Imagine a world where there is no war, nuclear/chemical/biological weapons are history and . A world where environmental problems are sustainable and the ecosystem is a healthy happy place. A world where crime is low, men and women of all skin colours and backgrounds get on without fear of discrimination. A world where politicians answer to their constituents.
It sounds great doesn’t it? The utopia envisaged by the Green Party and social justice campaigners is an admirable goal and one we should be striving to get as near as we can to.
The reality is rather more grim. One might have thought with all of the technology and know how in the Western world we might have been entering some sort of age where we are reaching an understanding with the world around us, even if it is rather lopsided. One might have thought after two harrowing World Wars that the international legal framework that began to be developed with the foundation of the United Nations would serve as a template for nations across the world to look up to. One may have hoped with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of Communism over the following two years that international rivalries might start to be put aside for a common good.
Sadly that does not seem to have materialized. And indeed after a period of a few years in which fleeting glimpses of progress were few and far apart, progress started rolling backwards. It is possible in the 20 years since 1999 to see how far the world has gone backwards, environmentally, socially, politically, and in the last few years also economically. Several interlinked causes can be identified for this massive failing:
- A few very rich people control the media, and are able to influence the narratives – divide and conquer; certain groups in society are the devil you know; fear of a brave new world where peace and reconciliation have a chance
- Dollars talk louder than laws and the lobbyist with the fattest bank account is more important to elected officials than the ordinary man who might not be aware of what is happening
- Those lobbyists are paying politicians to sabotage social progress by giving them substantial donations for their election expenses
- International law, which was something to strive for and uphold during the Cold War and early 1990’s is now some sort of bogeyman – a hindrance to the lobbyist and fearmonger
Environmentally the future is grim. If climate change does not induce massive social breakdown, the complete and utter destruction of the global ecosystem will. The rate of resource consumption has seen half of the known biosphere disappear before human eyes – if geologic time is compressed into a day, humans have been around for one (1) minute, and it is highly improbable we will be around for another.
Socially, the few very rich people in the world are looking for bolt holes. They are looking for places they can go when the socio-economic/environmental collapse that the anthropocene is, becomes reality. The progress on same sex marriage, the feel good banning of plastic bags and attempts to are just fluffy wool stuff being pulled down over our eyes, yet at the same time things that need to happen. Only the demise of neoliberal market economics will change this for the better.
Politically, the Putins, the Trumps and Jinping’s of the world all crave one drug above all else. Power. Cashed up with the huge resources of their individual governments propaganda machines at their disposal, a crumpled opposition that in the case of the first two is arrested, harassed and jailed on trumped up charges, beating them is an almost insurmountable task. And although the United States has not sunk to that level yet, its dysfunctional Electoral College system, the rampant availability of corporate dollars in return for doing as their lobbyists demand, mean their system is far from the free and fair thing it is portrayed as.
New Zealand might be grateful for its isolation at times. But as we are strongly integrated into the neoliberal system, and have been a champion of free trade agreements despite none of them having more than mediocre improvements in terms of our socio-economic well being, we will not be immune. As we have had a conservative Parliament rarely able to see the bigger picture and look beyond three year election cycles, opportunities to break out of the mould have gone by.
We will never be able to undo the damage that has been done to the environment on our own. Nor will ending the failed neoliberal experiment necessarily stop all of the economic impacts likely to happen. But if New Zealand embarks on a bold and brave adventure that I am going to try to describe over the next few days, maybe we can show the world a different way.