Readers of Daily Review may be aware of my view that the world is on a steady course to hell. Please be advised, I have amended this opinion. We are not headed to hell but have, in fact, arrived there.
Allow me to reconstruct the pavement on our trip to blazes.
Hope, which is most easily viewed through the monocle of the culture, is dead. There is no future. The guardians of a hopeful future, which are, of course, our brightest youngsters, have killed it. And this is not to charge all youngsters with murder of the future and it is not even to charge most youngsters—those whose mass criminal predilections we will shortly discuss—with anything more than involuntary manslaughter. They don’t know what they are doing, but they are doing it anyway.
So, yes, yes. Before you take this rather personally and shout “NOT ALL KIDS ARE LIKE THAT, YOU CRANKY OLD COOT”, and/or “WHAT HAVE YOU EVER DONE FOR THE PLANET, GRANNY?”, I offer these respective answers in advance of passionate complaint. (1) Yes. I know not all Millennials are identical. I am speaking here about a broadly held attitude which is currently very evident in the culture—see below and try not to receive what is intended broadly personally—and (2) I have done nothing for the planet, save for the fact that I have not, until today, abandoned hope for its future. It is my understanding, which I seek to clarify by description of recent cultural events, that hope has been otherwise largely left to perish in a frozen millennial desert.
I believe we can clearly see the cold relics of hope in (a) that stupid concert all those idiots had in New York’s Central Park a few weeks ago and (b) in the recent pronouncements of the young and talented actor, Jennifer Lawrence.
The Global Citizens Festival, which attracted very positive international press, Sexy Celebs and a sell-out crowd of 60,000, is an event that seeks to, and succeeds in, engaging young persons. It is the brainchild of former Young Australian of the Year, Hugh Evans who believes that his age-mates must hold governments accountable.
On the face of it, this is a marvellous goal. But, tbh, almost any political goal is marvellous, even one which gives a stage to Coldplay which is, as you know, actually the shittest band in the world. Just about everybody wants to make the world marvellous and that such intentions are very good does not alter the fact that they often turn immediately to an asphalt hell express.
We can say, of course, that Bob Geldof’s preposterous Live Aid concerts of the 1980s were as hell-paving as Evans’ attempt. But, they were also a little differently naïve. While Geldof felt that fundraising alone could solve the enormous problem of poverty-creating debt, Evans feels that debt, and a whole bunch of other problems, can be solved by endorsing the very organisation that helps create it. Evans Festival and his entire Global Citizens hell-road is, at the time of writing, an unambiguous endorsement of the goals of the UN.
I am hardly the only casual critic of this liberal institution to say, “Geez. Those Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seem dodgy”. They have been characterised by more learned analysts as “A high-school wish-list for how to save the world”. While they seek, as Evans does, to end extreme poverty, they take as their basis, as Evans does, the data from the monopoly provider on poverty, the World Bank. Which is to say—and again, I’m hardly alone here in proposing this—that they are quite possibly utter bullshit.
One can say until one is blue in the face as a Liberal Party tie that bajillions of people have been lifted out of poverty by liberal institutions, such as that which Evans endorses. But, it is seems very likely that they have not. We would do well to remember that the organisation charged with the task of unhuddling the masses, the World Bank, is also the organisation that provides the record of its own success. The World Bank, of which Evans is a great fan, gives itself full-marks by regularly changing its own forms of assessment—it’s a bit like allowing me to give myself an A for Cultural Critique. The WB’s methodology for the measurement of poverty changes over time. And, look, yes I know this is getting tedious and out of sheer good manners, I should simply provide one last link to well-regarded critique of liberal lending for those eager to unpick the lies that numbers often tell.
But the point is, WTF, Western World? Why do you accept that an event that is all but UN authorised is, in any way, a demand for accountability? This gig, at which Ban Ki-Moon and Michelle Obama spoke, is not protest. It’s a big advertisement for accepting the policies of the UN and its close partner, the World Bank. And, bugger me, the International Monetary Fund. Christine LaGarde, MD of the IMF, was cheered at the Global Citizens Festival. But, when she visits some of the nations who have suffered poverty as the result of her austerity measures, she is booed.
