This piece is basically an exercise in trying to take a few steps back amidst the swirling clouds of doom, gloom, outright misinformation and propaganda to work out where we are and where we’re going. Given that events are moving swiftly in not always easily discernable ways, an exercise like this is going to have elements of being a stab in the dark. However, to try and plot a course for where we’re going as propagandists and also as grassroots activists, we need to undertake these exercises. As the title suggests, we are in what can best be described as a clusterf**k situation. A historically important one at that. So, if these ramblings actually manage to survive what’s coming, they could possibly act as a draft of history.
What’s been happening and what could happen…
The aftermath of Covid
Ever since March 2020, it feels like we’ve been hit with one thing after another. Firstly, there was Covid and the over the top response to dealing with it, which is and will continue to be, the cause of much toxic and divisive debate. One consequence of the response that’s becoming clearer is the adverse impact of social isolation and masking on the development of young kids and toddlers: Impacts of lockdown on the mental health of children and young people – Mental Health Foundation. This has left many of them behind on the development of their language and social skills. As grandparents, we know the importance of toddlers being able to see facial expressions and to see people speaking and reading to them as part of their development. We also understand the importance to toddlers and young kids of being able to freely mix and play with each other, all the while learning empathy and co-operation. If this is denied to them, their development will inevitably be held back. Obviously, the lower down the social and economic pecking order households are, the more stressful this has and continues to be.
As for older kids, the combination of having to learn from home, social isolation, missing exams and all the rest of what they had to endure has left it’s mark. Learning from home for a kid in the leafy suburbs with their own laptop and a decent internet connection, while far from ideal, wasn’t going to be an insurmountable barrier. For the kids in poor quality housing with inadequate or no internet connectivity, it was and continues to be a very different story. Continues to be because like it or not, there’s a cohort of kids who feel that the system has failed them and that they owe it absolutely nothing back in return. We’ll all be reaping the consequences of that for years and decades to come.
The great reset / fourth industrial revolution
Over the last two years, it has become clear to anyone who cares to take a few steps back and undertake their own research that the Covid crisis has been, and continues to be leveraged to bring about some very drastic and fundamental changes to the way we live. The push towards vaccine passports which are a gateway to a digital form of identity was one manifestation of this. Digital identity has been an obsession for a number of technocrats and politicians for some while – the former Prime Minister Tony Blair being one of the more prominent advocates. While here in the UK, it looks as though we have staved off the immediate threat of vaccine passports, don’t for one minute think that the bastards aren’t scheming away, developing other means of forcing us towards a digital identity.
Then there’s the acceleration of the push towards a cashless society. This was already underway before Covid. Fear of infection during Covid was the justification many companies had for switching to cashless and they’re not going back to accepting physical notes and coins. Should we ever move to a system of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in a cashless society, that means every purchase you make will be tracked, recorded and potentially controlled. With UBI operating within a system of digital cash, should you step out of line, the powers that be can simply press a button so that any purchase you want to make will be declined. Welcome to your tracked, monitored and strictly controlled future…
The changes discussed above are just a small part of what has been dubbed as the ‘great reset’ – alternatively, known as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). For a full analysis of what the 4IR has in store for us, we recommend that you follow these two blogs: Winter Oak and: Nevermore! As you’ll read on both of these blogs, the 4IR challenges our understanding of what it means to be truly human. With the rise of transhumanism, what it means to be human is increasingly becoming the focus of yet more toxic and divisive debate. What can be said with great certainty is that transhumanists do not see humanity as an integral part of nature but separate from it and above it. On a planet in the throes of an ecological crisis, that’s not an outlook that guarantees us anything remotely resembling a stable, sustainable and above all, fulfilling future. The interlocking of the 4IR and transhumanism is something we will be dealing with in greater depth in future posts.
