Engaging a new Dark Age of Corporate Feudalism

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St Francis has inspired many, including the current PopeRecently I wrote about ‘Entering A New Dark Age’ and its policy impact on asylum seekers published in The Westender under the title ‘Corporate Feudalism’

The two default reactions for dealing with a threat to civic society like the ‘New Dark Age Of Corporate Feudalism’ we are face to face with are ‘Fight’ and ‘Flight’

The first option, favoured by the hawks among us, is ‘Fight Against The Darkness’. The trouble is that this reflects and reinforces the neo-feudal ‘crusade’ mentality of society and will only increase the darkness of our New Dark Age.

The second option, favoured by the doves among us, is ‘Flight From The Darkness’. The trouble is that this reflects and reinforces the neo-feudal ‘castle’ mentality of society and will only increase the darkness of our New Dark Age.

We need to find a third option, which doesn’t reflect and reinforce the neo-feudal mentality which imbues society with the Darkness of our New Dark Age.

Fortunately for us there are people who engaged their Dark Age effectively who can serve as examples for us as we seek to engage our own Dark Age effectively. In the earlier Dark Age Francis and Clare engaged in the struggle for change by simply ‘Being Lights in the Darkness’. The political philosopher, John Ralston Saul, says of Francis and Clare and their cohort, they ‘were the most famous activists (of their day). To a great extent they laid out the modern democratic model of inclusion – an important step towards egalitarianism.’ And, in my view, if we would want to change our society – and encourage it to be much more egalitarian and inclusive – we would do well to follow their example.

The feudalism that defined the Dark Age that Francis and Clare faced was a pre-modern, but very sophisticated and very effective system of control, upon which our post-modern system of oppression and exploitation may well be based. It was built on the foundation of a network of castles, guarded by towering walls, and protected by heavily-armed patrols of free-lance mercenaries, hired to safeguard the wealth – and well-being – of the castle inhabitants. Francis and Clare undermined feudalism simply by encouraging all their brothers and sisters to refuse to join the crusades, but lay aside their weapons, unlock the gates of their castles, welcome outsiders in, and share their wealth with the poor.

The challenge of Francis and Clare for us is to realise that we cannot change the system we inhabit, without changing the essential zeitgeist on which it is based and which gives it political legitimacy.

We need to realise that we cannot change the Sovereign Borders Policies of neo-feudal Fortress Australia, by attacking the government and the wanna-be government-in-waiting, because – whether we like it or not – we need to acknowledge that they have the overwhelming democratic support of a paranoid population for their xenophobic policies. The more we attack these policies, which make people feel safe, the more fear we will induce, and the more likely it is they will support the policies we oppose.

Francis and Clare show that the way for us to change the system is to demonstrate to people in our society that we don’t need the Sovereign Borders Policies of neo-feudal Fortress Australia because we don’t need to be afraid. We need to demonstrate that most of our fears are not real, only constructions of the powerful to justify their power – ostensibly so they might ‘better protect us’ – and those fears that are real can be managed sensibly and sensitively – with due regard for the welfare of everyone.

However, we cannot demonstrate to people in our society that we don’t need to be afraid, unless we, like Francis and Clare, overcome our fears, refuse to join the crusade for the inhumane treatment of others, lay aside our weapons of power and privilege, unlock the gates of our gated community castles, welcome outsiders in as friends we are yet to meet, and share our wealth with the poor who need our support. Only then will we be able to transform the zeitgest of our society and then, with the help of our compatriots, begin the task of deconstructing Dark Age Fortress Australia and reconstructing an Enlightened Age Refuge Australia.

From recent painful experience we know that policies don’t change when parties change, but only change when there is public support for policy change. When people live change and vote change politicians will follow the lead of the people – and change – to stay in power. Each of us, who feel inadequate, need to realise our capacity to act. And each of us, who feel afraid, need to realise our courage to act. Each of us, who feel impotent, need to recognise the potential of our actions. Each of us, who feel insignificant, need to recognise the consequences of our actions. Every act of truth is a victory over lies. Every act of love is a victory over hatred. Every act of nonviolence is a victory over brutality. Every act of kindness is a victory over cruelty. And every risk a person takes to make a stand, for peace and justice, however small, is a victory in the struggle to build to a better Australia – an Australia that is committed to the welfare of all.

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