thought processes of those of us who stubbornly maintain that "another world is possible". Unfortunately, we have become conditioned to think only as the consumer or the spectator. Our human horizons have been reduced to those of the TV remote control. If we don't wish to continue to watch one programme, then we must press the menu button and choice one of the other channels offered to us. And of course we are spoilt for choice when we look at the rich pickings offered to us - if we don't like Murdoch News, we can always watch BBC News, where what really matters won't be covered but in an entirely different way.

How we relate to each other, how we organize our society, has come to seem like how we consume our news and culture. If you don't want to watch the Tory channel you can switch to LibDem or Labour channel.

What all these choices share is that There is No Alternative; if we don't wish to watch the entertainment presented to us switch off, if we don't like the ballot abstain. Or perhaps some bright spark will repeat the classic response to the malcontent.

"If you don't like it, do it yourself".

Now that's a thought!

The 21st Century has thrown up that oddity - the citizen journalist. The amateur producing her artifact not as a commodity for exchange, but as a situated participant/observer. The framework for the reception of her offering not that of an epistemically privileged  observer to a passive consumer.

If we decide to abandon the safe shores of professional journalists or political representatives, we are left to scramble around looking desperately for others who together might be able to set a new course. Such a journey will inevitably be perilous in the extreme. What is beyond doubt in my mind is that the captain of the ship is not taking me where we need to go. For all his training and knowledge, from the control room he can't seem to acknowledge that something very serious has happened to his ship. The sophisticated control panel is malfunctioning; we are running out of fuel fast in a vessel no longer sea worthy.

We might well sink if we mutiny and take control of the ship. But what we are faced with is a system that is taking us deeper and deeper into danger, on the desperate premise that if we hold our course the system will kick-back in and get us to safety.

The people of Greece today are faced with just such a dilemma. If they decide to take their fate into their own hands they may well be faced with catastrophic failure. What can no longer be maintained though is the illusion that the economic system is able to function rationally, objectively or safely.