The era of reality TV has many critics claiming the word “reality” is far too loosely attributed to those shows. Big Brother is undoubtedly the King of reality TV. Blogs like Weekly Gripe claim without contest, that shows like Big Brother do not reflect any sense of reality at all, and ends the piece with “I think Television should rethink what is reality and what’s not.” I’d disagree wholeheartedly with that statement.
Ultimately, Big Brother is pointless and has no social benefit whatsoever. And so Big Brother is a perfect example of reality. The notion that a group of people are thrown together, forced to backstab each other in the hope that they will get ahead. Only one person can win the money, the rest are forgotten, greater social needs are ignored. The enemy of those people, is “Big Brother“, the government of the house. The contestants change themselves to what they think the public expect them to be. Similarly, we as good little workers speak like our employers expect us to speak, we question nothing, we dress as we are expected to dress in order to appeal to this abstract concept of “looking professional”. We are never ourselves when it comes to the incessant chase for money and reward. That, if the Neoliberal conception of human nature is to be believed, is reality at it’s finest. That fear of government, that selfish grab at money, is reality. Big Brother, is the perfect example of 21st Century reality. The World, financial markets, workplaces, are hundreds of thousands upon millions of little Big Brother type shows acting themselves out under the guise of “reality“. The selfishness and the greed institutionalised in shows like Big Brother, is a solid reflection of the institutionalised culture of greed and individualism that the Western World has been forced to adhere to under the manipulated language of “freedom” and “human nature“.
Contestants on Big Brother are not free. And it isn’t just the Government of the reality show that restricts their freedom. The carrot dangling at the end of the show; the money. The promise of “more”. The promise of “more” is a far bigger restriction on human freedom, than Government could ever be. Business is by it’s very nature; totalitarian. This promise of “more” is what drives people in a Neoliberalist system of economics. It assumes that human nature is inherently self interested, totally individual and greedy. I WANT AN IPHONE!!! Why? for what reason? You’ll only want a newer model in a year or two. Pointless, manipulative greed. It dismisses any notion that human nature, whilst having the potential to be self interested and greedy, also has the capacity to be loving, and giving, and needing support, and sensitive, and helpful, and every other trait that appears completely at odds with individualist selfishness. Collective responsibility is deemed “communist” at worst, and so ignored. An individual is a commodity in a Neoliberalist World. Unless you have a mind for business, or are the son of a rich couple, you’re deemed a commodity, to be bought and sold, and if you cannot produce the skills that the Market at this time demands, you’re useless, and worthless, and should not be given any support whatsoever. Collective responsibility for an individuals misgivings are being slowly eroded. The idea being that if everyone is responsible for themselves and themselves only, we will be forced to work hard enough to survive without any help or assistance whatsoever.
Neoliberalism places Government as the antagonist, at odds with human freedom because they take your money from you and redistribute it to the poor. It amazes me that it is only government that is seen as the antagonist. The place that I work at, gave us a worker’s manual. It stated that we must be “clean shaven or have a full beard, ‘designer stubble’ is not acceptable“, so businessmen think they have the right to tell me how my face should look. They then told us we should “have at least one bath or shower a day“. Why is that any of their business? And why aren’t those advocates of “freedom” up in arms about business tyranny and totalitarian principles that they are built on?
Their argument seems to be “if you don’t like it, go elsewhere“. Forgetting the fact that I, like most people, can’t afford to be out of work looking for a new job, If I were to go elsewhere, that new place would have the very same kind of limitations; it’s universal. Business, by it’s very nature, is totalitarian. And yet, Neoliberalism tells me that this is the ultimate in human freedom; being able to tell those people below you who make YOU the money that funds YOUR luxurious lifestyle, how to dress and how many times to wash. It then demands that I respect a person like my boss, despite the fact that I utterly despise him. What is the incentive for me to respect a man who pays me the very minimum allowed by law, whilst he himself drives home in a nice big luxurious car, financed by the staff who work for him, the very same staff whose names he hasn’t got the time to learn? He is a child of the Thatcher generation, and so assumes employee respect and subservience is his God given right. It isn’t.
