The Common Good and Trade Unions.

Europe is in the midst of an economic and social crisis, deepened by the migrant situation. At times like these we all tend to look at our own basket of goods and become a little self-oriented. However, throughout the ages, pioneers, our conscience, have tried to steer us in the direction of a better society. A society that does respect the right of the individual within a community made up of active and participatory citizens. And a goal of working towards a society that gives prominence to the notion of the common good.

This is an area were the Trade Union (TU) movement could take the lead. It has the resources and the organisation to have an immediate impact.

To speak of the common good is to open a can of worms for several reasons. Some philosophers will immediately jump up and scream of Utilitarianism (what’s best for the majority). Other politically minded servants of the present establishment will merely shout ‘bunkum’! Loudly, of course! Others on the left in politics will nod and add their wisdom; ‘good luck with that’. Those on the far left will raise their banner and advise; ‘call for revolution’!

Without doubt it is a tall order and needs a unity of purpose that has dissipated over the last few decades. Once there was a definite class aspect to politics but now it is much more diverse with ‘identity politics’ Fukuyama (p438) a whole host of interest groups pursuing their own campaign. In so doing the opposition to right-wing government’s has weakened considerably.

The poor have no champion. Once it was the Trade Union movement and then the Labour Party but both have been weakened over the past decades. To some the Labour party has lost its soul as it searched for credibility from the business class. The TU’s have never quite recovered from the Winter of Discontent of 1979 and the years of Thatcherism.

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_Discontent

Identity politics is a gift of huge magnitude for the 1 percent. As it disperses the opposition into small and at times, irrelevant bodies who shout a lot then drive home for a ready-made meal. Alternatively, they agree to meet at the out of town shopping centre (Mall) for a big mac. Here they castigate those who go to football matches, are at home watching TV or hanging around the betting shop all day. Meanwhile, other campaigners are demanding a halt to air pollution.

Individualism is the cry of the day by the horde that cannot see beyond the mirror. It is also the cry of the neo-liberal economists whose view is the predominant one and the voice of the austerity economic programme. These economists opine that we are all rational individuals that know what we want and act accordingly. But wait, pay heed to the wisdom of Ha-Joon Chang (p194):

“There cannot be such a thing as an individual without society”.

Contrast the ‘rational individual’ opinion with that of the philosopher Jürgen Habermas who suggests that the press feed us celebrity gossip and we behave as “mindless consumers”. The quest to be in fashion, regardless, that garment suits or not. The insistence, almost, of only wearing a designer item and having the name brazen across the garment. Leaves me in little doubt, I’m with Habermas!  www.britannica.com/biography/Jurgen-Habermas

Consider also the opinion of John Stuart Mill, “One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has no character.” Sandel (p51)

The Santa Clara University adopts a stance that the common good is unattainable because it’s in direct conflict with a pluralist society. And that a pluralist outlook is more in tune with our individualistic approach to life. Pluralism suggests that interest groups counter each other and thus create a political balance. I dealt with this issue on my previous post Europe: Moving Politically Right by quoting Francis Fukuyama that powerful interest groups with substantial funds seriously undermine democracy. www.scu.edu/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/the-common-good

Moreover, the common good and pluralism are not conflicting ideologies. One of the premier thinkers of pluralism Isaiah Berlin notes that we have to be thoughtful, listen carefully and sympathetically to the needs and wishes of others; therefore we are in the same ballpark. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism_(political_philosophy)

Furthermore, when we examine the philosophy of the neo-pluralists the political understanding is in tune with other thinkers, “the political agenda is biased towards corporate power”. This analysis gains wide support from Francis Fukuyama and others illustrates that we cannot rely solely on a balance of interests to aid democracy. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism_(political_theory)  In essence we need people power!

Jim Hightower is unequivocal: “The corporations don’t have to lobby the government any more. They are the government.” Chang (p172)

The Workers Struggle

The demise of class politics makes it more difficult, in some ways to create the environment to promote the common good. The sheer number of diverse groups with their niche political views means it’s harder to find common ground. Nonetheless, I believe it can be achieved, the philosopher John Rawls maintains that we can find, “certain general conditions that are [   ] equally to everyone’s advantage”. Sandel (p143) My list would be:

  • Free health care. An end to the slicing down of the NHS.
  • Clean Air Act. An approximate 40,000 deaths annually in UK.
  • A focus on good education for ALL.
  • Municipal community services, e.g. sports centres, swimming pools etc. What Michael Sandel (p243) refers to as the ‘infrastructure of civic life’.

This leads nicely onto the view of Karl Popper, as cited by Bryan Magee (p80)

“We must demand that unrestrained capitalism give way to economic interventionism”.

A view that finds resonance with Noam Chomsky, (p217) “…it’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations”.

Building a powerful foundation for the common good would be a long term project. However, the TU movement has the wherewithal to be the standard bearer which can raise the issue of the common good, not as a political crusade but as an essential part of everyday life.

