Broken Britain: UN Rightly Condemns Eight Years of Tory Austerity, But the Labour Party Is No Saviour; Try Extinction Rebellion Instead


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Britain, is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed — and also deeply divided. Philip Alston, an Australian-born human rights lawyer, and the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has highlighted both these problems in his newly-issued report on the impact of eight years of savage austerity policies by the Tory government.

Alston pulls no punches. After spending two weeks travelling the length and breadth of the UK, and meeting people at the sharp end of austerity, as well as meeting government ministers, Alston notes how, in “the world’s fifth largest economy”, it “seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Alston also explains how, during his visit, “I have talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future, young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose support, against their doctor’s orders.”

He adds, “In the area of poverty-related policy, the evidence points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering … Key elements of the post-war Beveridge social contract are being overturned.”

This ideological drive is something all decent people have been appalled by over the last eight years, and Alston unerringly captures its cruelty, writing that “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed to instill discipline where it is least useful, to impose a rigid order on the lives of those least capable of coping with today’s world, and elevating the goal of enforcing blind compliance over a genuine concern to improve the well-being of those at the lowest levels of British society.”

Alston also provides compelling statistics about the broken and divided Britain he visited, stating, “14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%. For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”

The government, however, refuses to see the truth. As Alston notes, “The country’s most respected charitable groups, its leading think tanks, its parliamentary committees, independent authorities like the National Audit Office, and many others, have all drawn attention to the dramatic decline in the fortunes of the least well off in this country. But through it all, one actor has stubbornly resisted seeing the situation for what it is. The Government has remained determinedly in a state of denial. Even while devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are frantically trying to devise ways to ‘mitigate’, or in other words counteract, at least the worst features of the Government’s benefits policy, Ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan.”

At a press conference in London on Friday, Alston explained how the UK “was in breach of four UN human rights agreements relating to women, children, disabled people and economic and social rights”, as the Guardian described it.

In a powerful comment, he stated that, “If you got a group of misogynists in a room and said how can we make this system work for men and not for women they would not have come up with too many ideas that are not already in place.”

If you haven’t read the full report, I encourage you to do so. In further detailed analysis, Alston decries the implementation of Universal Credit, with its five-week delay in payments, “which actually often takes up to 12 weeks”, and which “pushes many who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears, and serious hardship, requiring them to sacrifice food or heat.” He also attacks the widespread use of sanctions, and the dangers of the “digital welfare state” emerging in the UK, and provides copious examples to explain how “[t]he costs of austerity have fallen disproportionately upon the poor, women, racial and ethnic minorities [including asylum seekers, who ‘are banned from working and limited to a derisory level of support that guarantees they will live in poverty’], children, single parents, and people with disabilities.”

So where’s the antidote to the horrors identified by Phillip Alston? The answer, unfortunately, seems to be that there isn’t one. Alston makes a number of recommendations that the government will ignore, and while he also identifies Brexit as a source of dangerously increased levels of poverty if it goes ahead, the entire Brexit fiasco is another reflection of the bitter divisions in Britain today, a suicidal delusion manifested in part as a reflexive response to austerity, which was then manipulated by the right-wing media into a proto-fascistic isolationism and contempt for “the other” (whether that is the EU or immigrants and the concept of immigration in general) that has savagely transformed Britain for the worse in the two years and five months since the EU referendum, and that continues to mean that — sadly, tragically — many of those most affected by austerity are unaware of how it is their own Tory government that is responsible for their misery.

Alston also identifies how “local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies”, adding, “Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk and underfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centers have been sold off.”

Councils’ betrayals, the Tidemill campaign and Extinction Rebellion

This is all true, but, unfortunately, councils are doing themselves no favours when it comes to their response to the Tory cuts. Instead of fighting back, they have caved in, so that, in London, for example, Labour councils in particular are leading the way in demolishing their own housing estates, working with private developers — or housing associations, former social housing providers now behaving increasingly like private developers — to tear down existing housing and to build new developments under the pretence that it is some sort of necessity when that is completely untrue.

