Friday, 24 June 2011

The Problem With "Live And Let Live" - More on Moran

During the Newsnight debate, Caitlin Moran revealed to Paxman and the audience her life motto of "live and let live" (adding after that "when my head hits the table, please order me a taxi". Presumably because it sounds transgressive and "edgy".)

Moran’s bubbly, perky and boisterous cry of “live and let live” fits the neoliberal agenda to a T. By doing nothing on a social level, by “allowing anything to happen” we are literally leaving the doors wide open for corporations to do what they want. It’s not a far cry from “deregulation”. And we know how well that went with the banks.

Think about the actual meaning of “live and let live”. What it doesn’t say, but is implied, is this:

A) we will allow everyone to do what they want, we won’t stop anyone from doing what they want. Translation: we will allow businesses to sell whatever they want, and if people want to buy, that’s their choice. (And if the product is bad for them, it's their own fault for buying)

B) we assume that “doing” stuff is good. Translation: buying trumps not buying. We will allow the selling of everything.

C) we can’t say that anything is “bad”, and therefore we can’t stop people from doing what they want. Translation: we can’t judge anything as morally "wrong", but we can nevertheless say that stopping a business is not allowed, while allowing a business to exist is.

What this type of ideology never addresses is this: why is it that “live and let live” always translates into more businesses opening rather than less? Wait, that’s not a good way of putting it. Here’s another: why is it that “live and let live” comes to mean “stuff will be produced and sold” and it never means “stuff will not be produced or sold”?

For a clear-cut example, why is it that nobody ever, like, EVER, brings up this argument to use it against the arms trade? Nobody ever says “look, I believe in live and let live, so stop making weapons”. AHA! How about “I believe in live and let live, and since cars kill tens of thousands of people every year, it would be a great improvement on letting other people live if we all gave up cars”. Instead, the argument, which is never applied to this case by the way, takes the form “look, let people have cars, live and let live”.

Do you see it now? Even when the “letting people do whatever they want” actually gets in the way of people living, the argument “live and let live” is still applicable. Why? Because it’s not the innocent request for “everyone to get along” or "respect other people's choices" . It’s actually the nasty propagandistic shtick used to silence dissidents by painting them as “intolerant”. What they really mean is “let people do whatever they want” and under they breath they add “because there is no such thing as society”. Your actions should never get in the way of another person’s actions. Because, it is assumed, that the actions of another will never affect you or anyone else. 

And that, my friends, is at the very core of every exploitative economic system. So long as the actions of another never affect you, the ruling classes can get away with doing anything to anyone. And that’s important to remember: while we argue over whether something is “good” or “bad”, whether it has “negative” or “no” consequences, while we get into discussions and end up, out of sheer frustration, “agreeing to disagree” and stating that “there is no way to know”, corporations get busy with ruling the planet, opening new shops and malls, and before you know it you can’t get together outside of the city library because it belongs to John Lewis. Yes, you read that right. We, the public, argue over which member of the public should decide for all of us. And while we argue, what is left of the public space gets appropriated by corporations. We can stop arguing then, surely. There’s no point anymore: we no longer control our lives.

WHOOPS! It seems like somebody decided what was “good” while we were busy arguing over whether it should be done or not.

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

Ooh, this is a great point. Thank you.