The drumbeats of war
Just as there was the appearance of some degree of rollback of the Covid restrictions and a partial return to a semblance of normality, Russia invades it’s neighbour, Ukraine. An invasion that caught a fair few pundits and commentators on the hop because they thought that Putin massing units close to the border with Ukraine was just posturing. They didn’t think that he would be rash enough to embark on an invasion which looks like it will be turning into a long, costly slog for Russia. It turns out that Putin wasn’t quite the calculating leader that many mistakenly thought he was. Rather than go into a long explanation of the complex geo-politics that has led to the current situation, we recommend that you read the thoroughly researched and very sound articles linked to in this piece: ‘Deep dive’ readings on the Russia / Ukraine conflict.
The last two years of the Covid crisis have shown us how a sizeable chunk of the population can be sucked into accepting the narrative that’s being fed to them, modifying their behaviour and beliefs accordingly. That’s to the extent of bitterly falling out with friends, family and even partners, thinking that’s the right thing to do. So, when we heard the first news items telling us that Russian troops had entered a number of regions of Ukraine, our hearts sank because we knew what was coming. Although this piece was written close to the start of the conflict – Drowning in a tsunami of virtue signalling – by and large, we still stand by it. However, looking back at it, we probably underestimated how far a fair sized chunk of the population would be taken in by what’s a blatant barrage of propaganda aimed at pushing NATO towards a direct confrontation with Russia as opposed to what at present, is still a proxy conflict. A disturbing manifestation of the impact of this propaganda has been the ‘We Stand With Ukraine’ protests with elements on them openly calling for direct NATO intervention against Russia.
The cost of living crisis
Then there’s the cost of living crisis as energy, fuel and food prices start to soar, plunging swathes of the population closer to or into poverty. Sure, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has played a part in this crisis but for a complex range of reasons, many of these rising costs were in the pipeline long before the war started. Too many households who were already close to the edge are now having to make the stark choice between heat or eating properly. At the time of writing as we head further into spring, there’s some small respite in that the weather is at last getting warmer but all this will do is push the inevitable crunch down the road. Many more households are having to tighten their belts and rein in their expectations.
Protests against this have to date been muted. There have been a few organised by the People’s Assembly which drew the ‘usual suspects’ but didn’t attract the public at large. In a large part, that’s down to the harsh fact that if you’re struggling to get by from day to day, you will have no energy left to take to the streets. Whether the low level of overt discontent will continue as we head through the spring towards the summer remains to be seen.
A National Health Service that’s NOT there for you
On top of this, to add insult to injury, the National Health Service (NHS) that was once so beloved by much of the population is to put it bluntly, in a mess. Covid protocols have wiped out a lot of face to face GP appointments and instead – if you can get an appointment that is – they’re taking place over the phone or if you have the kit and connection, via a video link over the Internet. That’s if you can get your local general practice to answer the sodding phone in the first place! So, it shouldn’t be coming as any surprise that there’s a tsunami of previously undiagnosed conditions that are being picked up way too late to properly deal with. Also, the ambulance service is screwed and there are too many horror stories of agonisingly long waits for one to turn up.
What’s the mood?
When you take all of the above together along with the rest of the doom and gloom we’re being subjected to, there are days when it all feels like it’s too much to process. We’ve been involved in various forms of activism since the late 1970s and have seen and experienced a lot in the intervening decades. What we’re currently trying to do is put what we’ve been through over the last two years and what we’re going through now into the broader context of our decades of activism to get some perspective. Suffice to say, we’ve not been able to reach that perspective and that in and of itself, is bloody alarming! Our initial conclusion is that we’re in the weirdest, most dystopian and quite frankly, potentially the most dangerous situation we’ve ever experienced as activists. One that has caused us to question a lot of previously held assumptions about the world. One that has also caused us to question our assumptions about the growing number of people we once regarded as comrades but who sadly, now seem to be anything but, as we explain here: Out, onwards and upwards.
