Have you encountered George Monbiot? He’s my favourite columnist in the whole wide world. He delves in under the wounds, undeterred by the defensive scab. Then he goes in another layer, and another, and finds the root cause of the pain.
Last week he wrote about how the values of neoliberalism have cheated us. And how it’s entirely understandable that so many of us should feel at odds with the world right now.
I won’t break things down fully. I don’t need to when George does it so perfectly. But I want to touch on the fundamental message behind his call to emotional arms: The domineering neoliberalist celebration of unrestricted competition and self-interest has left us feeling wholly uncertain about our most fundamental of human values. And this is a travesty.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on my beef with this phenomenon for a while.
I’ve been observing the way parents around me who are focused on finding the best private school for their kids, at all costs, grapple with the grubby feeling that in doing so they’re not supporting a fair go for all.
I read about how the woman who screamed racist abuse on a bus the other week repented when fronting court a few days later, admitting she was astonished by her own behavior.
I see us all consuming, buying into the Cult of the New, but desperately wanting less.
I’ve looked on as the current Government here in Australia has tried to pull apart policies that formed the ethical fibre of this country, the roughage that has made me feel proud and safe when I’ve traveled overseas or reflected on my belonging. And I’ve witnessed this dissonance in myself. A month or two ago I realised I’d stopped voicing my opinion so loudly on “leftist” topics, even among friends. Why? I doubted my legitimacy in having and voicing such views. So I backed off, not wanting to be labelled leftist.
Ditto with voicing feminist concerns. I’d actually allowed myself to believe that I should just suck it (taunts, systematic inequities etc) up. I even started to judge other women who got fired up over female CEO numbers and wet T-shirt comps.
But all through this I have also watched as we punish ourselves for being so uncertain as to where the solid moral ground lies.
As George writes, this disconnect has left us lonely and so very anxious.
And feeling like we don’t fit in.
Which is why I like his point that this is now honourable:
“So, if you don’t fit in, if you feel at odds with the world, if your identity is troubled and frayed, if you feel lost and ashamed – it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded.”
And from all this, my call to emotional arms: please, please, please let us all refuse to feel like the odd ones out. What if enough of us stood proud and loud of our fundamental values and critical mass meant we no longer felt alone, but fully buttressed by what matters?