Response to responses to a comment of me
Recently an interesting article was published in the Guardian in which the British writer and comedian David Mitchell discusses how the French thinker Michel Onfray claims the Western system is reaching its end and it seems that an interview with him started as follows: “The cruel truth is that our civilisation is collapsing. It’s lasted 1,500 years. That is a lot already.”.Thus, according to Mr Onfray, this period started after the fall of the Roman Empire when small European states rose. However, I think this period may have started during the Roman Empire when, after the Empire conquered many places, it opened our own desire to rule the world because these small countries later gave rise to their own empires stretching to every corner of the earth where they caused death and destruction (even amongst themselves during wars between family members ruling different countries or even within the country).
Others claim these empires also resulted in progress in many of these places (for instance because we needed rail lines to transport the minerals the slaves took for us as they had to destroy their own land while a small elite of locals were allowed to learn to read so they could help the ruling class). Even today people around the world suffer because of our greed to have raw materials as cheap as possible while sell our own products as expensive as possible, therefore impoverishing many in developing countries while (again) we keep small local elites in power who are willing to sacrifice their own people for their own gain. And rulers who oppose us (such as the Cuban leaders), we try to make their life as difficult as possible until they obey.
As we used the tactic of divide and rule, even today people kill each other as some claim the white gave them the powers to rule over the majority (and tensions can rise high as Rwanda demonstrated in 1994). Indeed, even today there are many conflicts because many in the West (and I include Russia as that is part of our history and more similar than we assume such as the same religion but also because of its desire to rule the world) but increasingly also China and some other countries, are exploiting the developing countries to speed our own progress at the expense of those countries (such as the whole region around Rwanda is one large battlefields over the minerals that make powerful those who have access to them while many important players in the West look on and profit).
However, there are also many Western organisations and countries that are really trying to help those people but get frustrated by corrupt leaders who can continue because some in the developed world keep them in power.
Although the author David Mitchell was interested in the article, he also finds it rubbish as he questions why the philosopher may think our civilisation is collapsing. I find this amazing and question how people (certainly someone who writes for the Guardian as I presume he will have some notion of its contents by at least reading its headlines) cannot see how the Western society is heading into the wrong direction and this because the greed of a few although many ordinary people agree. I now also understand why the rise of for instance someone like Hitler was possible and how inequality resulted in people blaming many innocent people for the problems while afterwards many people claim they didn't see it coming. Only recently an article in the same Guardian described how after the elections major welfare cuts can be expected if the Tories win as they did (but probably other parties would do the same although slightly different as all main parties claim austerity during a crisis is necessary); these cuts will mainly hurt the weak such as the sick (e.g. less investment in NHS and probably more private care with health insurance), poor, young and disabled but also people on benefits of which many lost their job at the start of the financial crisis as many companies suffered while banks were saved so bankers (not ordinary people working at banks who are also loosing their job) could continue paying themselves bonuses although at a lower level but now can claim we should follow their example in getting lower wages to make finances healthy again just as they saved the banks by having a reduced bonus for a short period. As little changed in that sector, another crisis can be expected. Also the young who finish school and college suffer while they need to accept low-paid jobs on zero-hour contracts.
But it is not only in the West that inequality is rising to a breaking point between those who have a lot and those who have much less. Indeed, the West is surrounded by more and more fires whereby many people express anger towards their own elite but also a growing anger towards the West that takes but doesn't help. It is not only Syria and Libya that are burning, also other countries may follow. For instance, an example is this article about Iran where too much inequality brings out the worst in humans when people no longer regret the death of a rich young girl and her boyfriend, certainly not when the same elite prevent other people to live as they wish (such as having the haircut they like). It is not that people are against wealth but the rich become a problem when they refuse to share some of their wealth with growing numbers of poor as one person remarks in the article: "May they (= the rich, red.) live happy lives. I don’t begrudge them their wealth, but maybe a bit should flow down to us". In an unequal society, many girls will try to find a rich man so ordinary men will find it more difficult to have a girl and become frustrated - and frustration in large numbers can become deathly. And the rich profit because most of the time they can pick the girls (or boys) they want.
