Read This Now: On scapegoating, benefit-claimants, and the long view

The guy who wrote this is, I am very proud to say, a friend of mine. I couldn’t excerpt it, it’s all too good. So I have reposted the whole thing from here.

OK, now this is all getting pretty disgusting. This attack on everyone claiming benefits, that’s being mounted by right-wing politicians and the right-wing press.

I remember history lessons at secondary school where we were clonked over the head with the message – I remember it very clearly – about the tragedy of making some one class of people the scapegoats in a time of national turmoil. All right, the context for that was the Jews and the Third Reich, and the appalling economic dislocation caused by the Great Depression and hyperinflation; and I’m loathe to refer to this, because of the obvious overtones of hyperbole. But why I bring it up is this: I remember we all sat there in class, exuding smug bafflement at how so many German people fell for this, when it was so clearly unfair, so irrational. And we – the kids in class, our teachers, the exam board that had written our textbooks, the whole generation of students – all shared this same underlying assumption: scapegoating is clearly wrong, and we would all recognise and object to it if we ever saw something like that going on.

So let’s just think for a moment like tomorrow’s history students, eh? It’s always difficult to try to view the present within a historical context, and that’s a particular problem today, because it means there’s a near-universal underestimation of the extent of economic crisis we’re in, and of the scope of potential ideas needed to address it. But let’s just say this now: we are living within a very significant period, one that will certainly be studied closely for generations to come. We are living through the beginning of a new period of economic development, the one that follows the neoliberal-dominated model of capitalism (which I’m increasingly seeing as capitalism in its final viable stage, a bit like the red giant phase of a star) which has held sway since the late 70s. We don’t yet know how this will develop, what will emerge as a new economic settlement and system. But it is clear to see that this is a crisis phase, something which follows one stable economic model and precedes some new model. This is clearly the most significant crisis phase for capitalism since the Great Depression. It may very well eclipse it. I would argue that it will.

In any case, it is clear we are suffering as a society, that our social consciousness is dominated by economic distress and, most fundamentally, rampant insecurity. It is in this context that the attacks on people claiming benefits are being made, and in this context that they are so utterly deplorable. The mentality of such attacks is purely negative; it’s irrational and vindictive. Anyone who perceives this has an obligation to oppose it, because this is not an historical period: we are here and now, and can do something about it. It’s essential that we do, not just because it can help to protect people whose benefits are being attacked, but because it is essential for the mental health of society, so that political debate can be won by hope and rationality, and appeals to empathy and collective action. The alternative is an increasingly vicious and irrational swirl of political discourse, which gets nowhere towards successfully addressing economic crisis, in which the majority of society are distracted by in-fighting, and in which all the existing unequal and unproductive power structures of the old regime are cemented in place.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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One Response to Read This Now: On scapegoating, benefit-claimants, and the long view

  1. Iyobosa says:

    I really enjoyed this piece and I agree to an extent. In times of upheaval people always look to blame groups and this is no different. I just wish the same energy was exerted towards tax dodging TNCs. If the govt recouped a fraction of the money they hide, it would make benefit claimants look microscopic.

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