That’s how we feel, what about the population at large? Where we currently live in Thurrock, there’s a sense that after the last two years, people want to get back to some semblance of normality albeit they’re only too well aware that we can never return to how life was back in 2019. Too much has changed for that to happen. The Overton window on what’s acceptable in terms of top down state interference in our lives supposedly for the ‘common good’ has shifted and it’s not going to move back. While we may have won a few partial victories in holding off the worst in the form of vaccine passports and vaccine mandates, the bigger threat of digital identity is still lurking in the background. It will only take another ’emergency’ and for the sake of the ‘greater good’, we’ll be obliged to sacrifice our freedoms yet again. Once any government has assumed more powers over the lives of their population, they will not relinquish them except at the point of a popular uprising. A widening of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that drags NATO into direct involvement would be the perfect pretext for government to start clamping down again. Soaring inflation may well be another pretext for screwing us down with whatever measures are deemed necessary to keep the lid on what could well be a volatile situation come the summer.
Judging by our albeit anecdotal experiences, given what we’ve been and are going through, a lot of people are simply feeling punch drunk. Those who have been plunged into the cost of living crisis straight after what has happened over the last two years will be feeling a lot more than punch drunk – they’ll be traumatised. For those with long term health conditions who have no option but to rely on an NHS that’s utterly screwed, life is a nightmare. Everyone else is in one way or another, experiencing that summer of 1914 sensation in that they know shite is lurking just around the corner waiting for them so they’re trying to make the most of things while they can.
Where are we heading?
As the title of this piece clearly indicates, we’re in a clusterf**k situation. If we were able to accurately predict how things could pan out, we’d have made a fortune in consultancy and would be doing very well for ourselves, thank you very much. As we live in an overspill town out on the Thames estuary that has seen better days, it’s clear that our prediction skills are not accurate enough to earn us a small fortune! However, as activists whose dreams of a quiet retirement have been well and truly trashed, for the sake of our grandchildren and all future generations, we have to make an effort to try and work out just where the heck we’re heading. Once we’ve cobbled together some semblance of an analysis of where we’re going, at least we have some kind of basis for formulating a strategy and devising the tactics needed to bring about the kind of radical social and economic change that will save us.
A LOT of how the future pans out depends on how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine develops. It may well end up as a slow grind, proxy war, with NATO member countries sending in arms and ‘advisors’ but stopping short of direct confrontation. Looking at the geo-politics and the fact that the USA wants to retain what it thinks is its dominant position in the world order, a slow grind that will bleed Putin’s Russia is exactly what they want. We would hope that sooner rather than later, the ‘We Stand With Ukraine’ brigade will wake up to the geo-political realities of what the USA is doing and how they are cynically using Ukraine as a proxy. While a slow grind is the strategy, there’s always the all too real chance of miscalculation or a mistake in interpreting what’s going on that could escalate the conflict to a point where it’s effectively out of control.
The problem is that the propaganda blitz we’re being subjected to is leading in one direction and that’s towards an escalation. So desperate are the USA to hang onto some vestige of them being the top dog in what they still desire to be a unipolar world, they’re starting to look reckless. As anarchists, we’re not into commenting on the abilities of those who presume to rule over us because we want to be rid of all leaders. However, when you look at the ‘calibre’ of those in charge in the West, particularly the USA, you can be forgiven for feeling downright bloody alarmed! Our fears about how the situation could escalate in the direction of a nuclear war are dealt with in this piece: We shouldn’t have to be saying this but… We and a few other hardened anti-imperialists are doing what we can to counter this propaganda blitz but, as we’ve indicated in previous posts, doing this can feel like a lonely and isolating experience.
Will despair lead to anger?
Domestically here in the UK, assuming that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine remains as a slow grind, the focus will inevitably turn to the impacts of the cost of living crisis. Although it has to be said that for an increasing number of people struggling to survive, their focus is already one hundred percent on the cost of living crisis and how they’re going to survive from day to day. As mentioned previously, when you’re struggling to survive, you haven’t got the time or energy to even think about issues such as wars in other countries, let alone which pronouns to use when addressing someone. Activists who fail to understand this do so at their peril. There will be discontent, that’s for sure. How it will manifest itself is anyone’s guess. Suffice to say, it won’t be the usual suspects such as the Peoples Assembly who are going to find themselves sitting impotently on the sidelines.
