My Manifesto for the UK post-Brexit (Part 1 – Immigration)

I was having a conversation with someone recently and they challenged me to write a manifesto for the UK, to help put a bit of substance to my various thoughts. What follows is by no means a finished article, nor am I likely to do much with it, but I have found it helpful as an exercise and it serves as a starter on a few issues to spark discussion and also to help me shape my own thoughts further.

I am also a white, privately-educated, “middle-class”, married with 3-kids, “christian” male and so I recognise an inability to communicate, except from the perspective of power and privilege – I can’t change this, but I just want to say that I know it means I can’t see very well.

I hope what I have written is founded on the values of self-giving, others empowering love, the desire to build with positive peace and with hope for a fairer society for everyone. I will start with the area that caused so much debate over the last few weeks and has opened up some deep wounds – let’s see where this goes!

Immigration

I recognise this is a very real and important issue and it is not one that we should be afraid to face up to. My approach would be five-fold:

  1. Our education system will look at the damaging effects of empire and colonisation. We will look at the issue of white and male supremacy and work together to break down these deep set corporate worldviews that we find hard to name let alone own up to. We will help our children and communities face up to the bias and prejudice we all live with and learn from organisations, like the NHS that have done much to tackle them. We will encourage an understanding of the ‘other’ and the benefits of inter-culturalism. We will also work with charities like “together4peace” in Leeds to encourage intercultural dialogue and relationships.
  2. We will introduce a basic rate of pay, guaranteeing a fair and living wage for all of £10 per hour (see economy section for how this is affordable – austerity is NOT the only option available to us!). This will encourage people into work and we will ensure good support of small businesses to make this attainable i.e. the government will give means tested grants to businesses to support them in this. In this way it pays to work, but we will not have a society in which we punish or vilify those who are unable to do so, for whatever reason (see later policy on welfare). It will be illegal for any individual or business to employ workers from overseas or the UK for less than this. This must be legislated and so breaches of this will ensure a heavy fine and/or community service. A second offence would lead to a prison sentence. We cannot endure a culture of westernized slavery that leaves areas impoverished.
  3. We will create local jobs, especially in the places in the UK which have felt forgotten. This will come through a restructuring of the banking sector to encourage local investment in local businesses, as seen in Germany and Denmark. Our banking system is far too centralised and remote. Job creation will come through the creation of locally and/or publicly owned energy, utility and transport services. These might be structured in several different ways and therefore will not take us ‘back to the 1970s’ but create alternative and better ways ahead for local communities.
  4. We will allow the free movement of people but not the free movement of capital. It is not possible to have both. Money created in the UK will stay in the UK ie companies who do their business in the UK will pay their fair share of tax, rather than ship their profits overseas. This will include open but monitored borders, so we are clear who is in the UK, from a security perspective. But overall, we would seek to be a country that welcomes those who want to come here (it’s really not as many as we have been lead to believe!), especially those who need our help at times of crisis in their own nations.
  5. We will encourage every person who lives in the UK to be a net contributor to society where this is possible. We openly recognise and celebrate how many of our public services have depended on the great diversity brought by migrants and refugees from all over the world. We recognise that migrants make a net contribution to our society and give far more in terms of money, skills and rich diversity of culture into the UK than they take. We will ensure welfare for all those who need it, but our international development work will ensure we are able to work with countries to help people where they are to build a future of peace and prosperity (see later post on this). 

 

Obviously all of this needs a great deal of fleshing out, but these would be my overarching principles as points for discussion at this stage – I’m sure it is terribly lacking, so go easy on me – I’m looking for a conversation not a battle!

Why I’m Voting Green

Unknown-1My kids love to know who my wife and I are voting for and we want to be a family that talks about this kind of stuff around our dinner table. So we told them “this year, we’re firmly nailing our green colours to the mast”. They didn’t know what that meant, so we told them – “we’re voting GREEN”!

