top of page

Towards a 2023 Worth Living

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

I think 2022 was a very bad year. Sweeping generalisations are rarely helpful, and of course there were some lovely personal moments, but as a rule of thumb it was a year not worth living. Aside from spending half of it working a job that made me question why on earth we do anything, and trying to recover from the big tear in my left knee I sustained while doing one of the only things I’ve truly enjoyed in a long time, it felt that the rest of the country was in freefall. Britain was born free, and now everywhere she is in chains.

Large parts of the descent into legitimate despair for the country, in my eyes, have occurred because of the lack of an apparent, actualised alternative to the issues. Each sublime problem in the country, each more unfathomable in the immediate than the next, hasn’t been dignified with an answer. To put it bluntly, there seems to be no hope. It’s not only easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of whatever this is; the end of the world seems to not be beyond imagination. As a result of this, I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to imagine an alternative, thinking through the questions that are posed without answers. From an economic, political and social perspective, let’s look towards a 2023 worth living.

Fireworks over the Big Ben Elizabeth Tower, New Year's Eve 2022. Picture: Alamy.

Clearly the most pressing economic situation in the country is the ‘cost of living’ crisis. It’s a sparkling situation, a problem completely of our economic system’s own making and purposefully not dealt with by a government that don’t mind its existence. The very term itself has come to annoy me, as it’s steeped in capitalist framing. The emphasis on the phrase is always placed on the first word, ‘cost’, prioritising the issue as dependent on the market force of pricing, and inherently suggesting that the issue will be resolved when costs themselves simply change. We have built a system wherein the cost of things, while understood to not 100% be conflated with their actual value, is intrinsic to the ease in which we can live. And yet, we’ve all allowed ‘the cost of living crisis’ to become an everyday phrase that depicts the situation of households up and down this country. Think about what we’re actually saying when we say this - there is a CRISIS of what it COSTS to BE ALIVE. If we were perhaps able to frame this as ‘the existence crisis’ or ‘the living crisis’, there is a chance we wouldn’t have simply allowed ourselves to fall into the situation without demanding actual action be taken to stop it. The forces of capitalism operate unseen. Right now, we have to look closer.

Politically, it’s the same old we’ve come to anticipate in the recent. Three Prime Minister’s in a single year isn’t normal, that we know, but extreme turmoil is not out of the ordinary for a political cycle coming towards the end of its lifespan. Personal scandals, cronyism, party infighting, alleged embezzlement and pork-barreling have all been commonplace in British politics when a government’s time comes. Because of this, Labour has led the Conservative’s in the polls since November 2021, and at the time of writing have a 21-point lead on average. We can account for error, turnout, unpredictability, bad debate performance etc… but it’s fair to assume Labour will have a majority after the election at some point in the next 24 months. It’s worthwhile then to look at what Labour are saying and doing in this period. Predictably, the Tories will spend the dying days of their government stoking the fears of a voter base that play into their hands - immigration and the ‘culture war’. However, Labour have not been offering anything resembling the actual ideas that the country needs to drag itself out of the gutter, and the concept of it overturning a lot of these Conservative laws whilst in government is looking increasingly sceptical.

Labour have started to ramp up their discussion of policy over the recent months, gently putting their foot down on the pedal as we anticipate the next election. Some of it is intriguing and welcome, and some of it makes me do the same face as when I’m watching my flatmate mop up spilt tea with his socks. Some good recent examples of this include: Keir Starmer discussing providing ‘legal clarity’ above legislation for police officers cracking down on protest actions such as ‘slow marching’, proposing allowing people to refer themselves directly to specialists instead of having to go through GPs, and whipping his MPs to abstain on the vote as to to block the Scottish Parliament’s Gender Recognition Act. These range from the absurd to the outrightly harmful to the very people progressive politics should be protecting.

Alternatively, proposals such as bringing GPs on the NHS payroll, looking at new taxation on the income made from rental property, and a windfall tax on energy companies to stop the energy price cap rising to £3000 per month in April are all really quite welcome.

Labour frontbench listen to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy address the UK Parliament. Picture: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor.

