I’ve been reading Platform Capitalism by Nick Srnicek. It’s excellent. The book is a very readable summary of academic research into the rapidly expanding world of tech company domination and ownership of global money and economies. A chapter called The Long
Downturn explains in uncomplicated terms how we got where we are now in terms of government policy for propping up national economies since the seventies. It’s a real eye opener as explains how austerity became a monitory policy.
Inspired, I watched The Big Short again last night. The movie makes a damning case for the accountability of money markets for the social destruction of individuals and communities. It doesn’t shy away from the guilt and shame of the finance industry in the systematic undermining of employment and housing for millions of people, and their complicit-ness in making money out of other people’s misery. The film ends with a list of characters that the film is based on and what they now do in life. None of them work in finance anymore.
So I’m increasingly thinking about the cost of materialism to society. The difference in material goods consumption since the start of that long downturn in the seventies can perhaps be accounted for by the desparate need for the manufacturing/ service base of economies to expand consumption in order to maintain market dominance. The normalisation of extreme greed and wastefulness as a way of life to encourage constant pay-more-buy-more lifestyles and the social stigmatisation of any and all who might question this logic. The equation of material greed with responsible living and good citizenship. The underlying I’m-alright-Jack-pull-the-ladder-up that is at the heart of why homeless people scatter our shopping malls and high streets, and though this isn’t new, the rapidly increasing amount of it is new for modern society. As if we are now living back in the nineteen thirties and the great depression of wide scale poverty in a context of extreme wealth for the few at the top is the norm, to be expected, the ’natural order of things’. Work hard and you will be rewarded. If you question the style of living that expects (demands) full time work, high salary, ‘career’ promotion, car ownership, property ownership, private garden, two or more holidays abroad, expensive childcare, high tertiary education fees, private healthcare, life insurance, constant and persistent restaurant eating, a domestic cleaner … the list goes on and on, and you are not welcome here if you do not wish to play this game.
I caught an interview on the world service about our pervasive culture of temptation (also known as the culture of desire). Again this isn’t a new concept but is resurfacing in relation to modern ‘diseases’ like obesity or other sometimes related health issues. Discussing how the bombardment of consumer products that tempt our most basic impulses as human beings: appetite, vanity, greed and ego, the interviewee correlated societal disease against commercial pressure to consume dangerous products – previously this had been cigarettes, now it is rich foods and over indulgence. A battlefield of humble dignity versus Nero like greed and opulence.
This whole thing is summed up brilliantly by the image shared recently in the Facebook open group ‘Shit London’. So it’s not only me that thinks we need to re-examine our attitude to personal greed and indulgence versus real human responsibility to both ourselves and those around us. The comments in that post say more than I ever could in this mildly academic rambling. One particular favourite is a comment by Toby T: “Every new development is incomplete without a ban on buskers and beggars and a branch of Eat”.
[img:”Eat More”, https://www.facebook.com/groups/shitlondon/permalink/10155689370958791/]