As we reflect on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war, I cannot help but consider the events taking place today, here in the western world. To me, 2016 marked the zenith of the nationalistic revival instinct within us. Led by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump in the USA, a number of other events came to the front, and one by one the world pushed them back. From the election of Macron in France at the expense of the nationalistic Marine Le Pen in France, to the rejection of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands; the people said NO!
I don't care that people called it populism. This is not democracy. To call this democracy would be to legitimise the herd mentality of yesteryear. To be fair, there were, and still are, many social problems in the world. Personally, I see all of these as stemming from inequality. Select individuals, be they people or corporations, that have managed to tamper with laws and regulations, as well as mastering the use of mass social media tools. People like the Philip Green's of the world. They play the game of capitalism in a very unfair way, and manage to change the rules to suit themselves. This is the gerrymandering of our minds; today's chosen method for the elite.
The resulting imbalance, the creation of super rich, leaving behind millions to struggle through life on their own, is what is causing all the stress in society today. I have always claimed, that if we look at society and the politics of Western societies every one of them falls into a slot along a line joining ultra right-wing capitalism, to "but who's going to pay the bill?" communism. Both extremes have problems and neither works exclusively for very long.
It wasn't until I started following Brexit and American politics closely over the last few years that I am beginning to understand my own bias towards left-wing societies. I always thought my bias was the have-nots of the world, the underdog; but more and more I am beginning to realize this isn't the cause of my resentment. It is actually that the game is biased, the bodies that make the rules, the referees that enforce them and the top teams are one and the same. If there is one thing guaranteed to make me angry, me and millions like me, it is injustice. And until we understand the true cause of our resentment we are, sadly, condemned to suffer it.
To the conservatives, socialism means governments taking away their money to pay layabouts to live. I don't have and never had a problem with private companies and the concept of profit. I fully understand and accept that competition makes for a more effective and efficient management system. I even accept that over-regulation regulation can stifle growth and innovation and non-profit organizations need drive.
But what I have witnessed, throughout the world over the past few years is that under-regulation, the lack of impartial supervision, leads to corruption by individuals and corporations. Take a simple example, the existence of regulatory bodies within specific industries, for example medical associations, legal associations or the police authority in the UK. I use this example as opposed to individual corporations that use lobbyists and have money as the motivation.
To the public, and the untrained eye it could be claimed that these organizations, these bodies are there to ensure that their members abide by and enforce the rules regulations and laws of the land. To protect the public. On the other hand it could also be claimed that these bodies exist to set some rules and ensure that they can more effectively protect themselves from outside scrutiny when things go wrong.
Why else would justice from the Hillsborough disaster takes 28 years to be implemented? How easy do you think it is to prove medical incompetence or legal incompetence in your doctor or lawyer? Who makes up the regulations for building cladding still in use in the UK even though it has been banned for some time from more progressive EU societies? Who are all these faceless gnomes that influence so much of our lives but are impossible to trace when things go wrong?
It used to be that my thinking was to bring down the economic difference between the rich and poor was my main suggestion for improving society. I have moved away from that position. More and more I believe that what we need is independent, fully resourced external supervisors. A fourth branch of government, one that ultimately makes the regulations and enforces them, answerable to (for example) the house of lords. They should be fully independent of the executive branch of government and even the legislative branch. In a way Congress fulfills this role in the US. A body that cannot be corrupted, and that should be the only body that can be investigated by the other side of parliament/ congress . Maybe that would help eliminate part of the bias in our system today. This, for example, would solve problems like the one faced by the UK parliament today, one where the most senior members are being accused of bullying and sexual misconduct and nobody can do anything about it.
If the rules of the game and more rigorously imposed, them obviously costs will go up, costs which should be borne by the entrepreneur, no the consumer. They are a legitimate cost of doing business, and part of the reason, the justification for profit. If you can't make a profit by playing the game legitimately, then obviously you are inefficient and should not be in the game.
Going back to my original point, the midterm elections of the USA this year, and the failure of the Brexiteers to get their way, is an indication that the nationalistic fervour of 2016 is beginning to wane. I believe that liberal thinking is back in fashion, and while some problems still need to be resolved, things like immigration policy for the EU, there are solutions. One way would be to give international bodies more power to go in and fix the problems that cause the mass exodus of people from their homes and force them to go seeking asylum elsewhere. We've tried regime change and bombing the hell out of them hasn't helped either. What we need is a different system, one more like our methods for dealing with enemies that are too strong to fight but do things we don't approve of. I believe this method works with one caveat. The grievance must be real, not trumped up.
Like for example the Kashoggi murder in Turkey. Today it looks like this event may well spark off a change in Saudi Arabian policy, one that may well lead to the end of the terrible Yemeni war. If that is indeed the case, perhaps I am being presumptuous, but I feel that if a single person's life could make such a difference, then it could be truly claimed this sacrifice was not meaningless but heroic.