by John Ward
If you want to know why even most educated Americans don’t ‘get’ Europe, take the major US newspapers for a few days and read the naive “analyses” put forward by foreign correspondents and political columns about the continent from which most of them arrived during the last three hundred years.
Alternatively, read the British press on the subject of what’s really going down in South Africa, why everything is Russia’s fault everywhere else, or what the Gilets Jaunes are about in France. (If you want a real, good-old fashioned belly-laugh, read the New York Times on the Gilets Jaunes: it manages to be priceless and clueless at the same time).
In a combination of personal curiosity and happenstance, I found myself in Greece at the height of its debt “crisis”. The drivel put out about what was happening and why between Athens and Brussels (and Berlin, and Frankfurt) in the Western media was truly shocking, and got worse the further West one went. At the end of it, a close expat chum here in France said to me, “Look here John, we all know the Greeks are bone idle, crooked liars who evade tax, so for fuck’s sake stop defending the indefensible”. Soon afterwards during a phone conversation, my first wife opined, “You have to see it from the German point of view….they want their money back”.
More recently, the bile has been aimed at Hungary – a tiny country that had most of its land stolen after the First World War, but has dared to suggest that the European Union’s migration policy is insane and its political structure undemocratic. I have a black friend in the US, and I simply cannot have a discussion with the bloke about Viktor Orban. He thinks George Soros is a hero, and Orban a Nazi. Or posssibly a Commie: he’s not sure. All he’s sure about is that Orban wants to wipe out the gypsies and the Jews.
So in the light of all this – and while Remainer tosh on the subject of Brexit does irritate the Hell out of me – in truth I am no longer surprised by any media-based opinion anyone holds, however ignorant it may seem, about the affairs of something taking place somewhere else….in a country about which they have almost no experience, or on a continent they may never have visited.
We do not live in a global village, or indeed on a planet that needs globalism. Since the myth of globalism was first floated seriously in the late 1970s, as a student of human culture, a market researcher and an adman, I rejected it and, along with a bunch of other blokes, started an 360° marketing agency aimed solely at local and regional clients.
In the forty-odd years since then, I have seen nothing to change my view of “the Global Future” as a construct invented by greedy, tax-evading, employee-exploiting multinational stockholders to justify a form of throwback capitalism that benefits nobody except the Gigarich 3%. Its emphasis on mercantile cut-throat competition is now so naked and twisted out of shape, it could take the entire planet with it, through eco-damage and/or nuclear conflict.
Travel around the world, and you will see that local media is infinitely more influential than global “news”. Every last “global” TV news network devotes the vast majority of its time to what’s happening in the region: Sky, CNN, and the others are unrecognisable from the content and presenters you see in your own country or continent.
But ironically, all the trappings of the global outlook are there: the maps of the World showing the weather from Archangel to Zaire, the bands running along the bottom of the screen showing stock market prices from Argentina to Zambia, and the breaking news of a friendly soccer game between Shamrock Rovers and Ho Chi Minh City.
But what these media do not do is increase the sum of our understanding at all. They merely reinforce the belief in No alternative – “Look, everyone”s doing it” – while further cementing the erroneous belief that we are a world species with a world vision.
That is a ridiculous idea. We care first and foremost about our families, our neighbours and our close friends. Most human beings have a viable ‘caring’ network that rarely stretches beyond a hundred names. The only reason we care at all about how our employers are doing is because we don’t want to lose our jobs.
There is nothing whatsoever wrong with wanting to do unpaid charity work to help the less fortunate in our communities; that is a noble desire…but it can only ever be a palliative. Equally, we are often stirred by the fate of Tsunami victims on the other side of the world – but we hardly ever take on board the corruption, incompetence and inequality that produces such high death tolls.
We are light years away from being one globally consistent culture. Even when given the chance to be nations, all we have done is fight in a bid to dominate other nation’s cultures rather than understand them. Yet somehow, the “conclusion” we’re offered is that an ice-cold, faceless bureaucratic EU seeking to eradicate individual European cultures is somehow better….that what the world needs is another monstrously insensitive crypto-Empire to add to all the others – each one in turn destroyed by delusions of grandeur that cut them off from the aspirations of individual citizens.
The real answer lies in scaling down, not trading up.
Social capitalism with power devolved to a communitarian level beats the globalist neoliberal model on every dimension that matters. It hands more power over their future to individuals but insists they take more responsibility for the health of the community. It encourages entrepreneurialism rather than wage slavery. It produces a fair, more equitable distribution of material wellbeing. It encourages social, educational and health governance to think of people rather than numbers….and to deliver that in a clearly related allround package. But above all, it has the goal of maximum citizen fulfilment at its core, and a peaceful desire to cooperate rather than coerce.
The development of mass media (recently given global reach by the emergence of the internet) has moved us further away yet from our natural state as a species. Opinion-forming by those media is tied to the bizarre agendas of their owners and allies, or the unelected State apparatchiks who dictate what the citizenry can and cannot be told about.
As a result of this, we have reached the stage in the West where we refuse to believe that our side makes stuff up about the other side.
At some point well into the future, the day will come when we at last see ourselves as all on the same side – the goal being the survival of the only planet that, for the time being at least, we have.
That view will come from bottom-up learnings, not top-down dictation.