When I’m discussing or reading about the political systems of countries other than the U.S., I start with the assumption that even where there are similarities, the context, dynamics, and groups involved aren’t going to be analogous to the situation of my home country. While I think American Exceptionalism is arrogant nonsense, there are ways in which every country is exceptional, because every country has its own unique circumstances. That said, we’re all the same species, and we tend to respond similarly in similar circumstances.
I don’t recall when exactly I started paying attention to British politics, but while it was clear that the label “liberal” meant something different outside of the U.S., it was also clear that the UK Conservative Party was pretty similar to the American Republican Party. During healthcare debates, some Americans who wanted universal healthcare pointed out that far from being an extremist position, even the conservatives in the UK supported the NHS. Since then, it’s become pretty clear to me that to whatever degree that’s true, it’s similar to the Republicans’ claims to value democracy. It’s a position they hold when they think it’s necessary to gain and keep power, and one that they abandon as soon as it no longer seems to be serving that purpose.
I think the frequent parallels drawn between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are useful, both in terms of ideology, and in terms of the position occupied by those leaders in the minds of the modern parties. I also think that the lessons of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine are essential to understanding not only the British and American conservative movements, but also a great deal of how capitalism operates on a global scale. If you haven’t read it yet, you should do so.
Since moving to Scotland, the similarities have been even more noticeable, and that came into grim focus with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. People sounded the alarm in both countries, saying that far from taking steps to deal with the outbreak, they were actively downplaying it, and planning to do nothing at all. Those people were attacked for daring to claim that conservatives could be so callous, but eventually it became indisputable that the ruling parties of both the U.S. and the U.K. planned to let the disease tear through their countries with little or no action from the government to help the populations.
This lethal disregard for both human life and scientific realities should not surprise anyone, but it absolutely should enrage everyone. This tallies with the version of capitalist dogma described in The Shock Doctrine, and that’s constantly used to undermine any policies that might improve – or save – countless lives. This is the same dogma behind the decades-long campaign of denial and misinformation around climate science, as well as tobacco smoke, lead, and many other issues.
This is not the first time that pro-capitalist politicians and policies have caused mass death through a deliberate disregard of facts that threaten the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful.
As long as these people keep their power, it will not be the last time. They have demonstrated repeatedly that they will not change how they do things, and that they have no remorse for the horrors they bring about. I’m not just talking about the politicians currently holding governmental positions, I’m talking about the whole “ruling class” of global capitalism. As the planet continues to get hotter, there is no limit to how many people our current rulers will allow to die, or directly kill to keep their hoards and their power.
To them, there seems to be no difference between the end of their reign, and the end of the world, and so they’re happy to cause the latter to prevent the former. A human society not ruled by them is a human society that’s not worth keeping alive.
Despite everything happening in the world right now, life goes on, and I’m still required to spend money in order to live. My work is supported by a group of wonderful people over at patreon.com/oceanoxia, and I would be immeasurably grateful if you would consider joining their ranks. How much you give, and for how long are entirely under your control, and every little bit helps a great deal, as my household is very short on money right now. Thank you for reading, and take care of yourselves.