To achieve this end the TU’s would have to stand independent of the Labour Party on this specific agenda to reach as wide an audience as possible. The Labour party has not done much for the working class since 1945. The economy and what’s best for business has dominated their thinking.

A Potted History

Back in 1969 the then Prime Minister (PM) Harold Wilson tried to introduce laws to limit TU activity and hold wages down – In Place of Strife. Ironically, his plans were scuppered by James Callaghan, who ten years later would attempt something very similar when he broke the 1974 Social Contract agreement which lead to the Winter of Discontent 1979.

It proved to be a disaster for the Labour Party. Callaghan had made several errors of judgment which lead to the electoral victory of Margaret Thatcher.

Eighteen years later, and with most of the gains of 1945 privatized (A beautifully orchestrated hoodwink of the populace). In came Tony Blair, and the expectation, was that he would rescind the anti-union laws that had been enacted by Thatcher’s governments. Not a finger lifted!

www.libcom.org/history/1978-1979-winter-of-discontent

www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7598366.stm

The poor have gained very little from the Labour Party except for numerous platitudes. The TU’s also stand bereft, constrained by the power of the law while successive governments have allowed unrestrained capitalism. More privatization, welfare cuts and some 800,000 + zero hours contracts; the poor continue to pay for the banking crisis.

Here then, is a new recruitment drive for the TU’s; a fight for the common good. A simple programme that few could disagree with but with the powerful message that we should all gain from the wealth created. The TU’s are in a strong position to organise local and national meetings to promote the single agenda.

thVWJRZYWDHowever, if I were a member of the 1% I would not be too worried as too many high ranking Union officials are in a position to declare, ‘I’m alright Jack’. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) are trapped in their mindset, “the way we help business” in its opening blurb. The very strong Stalinist tendencies of the Left in politics suggest that they would want to dictate policy as viewed from their particular bent. www.tuc.org.uk

I revert back to Popper to put them in the picture:

“The fact that change is never going to stop renders the very notion of a blueprint for a good society nonsensical,” Magee (p116).

This then is the prime reason we cannot have a list of demands to suit every possible group with a political agenda. Moreover, it should not develop into a left V right shoot out at the OK corral. The common good is for the benefit of the community as a whole e.g. clean air!

“The environment is mine,” said the individual.

“And mine!” said another.

“Ours,” said their sister. It’s time we bound hands.

But first let us begin our campaign with an online petition whereby those who sign up, agree, that they will only vote for the political party that commits to enforcing the policy in the next parliament.

Colour doesn’t matter, policy does!   Power is the peoples.

Do some good – join Robin Hood.

Ha-Joon Chang      Economics: The User’s Guide.

Noam Chomsky     How the World Works.

Bryan Magee         Popper.

Michael Sandel      Justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multiculturalism: Dam to Progress. (Blindland 8)

Multiculturalism is the great hope of the Liberal elite and the offspring the politically

Utopia?

Utopia?

correct (PC) claque. For them the concept is self-explanatory; we all live in the one nation and we must therefore be tolerant towards all other sections of society no matter their religion, ethnic origin or culture. That this policy has been adopted by the government is a cause for celebration for the advocates of multiculturalism. This is after all a great pluralist experiment which illustrates how we can all live in a cohesive, cross pollinating vibrant way. An alternative view would suggest that multiculturalism is not a panacea for the new world but a barrier to change.

It is an ideal world where everyone is different but can understand and accept the ways of others. Where there is no conflict of ideas or of methods of doing things. No one culture dominates. We are equals but own our separate identities. Is such a society any less utopian than Christianity, than Communism? What happens when one or more cultures decide not to accept further change, want to remain steadfast to the ancient ways. Are the leaders of those cultures entitled to force their community to adhere to that diktat? Would each group/community have their own schools to teach their perspective on life or would all schools be forced to teach an all embracing curriculum?

There is a powerful tendency for new migrants to band together in close-knit communities where they feel more relaxed, more likely to receive a welcome and initial help. However, these same communities tend to consolidate in that area. Few venture beyond its confines into the wider society. They become insular, they shop at ethnic stores and the store owners buy from ethnic cash and carry establishments. In that sense they become entombed in the culture they left behind, which is contrary to integration. In their area the old culture dominates and its archaic customs prevail.

The holding on to one’s culture is in contrast to the view of Will Kymlicka a strong advocate of multiculturalism, “Immigrants chose to relinquish access to their native culture by migrating”. www.plato.stanford.edu/entries/multicultualism/

Multiculturalism thus builds its own barriers, “Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them”. Diana L. Eck, Pluralism project at Harvard University. In such circumstances as ghettoes it is little wonder that the old ways predominate. In some communities we have the emergence of ‘patriarchal cultures’ and internal discrimination against residents of those communities.

