It is an extra special time of the year. We are not just seeing out an old year and ushering in a new one; we are also ending an old decade and preparing for a new one. It is time for personal reflection on what you have done or maybe failed to do over the past year. Indeed time for reflection of your life over the past ten years.
Amidst the reflection there should also be a healthy dose of resolving. Resolving to address issues in your personal life, in your working life and perhaps in how you connect with matters pertaining to wider society as a whole. I’ve always tried to be a ‘glass half full’ guy rather than a more pessimistic ‘glass half empty’ but it’s not always easy to remain optimistic in the midst of horrific natural disasters and climate change propelled floods and droughts claiming hundreds of thousands of innocent human lives and displacing tens of millions more.
Far Right Ideas Have Unfortunately Won Support in Some Countries
Politically the rise of the far right and their toxic package of intolerance, racism, bigotry and narrow nationalist isolationism and chauvinism in several countries have been disappointing and sad.
Feeding on the fear and insecurity caused by policies of economic austerity favouring the rich and powerful and further impoverishing ordinary working families and the vulnerable, the idea that foreigners, the poor, the disabled and anyone cast as ‘different’ is the enemy are able to take root as worried and frightened communities seek scapegoats for their challenging economic conditions. Low wages, falling living standards, insecure and/or casual employment, unsuitable and insufficient supply of housing, reduced and less available access to health care and education are not the fault of corrupt and grotesquely unfair economic systems but rather the foreigners, the asylum seekers, the refugees. They are the ones to blame.
Asylum Seekers and Refugees Are Victims Not the Cause of Poverty
It is a cheap, nasty and wholly ridiculous proposition but one which grows arms and legs the more it is repeated by rich and powerful sources in a political vacuum created by politicians too consumed with their own positions of power to pay attention to the real problems in society.
The tendency to seek someone to blame for difficult economic and social conditions is an international phenomenon. The rich and powerful rulers in society who live in opulent and obscene wealth while millions struggle to make ends meet are the real culprits in economic inequality but their control of the means of mental production, namely the press and media, as well as economic production allows them the opportunity to shift blame onto those unable to defend themselves.
The fact many poor hardworking people in one country end up blaming other poor hard working people from another country for their struggles and challenges is one of life’s cruel ironies. Throughout 2020 we must all learn to stand up more for those who are the victims of warped and unfair economic systems and endless wars and aerial bombings. To those who rage against asylum seekers and refugees seeking to build new lives in countries they have fled to or been placed in we should demand they turn their ire on the rich governments who bomb, invade and destroy the nations which result in mass refugee and asylum seeker issues in the first place.
In years gone by weapons used to be produced to aid war efforts. Nowadays wars and conflicts are created to aid the powerful arms industries across the rich West. The invasion and destruction of Lybia in 2016, Iraq in 2003 and Yemen and Syria over the last five years have not just killed millions of unarmed human beings but created political chaos and tens of millions refugees doing what any one of us would do in the same situation. Fleeing their homeland despite the risks and obstacles to try and secure safety and security for their children and wider families.
It is not always easy to do the right thing and stand up for those who are scapegoated, targeted and identified as easy targets but asylum seekers and refugees are not our enemies they are human beings like us, potential friends who deserve support and care, not anger and intolerance.
Plenty of Positives to Outweigh the Negatives
There is more than enough material to feed the ‘glass half empty’ approach to life but we must always expose and highlight the other side of that particular coin. In the heart of the beast an election will take place with a realistic chance that a principled socialist will be Trump’s opponent in November 2020’s US Presidential election. Bernie Sanders is a politician with clean hands and an impeccable record of struggle against economic injustice and illegal wars. This is Trump’s nightmare opponent. Unlike Hilary Clinton was, and Joe Biden would be, Sanders is no member of the rich political elite, the privileged Washington swamp that Trump could cast as the enemy of ordinary people. His billionaire backers could deflect his own privileged elite background up against Clinton or Biden but not against Sanders. Bernie 2020 is not just a slogan of hope it could very well become a reality.
