Why does neolibarlism need that the idea of free will remains persistent ? If your liberty and rights are completely swiped off and tyranny doesn’t hide itself behind a mask, you could still identify your oppressor. But if the source of your problems is shattered into a thousand of problems with apparently as many different sources and entities responsible for them, it becomes more difficult to identify them all as resulting from a fewer systemic factors1 – and it becomes very much confuse.
But the neoliberal doctrine needs you to still believe that you are committed to your own decisions and that it should depend on you for the situation to improve at some point. For instance, you would be sollicated to donate to organisations against diseases or poverty in the world, meanwhile the distribution of financial ressources is systematically sucked up by the stock markets.2 So, better create a context where anyone should know that there are many problems in the world, but also that the resources for a power of change are somehow scarcely distributed – yet it should be a least chaotic situation than to be living in some non-priviledged country where there isn’t a democratic system… except if you are living, coming or descending from there.
However, you need to stay busy, responding to the pressure of those thousand problems to survive if not thrive. You act through the little choices to make day by day. You act on your free will for little businesses, the slight marging of the comfort to choose, to organise your own space between what to consume or who to vote for or having an opinion. A thousand problems, and no hand to wipe them off at once without resenting that you should be so selfish. Eventually, the guilt is yours, even though you didn’t press the lever of the trapdoor in the first place.
If we were not so busy minding all those conditioned trails marked by social conventions, fear of being excluded and urban environments, we would maybe begin to ask : « who does really provide the food and shelter that I need ? How am I using my time on Earth and who’s accountable for people being excluded from equal share ? Do some people really deserve more, and on what basis, and in what proportions ? »
Maybe we would not solve the problems by saying the word « poverty », because « poverty » is not a fact but a category. There are people pushed into poverty, whose lives and stories are made dependent on several contexts. Politics engineering those contexts under a main trend create the consent over the idea that « there is poverty ». But where ? Where should there be such an object as « poverty » ? If you don’t see it or so discretely, why should it be one of your major problems ? There is only a problem when you can solve it. If you cannot, you can only put it aside for later. But people starving are not « poverty » nor « poor people ». They are persons pushed into being labeled to the title of the poor.
So now your own free will is to decide whether you will commit to that kind of accepted reality or discart it because, as said, you already have a thousand problems. You are still living on the fringe where you may be losing rights but are still able to choose such a thing as not being yet concerned by the title of poor. So that is why the neoliberal doctrine needs you to be busy choosing not to be that yet, not yet enough, because as soon as you start thinking that you are or may be, you do not see the world as a thousand problems from which you could discart some – a few or a good part – but as one major problem that is: someone is refusing you the right to fulfill your basic rights in a collective society where some others can still access them. Divide and rule.
The label of « poverty », among others, created the possibility to add it to the homogenous swarm of all the problems of the world distributed by the news. Yet, to borrow from queer theorist Sam Bourcier’s analysis3, we already seek to manage our small measures of rights that we can gather amongst the crumbs of an oppressive and exclusive system, being kept busy in the cloud of all that is confiscated in the mean time. Maybe we should now remember that we are all already poor as soon as we don’t « belong » to the happy 1% of the population owning as much resources as half the world’s poorest.
We are already labeled. Then, the question is : how to put all the thousand problems that hide a much more simple topic under and claim that the most urgent is to think of the kind of society that we want ? By analysing the systemic intrications of how we read our priorities and uniting under the single banner of the poor or poor-to-be, we would maybe find more in common than our differences. Because the gap between accepting critical and stressful conditions of a « normal living » and the exclusion of being out of the capitalist system is getting thiner and thiner. In the end if we don’t watch it out, sooner than later, we are all going to have to choose between a world where we are ready to sacrify one large part of the population (« who deserves it better than us », as the oppressed should take injustice more easily than the priviledged4) to the benefit of the other, or a world where we cooperate among us to resist the trauma and fatality of such a dreadful pact.
It is, indeed, ours to choose.
1Manipulation strategy known as gaslighting and consistently used in opinion conditioning.
2For example, in France, the CAC 40’s distribution of subsides got over the level it tipped in 2007 just before the crisis.
3In Sam Bourcier, Homo Inc.orporated, Le triangle et la licorne qui pète, Ed. Cambourakis, 2017.
4French blog writer Badassmaman would remind us to the idea that « Black don’t crack », that injunction for Black people to blend in and don’t show weakness. Further on, it joins to the concept of gaslighting.