One of the hopeful things to come out of France re-electing Macron as president, is his promise that ‘no one will be left by the wayside’. France, like many countries, is facing a cost of living crisis. I am in no doubt that this crisis is fuelled by the way politicians have pandered to the desires of the unreasonably rich.
Nothing drives people to political extremes like poverty does. The rise of the far right at the moment has everything to do with the widening wealth gap, and the way in which far right politics offer simple solutions to slightly more complicated problems. Rather than deal with the inequality, the far right encourages people to hate and abuse minorities, misdirecting justified rage towards people who are not the cause of our problems. Moving towards the right in this way means giving more power to those who are invested in further widening the wealth gap.
When more extreme groups get political traction, the result can be that previously more moderate groups move towards them. This has certainly happened with the Tory party in the UK, who may have successfully dealt with parties like UKIP by moving into their territory. Leaving the EU has made us a nastier and more racist country, as our treatment of refugees clearly demonstrates.
I hope that Macron is serious about tackling inequality. I hope that we will see moves towards fairness as a way of responding to the rise of fascism. People don’t make good choices when they’re under-resourced and scared – those conditions make all of us more vulnerable to manipulation and less able to make good decisions. We all need food, shelter, and basic security, and we urgently need political approaches that are about dealing with basic needs rather than treating most people as disposable for the sake of the profits of the few.
Billionaires are not successful people. Billionaires are total failures. They are people who have taken too much and do not know when to stop. Their compulsions are toxic to all life on the planet. To have so much when others are suffering, is a state of failure. That some people have been allowed to skew everything so badly, is a situation of political failure. That we treat these disasters as success is a collective failure of understanding and compassion.
We urgently need to do a lot better.