Another election, another waste of time?

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In the blue corner we have a wannabe megalomaniac, in the red corner a guy who looks like he has special needs. Decisions decisions…

I’m officially disillusioned with politics. Even being part of 38 Degrees and Sum Of Us campaigning to stem the flow of evil into the world through big business and government overreach, hasn’t helped make me think an election is anything less than a diversionary tactic.

David Cameron’s civil minions sent me a letter the other day, paid for by my taxes of course on shit-hot paper that an entire rainforest and several indigenous species probably died to provide, outlining why the choice was simple between himself and the opposition tool Ed Miliband. Like, hello Dave, how arrogant can you be to assume that it’s only a 50-50 choice? Labour have been inundating us with Ed-a-ganda too, conveying a similar binary decision. Reminds me of that Dire Straits lyric: “Two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong.”

The only reason the elections are primarily a two-horse race is because my tax money and corporate backhanders pay for the massive marketing campaigns to keep the other guys out. I’d hate to think how much of our hard-earned cash is robbed off us and used to spread lies, half-truths and FUD that paint the self-serving Whitehall elite in a good light. TV ads, billboard posters, bus ads, Facebook campaigns, the list goes on.

There’s more at stake than policy

By now I would have thought the general populace would be more media savvy than ever before, but the abundance of so-called reality TV programmes perhaps indicate otherwise. As a nation, can we not see we’re being bought by our own money and played into the hands of Big Business, no matter which party is in power?

Blind-sided by talks of the deficit, the NHS, the Mayfair tax loophole, the TTIP and a myriad other fanciful “policy” items, we seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture. While the 510 square kilometre surface of our planet sounds like a lot, it needs to provide food, fuel, and homes for every organism. Humans are but one species, far outnumbered by around eight million other types of life. And yet we are the ones toxifying the planet. On our behalf, we permit companies to:

  • Spray crops with pesticides to increase yield, but it’s degrading the soil year-on-year and killing the wildlife upon which we depend for the very food they’re spraying. If the bees die, we die. Simple.
  • Package our consumables in endless arrays of attractive boxes and bags, wasting energy and resources producing something that is merely thrown away (and sometimes having the cheek to charge us end users for its disposal).
  • Hack down vast swathes of natural habitat for the express purpose of intensive food farming and producing newspapers that tell us what to think.
  • Enslave us with energy dependence harvested from the Earth’s limited supply.

All of the above is for the endless drive of short-term capitalism, fuelled by the stock market. It’s all growth growth growth.

Here’s a test: come up with an idea. Anything from the mundane to the world-changing. Then try and obtain capital for it through conventional channels, like from a bank. Your plan might be to make a few, sell them to cover your costs, repeat. Sustainable. Ecologically sound. Sensible. You will not get a penny to kickstart the idea. Why? Because the requisite Business Plan didn’t include growth: how you intend to turn the idea from something small to something big. And who benefits from that arrangement? The person lending the capital of course.

That’s why Kickstarter is such a fantastic concept in principle: the only people you need to convince are your backers and they don’t have any lofty expectations of expansion.

A multi-legged race

Any time someone — be it Cameron or anyone — says the election is only about two parties I smile inside and recall the 2002 French Presidential election when the country got lazy, allowing outsider Jean-Marie Le Pen to win a place in the the second round of voting. That was a kick in the teeth to the French who were reminded that if you didn’t use your vote, someone else would take advantage of that fact. I also fondly remember Screaming Lord Sutch beating the SDP leader in the 1990 Bootle by-election.

And so it could be here. If we all grew tired of the lies en masse, change would follow. I’m not advocating you vote for the Green Party (although they deserve credit for having a member-led policy system and a conscience, unlike the other blood-sucking parasites clambering over one another for power). With the best will in the world, the Green’s policies conveniently make light of how to actually pay for an ecologically sound existence without significantly raising taxes. Recall that no country has ever taxed itself to prosperity.

Part of the problem is that as soon as someone in government asks for some product or service to be provided, standard operating procedure is for any approached companies to add a few zeroes to the price. The main reason is because they can, and it’s not their money. Also, it’s insurance because they know the project will go on far longer than stated since government officials have no clue whatsoever about how to implement anything, from IT to public services, in the real world.

But it doesn’t begin and end with the election. We can start by buying ourselves out of the lies.

Buying our freedom

Step one is to stop buying newspapers. Completely. Just stop. If you’re so hell bent on being told by someone else what you should think, use your damned phone or tablet. It still uses electricity which requires digging stuff out of the ground to power it, the masts and computer networks, but at least it’s only one source of damage instead of that and the trees.

As a fringe benefit, having no newspapers would deliver the following knock-on effects, which would more than offset the energy associated with reading your news online on a device that’s switched on anyway:

  • Better lives for the thousands of species that rely upon the rainforest as their habitat.
  • Better global air quality due to more trees remaining standing.
  • More trees to soak up and reprocess our carbon emissions.
  • Reduced energy consumption to make / recycle the paper.
  • Reduced global energy usage and reduced carbon emissions, since the printing presses would not be on 24×7.
  • Reduced chemical pollutants to bleach and process the paper.
  • Reduced ink usage and the associated costs of extracting, packaging and distributing it.
  • Reduced carbon emissions from distributing the papers in trucks every day, and consequent reduced fossil fuel consumption.

It all adds up to an attractive package. A few journalists, newsagents and couriers might go out of business, but the ones that can adapt will survive just fine. From what I can tell, the margins on newspapers aren’t that great anyway.

I’ve been advocating this step for decades. Why print something that happened yesterday, most of which is of questionable relevance to the average person? What a colossal waste of resources. What is the benefit to humankind? To the planet? None whatsoever.

Step two is to become aware of how much things actually cost: incidentally, something at which politicians are generally hopeless. If you expect you can go to Iceland or Asda and buy four beef burgers for a quid, you’re disillusioning yourself about the entire process. From land and cattle ownership to slaughter, processing, distribution, packaging, advertising, ground rent, and everyone along the chain taking their cut in profits, food is an expensive business.

Buy as much of your food as you can from local businesses with sustainable and forward-thinking policies. Don’t buy supermarket organic food as the price is artificially inflated for marketing differentiation purposes. Choose an organic box scheme like Riverford which is tastier, saves you money in the long run (less temptation to bulk buy Offer Of The Week and other promotions for a start) and provides the vital grower-consumer link that’s missing from the supermarket experience.

What has all this to do with next week’s election? Nothing and everything. Nothing if you believe the propaganda and false promises. Everything if you start taking ownership of the global problems we face and forget about putting your faith in someone else to tackle them on your behalf.

Despite the rhetoric, individuals in government are only in power for their own benefit. With that in mind, think hard about how both your everyday habits and the position of your cross on the ballot form shape the future of every organism on this fragile planet we call home.

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