Comment Writer Thomas Barry considers socialism in relation to our perceptions of life, arguing that real change is not as unachievable as many people believe it to be

Written by Thomas Barry
History student at the University of Birmingham
Last updated
Images by Bianca Fazacas

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.’

These popularised closing words of the Communist Manifesto sum up one of the two connotations I would say most people develop when they encounter the ideology ‘socialism.’ A system in which people starve, the state is oppressive, the economy is weak, wealth is distributed equally, and immense unproductivity due to there being no reward for good work and innovation. It leads, simply and inevitably, towards the catastrophe of state.

On the other side of arguments, ideas of socialism are of the system in which the world can genuinely become a better place, but has unfortunately not been enabled properly for us to see the benefits, or, if it is being enabled, is crushed by antagonistic forces.  

Socialism is not inherently a bad ideology that would lead to the collapse of civilization, nor is it the single-handed saving grace we are too proud and divided to embrace

Neither of these views are overly reasonable in their conclusions. Socialism is not inherently a bad ideology that would lead to the collapse of civilization, nor is it the single-handed saving grace we are too proud and divided to embrace. To put it bluntly, socialism is just an ideology, constructed by writers with an interpretation of how the world ought to be. Such writers have merits and limitations to their worldviews, with different approaches to how aspects of their political philosophy would be most effectively performed. Despite the subtle and greater differences between its writers, socialism champions, on the whole, the themes of:  fraternity (a group of people with shared / compatible skills), solidarity (widespread unity towards achieving a primary objective) and, arguably often overlooked, passion. Out of all three, I believe that passion is the most practical in creating a better world.

Passion is part of the very essence of what makes us human. It is by no means inherently good or bad, but rather the overall culmination of our emotions, desires, ambitions, experiences, wisdom, and knowledge. Without passion, life is merely a barren wasteland of untapped potential and unfortunately this is what is happening in the present age. 

It is the case for the vast majority of the population that life follows a set path: we leave school, get a job and work full-time, begin a family, utilise the few weeks of holiday given per year to travel or ‘relax,’ work until retirement, and finally, die. The very trajectory of our lives has become so grey and devoid of colour. Of course we have times of joy, without a doubt, and most of us live a ‘better’ life than the monarchs of history. But it is so cold. 

This is primarily down to the nature of our economic lives. Despite job interviews advocating such things, a lot of jobs for most people do not require passionate innovation; they simply require monotonous tasks to complete each working day. Such problems are worsened by the current pseudo-meritocracy where our chances of success and potential to make a real difference are not based upon what we know or what we can contribute, but instead merely who we know. The ladder of success is not of effort, talent and passion but a hierarchy of bootlicking, bribery, manipulation and mutual favours.

Pretty drab. 

The ladder of success is not of effort, talent and passion but a hierarchy of bootlicking, bribery, manipulation and mutual favours

However, this is not what life needs to be. Life can be so much more – everything can be so much more exciting if passion is actually embraced, rather than driven out. In our education system, we should teach the next generation to fulfil their passions through the skills they are taught. We should move away from judging the potential of students based on their so-called ‘merit’ through exams that test the regurgitation of facts more so than their unique and brilliant thought. Education should be intended as solely enabling every individual to harness their innate passion to utilise their talents, ideas and interests through ways that can provide meaningful careers on financial, personal, and, hopefully, societal levels. 

In fact, when one is looking for employment, or when businesses and institutions are seeking employees, the focus should be to employ those who are enthusiastic about that particular field and possess unique, exciting and innovative ideas. Having a career should not be merely a necessity, nor should it be given to those exclusively based on representation quotas, or the pursuit of a business maximising profit. Rather, a career should be one of active development, for the individual, for the business or institution, and society by extension. The promotion of someone should not be down to them knowing the right person, or subtle persuasion,  but instead through a proactive process that is actively searching for people to promote who possess passion, unique thought and experience to make a meaningful and effective contribution. Such a system, I believe, could create a leadership hierarchy that is actually useful and pragmatic. A system that has the principles of meritocracy, but one that is not limited to the troubles it creates (namely the inadequacy of determining ‘merit’, the obsession with winners and losers and from this the inevitable single-generation equality of opportunity). I hope that with this new system, progress would be truly profound. Potentially even going as far as having a beneficial influence on society to make it the very beacon of enthusiasm and support, where making a meaningful difference, no matter how big or small, is the primary objective.

Thus, through interpreting one of the core themes of socialist thought – passion – education and employment could become something far greater: one of active development that will yield benefits for the individual, the business or institution they are involved with and society by extension. Throughout history, life has been vulgarly unpleasant, we, in the modern age, have the opportunity to remove such qualities and create a life in which passion, brilliant and innovative thought, and true socio-economic capabilities reign absolute.

But that is not all I wish to present. I hope this article has made you consider the world we live in and think about solutions to its problems and how you can be inspired by political philosophies to focus them. If you have some solutions in mind already, do something with them! Write about them, discuss them, create pieces of art to illustrate them, go the distance and do a thorough investigation over how best to make them work – anything to get, or practice getting,  your ideas out there. It does not matter if your solution works solely in theory, it is the principle that we all begin to move beyond complaining about problems in our world and consider ways instead of fixing them. With such a vast global population, high literacy rates and intercontinental communication, if everyone presented their solutions we could begin to truly solve the problems the world faces. A utopia is a world that is deemed impossible, one too great, too perfect to realistically exist. Yet it is still worth thinking about, and, at least to some extent, how we can go about reaching that point.

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