So I wrote a comment after the article in which I kind of agreed with the French thinker by listing some examples of what is going wrong while I ended by saying many problems can still be reversed if we would accept that we need to share with other people but also with upcoming powers such as Brazil and China. Here my comment:
Black people are shot on a daily basis and may one day no longer tolerate this.
Austerity continues to stop many people from having a future (such as many youngsters now think they will never own their own property) while the rich are getting richer by the day.
Climate change is coming still we think that more gas (e.g. fracking) is the solution while investments in renewables are reduced because of lack of money.
The West still thinks it has all answers to the problems of the world and as such is annoying many people in other countries (such as suggesting to out the democratically-elected president without taking into account half a nation voted for him and is now angry).
I think that either the West accepts it will have to share its powers with the rest of the world and its own people or anger will continue to grow against us. For instance, President Obama reached out to Cuba while opponents could spoil this progress. The wealthy can accept to pay similar taxes as ordinary people instead of having even more tax reductions or anger will grow from within the system. Future will show whether we could handle the challenges or not.
But the reaction by two people on my comment illustrates why I fear we may go down as Mr Onfray suggest we may do as we don't want to question, let alone accept, why the West may need to change the way it behaves. And the problem is, those who are prepared to change direction, i.e. many younger people (and some older) who have friends from many cultures and are demanding a fairer world in which we protect the world instead of destroying it, they may be the first victims of those who don't want to change so their own profit can continue to grow (to whom also a large proportion of youngsters belong who want to live as the rich do) before they may win when people start to notice they are right while regret their children lost many advantages. Here the two responses (in blue the text from these people):
ffs you don't need to own property to have a future!
Person 2 who responded to a number of my comments:
Couple of thoughts on this ridiculous comment:
"Black people are shot on a daily basis and may one day no longer tolerate this."
Are you suggesting that black people are currently tolerating being shot? A sort of 'we're ok with it for now but don't push it too long' sort of attitude?
"Austerity continues to stop many people from having a future (such as many youngsters now think they will never own their own property)"
Owning property is not required for a future. Actually a bit of research would tell you that in Europe the idea of larger family homes with multiple generations in a single home, rather than each new generation buying more property, is not unusual. While I don't necessarily agree with all measures taken, being in a global recession does mean that something needs to give in order to provide a future.
"Climate change is coming still we think that more gas (e.g. fracking) is the solution while investments in renewables are reduced because of lack of money"
Gas has a far lower environmental footprint than other forms of fossil fuels both in abstraction and generation. It is also currently cheaper than renewables at large scale. Therefore expansion of gas and reduction of other fossil fuels provides a more sustainable position while renewables are developed. There are, and have been for some years, numerous investment schemes and support initiatives to aid development of renewable energy. The problem is not exclusively research into renewable energy but development of a national grid system that can support the increased level of distributed generation which limits potential in areas where generation capacity could be explored. These areas are also having increased funding, but to implement national scale grid upgrades will take significant time periods.
"The wealthy can accept to pay similar taxes as ordinary people instead of having even more tax reductions"
I think you will find that people with higher earnings are asked to pay significantly more tax, hence why they try to avoid it. Once you are looking at avoiding tax they will inevitably try to avoid as much as possible. If they were paying similar, maybe they wouldn't put as much into avoiding it? Who knows?! This also misses that the more significant problem is corporation tax, not wealthy individuals.
These two people mention that people don't need a property to have a future. I accept this is correct when it is someones choice but not when people are too poor to be able to buy something as already many of the younger people believe they may never be able to buy a property. When I was young, people knew many would get a job although there have always been those who are unemployed; still many were able to buy a property and this motivated people while now the advice of certain people is that people should accept they will not be able to have property and even suggest people should live together with other people and be happy. I liked living in a house with other people but this is not what most people aspire although many do. Indeed, today even people studying at university are finding it more difficult to get a job that pays sufficiently to be able to get a mortgage although some decide to make a fortune working for the financial sector, many out of necessity to repay their student debts.