In the recent past we have had stories highlighted on news bulletins about; vote rigging in Council elections (UK) and the more barbaric female genital mutilation (FGM). Of course such practices are widely condemned by the government and have been given due prominence in the national media. The Independent, 03/07/2014 reported that

children never win

children never win

some 170,000 women and girls living in Britain have suffered FGM and a further 65,000 girls under 13 years are at risk. The paper cites the government’s Home Affairs Select Committee as denouncing the practice of FGM as an “extreme form of child abuse”. The practice has been illegal since 1985 but obviously continues. An estimated 125 million females have suffered FGM worldwide.

Another cultural custom is that of ‘arranged marriages’ whereby young women/girls are taken from their country of birth (UK) to be married in some Asian nation. As with FGM, arranged marriages are illegal in the UK but the law is ignored. The numbers of those females affected clearly point to widespread abuse and thP5JCL2I0a total disregard for the rule of law in the UK. The practices are an anachronism in today’s society and anathema to equality. “Like it or not-and many from Plato to Marx have disliked it-law is the central concept in human society; without it, indeed, there would be no society”. Quoted from Lloyd’s The Idea of Law 1966 www.jstor.org/discovery/10.2307/

The young people who follow the jihadist trail to Syria would suggest that some communities are lost to UK society when grouped with FGM, ballot rigging and forced marriage. The gulf between us seems unbridgeable, “Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies”. The isolation of some groups maybe the result of intimidation, indoctrination, fear or belief; nonetheless, if a majority think contrary to the practices mentioned but remain silent, the wider public are left to assume whatever they wish. www.plualism.org/pages/pluralism/what_is_pluralism

Moreover, those who promote multiculturalism and representation of minorities on various political bodies are in fact saying that democracy is inefficient to meet their particular mindset. However, to deny the principle of democracy is to deny the ‘rights’ of the majority population. It is the notion of democratic rights that maintains consensus which allows society to continue on a peaceful course. To undermine the democratic principle would be to undermine one of the main tenets of our society. But as with the pluralists, the liberal elite and the claque seem to have little regard for democracy and the “stolid mass”. Michael Young

A considerable number of the websites visited about this subject matter stress the point of no one culture being dominant. If no culture is to dominate does that include language? Would everyone in the country need to become multilingual? In his book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam highlighted a poignant observation; while the folks he studied did not display any overt racism, “Rather, inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbours”.

It also raises a very pertinent question about democracy and the place of the majority population. Under a democratic framework the majority vote holds sway and therefore it is anticipated that the majority culture will likewise take precedence. To undermine democracy is to let the dogs out and the consequences could be severe.

I would assume that the Liberal elite and their PC claque are not advocating a duality of rights and a duality of law in the country. And hopefully they would not countenance turning a blind eye towards inequality. Nonetheless, it is the Liberal elite and their claque that have demonised the ordinary Joe for not being tolerant. In its strictest sense, “Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about each other”. Pluralism .org (ibid) A duality of approach would be a seed for the most pernicious weed.

Furthermore, a tolerant society is not one which fails to challenge inequities of any nature. A tolerant society is one that insists that all are treated equally, has a transparency of objectives, with an expectation that all will abide by. However, ‘all’ does not mean ‘all’ to the liberal elite, the claque and their pluralist soul mates. Therein lies the base hypocrisy of this elitist brigade. They talk boldly about equality but massage its definition.

There are two key issues that sum up an equal society, the place of women and the rights of children. For me a woman’s right is quite straightforward: any woman must be able to walk down any street at any time with any one of her choice and have that choice accepted as normal.

As for children they must have the right to grow and be educated without any form of indoctrination. Decisions on religion etc. can be taken by the individual once they have reached an age of maturity, at present 18 years. This may accelerate change in ways we can’t quite grasp at this time but that is the nature of some change. We can jockey with equality through the smokescreen of our politics until the concept becomes meaningless or step back from our biases and truly put children first.

Multiculturalism as noted has not achieved the desired result and we now have communities stuck in their narrow outlook. This creates a polarization on all sides. Diversity thus becomes a drag on building a better society. It condemns many within some groups from experiencing the full rigour of the culture of the wider society and vice versa. It becomes a system of enclosures that allows better control by the Overlords. Multiculturalism is therefore an anchor on progress.

Moreover, culture is a transient phenomenon, look no further than gay rights and our more open society. How different is today’s world from that of the 1950s? This was not a forced change but a gradual transition from the 1945 election, the Teddy Boys, and the Hippie period of the early 1960s. The advent of mass media, its exploitation and the growth of multinational companies, all brought new ideas in a whirlwind. Thus culture is a temporary chain, a chain made from rope which will eventually rot. If culture is a chain made of titanium then we must ready ourselves for many wars ahead.

Note the sentiment of E. Adamson Hoebel, “Hoebel describes culture as an integrated system of learned behaviour patterns which are characteristic of members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance”. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture

We can all learn new behaviours!