How long can the world sustain itself under the current socio-economic order?
In a world of co-creation, neo-liberalism is too archaic a model to support innovation (imagine the Tories inspired by the Victorian era ensuring universal basic income in a Gig-economy). Living from hoarded wealth and supporting policies which encourage more hoarding are anti-economy and rob everyday people of their entitlements.
Try to picture the social housing building Grenfell Towers in flames, which took the lives of 72 people one year ago on June 14. Then picture the images etched in our hearts of the couple who died in a sort of embrace under the collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in May 2013 (the death toll of which mounted to more than a thousand). Now think of ideologists in between who enabled these tragedies to happen, whether it is Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May.
What Grenfell and Rana Plaza have in common is building occupants repeatedly warning of the dangers of the construction, yet were not taken seriously because they were poor. In the world of neo-liberalism, greed is a good thing because it motivates survival of people “who are getting on with it.”
This worldview fails to include anyone who has been intentionally left out by legal and financial frameworks that benefit those designing it.
The only way to change this system in the UK now (and thereby emphasize change across the world) is to support leadership that takes us back to unions, human rights, and living wages. The Tories, who introduced institutionalized greed and hoarding with the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, still do not have the majority to rule, nor a moral authority -- only a mandate to break up the best thing that ever happened to Europe: The European Union.
What’s exciting about Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s not anti-business, he is the first to support innovation. But like most hard-working entrepreneurs, he knows that innovation cannot happen without adequate investment in workers and their environment. This means adequate pay, with support for health care, child care, education, and enough time off for workers to rejuvenate their capacity to co-create.
The culture of hoarding, greed, and apathy, which neo-liberals have promoted, has turned our planet into a dump. Using the excuse of being a developing country is no longer legitimate either. Given proper planning and the willpower, every country generates enough wealth to provide the basics: Universal health care, universal child care, universal education, social housing.
As Ramadan comes to a close, let us listen with our hearts to the words of photographer Taslima Akhter (the photographer whose images of Rana Plaza collapse remain with us): “Most Bangladeshis, either from the working class or simple countryside peasants, live an unimaginably sub-human life. These workers who died were forced to work in despicable conditions with wages as low as $37 per month. Can, then, a poor labourer, for whom merely existence is a struggle, dictate terms?
“How can you expect workers to produce quality products without paying them enough or protecting their lives?”
Shireen Pasha is a contributor.