These are certainly interesting times — where growing inequality, ongoing injustice and the threat of climate disaster make a potent brew of deep uncertainty.
Just ask our rulers. A January 23 article in The Guardian titled “As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes” said: “With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences.
“At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. 'I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,' he said.”
But it seems more than just the fear of being targeted by riotous mobs that is keeping the super-rich up at night. In Greece, five years of crippling austerity — imposed to protect the interests of the big banks — led to radical left party SYRIZA sweeping the January 25 elections. Panicked markets started to tumble.
Before the year is out, SYRIZA could be joined in Spain by fellow anti-austerity party Podemos — a new group that emerged out of the mass indignado movement, Spain's equivalent of Occupy, except on a much larger scale.
Sleepy Australia can seem a long way from the tumult of southern Europe. Yet even here we are not entirely immune from the tempest — even if the biggest political issue of the day seems to be Prime Minister Tony Abbott's odd decision to grant Prince Philip a knighthood.
Abbott's latest absurd move was so bizarre not a single member of his own party — or indeed, it seems, anyone anywhere — could be found to support it. Even Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Bolt have slammed the decision — Bolt going so far as to suggest it could prove a fatal blow for the PM.
“With friends like these…” the beleaguered PM might be thinking. But the problem goes much deeper than one silly “captain's pick”. The controversy surrounding it can only be understood in the context of the Abbott government’s deep unpopularity, due to its faltering bid to impose cruel “reforms” amid worsening unemployment and the threat of a recession.
That Abbott's attacks have been justified by a supposed “budget emergency” and “end of the age of entitlement” while the rich get tax breaks and politician perks remain untouched, has only heightened the sense that this government is not just cruel, but out of touch.
The “Sir Prince Philip” debacle, after all, came just after the Abbott government signaled an assault on the minimum wage and penalty rates. Abbott proved just how far he is from the lives of ordinary people by making the insulting statement on radio that “if you don't want to work weekends, don't”. The comment spread like wildfire on social media — itself insultingly dismissed by Abbott as “electronic graffiti”. (He truly does seem to think he lives in 1956.)
It is the anger over such attitudes that make the decision to grant a knighthood to a foreign parasite so controversial. This is what Murdoch, Bolt and many of Abbott's colleague's are so concerned about — not Abbott's pro-rich, anti-poor policies, but his inability to sell them.
Green Left Weekly, on the other hand, is against these policies no matter who tries to sell them. We take hope from Greece and beyond that we don't have to accept these moves. We can push back — and win.
To help make the super-rich's fears that their days may be numbered come true, you can donate to the GLW Fighting Fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).
Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Otherwise you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.