HUMAN POLITICS: HUMAN VALUE by Martin Whitlock
Towards a society for people as we really are (not as governments, economists and big corporations would like us to be). £12.99 from Mindhenge Books
For some time now, we have needed a book to lay out clearly, with evidence, what’s flawed in our current ways of thinking about society, its economic output, and how it is governed. The one I was sent to read by Mindhenge books a couple of weeks ago is near-perfect in its diagnosis and advocacy.
In calling the volume ‘Human Politics: Human Value’, the author Martin Whitlock nails it in the headline – it’s all about human creativity and contentment, not systemic ideologies – but his starting point is valuable insights and devastating data to show that in its social, economic, administrative and governmental values, Western society has truly lost a plot that – for a brief time from 1946 until 1971 – it did once have.
Opening with a fascinating study of how States got richer over the last thousand years, but in real terms citizens have been left behind, Whitlock then analyses how our society has gone from making stuff to transactional consumption where neither seller nor buyer get any satisfaction out of it…except some vague feeling of profit and value respectively. Regulars here will know my mantra – small creative must be protected from big process – but the author has taken the trouble to develop an eclectically applicable argument in favour of moving back to human satisfaction and away from sterile systemic ideology.
When I say eclectic, I mean it: bourses, mercantile trade, adversarial politics, welfare policies and financial money-invention…..all come in for thoroughly deserved deconstruction. I was going to write ‘a drubbing’ there, but in fact Martin Whitlock has a measured and calm writing style that leaves the obvious – “these people are insane” – unsaid. He does, however, allow himself to point up research showing that psychopathic personalities are four times more common in the senior echelons of business than elsewhere.
There are times in my line of work where, inevitably, after a day of trying to get across the need for radical change, one thinks, “Is it just me?”. Human Politics: Human Value convinces one that it is not. Much of the book is simple modernised Benthamism (I am a huge fan) but above all what Whitlock gets is both the arrogant ignorance of the New Order, and the apathy of those being ordered about.
Towards the end of the book, he notes that ‘knowing what is wrong is not enough, for the signs are there for all to see. The question is how to challenge an established order that is so entrenched.’ He is spot on here: it is, in fact, the question of the Age.
Mr Whitlock concludes that ‘the accepting majority’ are the problem, not the élite. The majority is no longer just silent, he argues, it has ‘lost the power to take decisive action’. And he lays the blame chiefly at the school door. I buy into most of this, only differing in that my concept of education is if anything even more radically holistic than his. But it’s a small point: he hits the bullseye by observing that problem-solving and inventiveness alongside self-esteem and practical skills are the real purposes of education: to inspire every child to be fulfilled, and to make them aware of the rights of others. All these we have lost, and we should blame both Thatcherites and Blairites respectively for this. The former wanted to create drones for the economy, the latter to hit targets that would impress the electorate. The Butler Education Act of 1944 merely wanted to arm a struggling postwar Britain with world-class education across all social classes. Labour’s rejection of this in 1964 was the worst UK domestic political decision of the Twentieth Century.
For myself, I don’t think the current Labour Party should get off lightly either. A fundamental problem of entrenchment is that the ‘order’ has been signed up to almost totally by the Opposition – a reality surely shown by Ed Balls’s proposed economic policies, and Miliband’s docile acceptance of bombing maniacs into submission.
Everyone now is ‘framed’ by a spin-conscious Establishment as ‘extremist’ if they argue that our entire culture needs to be re-engineered. It is a very clever move, made Orwellian by David Cameron in his depiction of people like me as ‘non-violent extremists’. Unable any more to think for themselves, the vast majority of Britons in 2014 will accept any old nonsense if it means they can stay in the herd. The Ed Miliband Labour Party has reacted spinelessly to the fear, and now merely colludes in it.
This is the only dimension on which I suspect Whitlock and I might disagree; that is, just how much of all this is being happily followed by the current Establishment crop with full awareness on their part? I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do believe that sociopathic pole-climbers seize their opportunities. Blair sold out socialist values for power, and Cameron has sold out One Nation Toryism to cling onto that same power; but the power is fuelled by unelected Big Money as used by media owners, multinationals, and bankers. The neoliberal fanatics in the current Administration – Gove, Hunt, Fallon, Osborne and Hammond – are opportunists par excellence, and their actions in Health, Education, finance, the economy and foreign policy display very clearly for whom they work.
But whatever one thinks of specific observations, this is a book that can potentially enlighten the smug and the apolitical, because it is devoid of Stalinist syntax, written with reasoned argument, and emphatic on one point: human value is far more important than the notional value that emerges from a transaction. This is the best book on What’s Wrong that I’ve read since Peter Oborne’s The Political Class. It deserves a mass audience.
Buy the book from Amazon on this page.