This dichotomy represents the issue with the Labour Party in its current form. To put it simply, it is another classic case of the type of mild liberal social democracy that a country actively resisting leftist political thought throughout the 19th and 20th century will allow to actually exist. The political psyche of this country is amazingly hypocritical. Generally, we are happy with government investment and intervention, but will be bombarded with horrific press coverage if they even get a whiff of anything considered further across the political spectrum than what we’re experiencing now (and if you don’t believe me, go to the ‘Leadership of the Labour Party’ section on Ed Miliband’s Wikipedia page). We think tax makes sense overall but don’t understand how it works due to a lack of any political education in our school system, meaning changes to it allow the conversation to be flooded with ‘uncertainty’ and the proposers to be presented as a party who don’t have a clue what they’re doing. And we see ourselves as tolerant, proud to allow gay marriage and a diverse population, but think the 1% of the population that are trans need a ‘serious discussion’ about their rights, and that asylum seekers should stop at the first country they come to that is perceived as ‘safe’ (read: western). Because of all of this, actual progressive politics at the electoral level have long been a non-starter. The 2017 General Election was a slight exception to this rule, and resulted in a political sphere determined to not allow that to happen again for a long while yet. Keir Starmer is presenting himself as a Middle-Manager-in-Chief because it’s the only thing this country doesn’t respond to in a logically brain-exploding way - the middle manager thinks it’s a good idea so it probably is.

I’m slowly coming around to the notion that trying to build a left-wing electoral project in this country currently is a complete waste of time. This isn’t to say we on the left let ourselves die, but more that tangible differences would be more likely to occur if we focus on winning the policy argument than an electoral battle. You can support the Labour Party in its current form - as I’ve said before on this site, it’s always going to be closer to our values than the electoral alternatives and the current Government - because some of the policy proposals are worthwhile, but it would be helpful to understand that the existential purpose of the Labour Party in its current form is to treat the symptom and not the cause, because the cause allows people to concentrate wealth and power in their own hands at the expense of others.

Just because something wins an election doesn’t mean it’s good for the country. The public services here are on their knees. The wealth divide is allowing price gouging without any opposition, and a concentration of capital ensures that buildings, industries and institutions are not existing to actually help people or provide them with a reasonable service. A wealth tax is so clearly a reasonable idea, but without a clear explanation and a press that will run it on a daily basis, the country will never come to terms with it. The education system requires clear investment and innovation - in my eyes at least to a system of continuous assessment instead of examinations - or we will continue having generations of people who can pass an exam but can’t figure out when a politician is lying to them. A Universal Basic Income, a sum of money paid monthly to every individual over the age of 16 in the country, would have untold benefits on the economic, physical and mental health of our population, but we could never have an actual discussion about it because of the way state benefits are stereotyped here - seen as ‘handouts’ by the government, given not earnt, and that means they are bad. We cannot call ourselves ‘progressive’ if we’re saying there needs to be a ‘legitimate conversation’ around the rights of trans people instead of listening to what they’re actually telling us that they need. And, Jesus Christ, will someone please actually do something about the fact that average monthly rent prices in this country are over 50% of the average monthly income? There’s never been a clearer, more necessary policy to me than a rent cap beginning in its most lenient form at 50% of the average income of a local council area. These are all symptoms of a nation in a death spiral, and their cause is much more abstract.

I’m moving on from the frontline political now, because it’s not good for my acid reflux.

The final point I wanted to touch on in this now-rant is the social aspect of our society. In particular, something that is dangerously incompatible with a progressive society and one that is taking up a disproportionate amount of space in our social zeitgeist. I am talking about the Jordan Peterson-Andrew Tate axis here. I’ve considered whether giving them oxygen is a good idea, but they have thrived without mentions of them on this small platform and I don’t think that will change regardless of what I say. The characters mentioned themselves could almost be anyone, because it’s the viewpoints and the impact that it has on behavioural thinking patterns that are the most dangerous. Peterson presents himself as an academic authority on masculinity and its changing roles in society. He suggests that masculinity is being demonised by the miscellaneous ‘left’ as a way to defeat what society currently is. Tate presents himself as the reclamation of masculinity within society, depicting his actions as what the legitimate masculinity looks like and is. These range from economic exploitation and accumulation to full-blown sexual assault, and are once again done to defeat the efforts the change these actions in society. Describing them as such makes them sound absurd, however they are clearly resonating with a proportion of the western population, most notably teenage boys and young men. It’s important to try and understand why so that we can actually combat it.