I’ve read a surprising amount of the manifestos of each of the parties this year. Before doing so, I was highly inclined not to vote at all as I feel the political class/system is so out of touch with real life and there seems to be little radical voice in the arena. However, I have become hopeful that the Green party really are standing for some hugely important issues and offering a real alternative.

Here is my summary of why I am voting green:

Unknown-2A New Politics – Caroline Lucas has not been afraid to challenge the status quo. I believe we must find an inclusive, love based politics if we are going to find a new and reimagined future together. I believe the Green party are truest to this hope. I also love the gentle, gracious, intelligent and firm leadership of Natalie Bennett – for me, she was outstanding in the leaders’ debate and held her nerve in the face of the ‘old boys club’. As a feminist, I am passionate about seeing women fully instated in leadership, not just ‘talked-up’. The leadership we are seeing from Natalie and Caroline is of a different order from the brash, bullying, testosterone-fuelled alternatives. Unknown-1

Healthcare – It might surprise some, as a GP that I say this, but for me the Greens have a serious and well thought through health policy. Their health policy is more holistic and more just (for those who need health care the most) than any of the other parties. I have to say, both Labour and the Lib Dems are also saying some great stuff, but overall, the Greens are willing to shift the conversation to where we need it to go – from an illness model towards promoting health and wellbeing.

Education – Our children have become commodities of the economic state. I love that the Greens are talking far more holistically and compassionately about the future of our children. Unknown

Environment – It needs hardly be said, but this issue is actually going to kill us and we need some people in government who are going to help us make some massive changes to our energy supplies and the ways we are choosing to live. Their view is comprehensive and holistic. The raping of the earth’s resources and high CO2 levels are far more dangerous than the threat of terrorism. We must face this hard truth and act now.

Defence and International Development – Here we have a dual policy that makes sense. Stop our own hypocritical nuclear arsenal and make for positive peace by tackling poverty in the developing world.

UnknownEconomy – Huge fresh creation of new jobs in making the world more beautiful through green technologies, massive investment back into the public sector and encouraging those of us more able to be less self-protective and share the greater burden of taxation, rather than crushing the poor whilst the rich get ever richer. I also like that they will hold banks and big business to better account.

Immigration – There are too many awful lies being peddled about asylum seekers and refugees. I believe in open borders and intercultural rich diversity. I believe in interdependence and love, not fear, independence and hate.

Justice – A fresh look at the criminal justice system, with a move towards restorative justice is from my perspective the only way to go.

Voting – I refuse to be told that my vote will be a wasted vote. I am fed up of the arrogance of the system that tells me there are only two alternatives. The old politics is over. We are entering the day of coalitions and finding our way to a wholly different kind of political system. I am voting Green, not to be tactical, not to be pig-headed, not out of fear, but because I believe they genuinely hold the brightest torch for the things that matter the most not for me, but for everyone. We cannot vote out of selfish self-protectionism. We must position ourselves for the future generations and the future of this planet. That is why I am voting GREEN!images

Sacred Economics – The Illusion of Scarcity

“If money, in its simplest form, is about connecting human gifts with human needs, what perversion has turned it into an agent of scarcity?” A great opening question from Charles for this next chapter.

He sets out the following argument: We live in a world of abundance, but we waste and abuse it. Half the world starves, while the other half wastes enough to feed the first half. Vast numbers of people cannot afford food, suitable housing or clothing, yet we pour an unbelievable amount of resources into: war and theimages armaments industry ($2trillion a year), plastic junk we don’t use, McMansions serving no real human need, ridiculously sprawling suburbia requiring more and more cars (worsened by poor public transport), huge farm to retail wastage, bottled water (what’s that about?!), child care (gone are the days when we would watch our kids for each other), various goods we never recycle or fix (like lawnmowers or blenders – just how many do we need per street, exactly?!) – the list goes on!

