[I wrote this for an essay competition a year or so ago. It was not short-listed or otherwise noted. I thought it was not bad. You can see the winning essay here ($) or message me and I’ll email it. I wasn’t that impressed, but I wouldn’t be, would I? You can judge for yourself.]
Is there, at bottom, any real distinction between esthetics and economics?—Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Other Writings
For a week or so when I was a kid my father came home from the farm every evening stinking of rotten potatoes. There was a glut and much of the previous season’s crop had not been sold. It was rotting in storage and he was digging it out and dumping it. We kids complained about how he smelt, thoughtless of his day-long immersion in the stench and disgusting sludge and oblivious to the bitter reality of another season’s hard labour gone for little return.
As Menzies foresaw, we have had economic anarchy, and both security and progress have disappeared.
A spirited contest of ideas has already started regarding how we emerge from the coronavirus shutdown. The Prime Minister is talking about ‘snapping back’ to what we were before. Some would like to use the crisis to jump to essentially an authoritarian corporate hegemony. Others would like to see a more sharing society with a more active government and embedded in a healthy natural world.
We are highly unlikely to just snap back, but if we want a more caring, equitable and durable society then we need to get clear about what needs to be done. Some are allowing that neoliberalism is dead, but few seem to be clear about what might replace it. Going back to something like our postwar system might be a good start, but we can do better.
I already wrote about the failures of Labor and the Greens and the flagrant partisanship of the media in bringing about Labor’s shock election loss. The trouble is these problems have been evident for a long time (Labor, Greens) and there is little sign anyone in those parties really understands what is necessary.
Nor is there any new party in the offing that might seize the day. The US has Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The UK had Jeremy Corbyn to revive their Labour Party, though he may be sinking into the ancient and corrupt mire of British politics. We have no messiah.
Yet this election has shown us the way forward, if we are open to noticing.