“This must be a nation where people have a voice, [and] we don’t have a voice anymore”; so said a Brazilian protester quoted in the Guardian. This comment could so easily have been made by a European or an American.
The sentiment is clear. People’s worries are ignored, and they have no faith in their politicians. Ordinary people feel let down; they see their politicians as part of the plutocracy that governs their lives, regardless of who wins the election. Politicians have merged into the 1% who are unaffected by the austerity and hardships visited on the rest of society. The wealth and income gap between the 1% and the rest is getting even wider.
In a democracy, politicians are supposed to be able to empathize with the ordinary voter; alas that is no longer the case. The 1% and politicians have formed an international elite class, whose members have far more in common with each other regardless of nationality, culture, religion etc., than they have with their fellow countrymen.
The three main parties in the UK have morphed into a monolith with insignificant differences between them. A cartoon in the Guardian by Martin Rowson sums up the Labour party with the caption “Vote Labour – just don’t expect anything”. That may be a little harsh, but not by much.
Life for so many has become like running on a treadmill with someone continuously increasing the speed, and running faster and faster just to stay still. Those who can’t keep up just fall off, with the state providing only enough support to keep them breathing. Those on the treadmill who are anxious to avoid falling off work harder and harder, only to see their efforts going into obscene salaries at the top and enhancing corporations’ profits. Their wages are falling in real terms, and are barely enough to pay for life’s necessities. People in Brazil, Europe, the US, and beyond, though they may not know what the alternatives are, know instinctively that the status quo, with the obscene disparity in income and wealth between the 1% and the rest, is wrong.
What rules, regulations and reforms we as a society should enact ought to receive a wider debate than hitherto has been the case. Restricting the discussion to establishment figures and the main parties is a disservice to democracy.
The heart of the problem leading to the economic collapse, it seems to me, is that we have allowed the financial sector to call all the tunes. Instead of being the servant of industrialists, engineers and entrepreneurs, the real wealth creators, it has become their master.
A major contributor to the crash has been the reckless lending by banks that are: (a) “too big to fail”, and are (b) able to create money out of thin air. This lending mainly went into the non-productive parts of the economy. Over 97% of the money in the UK economy is created electronically by banks, in the form of debt. Where did all this money go? The research and campaign group Positive Money gives us the answer: “Very little of the trillion pounds that [UK] banks created between 2000-2007 went to businesses outside of the financial sector. Around 40% went to property, which pushed up house prices faster than wages. Around 37% went into financial markets – the same financial markets that eventually imploded during the financial crisis. But just 13% of all the money that banks created in this time went into businesses. A further 10% went into credit cards and personal loans.”
Where is the democratic oversight? Is it right that banks should have been granted the privilege to create money in this way by their respective governments? This is a pertinent question that is invisible to mainstream media, particularly the broadcasting ones. They conduct news and discussions within well-defined limits and parameters, vindicating Noam Chomsky saying: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
In a previous article on this website I wrote: “I am finding myself baffled, irritated and confused by the World Bank, the European Central Bank (ECB), the IMF and a few other acronyms that seem to dominate the news. I did not vote for any of these organizations, so why do they have such an influence on my life, the lives of the rest of the British public, and the lives of hundreds of millions across the globe. They seem to be running the world. How did it come to this? What sort of a system have we created that gives so much power to these people? How is it that these people, who are entrusted with the money made by working people, end up gobbling up the money for which people have labored so hard? How were they ever allowed to have such a stranglehold on the lives of millions?”
It seems to me not much has changed since then; moreover, mainstream media is not willing to seriously discuss these issues. The media, in its narrow framing of the economic debate, is guilty of censorship by omission, bad for society and a disservice to democracy.