I benefit from multiple privileges. White? Tick. Male? Tick. Posh? Tick and so on. In fact the world is largely designed by people like me for people like me. My lived experience is that the world is a pretty comfortable place where people are polite and respectful. The police? Wonderful people.
I am heard. At least unless, as my mother would say, I am being “boringly left-wing” among the wrong people.
So people like me have even more of an obligation to see beyond this and imagine other realities. Like racism.
My most vivid memory is of a recent visit to South Africa sitting in a café while a “lovely old” white lady berated a black waiter in a tone that made me shudder. His crime – he had served her bottle of water with the cap taken off rather than left on. My action: move on – not my country.
But it is not just happening somewhere else. I remember my late aunt’s comment following a discussion of a family member’s seemingly unsuitable boyfriend, “at least he isn’t black”. We were guests. She was aged and frail. We said nothing.
And her views were not out of place within the circles I was brought up in. They were and to some extent still are racist, sexist and classist.
My evidence? Most recently the calls to “save our history” from a childhood friend as if we had not been busy for centuries erasing other people’s histories. I made this point on Facebook in response and another childhood friend did message me to say he agreed with my perspective but didn’t go public on Facebook to support me.
And my own self-knowledge. I know the thoughts that arise unbidden in my head subconsciously absorbed over almost 60 years from our racist, sexist and classist society. It is as if I have a primitive alien brain inside me. The intuitive “fast thinker” in each of us as defined by psychologist and economist, Daniel Kahneman, can also be a bigot, which is not often highlighted by behavioural economists.
I ignore them but I am still ashamed.
But the world is designed for me and so I find it very comfortable. And when things are comfortable, denial is the easiest option. It is the get-out-of-jail-free card. Crisis, what crisis?
And this is the thread that links many responses to the pandemic, climate change, racism and so on. We don’t want discomfort, so we tell ourselves it isn’t/won’t be that bad really. It’s exaggerated. The science is uncertain. The proponents are not like us so I don’t trust them….
The good news is that the current pandemic is demonstrating in real time how denial leads to tragedy with the UK, US and Brazil providing master classes. The bad news is that so many have had to die to teach this lesson.
So in this issue we are looking at the lessons from the pandemic and beginning to explore the emerging new world. We talk to Steve Keen in Thailand about that nation’s great success in managing covid; we hear from Smita Srinivas in India about the patchwork response there; and Mwanga Githinji provides an update on the situation in Africa.
We also talk to Wolfram Elsner about the ongoing rise of China’s position in the global political economy and Dirk Ehnts relates Germany’s embarrassing predicament.
Frances Coppola looks at the lies, damned lies and statistics, while the Outsider ponders the financial outlook and Peter Manley looks at the prospects for financial zombies.
We are also considering the parallels with climate change. Kathleen McAfee explodes the illusion of planting trees as an easy fix to allow us to avoid change. David Fell considers who we do or don’t listen to while Dario Kenner looks at inequality and climate change.
So what does it take for change? Susan Steed faces up to our colonial history while Roxana Bobulescu teaches de-growth in a business school and John Perkins talks about his damascene conversion in the Amazon rainforest. Roland Kupers takes a complexity perspective and Paul Frijters urges us to accept ecological control.
And much more: we have confessions on online teaching; we listen to Nikita Asnani’s student viewpoint, Tanweer Ali reviews financial fiction as a teaching tool as Verity shares her lockdown world.
Do enjoy as lockdown eases and releases