The title of this post might seem like a trite cliche. However, I do think this is a powerful tool to examine ourselves, and our relationship to the world we live in.
Question everything. Take nothing for granted. Don’t follow the herd.
When you next read an article in a newspaper, or watch Question Time on the telly (hard not to do without wishing to throw a brick at the screen, I know) – think about: Why are you being told this? What is the agenda of the person telling you the “news”? Are you getting the full picture?
We delude ourselves by thinking that we live in a free and democratic society, where we have a real choice in who governs us, and the decisions that are made. Putting a cross in a box every four or five years, for a choice of identikit political parties does not constitute democracy.
The word “democracy” means “people power” – in our case those who rule us are hardly representative – an elite political class drawn from private schools and top Universities, careerists who do not serve the interests of those who elected them.
A central problem with our democracy is that the dominant discourse of the media, is decided by the state. That is why small parties are grouped together as “others” in election polls, and why in the UK we have a first-past-the-post system deliberately designed to make it as hard as possible for any alternative view to gain electoral currency.
The dominant ideology seems to be gradually slipping further and further to the right, with Labour, the Tories and UKIP competing with each other to see who can punish immigrants the most, who can most effectively use benefit claimants as a scapegoat, and who can make the most cuts to public services.
But people’s everyday experience constantly clashes with this view of the world. When we rely on public health systems like the NHS, when we use a public library, when our local services are cut, when the elderly have to pay for a private care home, when students have to pay exorbitant tuition fees, when rents go through the roof because of a lack of council housing, we see that there is the need for an alternative, a planned economy run in the interests of all of us, not a rich elite.
The need of capitalism to constantly extract more and more from workers, for less and less pay, in order to maximise profits impacts on our everyday lives. This means that increasing numbers of people see through the smokescreens and lies and become angry. When wars are waged overseas, when MPs are given a 9% pay increase, and we are simultaneously told that we are all in this together and we all must make sacrifices, the hypocrisy of those in charge becomes all too apparent.
When we see time-lapse footage of ice-caps melting in Greenland, or when fracking undermines (literally) our rights to protest against drilling under our homes, we get involved in struggle to protect our environment, for the sake of all life on this planet. It is the only one we have.
It becomes apparent to more and more people, that the direction of travel is forever downward – to lower pay, to working longer for less pension. We are going backwards to Victorian times, when the poor had to rely on charitable handouts, with modern-day food banks replacing the workhouse.
We must be true to ourselves, and a vision of fairness and co-operation.
We need to find our own way.
We must replace the dominant media, by listening not to politicans on the television, or the mass media, but to our conscience.
We must fight back, by joining alternative, left-wing parties, by getting involved in our trade unions and arguing for a fighting strategy for better wages and against cuts.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. In the UK, TUSC is fighting back, planning to stand 100 candidates on a no-cuts platform and 1000 local council candidates in the general election. http://www.tusc.org.uk
In America, Socialist Alternative is gaining support across the continent, with new branches springing up, and hundreds of people applying to join – http://www.socialistalternative.org
In Ireland, the Anti Austerity Alliance has just won its third TD in Parliament as the main parties are increasingly exposed for supporting austerity – http://www.socialistparty.ie
IN Scotland, Solidarity’s server crashed with the demand from people wanting to join a socialist alternative in the wake of the narrow referendum defeat – http://www.new.solidarityscotland.org
In Brazil, 1.6 million people voted for PSOL (Party of Socialism and Liberty) in the recent Presidential elections, winning 5 seats in the process – http://psol50.org.br/site/
In Spain, millions voted for Podemos “We can!” – as a break from corrupt, mainstream parties. http://www.socialistworld.net/mob/doc/6806
In Greece, Syriza is ahead in the opinion polls, and there has been a huge wave of general strikes which have rocked the political establishment. http://www.socialistworld.net/mob/doc/6808
And across the world, people are rising up against this unfair system of Capitalism, which only promises poverty and inequality. http://www.socialistworld.net
Be true to yourself. Join us in fighting for the alternative.