It is hard to believe it this morning, but the most important driver of the changes happening around us is not Brexit. Leaving the EU will not stop the degradation of our health service as it is gradually privatised. It will not stop the erosion of pensions on the grounds that we can't afford old people. It will not stop the ludicrous national testing regime that my daughter is subject to at school (against her fantastic teachers' wishes). Or the lack of affordable housing. Or the polluted air. Or TTIP.
(And all of those were already happening before Brexit, so a vote to remain would have left all of them on the table.)
The fundamentals behind all these are the organisation of the way that we create the conditions of our existence — the way that we grow our food, build our houses, generate power, etc. etc. etc. In all cases the lion's share of our efforts are marshalled and controlled by huge transnational corporations. These corporations are mandated to make profits, and to maximise shareholder value. If their CEOs all jumped out of bed one morning and decided to stop destroying the planet, they'd soon be sacked — it isn't a matter of individual bad choices, but a desperately bad framework.1
The search for profit is inexorable, and when one sector has been monopolised another becomes the new target. So our politicians, dancing on the strings of billions of pounds/dollars/euros of corporate PR money, hand over the keys for more and more areas of our lives to the markets — whose grinning jaws proceed to remake them in service of shareholders with no regard to the needs of people or the environment which sustains us. (Austerity isn't about debt — it is the excuse currently used to justify this process of replacing public services with private profits.)
So take hope — the polarisation and the divisions revealed by the Brexit referendum (and the Scottish one before it) are signs at least of a new politicisation. And when Boris' Brexit brick through the stained glass EU window proves not to bring us to the promised land, perhaps we'll reach out for the real change that we desperately need.
And: the more we meet our needs outside of the giant grinding wheels of corporate capital, the more resilient we will become. The less scare resources we use, the more sustainable we become.
And the more we produce in small organisations, the less likely we are to treat our planet as a disposable input — or an externality as corporate economics has it.
It is often said that the law of evolution is that the strongest survive — we should remember that in a social species, the strongest are the most social.
Perhaps we need to grow more social to survive.
- See: Vitali, Glattfelder and Battiston, PLoS ONE 6-10, 2011; New Scientist, October 2011; Joel Bakan, The Corporation, 2004.