Then there is the evidence of courageous worldwide resistance to corrupt and unfair regimes across the planet as millions took to the streets to demand fairness and a larger slice of the economic cake in countries like Chile, Haiti, Ecuador and Colombia. Social media revealed similar resistance and struggle for change in Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria.
The struggle against Macron’s attempts to increase the retirement age, cut pensions and lower living standards in France has inspired an incredible 12 month long period of struggle now merged with mass industrial actions and strikes. The mainstream media has mostly ignored these amazing efforts to resist austerity in France for fear of it spreading to other European countries but the social media has again ensured we are aware of the French fightback against Centrist Macron.
Inspirational Struggles Worldwide
The courage and determination of the Catalan people to defy brutal Spanish repression in pursuit of their inalienable right to independence has also been inspiring. The progressive youth and workers of France and Catalonia have faced down rubber bullets to defend and promote their causes while the incredible citizens of Chile, Iraq, Bolivia and Ecuador have faced real bullets holding the banners of resistance to repression and promotion of democracy and progressive policies.
When you add into the reflective mix the worldwide protests of over six million young people, predominantly school pupils, defying authority to walk out of schools and assemble in the face of heavy police threats behind the slogan of ‘System Change, Not Climate Change’ then the materials to justify my ‘glass half full’ approach to life are real and persuasive.
Scotland Can Ditch Honours and Tainted Baubles
We in Scotland are particularly well placed to strike a blow for progressive movements across the world as we enter 2020. The recent general election delivered an almighty rejection of Johnson’s right wing Tory agenda of austerity and public services privatisation. The mandate for a new independence referendum is now guilt-edged and irrefutable. The support for such a referendum is easily at 60% across Scotland and a bold, visionary and radical campaign for independence will deliver at least a 60% endorsement.
The recent furore over the awarding of an ‘Honour’ to the wretched right wing reactionary Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) for presiding over a disgraceful, cruel and destructive reorganisation of the welfare system sums up all that is wrong with the decaying and corrupt institution known as the UK. There is an excellent petition launched only days ago in opposition to this particular award. It was launched by an NHS doctor appalled at Smith’s record in government:
“During his time as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith was responsible for some of the cruellest most extreme welfare reforms this country has ever seen. Under his stewardship of the Department of Work and Pensions the UK became the first country to face a United Nations enquiry into human rights abuses against disabled people – an investigation which later confirmed that our government had been guilty of “grave and systemic violations of the rights of disabled people”.
The petition has attracted almost 221,000 signatures at the time of writing this column. I applaud those who have signed and the doctor who launched it but I won’t bother signing it. IDS joins the dishonourable and disreputable gang of assorted cowards, charlatans, forelock-tugging toadies and arse licking Empire deniers who have bent the knee to secure letters before or after their name while obliterating any semblance of human respect or association with genuine equality, liberty or democracy.
Let him join the convicted child abusers like Saville, Cyril Smith, Harris and Hall. The woman abusers like Boycott and economic rogues and tax dodgers like Goodwin and Green. IDS belongs in such a group and Britain itself is defined by the class ridden deference to rank and privilege which the pathetic Honours system with its tainted baubles represents. We in Scotland demand the chance to leave all that behind in 2020.
Glass Most Definitely Half Full
My glass is most definitely half full my friends. We enter this New Year and new decade with a renewed vigour and determination to cast off the restrictive chains of Westminster rule and deliver the goal that has inspired and fuelled struggle throughout history. The desire for freedom; the demand to be governed by those whom your country voted for; the human and democratic right to self-determination.
I sincerely wish those with a belief in human compassion, a commitment to social justice and a keen sense of right and wrong a peaceful and love filled New Year. The past we inherit but the future we build should be our motto this coming year. Be inspired by the Storm and The Warrior statement. Be the collective storm that brings progressive change to society in this new decade:
“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You can not withstand the storm. … The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.”