Editor-in-chief Claire Connelly examines why Jeremy Corbyn’s presence at Glastonbury was a watershed moment in British history that will have global repercussions.
Last week at Glastonbury music festival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded us what it means to live in a democracy.
He reminded us what elections are for. And who they are for. Not the private sector. Not the banks. Not property developers or party donors.
They are meant for we: the people.
Corbyn’s reception at Glastonbury over the weekend demonstrates what an excellent job this government has done at managing our expectations. That is to say: we have been trained not to have any.
Over the last 15 years or so, voters have somehow been convinced that the government is no longer responsible for employment, or for the overall health of the economy. Why ensure ample productivity and consumer spending when you can easily achieve growth without employment? Sure, only 100 or so people will benefit from said growth but it looks good in a headline.
We forgot, somewhere along the way, or were trained to forget, the entire point of government in the first place.
We forgot that the social safety net advocated by Labour isn’t a radical idea. Nothing Corbyn proposes hasn’t already existed in recent British history, and these policies have already proven to endow the middle and working classes, particularly after the war.
And the class warfare being waged by the Tories tells us culture is a luxury of the elite, poetry the dominion of the upper class, that music is a thing that sells records and festival tickets, not a tool of political protest. Not a tune that accompanies living history, or reaction to the zeitgeist.
So it is the ultimate act of irony that the Tories and their supporters have tried to characterise this ‘ah hah’ moment as the luxury of the cashed-up left, after years of characterising anyone left of centre as good-for-nothing dole-addicts.
Just yesterday Boris Johnson stood in Parliament and claimed those who cheered for Corbyn were members of some mystic cult, so foreign is the concept of government that represents the will of the people. It takes a real nerve to stand before the British people and claim a government that offers nothing but an almost permanent winter with no Christmas, is a better alternative to the one concerned with addressing the wellbeing of the greatest number of people.
Boris Johnson on "Glarstonbury" pic.twitter.com/055kTZ1LI2
— Esther Webber (@estwebber) June 26, 2017
Bo-Jo is basically telling Britain: “Vote Tory, we promise not to do anything.” How this qualifies as a credible political strategy is beyond me.
Perhaps more importantly, we forgot the importance of an eloquent phrase; to quote Aaron Sorkin, “that words when spoken out loud for the sake of performance are music.”
Or to borrow another Sorkin phrase: “that the world can move – or not – by changing some words.”
Well, the world may have stood still for those 13 minutes and 40 seconds in which Corbyn held court, as, what seemed like all of England, bore witness to this watershed moment.
Corbyn changed some words alright. He is reading out of an entirely different play book to his political rivals, and it is these same words which removed May’s majority, and hopefully soon, the Tory government.
And what an inspired performance it was.
Corbyn has given Britain – and the world – new words with which to move the nation forward.
He reminded us what it means to have a leader that is a true servant of the people, whose interests he is elected to protect.
He reminded us – as economist, Ann Pettifor did on Renegade Inc recently – that it is not the government or even the Bank of England who controls the economy: we do.
And it is not governments who elect themselves (however they may try), it is we the people.
“Ye are many, they are few.”
In six words, Jeremy Corbyn began to give the British people their power back. (His next challenge is getting his own party to agree with him).
A quick digression while we’re on the topic of words. What does it say about the merit of the Tory argument that their leader Theresa May has used so few of them?
May refused to debate Corbyn during the election campaign and has avoided saying anything of any substance both about the Tories’ policy proposals, or the tragedies that followed the election. This woman will inevitably have to stand before Corbyn every day in Parliament and make her case, yet has almost religiously avoided making her case to the British people, then or now. The Tories are kidding themselves if they think they can claw back their mandate by calling Corbyn supporters brainwashed members of some mystical cult. Its reaction to Britain’s rejection of its neoliberal policies only further demonstrates how out-of-touch the government is with the cultural zeitgeist.
But back to the matter in hand… To quote Yehuda Berg: “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
Corbyn has indeed humbled the Tories, and any leader who arrogantly makes the case for government by telling people they’re on their own. Even the Super Tory, Jacob Rees Mogg now wants to be a servant of the people – it looks like there is such a thing as society.
Mr Corbyn has used his words to reject the premise of his opposition’s argument. By doing so he has changed the conversation. Our expectations have been raised.
He reminded us what government is for. And of the importance of culture and shared experiences. This is the country of Orwell. Of Shakespeare. Of The Beatles and The Clash. The Sex Pistols. Pink Floyd. Of Zadie Smith, of Verity Lambert, of Kia Abdullah. Each one capturing snapshots of moments in time.
Corbyn reminded us of ourselves. That, all in all, we are not all just bricks in a wall. We are not passive receptacles for credit and consumer goods, however hard the Tories may try to tell us otherwise.
We are living, breathing, voting constituents whose interests must be met if political parties expect us to vote for them.
