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(en) Britain, SolFed*, DA #30 - Phones or Life? - Why capitalism won't ask you the right questions.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 20 Nov 2004 08:19:50 +0100 (CET)

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OK, you know the deal: We have never been richer as a society,
the money is there to eradicate poverty, educate our children,
ensure a decent health service, and to make society a truly fit
place to live .... Yet, despite this, poverty is rampant, children go
without education, and the sick and infirm without care. We work longer
hours than at any time since the 1930's, stress is in epidemic, and
we are going to have to work 'til we are 70 - the longest ever.
To those in full-time employment earning a passable income; if
this life is far from ideal, pity the large and increasing numbers
dependent on welfare or poverty wages. Low income makes for
zero credit rating and a bar on entry to the debt so essential to
getting by in modern Britain. Low income prevents entry onto the
property ladder, marooning families in so-called sink estates;
where poor housing, low income and total demoralisation results
in poor health and low life expectancy.

Cut off and alienated from the mainstream, such estates are
increasingly awash with drugs. While mainstream society use
drugs as a form of recreation, in poorer areas, alcoholism and drug
abuse has become a means of blocking out the banality and
hopelessness of everyday existence.

So why is it that our society is in such a state? A big part is
inequality: The banks get rich on the back of our mounting debt,
while the bosses prosper on our ever-longer working hours. But
its not just growing inequality, its how society as a whole spends
the wealth created. For example, in 2000, some 24.7 million
people bought mobile phones at a cost of £12,700,000,000.

The question is, given the opportunity, would we prefer to cut
down on mobile phone use in favour of more resources being
spent on health provision to save and extend our lives? Would we
rather make/receive one less mobile phone call (e.g. wait 'til
we get home), safe in the knowledge that, by doing so, we are
making sure the hospitals are adequately funded? Would we
rather, as a society, value our quality and quantity of life more,
and our 'quick fix' superficial consumption less? We
will never know the answer to these questions, because they will
never be asked; at least not under the current capitalist system.

The fact is, capitalism needs us to superficially consume more
and more, to drive its insane over-production system. Such idle
shopping helps sustain capitalism, but, as to a long term future,
this system is manifestly unsustainable. And, of course,
capitalism needs a tiered health service, where the poor die for
lack of adequate equipment and staff, so that we will be
'persuaded' to aspire to all being middle class, so we
can move up the tiers and afford decent healthcare.

Its not just that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, but
that power is concentrated in the hands of the rich. The rich own
and control the economy, and so have the power to decide what
we produce as a society. Thus, desperately needed houses never
get built, because there is no profit to be made in building houses
for the lower orders, while billions of pounds goes on the
production of mobile phones. A walk around any council estate
will reveal young people playing with their mobile phones,
surrounded by a world based on poor housing, poor health and
few prospects.

At the heart of the failing of our rich and bloated society is lack of
democratic control of the economy. Sure, we can elect useless
politicians, but we have no say as to what or how we produce as a
society. Anarcho-syndicalism seeks to overcome this most basic
of failings, by striving for a society based on democratic control of
the economy. We seek a society based on workers' control,
under which the economy is seen both as a means of fulfilling our
collective and individual needs, and ensuring that everybody has a
say in how society is run. Until that time comes, we may be
getting richer as a society every year but, under capitalism, that
simply means producing crap to make the rich richer, in a society
deprived of any real humanity.

Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British
section of the International Workers' Association
* Solidarity Federation is of the anarcho-syndicalist spectrum

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