Monbiot’s Sick Moonbats

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Not long ago an article kept reappearing on my feeds, retweeted or shared by people who were obviously impressed with its sentiments. It’s a piece by The Guardian’s George Monbiot, “Sick of This Market-Driven World? You Should Be.” Here’s a slice:

Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.

This passage raises a few questions. Why has this “dominant narrative” emerged only within the past 35 years? And how exactly does “neoliberalism” differ from capitalism? By engaging in a shell-game where capitalism disappears only to reemerge as something called “neoliberalism,” so-called “progressives” like Monbiot help reinforce the dominant paradigm of capitalist relations. Beneath the shallow critique is the suggestion that neoliberalism is an aberration of capitalism, that if the excesses of the former could be curtailed then society could get on functioning perfectly well with the latter. The problem with this view is that it neglects the real elephant in the room. Capitalism is, in fact, designed to do exactly what Monbiot and others suggest neoliberalism is doing. But if they turn their guns on the real problem they would be shooting the animal that feeds them.

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However, the genuine malady of this article lies in Monbiot’s abhorrent conclusion:

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. You are a deviant. Be proud.

This is a perfect example of what Noam Chomsky has referred to as “sadism dressed-up as compassion.” Sing while you slave with a boot to your throat. And that disease you’re suffering from? Embrace it: it’s a sign of your uniqueness. Be proud – you’re such a badass, you’re sick.

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God forbid Monbiot utters “revolution,” “general strike,” or even “rebel.” He wouldn’t want to lose his perch as a reasonable liberal, or be accused of fomenting genuine dissent as a way of recapturing “the human values” he appears to lament. Better to pat the sickos on the head, administer a dose of what Lauren Berlant has called “cruel optimism,” and return them to the source of their illness. Be proud – no change, no real harm done.

 

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