They are the servants, we are the many, and now there’s no turning back.
Specialising in economics, technology and policy, Connelly is working on her first book and podcast series, How the World Really Works*. (*Title may be due to change). You can pre-order a copy here. #shamelessselfpromotion.
With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Claire has written for leading publications including The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Paper, ABC, SBS, Crikey, New Matilda, VICE & others. She is the co-host of The Week In Start-Ups Australia, and features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio shows including Radio National's Download This Show, ABC's The Drum, Ten's The Project, and more.
How do you spend your days?
I am the editor-in-chief of Renegade and founder of Hello Humans, a subscription journalism experiment. I also freelance & consult for a number of publications of the editorial and commercial variety.I work from home. I am a bit of a work-hermit. I can mostly be found on the internet and at the dog park.
Why is this important to you?
Now more than ever, it is really important to make sense of the world around us. But in an age of information saturation it is becoming harder to distinguish the truth from bullshit. Part of the reason I am doing this is to help people differentiate between the truth and narratives being sold by people and organisations with vested interests.
I want to help people identify rhetorical red flags and immunise themselves against a sea of bullshit.
What drove you to focus on journalism?
I guess you could say my parents played a fairly big part in my becoming a journalist, much to their despair. Watching the news, reading the paper and listening to the radio was a compulsory activity in my household. My parents read me the paper before I could read.
Being engaged in the world around us was the way we repaid our debt to society.
They channelled the last of their politically active twenties and thirties into fostering our curiosity and distrust of authority. It wasn’t until I reached university that I fell in love with economics, politics and international relations.
Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field?
The day Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated, (the 4th of November 1995). I was 10. It was a weekend and I was in my winter school uniform complete with pinafor and scratchy tights. I played clarinet in the school orchestra and we were due to play at the old folks home. And I was pissed. And I said so.
The phone rang, and with tears rolling down her face, my mum turned to me and said the concert had been cancelled. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister had been killed.
I threw my stuff down and turned to get changed. But before I could my mum grabbed me firmly. I will never forget the look of disappointment on her face. She made some comment about how Rabin did not die for my convenience.
“You live in this house, you have clothes on your back and warm blankets and three square meals a day. You may not do anything with your education that we pay for, but you will be informed.”
She sat me down in front of the ABC and made me watch eight hours of assassination coverage. Little had I known the world was falling apart.
That day pretty much sealed my fate.
You can read more it here if you are interested.
What drives you professionally?
Justice. Egomania. Curiosity. And the fact there is no other profession more suited to my personality.
In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world?
Neoliberalism. Economic and social instability and insecurity. Banking fraud. Climate change. (Ok that’s four things. I never was very good at lists).
If you hadn’t become a journalist what would you have done?
My mum wishes I had studied law.
What led us to this moment in history?
We are living proof of a 30 year operation to permanently reduce the responsibility ofgovernment over the wellbeing of its constituents. You can read more about that here. (Link to neoliberalism piece).
What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis?
Austerity is a means of redistributing the profits in of productivity in which we all used to share to the world’s uber-wealthy.
The global financial crisis was one small step for man, one giant leap for the banking industry. It cemented financial crises as a permanent phenomenon and the formalisation of corporate revolution.
It signalled to the world that government exists only to support the private sector, triggering a wave of disillusionment which allowed neoliberalism to complete its task at hand: the complete and utter destruction of democracy, replacing it with a market society in which economics permeates every facet of modern life, from education to healthcare to law & order.
Even the military operates as a for-profit model, conveniently privatising any activity that sits outside the criminal justice system.
Some call the bail-outs of 2008 a failure of neo-liberalism. To the contrary, the private sector attained almost exactly what it set out to achieve: a system with no obligation to true economic recovery, that supports only profits and the corporations which generate them.
We keep voting for wealthy populist leaders thinking the knock-on-effects will put dollars in our pocket when the very opposite is true.
So long as voters continue to accept the mythic propaganda sown over the last 30 years that tax breaks & subsidies create jobs, deficits are bad, surpluses are good and that any instability is somehow the fault of the poor, our economic insecurity will only continue to increase.
Can you list some ‘baby steps’ out of the current economic mess?
A return to full employment.
A royal commission into the continuation of subprime mortgage fraud. (It didn’t go away after the GFC. In fact it was pretty much legalised).
Slash the cost of university degrees & create new pathways for the unemployed and underemployed to attain new skills and education.
Deficit spending to create infrastructure that will create the jobs of the future.
Support local agriculture.
Reduce private debt.
If you were a President / Prime Minister what would your first three pieces of policy be?
A job guarantee.
Re-introduce a price on carbon.
Legalise gay marriage.
Tell us something you have been wrong about?
I didn’t think that in 2017 that gay marriage and abortion would still be illegal in Australia.
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