Published: 31 December 2021
Guests: Dr. Ashley Frawley, Ben Norton, Professor Richard D. Wolff, Lisa McKenzie, Professor Michael HudsonListen to Audio Download Transcript
In this edition of Renegade Inc., host Ross Ashcroft, met up with five friends of the show to ask them about what surprised them over the last year and, as importantly, what they foresee happening in 2022.
The one thing that most shocked the first of our guests, Author and Senior lecturer, Dr Ashley Frawley, was the ease at which COVID-19 recast non-functional aspects of what it is to be human as superfluous or unnecessary.
“At the beginning, we were uncertain about what was going on with the pandemic. It made sense to be careful around the holidays. But now in 2021, we’re being told to avoid unnecessary socialisation at Christmas even though socialisation is necessary, especially during the holidays. We are social beings. Life isn’t just living, it has meaning, and we give meaning to life socially. I feel like I was really blindsided by just how little value we were able to give to so many of the little things that make life meaningful in favour of prolonging life.”
It’s the normalization of the reductionist approach to life that Frawley is particularly aware of in her work as an educationalist:
“What goes on in a university is not just the information that I give to students, it’s people that they meet, it’s the experiences that they have. And all of this now is seen as unnecessary”, says Frawley.
The academic is conscious of the potential in 2022 for a reductionist mission creep to develop which she describes as a curse. Nevertheless, in the final analysis, Frawley is optimistic of the public’s ability to accede fear to reason.
One of the most strikingly shocking things in 2021 that surprised our second guest, Journalist, Ben Norton, was witnessing how the Biden administration accelerated Donald Trump’s new Cold War on both China and Russia. Norton notes that this hard line approach is in contrast to the kind of successful triangulation strategy adopted under Kissinger and Nixon in the early 1970s which was intended to weaken the then Soviet Union.
Instead, the Biden administrations approach has actually pushed Moscow and Beijing even closer together to the extent that U.S. diplomatic relations with Russia and China have totally broken down. As of December 2021, the two countries are on the verge of declaring a military alliance. This is in addition to their already established political alliance embodied, for example, in their strengthening of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Norton says that this has culminated, not in the kind of multipolar world many commentators thought we were moving towards, but on the contrary, to the emergence of a ‘you’re either with us, or against us’ bipolar world. Norton says that from a mega trend perspective, the most important development, not just for 2022 but way beyond, is the continuation of this kind of bipolar global order.
When looking back at 2021, the issue that most shocked or surprised our next guest, Economist, Richard Wolff, was the depressing reality underpinning the inability or unwillingness of the Biden administration to shake the economy into something new and different. Wolff reminds us that both 2020 and 2021 began with an unusual catastrophic combination of economic crash and public health disaster. Biden failed to intervene in a way that, arguably, the worst crisis in American history demanded.
Resisting the temptation to crystal ball 2022 in any kind of specific way, Wolff paints a generalized picture of an on-going and worsening economic, political and social crisis fueled by inequality and bitterness.
“Inequality, which got worse during Trump, has continued to worsen. Now we are at record levels. Corporate profits are off the chart positive, while the average American worker can’t even get money wage increases to stay even with inflation. You put this together and there’s no reason to expect anything other than a worsening of the very scary trends of the last decade or more”, says Wolff.
With an incredibly volatile and precarious landscape for people to navigate in the coming years, marked by America’s irreversible declining global influence, the economists advice for young people making their way in the world now, is to diversify both skills and assets.
“We are in a situation”, says Wolff, “in which a country facing the decline of its century in the sun is mostly in denial. And that’s not a very healthy way of coping with any kind of problem you have. You have to adjust to that reality.”
The most shocking aspect of 2021 in the view of our fourth guest, Sociologist, Lisa Mackenzie, was the way in which our human rights and freedoms are continuing, by stealth, to be rolling-back to the point where the population are not even noticing. Citing the latest COVID variant, Mackenzie says she is particularly shocked at the authoritarian nature of governments and the extent to which, in the absence of evidence, people have so readily been willing to give up their rights and freedoms without so much as a debate.
Mackenzie adds, pertinently, that the UK government are exploiting the pandemic for their own nefarious political ends:
“The government is looking at an opportunity in the eye and thinking, hang on a minute, all the things that we thought we’d like to do over the last 30 years that we daren’t do, now we can do it.”
“What is shocking is that the way the public, parts of the media, and the whole of Westminster, have not really put up a fight against this.”
Looking forward to 2022, the most important issue, according to the sociologist, is housing, which Mackenzie says has been the top five concern for working class people for 60 years and never goes away. The sociologist acknowledges that housing is not exclusively a working class issue but is also impacting on the middle class, specifically in relation to their struggle to get on housing ladders. Finally, Mackenzie argues that the continued assault on human rights, under the guise of COVID restrictions, will come to head in 2022.
Our fifth, and final guest of the year, is great friend of the show, Michael Hudson. For the economist, there weren’t any real shocks in 2021, rather he depicts the world as merely continuing on along an ever worsening trajectory of sameness. In reiterating Ben Norton’s point, Hudson argues that Joe Biden is merely Donald Trump 2 whose foreign policy continues the antagonism towards Russia and China.
Hudson also posits that, in 2021, Biden held everything in abeyance:
“He threw his weight behind Wall Street and very cleverly pretended to move to the left while making sure that enough Republicans have run as Democratic senators so that they can prevent any real socialist policies, such as socialised medicine. There were no foreclosures because there was a moratorium on foreclosures. There were no bankruptcies or millions of people losing their homes. That’s been put off until next February. There’s been no reconciliation between Germany and Europe on the one hand and Russia on the other, because the Germans have said we would rather freeze in the dark and have our pipes break this winter than be anti-American.”
The one thing of concern on Hudson’s radar for 2022, is the potential for military confrontation in possibly Ukraine, the South China sea or in the southern flank of Russia, all spearheaded by America’s need for creative destruction.
“There’s going to be some kind of frustration at the West as they see themselves falling further and further behind because they’ve made a policy decision in America to deindustrialize, to move their industry abroad, and now they’re left empty. So the question is how long are Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia going to continue to support this rentier economy in the United States that simply has no visible means of support over time?”, says Hudson.
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