Opinion

In need of a system reboot

by
July 17, 2017

Capitalism, and its progeny, neoliberalism and globalisation, has fouled its nest.

The market-driven system, in which individualism, nihilism, and privatisation have prevailed, has brought humanity many wonderful things, but even more distasteful deeds, outcomes, and events.

Shepparton has enjoyed the bounty of modernity and largely avoided the dagger of inequality that, like a shadow, follows the market system and is an essential ingredient to its ongoing success.

However, there is no need to look too far or search too hard to see the evidence of poverty within our community.

Modern capitalism is competitive and as with any competition there are winners and losers, and sadly the losers, in what seems a weird juxtaposition, are the clear winners.

Most reading this newspaper have heard about inequality, and its near cousin poverty, some actively work to alleviate it, but few, if any readers, have actually lived it.

But that is all relative of course for what is inequality and poverty to one is living a gilded life to another.

And inequality is probably the most obvious marker of the present economic system and if measured by the present state of humanity, what exists has failed; our economy is in disarray.

But there is more than that.

That inequality breeds a particular restlessness among people that manifests many things and chief among them is today what is known as ‘‘terrorism’’.

People disenfranchised and excluded from the promises and glitter enjoyed by the favoured few resort to all that is left to them, violence.

The modern world promises much but delivers little, leaving many living a life of desperate poverty; a poverty that few readers could grasp, and yet the idea of profit at any expense perseveres.

Each of us has a sense, that within the constraints of particular cultures, we will live a satisfying, rewarding, and complete life free from hunger, violence and economic intimidation and be allowed to express ourselves as human beings.

Denied those basics and chided by promises of the developed world, those people, like a cornered animal, lash out to hurt those they see as responsible for disabling the promises once inherent to their lives.

Today it is labelled as ‘‘terrorism’’ and attributed to religion or extremism, but is only a reaction to the world’s pervasive inequality, an inequality that sees fewer than 10 people, according to a recent Oxfam survey, controlling more wealth than half the world’s population, that’s nearly four billion people.

Imagine, for a moment, that everyone in the world enjoyed a living wage (we can afford that) and so there was equality; there was no poverty or hunger (we can achieve that); everyone had a house, and home (we can do that); the economy, a human construct, becomes a servant rather than a master (we built it, so we can change it); people were still able to do as they pleased, but their priority is about helping their neighbours, their community and more broadly humanity (that is instinct), rather than helping themselves, as they are presently encouraged to do.

Yes, we can afford any of this for as the chief economist with the Australia Institute, Richard Denniss, points out it is simply a choice and only last year he said: ‘‘We are the richest country in the world, at the richest point in humanity’s history.’’

Terrorism arises among people and in communities that are disengaged, disenfranchised, and remote from the sense of being an important and integral part of the human experiment; being connected.

People who are fed, housed and engaged in enhancing their wellbeing and that of their neighbours mostly have their frustrations and disappointments eased, or eliminated, and so see no need to express any bitterness on others through random acts of violence, which, in today’s colloquial terms, is terrorism.

After decades of living under a system that puts profit ahead of people, memories of something better have been lost and so we need to rekindle our imagination, conceiving of something that is happier, fairer, more decent, respectful, and equal.

Rob McLean is a former News editor.

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