The Small Print of Progress: Reaction to Action

Photo: © John Stadnicki, April 2020 / Gloucestershire, UK.

In 1997, Manuel Castells published The Power of Identity warning about the danger of globalisation in a world ill-equipped to control its own expansion. Castells criticised the UN, accusing the top bureaucrats of lack of action and misunderstanding of the nature of a global society facing unprecedented human migration, multi-national production chains, competition and artificial economic stimulation.

The book discusses the practical faults within our systems which promote geo-political competition on one hand, while economies are driven by inefficient externalised production chains, on another hand. Global market fragility and profit-driven progress have become realities which are now making the crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic difficult to manage.

For over two decades now, the scientific community launched repeated warning that a pandemic was inevitable, but our socio-economic systems are still taken by surprise and unprepared for the current social, medical and economic challenges.

The pandemic undoubtedly offers a few lessons for us all. Lessons about what deserves to be trusted and valued, appreciated and developed mid and long-term. The principle of ‘Après moi, le déluge’ [‘after me, the flood‘] has become a danger threatening to destabilise, if not destroy, communities. If ‘a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe’ (Edward Lorenz) then we need to accept the reality that we are as safe as the weakest among us. The way out of crisis comes from understanding the basic principles which brought up our chaos.

Photo: © John Stadnicki, April 2020 / Glocestershire, UK.

Governments have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for five months already, and their best shot at managing it is the fierce competition between research centres to produce their own test kits and vaccines. As borders shut between countries that, not long ago, had common economic interests, contracts for protective equipment are signed electronically. and the higher bidder wins. Always wins.

As the race for the next Nobel in medicine takes ground, communities struggle to make sense of what constitutes a necessary journey out in town, at a time when years of prosperity have been wiped off the economic whiteboard in a matter of days. It shows how fragile the system was in the first place, how easy it can be to undermine the stability of societies that got their priorities wrong. Across Britain, the political class has given itself another year in employment with local elections postponed until 7 May 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The employed majority finds itself at the mercy of financial rescue packages, negotiating the small print of bureaucracy.

Unprecedented times, precedented actions.

© Maria Stadnicka, 23 April 2020


You can also read ‘Power to the Powerful’, February 2020.

 

Defending Democracy

 

Watching the British parliamentary debate last night was a painful experience. The political class has proven to be a group asking and answering its own questions, loyal to its own ideology, pushing the societal divide even further. The televised mockery, wave of insults and well-rehearsed propaganda made parents sent their children to bed early. Many would like to forget what has just happened and, maybe, if possible, to erase the whole chapter from history books. Politicians say ‘they are tired’, referring to the general public watching the live broadcast.

There has been much discussion about the fact that ‘people’ are tired of this Brexit issue, and want it resolved. We are led into believing that we are all tired, and that the public irascibility is caused by the unresolved crisis launched by the Brexit referendum. It is worth remembering that the ‘people’ have not, in fact, created this crisis. In 2016, most people minding their own lives and jobs have been made aware of the referendum by politics. This ‘need’ was man-made, the present democratic crisis was politically manufactured.

For this reason, I am not tired to go back to history books and to dig out examples when freedom of speech and social institutions have been silenced by unelected leaders. Yesterday’s proroguing of Parliament has a great significance, as it creates a historic precedent by limiting the actions of an institution created to question and to challenge governmental decisions. In this context, I wonder who is governing the Government now.

I become increasingly aware that our legacy is defined by the fact that we have taken the democratic values and institutions for granted. Democracy does not defend itself. Democracy can be safeguarded by people keeping a close eye on those governing, and by being involved in decisional processes. Democracy can be defended when people’s values and principles are clear and are functioning. When people are willing to easily give up these values and principles, we face political tragedy.

© Maria Stadnicka, September 2019.