ONE blogs – JOHN CALDER – Man for Monday: CAN MAN PLAN?

On the opening day of he great international conference in Copenhagen, over fifty of the world’s leading newspapers jointly published a single editorial, emphasizing that this important event must not be allowed to fail. Interestingly, only one American newspaper, in Miami, Florida, was among them: New York, Chicago, L.A. etc. had obviously declined to join the consensus, an ominous signal of the American unwillingness to face reality or to confront the disasters that are now facing us.

There is everywhere and new awareness, except in the countries that either cannot conceive of losing the life-style they have enjoyed for decades or have just entered a new affluence such as China, which is still uncertain which way it wants to go. International careful planning to make a single world economy and level of existence is of course the answer, but is it possible?

The title of this blog comes from Sir Robert Grieve, a few years ago the Chairman of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands Development Board, an idealistic and competent administrator, who died before he could write a book with that title. It was during the Thatcher period when everything was being deregulated and market forces were allowed to do what they wanted, while all the carefully planned structure of the welfare state, from its employment-giving industries and services to its advanced education and culture was dismantled, one by one. The result we no have to live with.

Can man plan? Only with a consensus of awareness, a willingness to share and accept sacrifice, to dismiss differences of class, race, religion, nationality and historical enmity and prejudice, and by bringing about a fundamental change in human nature, can this happen. It is so unlikely that I am probably wasting my time in writing these words, but the survival of this planet and the human life on it — and there are those from Greek philosophers to Schopenhauer and Beckett who have considered the end of humanity not necessarily a bad thing — depends on our accepting a totally planned and regulated world if intelligent life is to continue and perhaps, with time, get better.

One thing is certain: life is about to get much worse for everyone, even for the bankers whose incompetence and greed is partly responsible for what is happening. Once Christmas, that dismal festival of unreality and forgetfullness, is over, we will see change in our daily living. More will be unemployed, more will go hungry and many will die of it, more will get ill and find no care or cure, more will be homeless, crime will rise and the conditions described by Disraeli, Dickens and Marx will again be normal. Many of the technical advances that have been taken for granted will disappear, excpet for a very few, carefully hidden out of sight and protected by private armies. We must, through general protest and demonstration — in some places it will be revolution — bring back planning and equal shares or else succumb to anarchy or dictatorship. The latter is more likely, but one can never predict how public protest will go. But doing nothing is not an option.

We can neither look to the past, nor to old idealistic philosophies and social programmes, not even to the old names for things, because they have been discredited by misuse. I would offer ‘communityism’ as the best word for a civilised future; everything else will lead to some form of military dictatorship, which is already the case where we have blunderingly interfered in places we do not understand, such as Iraq, Aghanistan and may soon do in Iran and elsewhere.

The next fortnight has the world riveted on Copenhagen. Can man plan? It has to start there, otherwise we are doomed.

John Calder 7/12/09