Davos Time Again
PublishedJanuary 18, 2017 CategoryProfiles of our Business Greats

Davos Time Again

Pray save us, Lord, if yet you can,
From pestilential Davos- Man,
This yearly helicoptering in,
Of those who made this mess we’re in;
Reprising hypocritic sorrows
That for the poor it’s ‘jam tomorrows’;
While hymning fat-cat Martin Sorrell’s
“They know WE’RE worth it” pseudo morals.

Whose World is it this rich man’s quorum
Dare name ‘WORLD’ Economic Forum ?
Where are the women who’d connive
To keep such sexist fakes alive ?
How many cocktail hours elapse
Before their obscene earnings gaps
Stir to some late reluctant action
This self-indulgent feckless faction ?

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The Flat-Earthers of Globalisation
PublishedOctober 13, 2016 CategoryThe Hidden Dissuaders

The Flat-Earthers of Globalisation

Last time, in “Whatever Happened to the Good Society?” we warned against the commentators who were already, post the EC Referendum, rushing to write the obituary of neoliberalism – in apparent ignorance of the formidable political and other defences it had built around itself over its many socially divisive years. In Jackson Lear’s chilling words (London Review of Books, July 2015)

“Neoliberalism is everywhere and nowhere; its custodians are largely Invisible.”

There’s much remaining to be done to fully locate and finally eradicate its deeply destructive social consequences; but in the recent, post-brexit, cacophony of comment, there seems little beyond the political posturing to suggest, even now, any deeper penetration of how this system works, has for so long maintained and propagated itself, usurps both the language and institutions of our democracy, and inflates our soul-less inequalities. Continue Reading »

Whatever Happened to the Good Society?
PublishedSeptember 19, 2016 CategoryThe Hidden Dissuaders

Whatever Happened to the Good Society?

In a slightly overblown, technicolour, double-page-spread in the Observer (Comment 21.08.16) Martin Jacques confidently proclaimed “The Death of Neoliberalism”.

I wondered how I could possibly have missed the so-much-wished-for demise of the direst of our social and economic scourges since the unholy alliance of Reagan and Thatcher conceived it during their 1980s Chicago-School fling?

Yet sadly, as with so many of the multitudinous commentaries on the 2008 melt-down, Jacques’ presumption of its ‘Death’ seemed not to survive the very first paragraph of his own account…

“The crisis challenged the foundation stones of the long-dominant neoliberal ideology but it seemed to emerge largely unscathed.

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The Money Frackers
PublishedAugust 11, 2016 CategoryThe Hidden Dissuaders

The Money Frackers

The Achilles’ heel of the neo-liberal project, and a prime prop in our now crumbling capitalist system, is a naïve faith in the infallibility of money and markets as key motivators of economic and social action.

Despite the benefits of a grammar school education, our new prime minister clearly remains a devotee of this money/market faith, and is losing no time in extending its seductive influence to the reluctant luddites still blind to the benefits of ‘fracking’ around their homes and gardens. Continue Reading »

Market Speak and the Erosion of Political Truth

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics – Mark Twain

Twain, like most of us, was no stranger to the ‘porkie’; and a modern-day George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie” would not quite seem the unequivocal assurance of integrity of other times. Taking liberties with the truth, in this more sophisticated age, has come to seem a marginal blemish in the savvy politician, given some suitably contrite shrug of the shoulders. It’s tough out there and fuddy-duddism gets you nowhere. Continue Reading »

A Positive Case of Mistaken Identity
PublishedJune 24, 2016 CategoryThe Hidden Dissuaders

A Positive Case of Mistaken Identity

The Referendum jury – the British public – has given its split verdict and cancelled its membership of the European Union.

Found guilty-as-charged by Mr Farage and other staunch defenders of our freedoms and sovereignties, the accused has been banished to Brussels, Berlin and other distant-sounding, foreign places.

But was it a case of mistaken identity, with the wrong accused in the dock?

For the early evidence of the vote’s geographic split suggests that the ‘leavers’ were predominantly those citizens who have arguably suffered the greatest pains of austerity, inequality, job insecurity, health, housing, educational and other deprivations which have been their lot since the 2008 financial melt-down and beyond. Continue Reading »

The Beatification of Homo Economicus
PublishedMay 17, 2016 CategoryThe Hidden Dissuaders

The Beatification of Homo Economicus

The aura of unquestionable truths with which the arch-priests of neo-liberalism and their corporate retainers have cocooned their dismal verities over the four decades of their control of our societies surely deserves its latin tag… and none better than Homo Economicus, with its discreet distancing of women (other than the hallowed matriarch, Margaret Thatcher).

Like me, you may be helped by Pankaj Mishra’s useful definition:

“Homo economicus: who seeks to replace all other human values and interests with cost-benefit calculations, rampages across the globe in personal relations as well as the workplace, higher education and political institutions.

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The Hidden Dissuaders and the Theft of Democracy

“Neoliberalism is everywhere and nowhere; its custodians are largely invisible.”

For those of us who were around at the time, Vance Packard’s 1957 block-buster ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ seemed a chilling sequel to Orwell’s pre-war, but more seemingly surreal, ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.

Packard’s ‘hidden persuaders’, however, already had visible and tangible substance by 1957, even though in that apparently least-threatening of familiar environments – the shop and the supermarket. For Packard was announcing the arrival of the professional psychologist and motivational researcher in the basic hum-drumming of our daily lives; flanked by the now-familiar cohorts of smooth-talking advertising and marketing devotees, evangelising this break-through in the divination of consumer wants and desires. Continue Reading »

The Hidden Dissuaders: Preamble

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity…”

Hello! Yeats’ brand of poetic pessimism is characteristically harder on ‘the best’ than ‘the worst’; but for our own times he is most definitely right about the greater ‘passionate intensity’ of those we have allowed to diminish our social and individual propensities for good in the name of the heartless ideologies of neo-liberalism and the market. We are overdue for more ‘passionate intensity’ among the too-quiescent ‘best’. Continue Reading »

Stories May Change but Metaphor Lingers On
PublishedJanuary 19, 2016 CategoryArts Social Action

Stories May Change but Metaphor Lingers On

If a week is a long time in politics, then the years since the last financial meltdown in 2008 have been an eternity. Another such may now be on its way.

Austerity has burned deep and cruelly into lives and services, made infinitely worse by the obscene inequalities splintering our societies and progressively enriching a tiny minority of our citizens at the expense of most. Worse still, our hopes and plans for future generations are being blighted.

All this, by a regime in denial of the gratuitous hardship being heaped on the most vulnerable and arrogantly deaf to more informed or more compassionate counsel. Continue Reading »