Orwellian Times and Trojan Horses
PublishedApril 12, 2015 CategoryArts Social Action

Orwellian Times and Trojan Horses

If Arts Social Action were that way inclined (it isn’t) a good case could be made for making our far-sighted predecessor, George Orwell, our patron-saint.

Certainly, there seem to be some distinctly 1984ish features to our contemporary world as we slither down the electoral slopes towards decisions which may at last determine the future of our planet and the kind of society in which we wish to live.

The two key issues – of climate change and widening inequalities in our societies – continue to head our ASA agenda, and both are complicated by a deepening distrust of our hyper-active politico-corporate establishments. Sometimes, post-Snowden, we can sense a vague, shadowy presence in the wings.

At last, some revelatory light is being shone into these covert corners by, among others, historian David Marquand (‘Mammon’s Kingdom’), philosopher Michael J. Sandel (‘What Money Can’t Buy-The Moral Limits of Markets’); journalist and writer Owen Jones (‘The Establishment’) and, of course, playwright David Hare whose work we have often flagged. There is more and still more is needed, from our arts and creative communities.

“A functioning democracy depends on collaboration and openness; so persistent lack of transparency inevitably breeds distrust and insecurity”.

writes Christine Elliott who continues to monitor some major issues for us…

“but this is the very situation being created by the European inter-governmental handling of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiation”.

She cites a report (March 25) from the UK Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee which contends that ‘dog-whistle‘ politics have obfuscated the case to be made in support of this extensive proposed Trade agreement, while making it clear that more detail needs to be made available to allow TTIP’s proper public scrutiny.

But the Committee declined to support the ‘Investor State Dispute Resolution’ (ISDS) provisions in the agreement, which Arts Social Action previously argued could allow corporations to sue governments for changing their policies and laws; restricts elected representatives’ collective ability to tax and regulate corporations; and, taken to a logical extreme, could inhibit their right to promote activities that sustain the planet for the greater good.

Sadly, the UK Government is not planning a response to the European Commission’s consultation on ISDS with Member States; leading BIS to conclude that the Government is not treating seriously the concerns that have been raised about the range or use of such clauses.

“Openness, transparency, these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt…”

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore

The UK Government’s line on TTIP stands clearly in contempt of democracy – the kind of arrogant ‘establishment’ behaviour that has of necessity been challenged by our predecessors in the arts in a long tradition linking Moore to Shakespeare and back to the ancient Greeks.

ISDS is the Trojan Horse in TTIP and we in the Arts need to help make the wider world concerned, angry and active about it. To paraphrase Edward Snowden, ‘harming people isn’t the goal; transparency is.’

RW/CE. April 2015

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