I reference my friend, David Siggers in Brent, London, in chapter 5 of 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic' (2021, pending) - as you will have seen if you opened this month's Mailchimp newsletter. David gifted me a newspaper cutting last year that informed me about Brent's terrible position as one of the areas worst-hit by COVID-19 infections and deaths. I then incorporated some of that awful detail into my pandemic story. David is featured in this blogpost of mine from 2017 - see this link here.
More recently, David sent me another gift - this time, a book: 'Alone in Berlin' (1947/2009), written by the German author, Hans Fallada (1893-1947). David wrote: 'the protagonists reminded me of you and other bloggers drip-drip of information against this government'. Thank you, David. Sam Munson in The National wrote that Fallada's work is 'the great novel of German resistance ... (and) deserves a place among the 20th century's best novels of political witness'. Philip Hensher in the Independent describes the book as '(Fallada's) heartbreaking tale of futile resistance in Nazi Berlin'. I am fifty pages in; there are around 600 pages in all. I am hooked. It is gut-wrenching.
|When a democracy slipped into dictatorship - and fear governed every encounter|
I began my formal resistance to the new government in the UK the day after they were returned to power back in December 2019 - see this link here - but you will have seen if you opened the link that my warnings pre-date that General Election at the end of 2019. From my political and social and spiritual perspective, as a christian socialist, I find what has happened over this last decade - and particularly in this last last year and a half - deeply troubling.
Who else thinks so? I was inspired to wrote this blogpost today by an article in one of my two daily newspapers: the 'i' (the other one is the 'Morning Star'), written by the columnist, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, under the title: 'Racism and sexism stalk this land that I no longer recognise'. Here are someextracts:
'I barely recognise this country, my country. what happened to the inclusive, cohesive, upbeat Britain of the 2012 Olympics? I elatedly waved our flag then. Now that flag represents insistent, authoritarian nationalism and is becoming a shoddy way to separate "true" Brits from those millions who are barely tolerated and always suspect.
'Britain's hostile environment is becoming unendurable for liberals, those committed to ethical governance, environmentalists, minorities, recent migrants and asylum seekers, young idealists, and girls and women subjected to constant sexism.
|Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has been subjected to almost unimaginable racist abuse online|
Yasmin cites the 'bitter bile' of a 'white, male columnist' that is emitted on people of colour - including herself. His name has been removed from the article. Newspaper owners and their editors can permit only so much licence. Naming and shaming is a step too far, it seems.
'For those of us at the receiving end, there is nowhere to hide, no redress. The state itself, seized in what the actress Miriam Margoyles describes as a "right-wing coup", has gone rogue. And our Prime Minister is the shining exemplar of that descent into political perdition ... Democracy is corrupted. (My) grief (is) for bygone political principles and probity, trepidation about resurgent, normalised racism and sexism, and the breakdown of civilised discourse.'
I have a theory that some of you who read me regularly will already have seen taking shape. Naomi Klein in 'The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007) argues that events such as the Iraq war were undertaken with the intention of pushing through policies that otherwise would have been difficult to achieve. In 2017, Klein wrote that 'I used the term "shock doctrine" to describe the brutal tactic of using the public's disorientation following a collective shock - wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes or natural disasters - to push through radical pro-corporate measures ... this strategy has been a silent partner to the imposition of neoliberalism for more than 40 years.'
|This is how disaster capitalism works|
I am sure you can anticipate my direction of travel and have grasped the outline of my theory already. The COVID-19 pandemic has been 'facilitated', as they say these days. In New Zealand, herd immunity was dismissed as an 'unthinkable' policy. Here in the UK - and wherever market forces trump respect for human lives - it has become acceptable language. This is how and why the pandemic has established such a brutal and deadly grip on our society. This is how and why we are experiencing policies and measures that were previously unthinkable, enacted under the cover of the pandemic.
- The kind of society I want - and that we need - is one that does not have a Prime Minister making a joke about how "greed and capitalism" had contributed to the success of the vaccination programme in the UK (Wednesday 25 March 2021 - PM addressing a meeting of his back-bench MPs). Johnson deserves ridicule and worse for his warped understanding of this Covid crisis. We have a vaccine because of the success of public-sector investment, the research skills in our universities and the wonderful capacity of an underfunded NHS to rise to a challenge yet again.
- The kind of society I want - and that we need - is one that does not have its government resetting the balance of acceptable policing. I thought Kenan Malik in The Observer (14 March 2021) got it spot-on in his piece under the title: 'If you thought the right to protest was inalienable, think again':
- Deep-time Humility - grasp that we are an eyeblink in cosmic time
- Legacy Mindset - be remembered well by posterity
- Intergenerational Justice - consider the seventh generation ahead
- Cathedral Thinking - plan projects beyond a human lifetime
- Holistic Forecasting - envision multiple pathways for civilisation
- Transcendent Goal - strive for one-planet thriving'
Now there is a prescription for a saner world. And it seems to me only such programmes as this will give our world - a world that has so much magnificence amidst its miseries - a chance of surviving.