The new political story that could change everything

26.08.2019 - TED: Ideas worth spreading

The new political story that could change everything

George Monbiot

Do you feel trapped in a broken economic model? A model that’s trashing the living world and threatens the lives of our descendants? A model that excludes billions of people while making a handful unimaginably rich? That sorts us into winners and losers, and then blames the losers for their misfortune? Welcome to neoliberalism, the zombie doctrine that never seems to die, however comprehensively it is discredited. Now you might have imagined that the financial crisis of 2008 would have led to the collapse of neoliberalism. After all, it exposed its central features, which were deregulating business and finance, tearing down public protections, throwing us into extreme competition with each other, as, well, just a little bit flawed. And intellectually, it did collapse. But still, it dominates our lives. Why? Well, I believe the answer is that we have not yet produced a new story with which to replace it.

Then, in 2008, the neoliberal story fell apart, and its opponents came forward with … nothing. No new restoration story! The best they had to offer was a watered-down neoliberalism or a microwaved Keynesianism. And that is why we’re stuck. Without that new story, we are stuck with the old failed story that keeps on failing. Despair is the state we fall into when our imagination fails. When we have no story that explains the present and describes the future, hope evaporates. Political failure is at heart a failure of imagination. Without a restoration story that can tell us where we need to go, nothing is going to change, but with such a restoration story, almost everything can change. The story we need to tell is a story which will appeal to as wide a range of people as possible, crossing political fault lines. It should resonate with deep needs and desires. It should be simple and intelligible, and it should be grounded in reality.

Now, I admit that all of this sounds like a bit of a tall order. But I believe that in Western nations, there is actually a story like this waiting to be told. Over the past few years, there’s been a fascinating convergence of findings in several different sciences, in psychology and anthropology and neuroscience and evolutionary biology, and they all tell us something pretty amazing: that human beings have got this massive capacity for altruism. Sure, we all have a bit of selfishness and greed inside us, but in most people, those are not our dominant values. And we also turn out to be the supreme cooperators. We survived the African savannas, despite being weaker and slower than our predators and most of our prey, by an amazing ability to engage in mutual aid, and that urge to cooperate has been hardwired into our minds through natural selection. These are the central, crucial facts about humankind: our amazing altruism and cooperation.

Categories: Ecology and Environment, Economics, International, Opinions
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