“Evils which have struck their roots deep into the fabric of human society are often accepted, even by the best minds, as part of the providential ordering of life.” – William Charles Braithwaite, 1919, 23:05
Toward the end of this year three evils in particular have been at the forefront of my consciousness.
Firstly, the catastrophic effects of climate change which are all around us and have been very dramatically manifesting as extreme weather and the reverberations of Syria's civil war, itself the result of an agricultural crisis due to climate change. We are past the point of no return, and this year's crises will soon be seen as the new normal. I find that I do not talk about climate change with friends who have children, because I know they are trying to hold on to hope that the next generation will be ok, and of course they won't be. It's all happening so fast now. Ten years ago I thought that some of these problems were still 40 years away. So it won't be ok for the rest of my lifetime either.
Next, the re-establishment of misogyny in our culture. In Britain, we never got as far as being able to take any aspect of gender equality for granted, and the backslide has been very noticeable. The 'in your face' sexism noted by the UN Special Rapporteur is used with the same lack of consciousness now as it would have been 40 years ago. It really is as if second wave feminism never happened. It's easier for capitalists to profit from exploiting our bodies and using patriarchy for divide and rule, and neoliberals don't have a problem with social division in general or abuse of women in particular. So much of our public discourse, public anger and public money is directed towards a really very remote terrorist threat. Those in power have no interest in the daily experiences of gendered oppression and violence experienced by half the population, or in addressing the gender divisions that lead to male violence.
Finally, the re-establishment of class priviledge. Again, social equality never progressed very far in Britain. As just one example, we got one working class prime minister out of half a century of social democracy, and now so quickly we have regressed to power being held blatantly and explicitly by hereditary social elites. Those social elites use that power to further their class interests at such an extreme and with such velocity - not unlike that of accelerating climate change. The horror of seeing how quickly social evils can be brought about, established and infect everything around them - what a pandemic we are up against.
Of course focusing on these evils alone is not the way to overcome them. This year I've also been more aware of veteran activists such as Quaker George Lakey pointing to the need for radicals to set up an alternative set of institutions that is ready to meet our needs and that are demonstrably more just, effective, sustainable and human than those of the capitalist elite and the patriarchy. This can be seen in action with the momentum I've also seen this year behind veganism.
There has been good news this year for veganism as the cases for sustainability and health have pretty much become established and are entering mainstream discourse. As people become pursuaded to move in the vegan direction, they will find an infrastructure to support them thanks to the many activists who provide this voluntarily and use the internet effectively to provide information and more. If only the same practical and intellectual self defence could be found from googling 'be a feminist' as there is when searching 'be a vegan'.
The Religious Society of Friends is also an alternative set of institutions to an extent. We have so much going for us and used it to great effect to abolish the slave trade. It's time to do this again. We have to be aware that making a corporate statement to the prime minister or a newspaper about something we don't like... that just doesn't cut it as a response. We need a revolution in our hearts, our relationships with each other and then our relationships with the world. I hope to spend 2016 experiencing this.