A life out of balance By William Bowles

27 March 2005

A reader turned me onto two movies this past week, ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ (or on Amazon.com) the Hopi word for a ‘Life out of balance’ and, ‘Powaqqatsi’, ‘Life in Transformation’ both of which I recommend not only for the way they reveal the staggering beauty of Planet Earth but of how they compare our natural Home to the madness some of us choose to call civilisation but better known to the more perceptive amongst us as rampant and totally out-of-control capitalism.

I defy all but the most brain-damaged not only to be moved by these two evocations but also not to realise that the events of the past few years reveal that the root cause of the catastrophe that confronts us is an economic and political system that has entered what one can only call a psychopathic stage of degeneration, whereby even its own sense of survival has vanished, so besotted is it by its own delusions of omnipotence.

Those of you who read my review of ‘Caliban and the Witch’ will surely have some inkling of where my head is at but it’s interesting how ideas ‘conspire’ to lead one down avenues of thinking that force inescapable conclusions to be arrived at. What I choose to call serendipity, what others call synchronicity and perhaps others still, call chance.

Call it the ‘female principle’ if you like (I’m not that comfortable with the term but failing any other, for the moment, it’ll have to do) but of one thing I am absolutely convinced is that the last five hundred years have been one, giant fuck-up and it’s not altogether clear whether we either have the time or the power to reverse the disaster that confronts us. One big fuck-up because humanity has been split in half by its denial of the ‘female principle’ that has enabled the power of capital to enslave us all.

I know this sounds a bit wacky coming from an ‘old-time’ Red but the plain fact is, that along with many other ideas that are missing from Marx’ analysis of the capitalism of his day, was his failure to recognise the intrinsic, indeed fundamental role that the disempowerment of women played in the ability of capitalism to accumulate sufficient capital to power its takeoff, that along with slavery and colonialism, disempowering women and effectively stealing their bodies through control of reproduction, were the key factors that set the stage as it were, for the next five hundred years. For without the surplus stolen from women’s work in all its diverse forms, capitalism would not have been possible, at least not in the form it has now.

There were and are, other possibilities open to us. Possibilities that have and continue to be hidden from us.

However fuzzy, vague and unfocused though my thoughts are on the subject, without a return to a set of values rooted in a life put back in balance, as a species we don’t have a chance. This surely must be obvious. We are balanced on a knife edge of existence.

What this understanding does do is to give me some idea as to the future of socialism as I conceive it. For it not only means jettisoning generations of assumptions about ‘progress’ but of reestablishing the centrality of Gaaia as the ‘guiding’ force. For those of you not familiar with the Gaaia principle, it essentially describes the planet as a totality with everything connected to everything else, even the physical processes, geology, chemistry, the works, all determined by Life. I might add that the Gaaia principle was but a few years ago derided by ‘mainstream’ science as something mystical but which today, is now generally accepted as a realistic description of how the planet actually works. Life, as a totality, works to maintain the optimum conditions for life to continue which means regulating everything on the planet, even inanimate matter is subject to regulation by the Gaaia principle.

For make no mistake that even if the capitalist system succeeds in destroying the current balance of life on the planet, Nature does not end with us as a species, for Life is the entire biosphere, extending thousands, if not millions of miles out into space and should we succeed in destroying the ecology that made humanity possible, life will continue but without us in some other form and perhaps, after a few million years, evolution will produce some other intelligent species capable of – well I’m not sure where it’s all headed (if anywhere other than its own existence), and does it really matter? Isn’t simply being alive sufficient reason for life itself? I suspect that even animals other than us have some cognisance of this reality, after all, what drives all life to survive, recognising that it is life as a whole that makes even a single individual possible.

Frederick Engels put it perfectly one hundred and twenty-two years ago:

…we have the certainty that matter remains eternally the same in all its transformations, that none of its attributes can ever be lost, and therefore, also, that with the same iron necessity that it will exterminate on the earth its highest creation, the thinking mind, it must somewhere else and at another time again produce it.
‘The Dialectics of Nature’, 1883.

Be that as it may, I’d still rather we tried to rescue the current situation than wait around for the next opportunity, so to use a well worn phrase, what is to be done?

Cynics and defenders of the status quo would argue that most of us are too selfish or too stupid to see the writing on the wall which even if it were true alters nothing as it takes perhaps no more than 30% (at most) of the population to instigate change, real change.

And, according to a recent survey, the issue that concerns Brits the most is climate change, so much so, that they’re even prepared to pay more taxes in order to reverse global warming. And, it also seems that genetically modified food is a dead duck here in the UK in spite of all the dire warnings about ‘losing the technological edge’ that the government propaganda departments have been putting out. The survey also revealed that the majority blame the US government for global warming.

And, as the Blair government’s lies about the invasion of Iraq continue to unravel apace, it’s clear that selfish or not, the great majority of the population are anything but stupid. The sad reality is as I see it, that come the election, great swathes of the electorate, having lost all belief in the political system to represent their views and wishes, will as they did in the last election, drop out, thus allowing the Labour/Tory party to continue on its genocidal/suicidal path. I see no immediate alternative to this as the outcome.

A recent op-ed in the Guardian by Tariq Ali, who considers himself a left socialist is advocating voting Liberal Democrat as he contends that defeating the war party is the most important issue that confronts us.