The paradox of Neoliberalism, is that the ideology exists like a set of scales. For those at the top to keep rising, those at the bottom must keep falling. There is no way out of it. Neoliberalism then suggests that those who have rised, deserve even further praise, admiration and reward, whilst the inevitable pile of those who have failed, deserve nothing but a life of misery. It’s the reason stores like Primark insist on using cheap, exploitable labour. Profits become far more important that people, and no one stands up to complain, millions shop in Primark every year. Purely because the notion that human nature is greedy, offers people a justification for giving money to pretty Fascist organisations. And so whilst some may call it “freedom“, I simply call it “insecurity“. Suddenly values, morals, and humanity are fleeting, abstract thoughts that matter very little because everyone has been forced to be self interested and greedy, looking out for number one first. We’ve been given no choice. The freedom they gave us (Thatcher and Reagan) was “either be greedy, or be insecure, hungry, cold, and useless“. Human nature is not simply greedy, it is merely the case that greed is obviously amplified, when the system we live in offers endless rewards to such greed. When love, and compassion are not rewarded, and in some cases, punished, why would humanity exhibit such qualities above greed? Why is incentive offered to place the exchange of goods and capital, ahead of social injustice?
That isn’t freedom.
Within the Big Brother house, the choice is “be entertaining, controversial, and backstab everyone, or fail miserably“.
Neoliberalism also brings with it a terrible amount of institutionalised racism. Schools in poor black areas cannot readily afford new equipment, or top class teachers, or new text books because they simply lack funding, and so class division and lack of social mobility is perpetuated for another generation. Neoliberalist supporters fail to admit this flaw in their miserable ideology, and instead choose to blame the lack of ability, or work ethic, or discipline within poor black communities themselves as opposed to horrendous social injustice caused by their awful system. The USA healthcare system, that rich white folks do not want to see changed, is a supreme case of Neoliberal institutionalised racism at it’s worst. According to a study by University of Dayton, areas of predominantly uninsured minorities are subject to higher rates of “environmental toxins, including lead and asbestos“, the workers of the minority areas also “disproportionately work in jobs with higher physical and psycho-social health risks (i.e., migrant farm workers, fast food workers, garment industry workers). Minority communities are frequently the targets of institutions promoting unhealthy products, such as alcohol and tobacco. ” If it wasn’t for some form of social conscience exhibited by Government over the years, those minorities would doubtless become a Neoliberal dream, full of sweatshops and exploitation of the worst variety. Government needs to go further, and intervene in social misfortunes, where the Market simply perpetuates the problem.
Democratic values are seemingly undermined by the ideology of privatised-everything, cloaked by the narrow focus of “the market“.
Socialism, to me, is not simply an economic challenge to Capitalism. It is not simply a solution to inequality through the common ownership of production; it is a set of values, that start at the premise that people are far more important than private profit. The idea that you cater to the needs of civilisation first, and once that aim has been realised, you cater to the wants of civilisation. I do not believe in forcing people into jobs they hate purely so economists can say “look, isn’t the unemployment rate amazing”. For every well paid mining job the Thatcher government destroyed, another three McDonalds and Starbucks jobs were created, and was used as a sign of improving times. The Confederation of British Industry, the beacon of Neoliberalism, once suggested cutting University degrees down to what the economy needs. If it needs more Maths graduates, then they suggested emphasis should be put on Maths, and degrees such as Philosophy should be scraped. Where is the freedom in that? What if I want to study Philosophy? Freedom only appears to work, when haggered old grey haired right wingers decide it’s possible. Which speaks to another area of society’s Big Brother complex. Neoliberalism tends to want to press home the notion that markets should be left to their own devices, free from government interference. Yet, when markets fail, government interference is demanded by the markets. The banking crises was a magnificent example of the failure of Neoliberalism, and Socialism having to bail it out, to keep it going. The Capitalist structure, was crumbling, and Socialism had to bail it out. In the Big Brother house, contestants appear to hate their in-house Government, yet appeal to it rather hypocritically for help and advice, whenever they seem to be crumbling themselves. The American high tech industry has only survived as it is today, because of Pentagon subsidies over the years. Without those subsidies, America would not be the immense power it is today.
Big Brother is simply a reflection of the Neoliberalist society that has been forced onto the World over the past twenty five years. Thatcher’s generation forced Neoliberal principles onto my generation, and we don’t want it. You can keep it. And take Big Brother with you.