Concerning the comment about black people: indeed, also in the past black people died while others were arrested and ended in prison for drug dealing or belonging to gangs as they too want a good future or even innocent. Many were insecure because their whole life they were told they were not good enough (although some are criminals by nature, similar to some people from other races) while the election of a black president gave them hope that quickly faded. Today videos show (1) how black people are dying simply for selling some cigarettes; (2) how they are shot in the back running away unarmed while police officers lie about the circumstances; (3) how police immediately employs heavy weaponry when black but also other (mainly) youngsters protest against the violence while some white police officers are not punished for the violence they use but importantly also (4) because they see how some rich white racist politicians (and some coloured ones) are blocking every initiative of the president, partly because he is black although also because they refuse to share with others. And then some people don't seem to understand how anger is boiling. Now large numbers of black people are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea while some white people claim we should not help or more will come.
Concerning my comment about renewables: indeed, burning gas is better than burning coal, still investments in renewables are down since the start of the crisis while certain influential people mock the science about possible climate change and even promote the use of coal. In the UK but also elsewhere, certain people are discussing to replace old nuclear power plants with new ones (very expensive while there is nuclear waste but also a risk for a disaster) and to invest in fracking (although it is not even certain these investments will ever result in a return as maybe the gas can't be harvested or the risk are too large). Further, cities should make themselves sustainable instead of to continue their dependence on others for energy while we should not think in terms of transporting the produced renewable energy as that is more costly than using it locally in houses while the investment can be shared amongst the people who will benefit from its use (e.g. solar panels bought by people living in a number of houses will produce energy that can be used by the people living there). Indeed, even if in the longer term climate change may be good, the change is probably disastrous and thus should not be worsened by even more pollution. Even when climate change proves to be false, renewables will result in cleaner air and cheaper energy.
And if the wealthy don't understand they can have less than their tens of millions or some even billions by paying higher taxes, than inequality will continue to rise. The second person mentions following in the reply about housing: "... being in a global recession does mean that something needs to give in order to provide a future"; and thus indeed, let those who have too much for their own psychological health start with sharing some of their wealth instead of demanding ordinary people make sacrifices as that demonstrate their lack of human compassion. It is amasing how we are repeating the thirties: increased inequality whereby the poor are getting poorer as well as increased religious and related racial tensions because we have to blame someone if we refuse to name the real causes until something breaks. The article about Iran shows how inequality results in loss of humanity by all - wealthy blame the poor while the poor are angry with the rich.
Indeed, we may be making water but we should not accept we are already sinking and nothing can be done. As a thinker, Mr Onfray should try to convince people that by changing behaviour we should try to avoid disaster even when it may be too late on some points. Climate change may be too late although we may be able to avoid much worse by investing in renewables. Immigrants from Africa and elsewhere are coming and this is a challenge but fairer pay so people have a future can reduce the flow and growing extremism. We should change our way of producing food and stop mono-culture as we know this bad; we only need one illness that spreads better when most animals are clones of each other to wipe out our food and cause hunger, certainly when climate change may also destroy harvests elsewhere. Anger by Europeans but also elsewhere may be prevented if the rich would not enrich themselves even more at the expense of ordinary people, starting with the poor. Indeed, the mighty are getting more and more powerful as they are getting richer and thus can buy themselves into the political power, even without being the power (i.e. being a politician) as they have the money so they can buy access to politicians and influence their thinking, certainly when those same politicians refuse to meet ordinary people unless during election campaigns. In addition, the wealthy can help politicians become more visible so their ideas are heard while worrying ordinary people are getting frustrated that so little can be done as they don't have the wealth to be heard and thus few are elected.
As I mentioned higher, although many youngsters will loose much, also many from older generations of whom many are not willing to listen to many of the younger generation who are angry about our unjust world or because they fear they will have little left while many (but not exclusively) of the older generation admire the rich while blame the poor such as those on benefits, immigrants and sick but even their own children as parents gave them the opportunity to study at university but then blame their children when they fail to find a job. For those finishing their degrees: it will become a difficult struggle to avoid having to claim benefits although many youngsters will still defend immigrants while many of the older generations will blame the poor and immigrants who are fleeing their own inequality and money obsessed leaders.
And thus, as long as people don't want to accept something is wrong and needs correction, little can be done to avoid disaster.