In fact, the councils are destroying people’s homes, instead of refurbishing them, to make big profits for building companies and developers, all the while lying and spinning about the need for new “social” or “affordable” homes, when the reality is that they are complicit in removing people from their homes and destroying them because the land they are on is worth more to cynical developers than the existing homes for which tenants have dutifully paid their rents for years or even for decades.

In the London Borough of Lewisham, where I live, this betrayal and hypocrisy is playing out over a block of flats in Deptford, Reginald House, and a community garden next door, the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, that Lewisham Council — 100% Labour-controlled — want to destroy, with the developer Peabody, for one of the many unnecessary and over-priced housing developments that are a blight on the capital. I’ve been involved in the struggle to save the garden for over a year, including playing a major role in the two-month occupation, during September and October, that only came to an end with the violent eviction of the garden three weeks ago.

The council has, since then, spent nearly £750,000 paying the bailiffs’ company that violently evicted the garden on October 29 to guard it from the local community for 24 hours a day, an endeavour that is spectacularly failing to win hearts and minds in Deptford. What we learned from our experience is that the only way to take on the self-serving elites who lord it over us — whether they work for corporations, or for central or local government — is direct action, and as Lewisham Council tries to work out how to proceed to the next step of its ill-conceived plans — destroying the 74 trees in the garden that have grown up over 20 years, and that significantly mitigate the horrendous effects of pollution on nearby Deptford Church Street — it is apparent that our aims coincide with those of a new movement, Extinction Rebellion (also see Facebook and Twitter – and here for those outside the UK).

Extinction Rebellion is dedicated to the environment, and to mass non-violent direct action to change the political status quo, largely on the basis that, unless we change our ways immediately, we have a maximum of 12 years until an environmental cataclysm is irreversible. Last week, Extinction Rebellion activists engaged in various forms of mass protest outside government buildings, leading to numerous arrests, and today they blocked five bridges in central London, also leading to arrests. If the chainsaws come for Tidemill’s trees, we’re pretty sure that Extinction Rebellion activists will also be there — and in significant numbers.

Lewisham Council and Peabody should wake up now, and change their plans immediately, just as the Tory government should wake up to the horrendous damage their austerity policies have been causing for the last eight and a half years, and also change course.

I’m not holding my breath that either will happen, but I am happy to pledge my support to Extinction Rebellion, and their wonderfully principled resistance to the fruits of our elites’ truly hideous and suicidal greed and self-absorption.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

45 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article – an appraisal of Philip Alston’s powerful report for the UN about the brutal effects of the Tories’ austerity policies in the UK over the last eight years, in which I also explain, with specific reference to the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign I’m involved in in Deptford, how there is no escape from the effects of the Tories’ brutal austerity, because Labour councils have bought into it wholesale, cynically destroying council estates to make money for developers, while lying that they are delivering much-needed new homes.

    The only way forward, I suggest, based on the two-month occupation of the Tidemill garden, prior to its violent eviction three weeks ago, is direct action, of the type undertaken by an inspiring new organisation, Extinction Rebellion, which is engaged in widespread direct action across London in response to the recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which gave us a maximum of 12 years until we reach an unavoidable environmental apocalypse unless we immediately change the way we are living now.

  2. Damo says...

    The truth is the tories want the poor the disabled the vulnerable to die.. It looks that way we’re seen as non productive… Units.. Labour are about as good or as useful as a wet fart in a rainstorm

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s what I saw from when the new crop of heartless Tories first got into power in 2010, Damo. They were the first government that said explicitly: we don’t care about those at the bottom of society.
    Nice description of the Labour Party. I think that should be flyposted and on T-shirts!

  4. Damo says...

    Watching the ch4 news when the report was published the tories they had brought in, no no no that’s not happening people have the best living standards ever now.. Denial, distraction, bamboozle, confuse.. Classic sociopathic behaviour

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    And they seem to get away with it, Damo. The latest YouGov polling intentions show the Tories on 41% and Labour on 37%:
    Mind you, a lot of people think those polls are blatantly rigged.
    Using a larger sample group, Survation found Labour on 40%, and the Tories on 39%:
    Nevertheless, the end result is the same. Whatever the Tories do, they have the support of around 40% of the electorate. And as we’ve seen since Brexit, a lot of those people have no interests in facts, leaving the sociopathic basis of the Tories’ rule largely unperceived and unchallenged. I genuinely can’t recall a time of such stupefying and widespread ignorance.