Ali’s argument goes as follows:

Abstention is not a serious option. The aim should be to return an anti-war majority to the House of Commons. This requires tactical/intelligent voting in every constituency.

Normally, people vote to assert their political sympathies. But this is not a normal general election. It will be the first opportunity to punish the warmongers and, given the undemocratic voting system, the votes cast for the Greens, Respect and others will have no impact, with a possible exception in Bethnal Green and Bow, east London, where George Galloway confronts the warmonger Oona King. It is possible that in some constituencies the Green/Respect vote could ensure the return of a warmonger, as we have seen in the odd byelection. So why not treat this election as special and take the politics of the broad anti-war front to the electoral arena? If the result is a hung parliament or a tiny Blair majority, it will be seen as a victory for our side.
‘For one day only, I’m a Lib Dem’, Tariq Ali, The Guardian, Saturday March 26, 2005

This seems to be a variation on a ‘lesser of two evils’ argument, but it’s the last sentence that bothers me; “If the result is a hung parliament or a tiny Blair majority, it will be seen as a victory for our side.” But in reality is this really a defeat or nothing more than the appearance of a defeat?

Elsewhere in the article, Ali says:

Despite the fact that politics has evaporated inside New Labour, the demonstration [in February 2003] had its impact. A total of 139 Labour MPs voted against the war. Robin Cook resigned from the cabinet. Clare Short was pushed out.

But this hides the reality of the allegedly anti-war MPs, for one needs to see their voting record after the invasion, especially over the Blair impeachment issue and the question of whether Blair lied.

But there is an even more fundamental question that these allegedly left MPs have to answer for, namely, the argument that had they ‘known’ that Blair was lying about Saddam’s WMD, they would have voted against the invasion, for the real issue here is that regardless of whether Saddam had what have been described incorrectly, as WMD, the invasion was illegal. In other words, opposition to the war didn’t hinge on the existence or otherwise of WMD or even a further UN resolution, a resolution that would in any case have had to ignore the relevant sections of the UN Charter. Thus hiding behind the spurious legalistic argument alters nothing, principle flew out the window decades ago. We are an imperialist country, thoroughly wedded to a capitalist, predator system that preys on the poor of the planet that we may have shopping malls, cheap gasolene and shit consumer products in vast abundance, all the while putting off judgement day.

Robin Cooke resigned after the fact as did Short, revealing their craven politics and ever since have performed as miserable apologists for the Labour government, even as they ‘attack’ Blair, vainly trying to keep their cake whilst continuing to sup at the Labour table, Cooke being the worst offender in this regard, still unable/unwilling to even utter the single word – LIAR (the closest Cooke could come was to say that “Blair has been less than candid”). At least for the most part, Short has the sense to keep her cowardly mouth shut most of the time. I maintain that their ‘anti-war’ stance has in fact done more damage to the anti-war movement by virtue of the fact that they are revealed as moral as well as political cowards. They are simply not to be trusted, let alone believed.

Every opportunity to challenge the Blair gang; over ‘anti-terror’ legislation, ID cards, the continued occupation, has seen the Labour ‘left’ cave in and maintain the Blair pirates in power. To his credit, the only Labour MP to stand up and be counted was George Galloway who was immediately demonised and kicked out of the Labour Party. The true nature of the ‘left’ of the Labour Party is revealed for what it is, a sham.

Some months ago, a Labour Party member knocked on my door and asked me if I would be voting Labour in the next election. My response was less than enthusiastic. I asked him if he opposed the invasion to which he replied that he did. So how did he square his support for Blair with his opposition to the invasion? His answer? It’s more important to keep the Tories out he replied. What exactly, is the difference between the two I asked. He cited Labour’s record on health spending etc. Nuff said.

The issue is simple; that regardless of the principles involved, the vast majority of Labour MPs are more concerned about reelecting a Labour government (and their own cushy, well paid jobs) – at any cost, hence they are not to be trusted.

In any case, the issue is far bigger than a single election as the last fifty years surely illustrates. Once again, it comes down to the fact that the ‘left’ has not organised itself to present a coherent and credible alternative to the Lory Party, in spite of all the opportunities that have, and continue to present themselves to us.

I argue that it is not enough to support an anti-war stance. What needs to be done is to connect the drive to wage war to the fundamental needs of capitalism that makes war not merely an outcome but a necessity for its continued existence. That in turn, the ecological, let alone human disaster that confronts us is intimately connected to this reality, driven by the insatiable needs of capital to reproduce itself at any cost to humanity. These are issues that are not going be resolved by a single election, no matter how ‘abnormal’ the situation – at least according to Ali – is.

Which brings me back to where I came in, ‘a life out of balance’. Although most people don’t appear to connect capitalism with a life out of balance, they do know that the situation is reaching crisis point. Bluntly, I think people are truly afraid but see no way out, nor are they offered one. And we wonder why people are not voting nor participating in the political process! But this is a situation that has been a long time in the making, a situation that was bound to come back and haunt us.

There are no quick fixes, least of all through a totally undemocratic electoral process such as we have here in the UK. What is needed is a thorough-going reappraisal of life as it is lived, there is simply no alternative left to us. The ‘lesser of two evils’ equation just doesn’t do it, it doesn’t add up.

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