So, on this side of the Atlantic, our social care system is in danger of breaking down due to lack of funding, in terms of the care provided for both the elderly and the very young. People with disabilities are being stripped of dignity, and in some cases, even their right to survive by systematic deprivation of the means to survive by a 'fit to work' system that does not recognise their needs. A highly commended feature film has recently been released that documents this harrowing process.
An argument is currently ramping up over the testing of primary school children, to the extent that the BBC Education correspondent comments that 'parents' evenings, with spreadsheets and targets, can feel like a chat with the accountants'. The government find themselves in a quandary over their ambition to apply a statistical model of progression to children's progress in order to hold teachers and schools 'accountable' because the attempt to find a reliable and valid test to rank four year olds is proving elusive. This is consequently frustrating attempts to create a 'baseline' against which children's progress can be minutely measured, with the principal purpose of informing the 'performance management' of teachers, head teachers and schools. The education system is increasingly short of funds, although huge payments have been made to academy managing directors.
In the US, similar issues arise. The manner in which student loans are administered has led to an accusation that the whole system is set up to allow financial companies to 'prey' on students, and the issue of 'lunch shaming' has been raised by the New York Times- that is children being shamed because their parents have not provided them with sufficient lunch money, including staff throwing away hot food if children do not have the means to pay for it, children being told to wipe tables to earn their lunch and one case of a child's arm being stamped 'I need lunch money'. A related debate has recently arisen in England.
All of these seeming disparate issues arise from the creation of a culture in which human beings are valued only to the extent that they are able to contribute to the current and future economy. This project has been ongoing since the late 1970s. In an interview with the Sunday Times in May 1981, Margaret Thatcher commented:
...it isn't that I set out on economic policies; it's that I set out really to change the approach, and changing the economics is the means of changing that approach. If you change the approach you really are after the heart and soul of the nation. Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.
It is this vision of society, which has since been dubbed 'Neoliberalism' that Thatcher and her American counterpart, Ronald Regan, and many of their successors worked so hard to bring into being.
But not only are human relationships being torn apart, so too is the economy, with growing accusations of rigging now reaching the heart of the British establishment. This reflects the fact that financial markets have arisen from generations of human relationships, in which the 'heart and soul' is located in the ability to share our thoughts through language, which gives rise not only to competition, but also to collaboration and compassion. This is the nature of humanity as a species that evolved over millions of years; as such, in anthropological terms, three and a half decades of political manipulation has resulted in the current Anglo-American culture placing the economic cart before the human horse.
It should therefore be no surprise that the results of a cynical political attempt to remove compassion from the delicate balance of human society are now becoming self evident, or indeed, that those who are suffering the most are those who are least able to 'perform' within the economy- the young, the old, the disabled and those who take themselves out of 'the market' to provide care and support for them.
Perhaps, during this week in which we commemorate a religious leader whose contribution to humanity was to champion compassion and charity, we should take a little time to contemplate the burgeoning evidence which reveals the nakedness of the neoliberal emperor currently bestriding the western world?