  6. Damo says...

    We’re in googoo gaagaa land the deranged leading the deaf dumb and blind over the edge of a cliff… The tories are like a Charles Manson figure and the 40% like the family and leaving the eu.. Is thier brexit.. Creepycrawl.. The poor the disabled the vulnerable immigrants lgbt minorities… Will be thier Sharon Tate

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote:

    Seriously depressing and a subject very close to my heart. Austerity drove me out and thankfully I had somewhere else to go! Imagine all those people with no exit from the torture — the horror. And not only do they sustain ongoing tortures, they’re blamed for being tortured! It’s abuse! No different from spousal abuse, only is systemic.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    I remember, Tashi, how you were subjected to the horrors of this brutal government, and my feeling is that it’s not as bad in Canada, but these cold-hearted people are everywhere, making cruel decisions about people’s lives as though they have completely lost touch with their humanity – which I think they have. You can see it in the behaviour of Tory ministers in the UK, but you can also see it in the decisions taken by Labour councillors; hence the content of my article. I did wonder, afterwards, if I should have spelled out more clearly how I think that being sociopathic is such an essential part of political life now. Here in Lewisham our councillors walk amongst us, unlike our MPs, but they’re shockingly remote emotionally.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadly horribly true, Damo. I really do wonder if something can restore people’s basic humanity before it’s too late.

  10. Damo says...

    I think your right.. They walk amongst us.. Uncaring and remote and I agree with tashi the tories are drunk on power.. Most politicians of all stripes become drunk on power just look at the monster Blair became and it is all about power control and power I’ve had real life encounters with a couple of sociopaths.. The twisted thing both of them were tories

  11. Damo says...

    You need to if you can bear to watch yesterday’s Andrew Marr show that vile torie shrew lol all the usual torie suspects were on the saddest and most pitiful one was kwazi whatshisname just dismissing away the UN findings but the most telling was Marr throwing his toys out the pram at chakrabati she owned him lol.. WE COULD HAVE THE TORIES ON THE RUN

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    People forget, Damo, the extent to which decent people have tried, over the centuries, to keep the homicidal tendencies of power-crazed people in check. Human history is littered with homicidal maniacs, and it’s not as though those impulses have been done away with; they’re just suppressed. So there are two things that people need to be aware of but generally aren’t: firstly, watch out for and be prepared to fight back against those who, in our cold and carefully controlled bureaucratic world, revel in causing as much distress as possible to as many people as possible who are less powerful than them; and secondly, check yourselves to make sure your own impulses aren’t getting out of control. You and I have known about that first group our whole lives, but the second group – our fellow citizens, liberated from morality by the prevailing obsession with greed and power as the only arbiters of human success, and now joined by those liberated from any notion of the truth being at all significant by Brexit (and by the rise of Trump in America) – need watching carefully. It’s from these positions that full-blown fascism arises.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re more resilient than me, Damo. I can’t bear even watching these people. I think I’m going to have a heart attack if I watch Question Time, with its array of specifically chosen right-wingers and far-right cheerleaders, either on the panel or in the audience.
    I saw that a lot of people were appalled by Marr’s treatment of Shami Chakrabarti:
    And there was also criticism of Kwasi Kwarteng – where do the Tories get these people from?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 8, above:

