There ought to be a club for Left bloggers like me. Every once in a while we’d get together on Zoom to talk shop. I’m sure one issue, doubt, would come up again and again. Not doubt in the factual truth of what we’re saying. There’s too much evidence for that.
Sure, we can be wrong on details, even big ones. For instance I leave room for the possibility of Bashar al-Assad being as bad as our corporate media and politicians say. Ditto that China really might mistreat its Uyghurs and Russia may indeed have serious corruption which – being over and above the legacy of Yeltsin, and Western policies in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR 1 – can be laid at Putin’s door. All things considered, I’m minded to think such accusations false or hugely hyped but there’s an outside chance they are neither. My broader point is twofold. One, our rulers have every reason to lie to us about such things. Likewise our media, whose business model ensures they stay on-message re matters (such as going to war, or taking down a Jeremy Corbyn) of core importance to said rulers.2 Two, even if allegations against states resisting the US orbit are true, they are demonstrably not the reasons why those states are demonised.3
It is at this level I know I am right. Similarly, I’m no climatologist but do know, because I took the time to study how capitalism works, that regardless of whether this capitalist or that is a Nice Chap, certain objective truths apply. A political economy based on private ownership of wealth creation, with said wealth creation driven not by human need but the profit incentive, cannot be trusted with care of the environment. Nor to preserve peace or eradicate poverty. With the best will in the world, such things are quite impossible and the reason is painfully simple. Capitalism is by its nature out of control. As dependent on profits and perpetual accumulation as a junkie is on smack, it must – the ‘niceness’ or otherwise of a Bill Gates or Jacob Rothschild doesn’t come into this – prioritise profits over every other consideration. If you don’t see this it’s because your understanding of capitalism is that of a child. Sorry to be so blunt. The hour is getting late.
So if I don’t doubt the essential truth of my claim that the future offers humanity a stark choice – socialism or barbarism – what do I doubt? Call me complacent, but I’m disinclined to attribute the difficulty of getting my message across to my shortcomings as a communicator. We can all of us raise our game, and I’m not above stealing other people’s tricks on this front, but I’m more inclined to blame the immensity of what I’m up against: in a word, ideology. People simply do not wake up just because someone has pointed out, however lucidly, and however solid their evidence, that whilst they sleep their future, and that of their children, is being systematically stolen. Think Stockholm Syndrome. Think risk aversion, however misplaced. Think don’t rock the boat. Think ostriches. Think of our conflictual nature as social yet individuated beings – we versus me 4 – in a world where greed is good.
That gets close. What I doubt, 2.46 times a week and usually in the small hours, is whether what I and likeminded others do can possibly serve any useful end. Whether I should stick to taking pretty snaps with my fancy camera kit. Or just get drunk.
But the same answer always resurfaces after such moments – as brief as they are frequent – of doubt. If you know a vitally important truth, and no one is seriously offering counter evidence,5 what options do you really have, other than to speak it as best you can?
It’s in our nature to enjoy talking shop, but maybe that Zoom meeting can wait a while longer.
- On the West’s gold rush to make killings in the former Soviet Union, see the copiously documented account of Naomi Klein in Chapters 10-11 of The Shock Doctrine.
- Media lies tend to be of omission. (Scour Guardian and BBC sites till the cows come home: you’ll find few column inches on Nord Steam 2 or oil drilling in the Golan, but screeds on evil Assad and thrice damned Putin.) Only when a ruling class is fully set on a controversial course do the lies of commission, inherently more risky, kick in with a vengeance. (And once the heat dies down, any necessary lies – WMDs anyone? – will be blamed on past administrations. ‘Democracy’ does more than cover for class rule; it has the side benefit of periodically wiping the slate.)
- “Demonstrably not the reasons …” One way of showing that ostensible reasons, often as not alleged human rights abuses, for vilifying a state and/or its leader are not the true ones is by pointing to reasons more plausible. (See the Golan example, footnote 2.) Another is to point to the same crimes by Washington, or allies like Saudi Arabia. But as awareness grows of double standards, so has a new trope entered the social media lexicon: whataboutery.
- Our dual nature as social yet individuated beings points to a field of discussion not only beyond the scope of this post but, by its axiomatic nature, irresolvable by facts and reason. I refer to two philosophical inquiries, both old as the hills but with the jury still out. One is the nature versus nurture debate, and the capacity of any political system to accommodate human selfishness. (To which my short answer is that we can start by rejecting a system that elevates and celebrates selfishness at every turn.) The other is whether life is one long Hobbesian struggle, in the face of which the best we can do is establish forms of rule – Pax Romanica or Pax Americana – which may be steeped in violence, thievery and ongoing injustice but allow the shotgun wedding, of pragmatism with moral order, humans surely need. (To which my short answer is that “Pax” Americana is not just unfair: it poses an existential threat, with nothing remotely pragmatic about its brand of insanity.)
- As for no one engaging me on specifics; rather, taking shelter in highly generalised accusations of bias and extremism, see my opening observations in The Tragedy of Corbynism.