The West Won’t Let Go Of Neoliberalism And White Supremacy, And It’s Destroying Us

The storming of the US Capitol building felt like a shocking, senseless act of violence against the ideals Americans claim to believe in.

capitol riots

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The West is tearing itself apart before our eyes. The storming of the US Capitol building felt like a shocking, senseless act of violence against the ideals Americans claim to believe in. But it wasn’t sudden — the writing has been on the wall for years.

The insurrectionists didn’t wake up on January 6 and simply decided to walk into the seat of power of the republic.

Democracy has been in crisis for years in the anglophone countries, not just in the US. As a symptom of this, both the US and the UK have been utterly paralysed by the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have the government actions been insufficient to curb the spread of COVID, but harsher measures are unpopular amongst some of the citizens anyway, which cuts their positive impact on public health.

Australia was lucky to escape such a fate, but it was not a remote possibility. Typically influential politicians and commentariat bayed to lift lockdowns and rescind the requirements to wear masks — but thankfully they were ignored.

That approach — as we can clearly see in the US, UK, and many other European countries — leads to an incredible rate of morbidity.

These countries are simply following the dominant economic and social policies of the last few decades — allowing private industry to take the reins of the economy and some of the major functions of government, coupled with a characteristic aversion to action.

This policy — which modernised our economies and raised the standard of living of many — has now failed spectacularly at managing our wellbeing. The most extreme example of this is the US and the UK, where thousands die each day and have become the worst hit by the plague, despite not being the counties of origin or anywhere near it for that matter.

In the US, the Centre for Disease Control was gutted by the Trump administration, even while trillions were spent on tax cuts for the wealthy. During the early days of the pandemic, help for the average American was hard to come by. About 8 million more fell into poverty during the pandemic, and their government did very little to help them.

In Australia this same economic policy didn’t cost nearly as many lives, but it did leave Melbourne locked down for months.

The virus spread with such ferocity, in part because of the government decision to use private security guards in hotel quarantine, which is in itself a way to prop up the hotel industry. An under-resourced public health team also struggled to keep up with the task of contact tracing.

This is not just the way things are — but a deliberate economic policy, common across most of the world and obfuscated by its ubiquity.

These policies not have not only failed us in this pandemic, but also have failed to measurably better the lives of western citizens in the past decades.

Our leaders are avatars of mediocrity, and lack the real political power to take on issues of housing affordability, employability, rising poverty, racism, and apparently plagues.

Governments are able to act — but these actions are often directed in a racist way. In Melbourne, at the first sign of the plague police quickly and violently locked down public housing towers, leaving thousands of mostly non-white and poor people without access to food, work, or medicine. This didn’t happen to anyone else.

The biggest political action on the UK’s recent history is Brexit, a massively economically destructive campaign which won out because of racist lies and fears of immigration. Trump’s America has poured resources into policing immigrants and refuses to address police brutality. And on balance, so does president-elect Joe Biden.

Distrusted and ineffective leaders have helped to fuel the febrile and racist atmosphere that dominates our politics and led to an expanding set of issues, including our crumbling relationship with China, Brexit, the Thin Blue Line/Proud Boys/other far right movements, and Trump’s election and eventual insurrection.

Economic anxiety has renewed racism’s hold.  Politicians who find it hard or impossible to actually achieve anything in government appeal to white people’s desire for control by telling them that their culture won’t change, and their social standing won’t become any closer to that of oppressed minorities.

In our relationship with China, we criticise them in ways we don’t our allies, in a way that can only be described as racist or McCarthyist. Our virtue signalling around China’s foreign and domestic policies looks like a last ditch effort to prevent its rise on the global stage, and avoiding or slowing the decline of the white and western hegemony. This is done despite the fact China is Australia’s largest trading partner and our economy in part depends on this relationship. Just this year, industries which are apparently indispensable like mining are threatened by the declining relationship with the rising superpower.

In a similar way, Brexit and Trump’s election have damaged those countries in ways that seem to make no sense and were avoidable.

Even the insurrection seems to be confusing. Why has the country that says that it loves democracy and freedom become threatened by supporters of a president that is blatantly trying to subvert a democratic election? It’s simple, to me. These actions make sense if you consider that they protect white supremacy.

On top of this, the faustian pact of neoliberalism has cost governments their ability to act to prevent crises by abdicating responsibility to shareholders and executives, who are only driven by the profit motive.

The West is destroying itself because it won’t let go of neoliberalism and white supremacy. The decline is becoming more obvious with each senseless death in the US, UK, and the erosion of the US’ democracy.

Jim Malo is a journalist with an interest in politics and social justice. He tweets at @thejimmalo.