    I think it’s not just a quality that is unique to politics, it permeates throughout the society. The problem is the fundamental values of people. In this cut-throat world people battle to get into positions of power and comfort and then they walk the tight rope to stay in, they are driven by desire and fear. We also fail by giving them our respect — outright. We don’t demand better for ourselves because we buy into the line that we are at fault. That’s why I relate it to spousal abuse which uses similar tactics to make the victim the guilty party and keeps the abuser in a status of power.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re onto something there, Tashi – about the encouragement of self-blame, which my American friends have been telling me for years. If someone loses their job in the US, they tell me, they blame themselves, whereas the European model is to blame the employer. I think the European model (at least in the UK) has definitely been eroded by 30 years of neo-liberal propaganda, which not only encourages self-blame, but also promotes anyone rich and/or powerful as superior to the rest of us – which, again, is a state of play perfected in the US. I do think the only way out is re-politicisation (because people have been de-politicised; the US for example, used to have extraordinary worker solidarity and union activity, but you’d barely know it now), and a solidarity based on a genuine notion of equality. No one is better than anyone else. If we were to get a movement genuinely based on that, I think it could change the way the western world operates.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Archie Shuttler wrote:

    Good stuff Andy!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Archie!

  18. Damo says...

    But Andy we are seeing the rise of fascism who’s the new maniac on the block the Brasilian president the one who’s going to open up the Amazon rainforest to logging company’s it’s up to people to fight back.. But.. Where.. Is.. The fightback the end goal of a sociopath is to die and to take as many people with them is this what were seeing from these maniacs

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s a chilling line, Damo – “the end goal of a sociopath is to die and to take as many people with them.” So they not only take pleasure in causing misery to those weaker than themselves; they are so damaged that they’re actually seeking oblivion, and in doing so taking others with them – perhaps, literally, killing as much as possible, as many people as possible, along with themselves. I hadn’t quite thought of it like that before.
    In contrast, however, one of the things that has always struck me about the old school Etonian Tories is their absolute self-confidence. Boris Johnson, for example, once described himself as “a monstrous Zeppelin of self-confidence.” Now obviously, that kind of lack of self-reflection is dangerous, but is it a front? Does Boris wake up at 3am wracked with guilt? I doubt it.

  20. Damo says...

    Boris is an extreme narcissist. ME MEE MEEEEE Boris not only wants to be pm he wants to be a God Boris will never feel guilty.. never he would rather die than admit defite or surrender that’s the mind of the narcissist they see them selves as gods it must always be about them no Boris wants to live forever, sociopaths on the other hand generally deeply hate themselves and are an empty vessel.. It’s a very fascinating and scary subject when you start researching.. You can spot them a mile off most of our government are either extream narcissists.. Boris.. Or sociopaths.. Ester mcvey

  21. Tom says...

    Is it just me? Or is there a growing number of people who say and do cruel things and just don’t care? In the States, many incoming freshmen Congresspeople who say they’re “true progressives” see austerity, gridlock and more happening but keep their mouths shut. Why? Because like any politician, self survival comes first. So you do as the top dogs tell you to.

  22. Damo says...

    Watching the new the.. Vile.. Amber rudd has only just been brought back in she’s already shooting her mouth off.. The Un report was politicaly motivated.. And waite for it..
    Universal credit… Is doing…. WONDERFUL.. Things.. You couldn’t make these people /monsters up

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    I think part of the problem, Tom, is that the systems politicians are being asked to adhere to are so cold and fundamentally heartless. People are doing jobs that have dire consequences for other people, but it’s all very cold and mechanistic.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it all makes sense, Damo. That Esther McVey is a nasty piece of work, isn’t she? Definitely part of the sociopathic crew, whereas, yes, Johnson is a classic narcissist. Is it really too much to ask for to have some decent people with principles in public life?

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Theresa May must be getting desperate, and Rudd herself is clearly desperate or she wouldn’t be able to force herself to come up with this clap-trap, Damo. On another note, the Tories are obviously falling apart, as I can’t even tell who’s in what cabinet job anymore!

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 15, above:

    I think in the UK if you can’t get a job, it’s considered your fault. If the job you get is zero contact or part-time or minimum wage — you’re meant to put up and shut up — even though there’s no security. If the CEO’s, big bosses, managers are making 500x’s what you make — that’s viewed as normal. If big companies like Google don’t have to pay taxes in your country, that’s acceptable. If companies “bring business” they are viewed as contributing, even if their headquarters are in tax havens. If the poor get tortured with cuts it’s because they are “scroungers”. It’s because the banks crashed the financial system in 2008, so now the poor and needy of the world have to make up for the crimes of the rich, because that makes total sense!? In London, they want the tyrants and oligarchs and dictators and bankers (and so on) to invest — they want them to fund their political goals. The poor have no use, other than being the serfs and slaves — God help them if they ask for a crumb!

