Rod’s Blog 21.08.12
have a tan – it is fading and if you look closely it is really just a thick cluster of freckles – but I have what passes as a tan – gained from three weeks in real weather, not sprayed from a can! Ella and I spent the last few weeks driving our kids from family group to family group and sleeping either in our VW van or under the canvas of our large bell tent. We finished our UK tour (Shropshire, Somerset, Devon, Oxford) in the tiny village of Worstead in rural North Norfolk and in the year 1957. I am convinced we went back in time to the year of my birth – tiny narrow roads with smiley, waving farm workers hailing us as we crawled past at 15 – 20 mph and Mars Bars that were as fat and large as small logs. Lack of sleep does this to the brain.
Anyway, the fact is I’m back at my desk getting ready to evaluate the last few months (Artistic Director’s report for the board and Annual Review for the Arts Council) before plugging on with the work that will take us into 2013. I am looking forward to an autumn term of teaching at various institutions. I’ve been invited to teach at Hull College, Leeds Met Uni and Northern School of Contemporary Dance – to frighteningly large groups of students. My aim is to make three pieces of work – or facilitate the making of pieces of work. The joy of this is that the work will ( I hope) challenge me – I want to make performances that I couldn’t ever make for Red Ladder because of the constraints of touring and audience expectation. The students have no such constraints – other than the bizarre notions of assessment that education shoe-horns onto their work. (Discuss!)
I want to share an article I have just written for ‘Compass’ a left wing pressure group. They have asked for people to suggest what are the ‘elephants in the room’ that the Left daren’t discuss – and I expect they will get articles about immigration and patriotism, issues that seem to have been appropriated by the Right. Here’s my little contribution…
Elephants Left in the Room
“If something can’t go on forever, it will probably stop” Herb Stein, President Nixon’s economic adviser, 1980
For me the Left cannot move forward and take our world into a safe and sustainable future until it abandons the global obsession with ‘growth’. Defenders of Growth Economics insist that there is no other economic model that can maintain human evolution. This of course is not only stupid it is suicidal. At our current rate of consumption and disposal we (that is the global ‘we’ – the human species) will run out of landfill in five years time. There will be nowhere else on the planet to safely dispose of our so-called ‘rubbish’. Five years at our current rate of consumption …and yet growth economics demands that we consume more and more exponentially every year. To feed the greed for ‘stuff’ in Europe we need three planet earths; to feed the greed for stuff in the US we need five planet earths. The Left continues to ignore these arguments as if they just belong to the ‘eco-mad’ – a branch of the Left which many see as being ‘loony’.
The Unions and The Labour Party still proclaim their defence of Jobs and Growth. Ed Miliband talks of a ‘responsible capitalism’ – an oxymoron with the emphasis on ‘moron’. Growth requires exploitation of resources – there is no sustainable way of exploiting the earth for more and more. My six year old understands the idea that there is one planet and its resources are finite – and yet free market growth economics assumes an infinite resource. The Blairite Left (hardly on the Left in my view – more like Blue Labour) still argue that in order to ‘protect jobs’ then the argument is for a larger slice of the pie for ‘ordinary people’. The term ‘working class people’ is being gradually phased out – in a growth economy we are all middle class. My argument is for a different pie.
What do I propose as a revision of the growth reality? A total rethink towards our attitude to the concepts of ‘work’ and ‘wealth’. A return to the nine basic needs as described by Manfred Max-Neef – these being:
· Subsistence – health, food, shelter
· Protection – security, society
· Affection – friendship, family, love
· Understanding – curiosity, education
· Participation – responsibilities, interaction, community
· Leisure – play, fantasy, intimacy, privacy
· Creation – skills, work, feedback
· Identity – belonging, groups, recognition
· Freedom – autonomy, rights, dissent.
The Left refuses to discuss these fundamentals for fear of being labelled crazy by the capitalist establishment which perpetuates a growth reality. To discuss anti-capitalism is to be labelled as ‘unrealistic’, a ‘dreamer’ or worse an ‘anarchist’. For politicians and bureaucrats the concept of basic human need is usually limited to food, health and education – to be met in the ‘poorest’ communities through patronising aid and advice from international agencies. These take into account only economic goods – which represent only a fraction of real needs.
The Left must lead the way in proposing new models of ‘being the change’ and giving people the power to determine their own destiny as Gandhi argued:
“Freedom is to be attained by educating the people to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority.” Growth economics does not require or allow for this. It is no wonder that social exclusion has become a major issue in Britain. Growth demands that we compete for the bigger house, the better car, the most ridiculous flat screen television. In Britain, more than in the US, power is in the hands of a small clique in Downing Street – all inheritors of wealth created by growth – not by sharing but by exploiting. In an attempt to join this exclusive clique Labour has encouraged ex-bankers to join the party, lawyers, people who are fanatic believers in the church of growth. How can these people truly represent working class people? When people cannot determine their own destiny, the community falls apart. The vital step is from mere consultation to full participation. Growth economics cannot allow for full participation – it requires the top earners to drag the lowest up so that a minimum wage gradually increases within a system where those at the top earn more and more – in theory hauling all below upwards. This is a fallacy and cannot happen while the main aim of capitalism is to increase profits (growth) and reduce costs – the most obvious being employee costs – wages.
“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination” John Schaar
A new system of economics is not just desirable, our survival will depend on it. If the Left cannot openly propose this then the Left will never truly represent the people – it will always pander to big business and the neo-liberal world.
If we turn to Nature to give us our model for existence then we can learn a great deal. Nature has infinite variety, and its complexity increases with time. When things go wrong it finds new alternatives. It gradually turns dust into things of value, which in turn, die and feed the cycle of life. It captures pollution and lays it down in the earth’s crust. But nature has no net growth. It is stable. It provides wonders on a finite planet. To say that a stable no-growth economy is impossible simply shows the poverty of our imagination.
About Rod: Rod became Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company in 2006, following his role as associate director at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth. He has also ran The Hub Theatre School in Cornwall and been an actor with several companies including Kneehigh Theatre. Directing credits for Red Ladder include Where’s Vietnam?, Forgotten Things, Riot, Rebellion & Bloody Insurrection, Ugly, Sex & Docks & Rock ‘N’ Roll, Big Society! and Promised Land. Rod is both a life-long Liverpool supporter and a believer in Proudhon’s principles of anarchy – the two might be connected.