1980s >> 1987 >> no-999-november-1987

Taken for Granted

For most people, much of what we do in our daily lives is routine. Decisions are made without being taken, because we live for much of the time in “taken for granted” worlds. Behaviour is habitual and takes place in an environment which seems to be unchanging. What changes there are don’t alter the substance of daily life, only the surface.

Try to think of some of the “unconsidered” activities that we take for granted. In our communication, for example, we adopt a language; to survive, we live in shelters and eat a standard diet. To earn money we journey to work; and to spend it. we go to shops.

In none of these activities do we act as programmed machines because we “choose” our words, our homes, our diets, our routes, the goods we buy and which shops we patronise. But those choices are very predictable — we are constrained by what choices are put before us. We cannot travel to work unless a workplace exists and a transport system is provided; we can only choose from the shops which exist and the goods that they provide, hence constraining our diet. In other words, the vast majority of us must simply accept the choices that are offered — we don’t decide what the choices are to be.

The choices we face reflect the interests of a small minority of people who hold power in the form of ownership of the world’s resources. In the taken for granted world goods and services are not produced if they do not make a profit for that small minority; and it is taken for granted that the living standards of the vast majority of people should be set according to whether and for how much they can sell their labour power or ability to work. In this way, the vast majority of us simply accept the choices we are given. But human beings are not machines and we could, if we wanted to, choose to change the way we live completely. Instead of choosing from the limited menu we face today, we could invent new recipes and set the menu ourselves.

In the world today the potential exists to satisfy everybody’s needs. People would not need to eat sub-standard food, live in unfit housing and have to make do with what they can afford. Everybody would have free access to all the world’s goodies. In this type of society there would be the widest possible choice. People would be free to travel anywhere they fancy. They would be free to choose what work to do and what methods they use to do it.

Socialists do not live in the “taken for granted” world. We do not take for granted that there will always be wars, starving millions and homeless people. We recognise that these problems result from the way society is organised at present and they are not inevitable. When the vast majority of the world’s people decide that enough is enough, a new society can be built. Socialists are simply people who have a clear understanding of how such a society can be built and the Socialist Party exists to persuade people that a society where the world’s resources are used to satisfy human need is sensible — now.

John Morgan