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You Said, What?*!

A regular complaint about politics is the lack of plain speaking.

Illustration of climate activist, Greta Thunberg

Illustration of climate activist Greta Thunberg (source: INGmedia)

Even when truths are unavoidably uncomfortable, a lack of ambiguity (removing any excuse for convenient misunderstanding) will annoy some people. No matter how gently explained, the tone of the varnish can be criticised as, of course, are expletives deployed for emphasis.

Just recently there was much media anguish over whether to describe Russian atrocities in Ukraine as genocide. Now we are all becoming familiar with those invaders being described as terrorists — a term previously reserved for extremists, revolutionaries or liberators depending on your attitude towards incumbent authorities, or their opponents, or any of the ‘others’ imagined for the purpose of blame avoidance.

Only a small linguistic step is needed to reclassify free-market fundamentalists as engaged in global terrorism. But then many would find the invented term ‘toryism’ in that implied context as shockingly offensive — not least because so many of us are complicit in the evolution of unmoderated capitalist systems that are now wrecking our planet. Avoidance of offence is impossible, especially when discussing belief systems like economics.

At the G7 meeting in Bavaria, the push for massive investment in the global south was framed as a ‘catch-up’ response to China’s ‘Belt & Road’ project but without the overtones of autocratic control. What was not said is that far more could be achieved by massive debt relief plus investment (reparations) to tackle climate change largely caused by dominant ‘consumerist’ economies. But ‘debt relief’ might raise hackles as much as moves to take the impacts of spiralling fossil fuel costs as a signal to drastically reduce demand, to seek natural alternatives . . . and cut out unnecessary travel, heating, lighting, consumption, or mass displacement.

To all who shudder at pulse-rate-raising thoughts of the next two years, I can say with confidence that at some points you will be shocked and deeply offended — because truths are often very difficult to face.

The consequences of not levelling up, of leading us into Brexit, of restricting your rights to protest, of trafficking asylum seekers to distant lands, of privatising healthcare, of playing fast and loose with rules, or not introducing a proportional voting system, will be debated over and again. All of which will, for some, be deeply offensive and for others, long overdue.

As Greta said last week at Glastonbury, “It has not only become acceptable for leaders to lie — it’s almost what we expect them to do.”

She said it was time for society to start “creating hope” rather than waiting for it to arrive:

“Hope is not something that is given to you. It is something you have to earn, to create. It cannot be gained passively from standing by and waiting for someone else to do something. It is taking action. It is stepping outside your comfort zone. And if a bunch of school kids were able to get millions of people on the streets and start changing their lives, just imagine what we could all do together if we try.”

The message from recent English by-election successes is that actions speak — and speak loud and clear.


Notes: A version of this article was first published in the UK by LibDem Voice. Here it is listed in the Groupe Intellex ‘Governance’ series — short articles to encourage debate amongst students.



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Groupe Intellex

Groupe Intellex

David Brunnen on Governance (Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges} PLUS reflections on life in Portchester — the place that he calls home.