So much talk about the loss of factory jobs during the American Presidential election and so little honest discussion on the topic. That’s election year for you: It’s a time when actually addressing problems in a frank manner may be too harmful to you vote count.
It’s debatable in this case how much of the talk on the Right and Left of returning America to industrial glory was more ignorance than mendacity. Are our politicians aware of the depth of the problem? Plenty of factories repatriated during the Obama Administration, but they didn’t bring home with them nearly as many jobs, owing to improved systems and increasingly sophisticated automation. That trend line is heading in only one direction in manufacturing and will soon possibly spill out into the streets, as a single new tool like driverless software could disappear millions of working-class positions.
Infrastructure repair and development might be a temporary salve in the U.S., but the incoming Trump Administration plan is a scam and its proposed tax policy will foster dynastic wealth. Perhaps we could see the realization of the asinine hope of disparate clowns Susan Sarandon and Slavoj Žižek, both of whom spoke excitedly of a Trump Presidency leading to some sort of people’s uprising. (Have they taken into account how dangerous such an eruption can be? Or do they just not care about such details?) If enough nations fail to remedy the costs of the end of the Industrial Age, that frustration could turn outward into international conflict, especially if climate change leads to further disquiet.
From an unsettling Guardian piece by George Monbiot:
As for the high-quality, high-waged working-class jobs he promised, these are never handed down from on high. They are secured through the organisation of labour. But the unions were smashed by Ronald Reagan, and collective bargaining has been suppressed ever since by casualisation and fragmentation. So how is this going to happen? Out of the kindness of Trump’s heart? Kindness, Trump, heart?
But it’s not just Trump. Clinton and Bernie Sanders also made impossible promises to bring back jobs. Half the platform of each party was based on a delusion. The social, environmental and economic crises we face require a complete reappraisal of the way we live and work. The failure by mainstream political parties to produce a new and persuasive economic narrative, which does not rely on sustaining impossible levels of growth and generating illusory jobs, provides a marvellous opening for demagogues everywhere.
Governments across the world are making promises they cannot keep. In the absence of a new vision, their failure to materialise will mean only one thing: something or someone must be found to blame. As people become angrier and more alienated, as the complexity and connectivity of global systems becomes ever harder to manage, as institutions such as the European Union collapse and as climate change renders parts of the world uninhabitable, forcing hundreds of millions of people from their homes, the net of blame will be cast ever wider.
Eventually the anger that cannot be assuaged through policy will be turned outwards, towards other nations. Faced with a choice between hard truths and easy lies, politicians and their supporters in the media will discover that foreign aggression is among the few options for political survival. I now believe that we will see war between the major powers within my lifetime. Which ones it will involve, and on what apparent cause, remains far from clear. But something that once seemed remote now looks probable.
A complete reframing of economic life is needed not just to suppress the existential risk that climate change presents (a risk marked by a 20°C anomaly reported in the Arctic Ocean while I was writing this article), but other existential threats as well – including war.•
Tags: George Monbiot