lundi 19 janvier 2009

The politics of envy

The politics of envy is a worn out phrase used by right wingers to express feelings of anxiety on being challenged by a social democrat about raising taxes on the rich. We've all heard the neo-liberal ideology about trickle down, incentives and 'fairness', and it was all garbage. Just a cover story for social and economic larceny. However, it continues to be made use of. Peter Mandleson was brought back into the Labour Government last Summer and no one could really explain why. It was, of course, to provide cover for Labour's right flank.

Gordon Brown wanted to make sure that the business class didn't get too worried that somehow, the Labour Party was going to revert to form or cave into grass roots pressure and suddenly start being socialist. Because the recession is putting strains on us little people and since we never had a great time, economically, when things were 'good', now that they look - face it - very bad indeed, we think, well, perhaps now is the time for a bit of redistribution, levelling the playing field and giving us some bastard money.

Mandleson fits the job perfectly. He's a truly repugnant old stoat who manages to feel up the rich and get to their slimy hot spots right away. As if giving the banks all that's left of the country's coffers, here's PM (even his initials drip with ambition) on a particularly complex area of political theory,
"Lord [fucking what? LORD? Since when? - ed.] Mandelson warned Labour yesterday not to impose big taxes on the rich during the recession as he urged the party not to revert to the "politics of envy".
At a Fabian Society conference entitled Fairness Doesn't Happen by Chance, the business secretary described as "ugly" the view prevalent in some Labour circles that politicians can promote fairness by "dragging down" the wealthy."

Ah, dragging down the wealthy - like, where from, when they're the lowest form of life there is? I suppose this is the idea that socialism is all about the equality of misery. The idea that everyone should get the same of not very much, rather than let a minority get filthy rich and, thereby, 'lift all our boats'. Well, the lifting of all our boats (a stupid analogy - again) doesn't seemed to have come off too well, given the way things are what with millions more facing starvation, the huge growth in poverty and the beginnings of serious political instability in Europe and all over the world. But who is to say that, to take the accusation at its strongest, a just distribution of limited resources instead of headlong economic 'growth' (with tricklie down et al. to mitigate capitalism's inherent inequality), would be any worse than the catastrophe we are now heading into? A more just distribution of fewer resources or a free for all of a (seemingly) ever increasing array of goods, through unsustainable production system, is ultimately preferable.

One's critique of the capitalist system does not proceed from the sentiment of frustrated entightlement. The Poor Side inhabitant would be forgiven for wanting the trappings of a rich man's life - the holidays, the huge garden, the cars etc., but her political analysis would not spring from this murky feeling. The 'envy' and the goods that are its object are both products of the malfunctioning and corrupt capitalist system. If there is a feeling at all to be attributed to this aspect of political behaviour, the term 'resentment' would be preferable and more dangerous from the elite's perspective.
For resentment is a dynamic critical state of being, rather than a passive sentiment like envy, and contains within it the possibilty of acting outside the stifling confines of normal capsoc expectations, viz. saving up, being inspired by the rich man's life-style, getting into debt, stealing and so forth, and instead..., well, who knows, we'll see in the next couple of months. But the PoE refrain is now so threadbare that the real reason it has been used is all that is left of this shoddy thought, that of a crude slander against those who want to see a fairer, cleaner and more efficient way of doing things rather than watching the earth's recourses get flushed away by the ugly wealthy elites.

It's not envy but resentment. And its growing all the time, everywhere.