Like it or not, the diverse currents of opposition to lockdowns, vaccine passports and vaccine mandates have shown that people can organise themselves from the base upwards without the assistance of activists drawn from the ranks of the usual suspects. For sure, the jury is still out on exactly what those currents represented. There were definitely some sound elements. There were undeniably, also some bloody dodgy elements – those behind The Light paper that was being handed out on the protests being some of them. The only hope is that in response to the cost of living crisis, there will be some genuine, grassroots mutual aid and solidarity initiatives emerging, sooner rather than later.
The end of the road
When you take a few steps back to look at the clusterf**k we’re in, it’s all too clear that things can’t go on as they are. It feels that the ‘civilisation’ we’re living in is running out of steam. As has been eloquently written elsewhere, as well as the material constraints on any further advancement, there’s a deep and profound spiritual crisis as well: The End of Their World is the Beginning of Ours! – Crow Qu’appelle | Nevermore! | April 1, 2022. When anyone can find the time to stop and really think, in some way, they’ll realise that things cannot go on the way they are. That applies even if you’re struggling to get by from one day to the next.
When you look back at human history, you can’t help but notice that civilisations have risen, prospered for a while, hit a blockage or the limits of their capabilities, become embroiled in conflicts with neighbours, and have subsequently fallen. Human history to date has NOT been a linear one of continuing improvement – there have always been setbacks and failures. It’s not written in stone that our current ‘civilisation’ will continue to grow. As well as the all too obvious material constraints, there’s a growing spiritual emptiness as a result of humanity becoming pretty much entirely divorced from nature. The transhumanist drive to not just deny but alter nature are the ultimate in hubris – it’s the stuff of dystopian science fiction. If this transhumanist drive is not halted in its tracks and we lose sight of what it means to be truly human and live in harmony with nature, the resulting spiritual crisis will drag us even further towards the edge of the abyss.
Change has to happen
It’s stating the obvious that change has to happen, but there are questions… One being, are enough people alert to the dire situation we’re in to want to start making a difference in the here and now? Another question is what vision of the future do we want to aim for? The last question is how the heck do we start to bring change about? It goes without saying that it’s far better for change to happen on our terms rather than as a response to a civilisational collapse.
That’s a lot of questions and we’re not arrogant enough to say that we have the answers because we don’t. Anyone who claims to have all of the answers and a plan to boot needs to be avoided like the plague! As to the first question asking if enough people are aware of the dire situation we’re in, the answer is yes. Pretty much everyone can sense that in one way or another, things aren’t right. Whether they have the means to fully understand and articulate that is a moot point. That’s where we as propagandists have a role in prompting people to start asking some serious questions about where the heck we’re headed. Anything we do after that very much depends on what answers people come up with. The point being is that if genuine change is going to happen, it has to come from the people and from the grassroots. Anything else is vanguardism or elitism and there’s absolutely no time for either in our political practice.
Change from the grassroots means people and communities taking full ownership of their lives and building upwards from where we live. Do we have the movements in place that can prompt, facilitate and bring about that change? We have previously said that we no longer want to engage in pointless bickering with the anarchist movement, such as it is, or any other radicals. However, it has to be acknowledged that we’re not where we want to be when it comes to bringing about change. The problem is that given the urgency of the situation, none of us have the time for reflection on what we need to be doing as activists. It’s going to have to be a case of learning on the job and applying the lessons we learn as we go along. It will require a degree of humility and learning to overcome the differences we have with each other in order to start building the world we want. Can we do this? To be honest, we’re not sure. Which is why we’re looking with great interest at the newer currents of discontent that have emerged in recent years because, that’s where change is going to come from. There’s a massive learning curve ahead of us…