“I am not anti business but…” I caught myself saying recently in an open education online conversation. I felt I should unpack this on my blog and provide some examples of current trends which are increasing my cynicism about the capitalist approach to societal progress. I grew up within a business – my parents were entrepreneurial and despite little education they grew their own businesses and managed to create a comfortable lifestyle for their family. As children we were expected to do our bit, to work in order to earn our way. Both my brother and I have successful careers and a work ethic which is appreciated by our employers. Our parents inculcated the importance of self reliance and hard work very effectively. There was a cost of course – life is not straightforward, but as a family we all pull together when help is needed. We have all needed the support of the NHS and public education, our households rely on good council services to take away the rubbish and recycling.
Essentially the capitalist approach to social progress would be that each successful business would create jobs and wealth for others, thus enabling each to look after their own. This is taken to extremes by some who would maintain that there is no need in such a society for social care, for a social infrastructure to support those who are vulnerable, to ensure that injustices are not perpetuated, that cycles of poverty or lack of access to education and health care are broken. Unfortunately these voices are holding sway in the UK and USA, a regime of “austerity” is considered necessary whilst ideological agenda are pushed through without consultation, proper evidence gathering or transparency. Worse still, such moves are trumpeted by some sections of the media as “a good thing.” Yet we are seeing greater social inequality in the UK. In the US the push to control access to information is gathering pace, increasing the potential for abuse. Those in power are narrowing the choices for those without the means to resist, limiting their access to reliable debate and therefore undermining democracy. Increasingly the few hold all the trump cards, the many are subjugated and sidelined.
My position therefore? It is to use the privilege I have enjoyed – my education, my resources and my personal skills to #resist and to inform. To raise awareness of the subterfuge that is taking place and to expose it for what it is. If we value real democracy we have to ensure that it is open to all by denouncing attempts to limit it and revealing the superficiality of the fine words from government. We need to value what we take for granted more conspicuously, shout about the services we know are needed whether by ourselves or others. Ultimately we all rely on others, we need to see our society meeting the needs of the many and understand the danger of the meritocratic myth espoused by May and her colleagues, denounce the rampant capitalism of Trump and his cronies. What they wish to achieve is of limited benefit to a wealthy few (eventually you will exhaust the planet’s resources so who wins?) and if allowed to continue will bring devastation to many.
Meanwhile many of us appreciate the importance of public service.