I don’t normally have much time for George Monbiot, but I found an excerpt from his most recent commentisfree piece interesting, namely:
the further from its ideals….a system strays, the more fervently its justifying myths are propounded
He applies this dictum to both the elapsed Soviet system and the – apparently decaying – American one. If America’s founding myth is opportunity, Monbiot writes, then we will hear more and more about it as good fortune becomes further and further out of reach.
And why does that happen? Describing the financial sector, whose gluttony Monbiot can barely mask his contempt for:
The tighter its grip on politics, the more its representatives must tell the opposite [from what is really happening] story: of life-affirming enterprise, innovation and investment, of brave entrepreneurs making their fortunes out of nothing but grit and will
I am very sympathetic to Ed Miliband’s claim earlier this year that ‘if you want the American dream – go to Finland’ though Tim Stanley has a pretty good hack at it. In the OECD only Italy and, shamefully, the UK, have higher rates of social immobility – America is a society in which living in a nice neighbourhood, getting into an Ivy League College and earning a mint depends almost wholly on whether your parents managed to.
As such the constant eulogies from both Democrats and Republics about America being a land of hope, opportunity etc ring a bit hollow when they can summon only anecdotal, not actual, evidence.
But Monbiot’s conspiracy theory? I just don’t buy it. When Romney&Ryan – the posterboys of the 1% – bang on about divine providence uniquely bestowing America with opportunity blah blah, they mean it. They really mean it. Obama’s ‘you didn’t build that’ rabble-rousing speech genuinely fills them with fiery anger, not meek embarrassment.
So my advice to Monbiot (unlikely to be heard, even less listened to): keep making the arguments, but drop the angry conspiracy theory stuff. Even though they participate, perpetuate, entrench a system you think is ugly, that doesn’t necessarily make them ugly characters. Certainly not subversives.