2016 was terrible – but not for the reasons you think

For billions of human beings, Brexit, Trump and dead celebrities are the least of their worries

pay-the-celebs-who-died-in-2016-as-sergeant-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-album-cover

That viral Sgt Pepper’s 2016 picture that’s since had to be updated about twelve times

A year that started with the death of David Bowie and ended with Donald Trump as President Elect was never going to go down well. The ‘curse of 2016’ narrative surfaced early. Famous faces were kicking the bucket by the busload. Fascist-looking right-wing populism was on the rise. By now, as people look back on Trump, Brexit and a frankly surreal procession of celebrity deaths, talk of that ‘curse’ has hardened into a more blunt and straight to the point social media catchphrase — ‘fuck 2016’.

What it proves, more than anything, is our catastrophic insularity — our short-sightedness, our fixation with the trivial, and our profound detachment from suffering elsewhere in the world. Is it a shame some talented people have died? Yes. Is it terrible that far-right rhetoric is winning elections. Yes. Continue reading

Why the Left ignores the global poor

For all their compassion, left-wingers are silent on the most crushing injustice of all

somali-famine

Millions of people are dying, and you’re doing nothing about it. You could do – we all could. If enough of us did, every one of those deaths would stop. But you don’t. We don’t. And, as a result, in the next few years, hundreds of millions of people will die – of causes we could easily prevent.

Poverty is the single greatest crime one bit of humanity currently inflicts on another. It obliterates any claim we have to living in a civilised society. At very least, it accounts for a third of human deaths – 50,000 a day, 18 million a year, and, conservatively estimated, 400 million since 1990. Add up all those killed in all the wars of the twentieth century, and you’ll get a death toll half that number.

And yet we ignore it. Our ignorance and apathy subjects hundreds of millions to a level of human suffering that trivialises everything else. But when I say ‘we’, I don’t just mean catastrophically shallow, short-sighted, inward-looking, triviality obsessed modern society in general. I also mean the Left. Continue reading

Mindfulness for far-left miserablists

samadhibuddhabernie

As you’ve probably noticed, the world is phenomenally bad at the moment. The future’s not looking especially rosy for civilisation.

Then again, that’s been the case for a long time – and the fact that liberal metropolitans are wigging out so spectacularly over the (admittedly rubbish) news re the American Presidency shows just how detached people are from looming ecological disaster, immense, inexpressible suffering in developing countries, et cetera, et cetera, et cereta. But I digress.

Strange/stressful/horrible are these times in which we live. And, in order to 1) survive the mental ordeal of living through them, and 2) be as effective as we can be when it comes to trying to make them better, we have to take care of ourselves. Continue reading

Why Trump won (and why Farage won, and why people like them will keep winning)

gallery-1462816039-donald-trump-1.jpg

A million hacks are taking to a million laptops to write about Trump – but the take-away message is simple.

Trump won by tapping into the broiling, misguided but ultimately understandable anger felt by poor white America. In a sense, it’s the same story that brought about Brexit.

Neoliberalism rigs society in favour of the wealthiest. Inequality balloons. Industry dies, and life gets hard for working-class people.

They get angry. They look for someone or something to blame. Poorly educated, and with worldviews shaped by the scandalously impartial corporate press, they don’t blame those most responsible: the banks, the media, the Right, and the captains of corporate capitalism.

Instead, they blame the most vulnerable people in society – women, black people, Muslims, gay and transgender people, disabled people, all of whom have suffered under centuries of structural injustice – and the liberal end of a managerial, stage-managed political elite. Continue reading