Of course, you might independently come to the conclusion that everything the UN and its partner organisations does is marvellous and all of its data is to be instantly believed. If that is the case, you can, with a clear conscience, sign the “I Refuse To Be a Bystander” petition circulated online and at the dumb concert and really mean it. But, if you choose to accept, without interrogation, that what the UN and liberal lending institutions have done is awesome, then your support for Global Citizens is an act of pure, hellish orthodoxy. Which is to say, you have been a bystander.
And, sure, Beyoncé, Leonardo, Salma, Matt and, inevitably, Bono were all there. But, you know, celebrities don’t often have a lot of spare moments to read or think about the consequences of their activism, which brings us to you, Jennifer Lawrence.
J-Law seems like a very sparky and bright person and I enjoyed very much her uncompromised attack on those who stole and viewed her nude selfies. It is, of course, a pleasure to see a young and talented biscuit exceed the cookie-cutter margins for a Hollywood Starlet. She is, clearly, much “more” than a pretty face—not, in any way, to disparage those whose chief work it is simply to please us with their looks. Those people are awesome.
So, we can enjoy and commend J-Law’s rancour in certain moments. We can even commend what she believes to be her aim of challenging gender stereotypes, just as we can enjoy the aim of Evans’ World Bank Festival. But this does not mean that we must remain uncritical of the wrong turn she takes to hell.
In recent days, Lawrence has received wide approbation for the essay she wrote in Lenny decrying the difference in standards of pay for male and female Hollywood actors.
Lawrence is forthright and noble in her understanding that the millions of dollars she commands for her work is not “relatable”. She does have the sort of clear head that allows her to see that her particular privilege is not shared by the rest of the world. Where she errs, though, is in her advice to other young women, which is essentially “be feisty when negotiating for fair wages”.
As a pathologically “feisty” lady, I can tell you that this is appalling advice. As someone with a basic knowledge of the process of industrial reform, I can tell you this is appalling advice. Unless you are very, very good at your gig and a one-of-a-kind proposition, like Lawrence, a feisty presentation will just get you the sack. Employers are in the business of protecting their profits and they’re not going to give them up just because you say “I’m worth it”.
Like a lot of people, I am not worth it. I am a middling middle-income self-employed pain who is very easily replaced. And I say this not because I am “down on myself” but because my annual taxation returns tell this story in a much less duplicitous way than the World Bank. It is not a lack of personal empowerment, such as Evans and L-Law recommend, that determines my financial future. It is the market.
The most effective means of changing one’s working conditions is not letting go of self-doubt, but of organising your labour with others. The most effective way to close the gender pay gap is not through individual feisty presentation but collective action. And this isn’t me talking through my arse. It’s just the boring fact of the matter.
This is not to say that J-Law isn’t lovely and bright and it is not to actively dissuade young ladies from unchecked acts of self-esteem. It is, just to say, that the belief, advanced by J-Law and widely applauded, that YOU are responsible for your own destiny is bunkum. I mean. If that were the case, there would be no need for a World Bank.
Arguably, there is a very great need for a World Bank. Perhaps one that is reliable in its methodology and non-partisan in its lending. If we can believe in the need, as per Evans, for such institutions, then perhaps we can also believe in the need for their very close scrutiny. And perhaps we can begin to believe that persons like the very excellent J-Law also sometimes bear critical scrutiny when they say, as she very much has, that ladies just need to “speak their minds” in order to receive financial reward.
Ladies need to join a union. “Bystanders” need to look at the nature of their protests and see, perhaps, that they may not be protest, but a propaganda exercise for a very flawed institution. And all of us, perhaps, at some point must learn to see that the fact alone of individual, self-esteem packed action may not be as effective as we initially suppose.
All of which is to say, hope dies when its shiny replica takes its place.
Big glamorous concerts and small feisty actors feel great and feel hopeful. I know they do. But if these apparently hopeful moments, which are often so empty of substance, are permitted to stand in for real solutions, we truly let hope go.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The first stop en route to hope is, very often, to assess the great hopelessness surrounding us. Without hopelessness, there can be no hope.
Kids. Mum is very frightened and wants you to turn this car around. Despite my worst fears, I still hopelessly hope you can collectively save us from hell.