Many have described the beginning of 2021 as a rinse repeat of 2020, with an immediate shovelling of bad news, of violence and disorder, of endless scrolling through Twitter for some lighthearted takes to distract from horrific events. At the end of the day, that’s all it serves. We know the headlines, we’ve seen the notifications, all Twitter tends to provide in this sense is a validation of our opinions on things and an understanding of where we stand. It exposes what we already know about the failures of our system, it demonstrates what has been brewing for years at the top of the establishment and hidden within its belly: The death of neoliberal capitalism, and the rise of neofascism.
Those of us pivoting around our early 20s have experienced a significant political awakening in the last half a decade, as the late-stages of capitalism come into play. It became self-evident as we entered the new millenia in our youth, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, that we would be growing up in a drastically changed world compared to the ‘Long Peace’ that ran before it. Our generation isn’t just radically different due to the introduction of social media and a rapid advancement in technology, but we mark a distinct cut-off point from our predecessors. The Millenials and Baby Boomers that lived out their youths before us did so under either the golden age (or at least in its prime) of capitalism. Ours (Gen Z) is the final generation to experience it, we are witnessing the dying breaths of capitalism and the neoliberalism experiment. An age-group dogged with daunting money troubles in the face of numerous financial crashes in our short lifespans, the longest war in modern history that plagues millions in the Middle East, waged by those desperate for the black gold whose worth is quickly running out. The situation and position of our generation was captured very poignantly earlier last year, in late Spring - the price of a barrel of oil at one stage held less financial value than hand sanitiser. As much as those values have more to do with the stock market surrounding those goods, it acts as a metaphor showing that we value our health and welfare over that of corporate greed and planetary destruction in the name of money. We should be washing our hands of oil usage and washing our hands with sanitiser. Although there are many whose hands cannot be cleansed of the horrors they have inflicted.
A recent press conference led by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel made the statement that a small few people were responsible for the skyrocketing rise in covid-19 cases in the UK - where she’s correct in statement but points her finger in the wrong direction. The ones to blame sit at the top, they do not ‘scurry’ at the bottom as they see us to do. The contempt held for the poorest not just around the world, but right on our doorstep, is not a new development however - and we know this. Social media has shone a light on its taking place, but this is simply a domino in the chains and confines of a very short political system in the grand scheme of history. It is a system more inclined to line wallets whilst lining graveyards than offer a helping hand to the most marginalised and pushed aside members of our society. It is a system not built around creative expression or care, but on confinement, conformity, and control.
Questions are being thrown around as to what radicalised them? What event or quote or person gave them the carrot to stop taking the stick. I feel we are all inherently primed for it, we’re all switched on and ready to have the match struck inside of us and light a fire together. Yet the reason this way of life persists, where we’re stuck into this 40+ hour work week for 50 years, spending 2/3rds of our week working all for most of that profit to go towards someone doing far far less. If people feel confined now due to the umpteenth lockdown that the UK government has knowingly walked into again, then it’s worth realising that lockdown or no lockdown we are still incredibly constricted by this system. When will the tipping point be for the scales of capital, where the weight of growing poverty that is endemic and essential for the system to exist can no longer stand the corrupt minority that sits at the top of this pyramid scheme. We’ve been conned into a belief that this is as good as it gets, that free labour still exists, that a meritocracy is still the basis of our political and productive way of life. It isn’t a radical idea to commit to a world of caring instead of one of profit, to envision a world without exploitation or stock market fantasies or opening Twitter and seeing heaps of disaster stories that you’re numbed to before you’ve even seen them. This isn’t a call for political apathy however, to wipe your hands of a system not fit for purpose and ignore it - instead, it’s a call to be angry. If it’s a radical idea to care about people before profit, to want a world without exploitation or labour theft or poverty, to want a society that doesn’t prioritise a capitalist productive mindset and allows for complete individual freedom, then call me a radical.
Orry Kerr is a 22 year old History student from the Isle of Man going in his 3rd year at QUB. He is the Social Media Officer on the Amnesty Intl. QUB committee, as well as the Current Affairs Rep on the Manx Students’ Union. He has a huge passion for the planet, politics, and poetry.