There is so much poverty, but it is not due to a lack of productive capacity. Nor is imagesit due to a lack of willingness to help. So many people would love to feed the poor, restore nature and do loads of other things, but there is simply no money in it. Yet we are in a situation in which many people have jobs which contribute perhaps to more growth, but not at all to well-being. What if people were not employed to make more and more cars, or lawnmowers or blenders or plastic nonsense, but instead could devote themselves to permaculture, caring for the sick and elderly, restoring ecosystems and other tragically unmet needs?

How are we living like this? Surely the answer is greed?

But Eisenstein argues that blaming greed is an easy ‘get-out clause’, because greed only makes sense in the context of scarcity. The story of our time assumes it – the story of the separate self with competition and therefore greed written into the basic axioms of our biology and economics. But what if this assumption is false? What if greed is only manifest because we perceive that resources are scarce? He quotes some interesting studies which show that people earning less than $25k give 4.2% of their money to charity, but those earning over $100k give 2.7% to charity. But this is crazy. Greed makes no sense in the context of abundance. Perhaps money itself causes the illusion of scarcity?

For something to become an object of commerce, it must become ‘scarce’. As the economy grows, so more and more of human activity enters the realm of money – the realm of goods and services. We pay for things we would never dream of paying for. And most of us have an underlying anxiety that we simply don’t have enough money.

The biggest indication of our slavery to this way of thinking is the monetization of time. He tells the story of a mexican woman who visits her sister in the big city.images “She has all kinds of amazing time-saving devices, yet when I visit, she is always so busy, she barely has time to talk.” When did time become money? How have we become unable to afford the time?

Scarcity, he argues, is actually an illusion created by the way we handle money. Money (that embodies our cultural story) has turned abundance into scarcity and caused greed. No one can deny we’re in a mess – Peak Oil, overpopulation, global warming, the raping of the world’s resources. Real problems, but the solutions currently on the table to tackle them are too little, too late. How did money in it’s current come to afflict our minds so severely?

Sacred Economics – Gift 2

Eisenstein uses his opening chapter on Gift to set a contrast for the rest of Part 1 of his book. He is introducing us to the notion that economics and the use of our money, in particular, is a sacred thing.

Charles paints a picture using the natural world around us to challenge the perception that evolutionary biology is a cut throat, competitive business , which is all about survival of the fittest, driven by our “selfish genes”. He argues that in nature, “headlong growth and all out-competition  are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation and the cycling of resources.”

The violent, competitive, growth-driven, accumulative, oppressive, marginalising and hoarding economic of today is an aberration. It is time for humanity to enter a new phase of life. It’s grow up time! “Money may not disappear anytime soon, but it will serve a diminished role even as it takes on more of the properties of the gift. The economy will shrink (do not fear this!) and our lives will grow!”

It is crazy that money was originally a means of connecting gift with need. Yet now we often find ourselves in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, with crazy phrases like “I can’t afford to do that,” or “the cost of living is so high.” But CE goes to town on this! “Our purpose for being, the development and full expression of our gifts, is mortgaged to the demands of money, to making a living, to surviving. Yet no one, no matter how wealthy, secure, or comfortable, can ever feel fulfilled in a life where those gifts remain latent. Even the best paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening, and we think, “I was not put here on earth to do this.”

The day of falsely separating our world out is over. There is no sacred/secular divide, everything we do and touch is sacred, because life is sacred and we need to start viewing both work and economics as truly sacred things. In the next blogs I will explore what Charles calles the ‘Economics of Separation’, its main components and how it has landed us in the mess we find ourselves in.

When we stare the beast in the face, we will see that we are tired of its ugliness and want to be part of a movement that is far more creative and beautiful. Surely, we do not want to align our lives with something which causes devastation and destruction but rather that which perpetuates life in all its fullness. We are tired of being commodities, we want to be gifts. The way we use money will form a part of this story, as we recover together a new economics for a reimagined future of reconciliation and peace. If we begin to choose to enter the economy of gift then surely every mountain can made low and every valley raised up – an economic level playing field, where lambs can play with lions!