I googled 'masculinity' and this was one of the more acceptable images to put on here. Picture: Mark Leech/Offside.

I can understand why, without thinking about it, you could buy into the concept that masculinity is ‘under threat’. It’s also completely incorrect. Masculinity is the dominant concept in world order. We quite literally build our world around it. Heterosexual masculinity is our social order and capitalism is our economic order. It is easy, therefore, for Peterson to present the increased presence of the non-heterosexual, non-masculine person in society as a ‘threat’ and for Tate to present capitalist consumption as a radical act to combat this. To young men who may not have full economic liberty yet, the additional factor of open social tolerance towards the non-heterosexual and the non-masculine can easily be conflated with an ‘attack’ on the dominant masculine world order, given a lack of combatting the notion. It’s important for us to demonstrate that masculinity is not under threat, as no one is creating circumstances in which you cannot be masculine - instead we are seeing the creation of circumstances alongside masculine spaces in which the non-heterosexual non-masculine person can exist without prejudice. These are words which need to be uttered over and over again, and have as far a reach as Andrew Tate’s now-classic comeback of ‘what colour is your Bugatti?’.

I saw a very interesting video in which Peterson discusses the ‘attack’ on masculinity by questioning the compensation that men get for performing manual labour jobs, professions in which they are still disproportionately employed. His suggestion is that ‘non-masculine’ people don’t want to work these jobs (such as bricklaying, manual engineering etc…) that come with legitimate physical risk and a lack of adequate compensation. Peterson suggests that we should be grateful for these men and not seek to attack them. What was staggering to me, in watching this, is that these notions are one step away from a progressive Marxist analysis, it’s just that the framing is different. I think it is completely possible to take the notions of how masculinity is ‘unappreciated’ in society, by seeing the disproportionately high rates of men in manual labour jobs, and demonstrate how this is actually a way in which the capital-owning classes alienate workers from their labour. We should be suggesting that it isn’t ‘masculinity’ that is under threat in these situations, but instead the power of those who own capital. We can take the right-wing notion that ‘masculinity’ is not appreciated because of some inherent ideological belief that ‘man are bad’, and instead present it as the factual idea that it is not appreciated because actual appreciation of these situation would quickly lead to a whole host of disaffected working class people developing class consciousness and realising just how much more they deserve to be paid, how fairer their working conditions should be, and how the rest of society is disproportionately not benefitting from their manual labour. If young men are easily taken in by Andrew Tate’s bragging about the colours of his Bugatti’s, it would be worthwhile to demonstrate just how society is structured to ensure that 99% of them will never reach an economic level where luxury sports cars come easily to them, and the way to try and better their lives materially is not through the trafficking and sexual exploitation of a whole host of young women.

If I’ve made life seem bleak, I do apologise. I don’t think everything is fucked, nothing has a point and everything is out to get us. You can find meaning and happiness in a moment of every day if you look hard enough. It’s just that, in the abstract, there isn’t too much hope economically, politically or socially at the moment. But I find it is in these lower moments which, as progressives, we find the answers that truly need to be sought out and the solutions to the problems that always keep presenting themselves. Use 2023 as a truly educational year in this regard. Seek out innovative solutions and always keep questioning why things are the way they are. You may just look back at the year as one of the most important that you’ve ever lived.

1 Comment

housing is an absolute necessity (it's not a want) - a real shame it's become another capitalistic tool for banks and financial institutions via mortgages etc which has given leeway into higher rent prices and higher housing prices, esp in London

the chain of analysis on the above is a lot more more complicated than that and I'm sure you know about it, just cba typing it

but literally caused and is continuing to be one of the leading causes of inequality in the uk

my grammar and English is poor, sorry good article, I enjoy :) Suii

bottom of page