Cameron and the real British Crisis

Posted by Irresponsibility


“Crisis is becoming a way of life”
writes Slovaj Zizek in the Guardian. His phrase jars. Crisis cannot, by definition, be or become a way of life. A crisis may be a “paroxysmal attack”, a “critical phase”, a “state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending” or “the turning point for better or worse”, according to Merriam-Webster, but is never a permanent condition.

In interest of strict accuracy Zizek should have written: the perception that society is in crisis is becoming a way of life. That, unfortunately, has the ring of irrefutable truth. Every day the siren headlines sound: cuts, austerity, hard times. From the mountaintop Cameron cries that things are bad and going to get worse. “[This is] a call to arms,” he tells the Tory faithful, deliberately echoing war-time leaders of the past.

The United Kingdom, however, is not at war. Where, amidst the sights, sounds and activities of daily life is this so-called crisis? People sleep at night undisturbed by the drone of enemy aircraft. They walk down the street without encountering armed patrols. No tanks rumble through our cities. Bridges, rail stations and power plants are not threatened. Windows are intact. Supermarket shelves are full of food. Banks and petrol stations are open for business. Hospitals and schools function normally. What this crisis amounts to is that well-to-do Brits may be slightly less replete than they were a few years ago, and their children may have a marginally harder time getting the cushy jobs they consider their birthright. Make no mistake: the language of crisis is a cynical ploy to entrench wealth and power while continuously dispossessing and disenfranchising those who genuinely struggle. In this crisis, as in war, it is the poor, the disempowered, the sick, the weak; children and aged who suffer the most.

But this isn’t a war. The crisis is an invention; pure semantics. Put plain, the Tory cry of hard times is bullshit. Britain is one of the world’s most privileged nations. We have the wealth and resources to provide a decent life for all citizens. Our crisis is moral, not economic; our problem is not that we have too little, but that the vast amount we have is concentrated in the hands of vultures like Cameron, who will happily tear the social fabric to shreds to preserve their hoard. If there is a crisis, it is that our sense of history is so limited we are allowing our common sense and human decency to be bludgeoned out of us by profit- and power-hungry politicians.

We have a choice, though. We do not have to repeat the words of authority. We do not have to cling blindly to discredited systems and bankrupt scheme. We do not have to be victims. We do not have to yield human decency. We can choose people over capital; real lives over abstractions about the market. We can choose to behave like civilised people and rid ourselves of the greedy blunderers who got us this far. Italian novelist and anti-fascist Natalia Ginzburg put it thus:

“We have to remember constantly that every kind of meeting with our neighbour is a human action and so it is always evil or good, true or deceitful, a kindness or a sin.”

We have a duty to choose kindness.

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