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, sadly that may be how it is now, Tashi, but it didn’t used to be that way. People have been fundamentally re-programmed into a position of complete subservience to the rich – and, often, as we’ve been discussing, contempt for the poor. It’s an unfashionable position for me to take, but I’m not impressed that the death of religion has led not to enlightenment but to the elevation of shopping, celebrity and self-absorption. I fear that many people – maybe most – actually need a moral figure to tell them on a regular basis to think of those less fortunate than themselves.

  28. Damo says...

    There are no morals yes your right the death of mainstream religion hasn’t led to enlightenment it’s led to a moral less abyss… Holly Johnson was spot on when he sang in two tribes.. Sex and horror are the new gods.. And they are

  29. Damo says...

    Normally I view 99% of everything on social media /Internet as nonsense but I’m seeing more and more reports that the tories could or would or are engenering a financial crisis to stay in power /to make sure brexit happens this would be cataclysmic for the economy especially for those at the bottom I wonder if this is true.. Are they really that deranged

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    That was quite far-sighted of Holly back in 1984, Damo. Then again, those were more enlightened times – unless you were a Thatcherite, of course. Amazing to think that an anti-war song was No. 1 for nine weeks!
    It makes me think that the effort to (a) de-politicise and (b) re-program the UK population in general ever since has really been resoundingly successful. Now we’re surrounded by pro-Royal, pro-war sheep in thrall to the rich and the famous, appeased by bread and circuses, and, in particular, knowing their place.

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s difficult not to wonder about that, Damo, because very obviously an isolationist far-right mentality has been taking over the Tories since the referendum, and they’re now thinking in ways that would have been inconceivable two and a half years ago. I also think it’s worth reflecting on the fact that it’s not just about the government. Since 2015 the broadcast media – and especially the BBC – have been increasingly right-wing (it all began with treating Nigel Farage as if he were PM, if I recall correctly), and it’s difficult not to see it as paving the way for the normalisation of an isolated right-wing UK, out of the EU, and increasingly becoming cannibalistic and medieval, with the power-brokers somehow thinking that they’ll be able to get away with it. I can see that they must be congratulating themselves on brainwashing the working class, but I’m not sure if they’ve counted on how much the middle class is going to be wiped out, and whether they’re right to assume that they will accept their demise meekly. It could all get horribly messy.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Tashi Farmilo-Marouf wrote, in response to 27, above:

    Compassion is losing over to more alluring desires, I agree with you Andy. Self absorption plays a huge part in that. That’s why I think it boils down to values because as a society, we teach each other about what is desirable by giving our attention, respect, admiration and devotion to those things. If we give our devotion to celebrity, we give our devotion to what comes along with that — superficial beauty, wealth (however gained), beautiful adornments. Once we’ve done that, we establish the pinnacle of being. Then we enter the path towards the pinnacle, whether or not it’s the right one because that’s how the world is structured to raise our status. If we are to “do well” we must play well. If for some reason we regect the societal structure, we’re ousted from it. The further away from the ideals, the odder or more radical we seem. Even though, in reality, we are just walking a different path — hopefully one towards compassion.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s very accurate, Tashi. I’m particularly thinking of how notions of physical beauty demand so much of people and require compliance – currently, endless gym visits, orange skin, removal of all body hair, weird eyebrows – whereas when one is outside it, it makes no sense. Unfortunately, I think, the drive to belong, based on fundamental insecurity, must be stronger than ever, as the world is such an information-saturated free-for-all, in which it’s obviously increasingly difficult for people to know what to believe, or even to know who to be.
    As for our path – or the path of anyone who doesn’t fit in with the above – I think it’s important for us to remember that generally we share similar values, that we are indeed looking for a world in which compassion plays a key role, and not the superficiality of what currently passes for our culture – which is not just obsessed with alleged physical beauty, but also with materialism in general, and with that atomised, alienated sense of self that is so damaging for us all.

