In the past few years I am finding myself reading more and more non-fiction books. This likely ties in with my increasing interest in politics and also coincided with my move back to the UK not that long before the last general election. It also helps that I have access to a library with many new non-fiction books. Funnily enough I can’t even remember which was thelast fiction book I read, though I am currently enjoying Neil Gaiman’s ‘Trigger Warning’, and I find it strange that it has been so long. I am, of course, concurrently reading comics and graphic novels, but it’s still a little odd. Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Black Widow’ is next on my list, once I can get my hands on a copy from the library, and we shall just have to see when that is. Anyway, onwards…
This week I’m reviewing Owen Jones ‘The Establishment: And how they get away with it’. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Jones writings since he first joined the Independent newspaper some years ago. I’ve read his columns since then and followed him after he moved to the Guardian. Actually he’s part of the reason that I switched to that paper the other being that, in my opinion, the Indy significantly declined in quality. I bought and enjoyed Jones’ last book, ‘Chavs: the demonization of the working Class’, and the lovely hardcover version of his new book has been sitting on my shelf since it was published in 2014. I just needed to find the time to read it and I’m glad that I did for it is very enjoyable indeed!
Now, having recently read the excellent ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’, I was familiar with some of the themes of this work such as the role the media plays in helping politicians, who should be evicted, in power and the isolation of large swathes of the electorate from any interest in politics. Still, there was plenty in the book that was new to me such as the role that the Outriders (Think Tanks and the like) played in making Neo-Liberalism the current consensus in mainstream economic thinking. This was something that I was unfamiliar with and was explained with Jones’ typical eloquence. I was also unaware of how the police have been co-opted into The Establishment in a highly alarming way. The section on Corporations and how they scrounge off the state was also throughly enjoyable (and enraging!). Overall, I took much away from this work, as I did when I read ‘Chavs’, and I am glad that I read it.
But one section of the book that really disturbed me was hearing how much control the US has over British affairs including demanding extradition of British citizens to that country. I had heard similar stories in an excellent documentary, the name of which I currently forget, where President Obama pressured the Yemeni government to imprison one of their journalists who was asking uncomfortable questions about drone strikes in that country. And, shockingly the Yemeni government did as it was asked and imprisoned this journalist without charge or trial for simply doing his job. But learning that the UK government also acceded to the demands of the US was equally appalling. Especially as this British citizen had done nothing wrong, at least nothing that would have been prosecuted under UK law. That we would treat our own citizens in such a manner is truly terrifying.
Jones’ book also details how things can be swung back the other way, how the left can begin to reclaim the ground lost using similar tactics as the Outriders did. There is much to be learnt from a victory this decisive and though the battle ahead looks hopeless, the role that these Think Tanks played in changing the terms of the discussion can teach the left a lot. And we desperately need the conversation to be turned back towards the politics of hope. We also need to swing our society back towards collectivism rather than the individualism that has taken hold and we need a coherent strategy to do this. The strategies of the Outriders can be useful in this pursuit.
If you are either a fan of Owen Jones from his work at the Indy and the Guardian, or you have an interest in how our politics got to the current state that it is in, then I recommend that you read The Establishment. If, like me, you would like to know who was responsible for the sea-change away from the democratic socialism that we used to have and towards the rampant capitalism that is the current way of thinking, and how they did it, then this book helpfully paints a picture. I for one will be looking forward to Jones’ next work and continuing to enjoy his columns in the Guardian. Cheers!
My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!