Your Slavery is their Freedom | George Monbiot

We talk about freedom as if everybody can have
the same kind of freedom all at the same time and with some kinds of freedom
it’s true, like freedom of speech; if I speak freely it doesn’t stop
you from speaking freely. But there are all sorts of freedoms which
prevent other people from being free. When the billionaires and their think tanks and
the whole international network of neoliberalism talks about freedom, they’re not talking about freedom
for us, they’re talking about freedom for them. and freedom for them is very
often captivity for everybody. So, they say “we want to be free,
we want to be free of red tape.” Very often that red tape means
public protections: Having to treat your workers reasonably well, having to
pay them decent wages, giving them holidays, giving them sick pay, that’s the sort of
thing. Red tape they want to rip up. They want to be free from
environmental red tape, which is stopping them from pouring pollution
into the river or into the air and choking everybody. They say red tape is choking us. No, actually
it’s the absence of red tape that’s choking us. They say we want freedom from tax. If they
don’t pay tax, we don’t have public services. We don’t have the health service.
We don’t have free public education. So this term ‘freedom’ gets used as a
weapon with which to beat us down. The ideology that now dominates our
lives has been paid for by billionaires, promoted through their think tanks,
promoted through the newspapers they own, promoted through the academic
departments that they’ve taken over and through the government’s which are
basically sitting in their front pockets. And so in the name of freedom they
campaign against our freedoms. There’s a classic example of this: the
Sun newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, used by that billionaire to promote his
agenda – to promote what’s good for him – it talked about how when Britain leaves the
European Union we can get out of the working time directive, which means that
employers can’t force their workers to work more than 48 hours a week. The way
it framed this was with the words: “shackles come off” but of course what we know
will really happen is that the shackles go on. The freedom which the Sun is talking about is going to
be captivity for the workers who can be exploited by their bosses and forced to work ridiculous hours,
which destroy their family life, destroy their health destroy their state of mind. In Britain we were constantly told that if
we leave the EU we can “take back control” and I totally understand that impulse, because very often
our lives seem to be completely out of control, commanded and controlled from on high where we have
almost no freedom, we have almost no autonomy but what we’re really getting is the
passing of control to the billionaire class and to the people who work for them, who are using this as the most fantastic opportunity
to rollback any constraints on the way they behave. The same applies in America, to Trump. He promised
to tear all this down, these public protections, in the name of freedom.
Their freedom is our captivity. To understand this we have
to go back in history a bit. Back maybe to about 1800 where according
to one estimate three-quarters of the world’s people were bonded. They were
either slaves, serfs or indentured labour. Now this was a horrendous State for the
great majority of the world’s people but it was the ideal state for those who
exploited them. The ideal state for those who harvested their productive work
and put it in their own pockets. And I believe that some of the billionaires who control
politics today, that’s what they want to go back to. And just occasionally one of these
people will give the game away. For instance Peter Thiel the founder of Paypal, an immensely rich man, multiple
billionaire, hugely influential in politics, great enthusiasts of Donald Trump.
He said in one of his essays: “I’ve come to believe that there’s a conflict
between liberty and democracy.” Of course what he meant by liberty
is what billionaires mean by liberty, which is our total freedom to behave as
we wish. And he’s right there is a conflict between that and democracy. You can’t
have both. If the billionaires are to be able to walk all over the rest of us, do exactly
what they want, when they want, to whom they want, democracy doesn’t
allow that because the rest of us have votes and the rest of us say actually we
want freedom and it’s not the same conception of freedom as you’ve got, in fact
it’s exactly the opposite to what you call freedom. So they use this word freedom
as a weapon against freedom. They use it as a way of constraining
and containing and controlling us, a way of effectively putting us into captivity.
So when you hear that word freedom, ask yourself this:
freedom for whom, against whom. Double Down for principle reasons
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