  34. Damo says...

    The greatest liberation is becoming awake or enlightened whatever you want to call it the not caring what the mainstream thinks about you as we not anyone who different from the supposed norm is written off and.. OTHERED.. You can either be crushed by waste it and waste a life trying to be accepted Or you can be set free to not have that burden of trying to be accepted the latter is truly liberating

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    I know what you mean, Damo. It’s at the heart of my own struggle – well, that and understanding what it means to get older.
    As you know, I’m sure, I’m not much of a materialist, but the constant nagging of society’s PR machine is meant to undermine us, telling us we’re failures, essentially, because we’re not rich enough, successful enough, good-looking enough etc. I bat it away relentlessly, but it’s only when I completely overcome it that I feel truly free – and then it’s only a matter of time before the nagging, wheedling voices start again.
    No wonder the young and impressionable find it so hard to be free. They’re conditioned from the start of their lives to strive for materialistic rewards but always to feel inadequate. What a rotten system, and no wonder Bill Hicks told those in PR and advertising to kill themselves:

  36. Tom says...

    They are asked to do cold and heartless jobs. But it’s still a person doing that that has to live with the consequences. Hopefully they’re not a total sociopath.

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s the big question, isn’t it, Tom? In a system in which decision-making has become so cold and administrative, is it possible not to be affected, not to become effectively sociopathic?

  38. Damo says...

    But people aren’t bothered about making harsh decisions and being cold and heartless.. They believe their doing the right thing even though it’s the wrong thing and a dishonest thing.. Repeat the lie over and over again it becomes the truth

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I wonder, Damo. It seems to be the problem we always have, trying to ascertain how much malevolence is involved, and how much they are just bureaucrats, pushing policies whose human impact isn’t properly considered.
    But the thing is: I honestly don’t trust some of these people as human beings. Obviously, it’s genuinely difficult to know what people are really like, because to a large extent our public world is a show, and no one knows who is awake at 2am staring gauntly or triumphantly at themselves in a mirror and thinking, “where did it all go wrong?” or, “one day you will be Prime Minister”, or, for example, how people who look happy and composed actually terrorise their families when their egos are bruised.

  40. Damo says...

    It’s a gamble Andy we never know who people really are but we always go on gut instinct but some people really are shapeshifters it’s difficult you can’t close down and say I don’t trust anyone that’s not living.. It’s a gamble

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I agree, Damo, but I’m probably more wary of more people than I ever was. I never really had much time for trusting any Tories, then Labour corrupted itself, and then the EU referendum happened. What a mess.
    Don’t get me wrong. On a daily basis, other people are a delight, and gut feelings tend to be the best to trust, but we really are in messed-up times.

  42. Damo says...

    I just don’t believe in labour anymore yes they are corrupt and split but their the best of a bad bunch most people now see politicians as bad people.. BORIS is a prime example of political corruption and idiocy..I’ve never met a torie that was a good person were stuck in a groundhog day of either labour or torie torie or labour over and over.. As for the era, the times were in I just don’t know.. People are wakeing up though…. I think??

  43. Damo says...

    I was reading how David Cameron the one who was caused all this brexit mess and backed austerity.. IS BORED.. And wants to re enter politics lol my god lol he must lead such an indolent.. LAVISH lifestyle of just sitting around doing nothing that he’s bored so to him it was all a game?

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s easy to see why distrust of mainstream politicians has hit an all-time low, Damo – and how that has provided an opportunity for extremists to wheedle their way in.
    As for waking up, we’ve been talking about it for years! But there are signs, yes. Extinction Rebellion is one. But we still need to see more evidence of shopping-obsessed people stopping shopping, and of comfortable homeowners acting on the recognition of their own privilege. That would do for a start!

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    I guess so, Damo. Sometimes it seems that it’s all a game to the Etonians – although I do tend to believe what I heard about them: that it’s all about the winning, not about right or wrong. It explains both their drive – and their amorality. Think Boris again.
    Cameron, though, seems like Blair – he wants to come back, and he just doesn’t realise how much he’s hated!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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