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Spanish children may have best economic recovery plan so far

A survey of children in Spain suggests that they may be best placed to implement a proper social policy response to the economic crisis. 

Now if this doesn’t make you smile on a Sunday you must still be reading the rugby pages: a survey of children in Spain has revealed that they think the best response to the economic crisis is to ‘work less, smile more and get hugs and kisses’. However, twee as that at first might sound, there is a really important point that the children have understood and the adults have not: the economy is abstract, people are real. Forget for a second that ‘consumer-led recovery’ is the best way of understanding that people are mainly tools for profit in current economic doctrine. Our role is not to be happy but to make statisticians and wealthy business owners happy. ‘Consumer confidence’ is to people what ‘ready for slaughter’ is to cattle. It is simply the description of the point at which they become properly useful to those who seek profit.

In the meantime, we are suffering. Not, as the Office for Budget Responsibility might have it, from too few performance indicators meeting targets but because we are scared, stressed, tired and dehumanised. The ‘crisis’ is ‘economic’, apparently. Not personal or human. And so we can get out of our fear, stress, exhaustion and alienation by being more scared for our job, being put under increasing pressure, working longer and harder and giving up more of our personal humanity to the Quest for Growth. Osborne wants us to suffer more as people so his numbers get better. And once they do will we get back what we have sacrificed? Not the days of hard work for decreasing pay, obviously – those will be gone forever. I mean will we be given more personal time once things get better, fewer working hours, more self respect, more family time, more humanity? Or will we discover that there is a new reason to ratchet up our ‘productivity’ at the expense of our lives, all in the name of someone else’s profit?

It seems remarkable to me that as far as I can tell, children in Spain are leading the discussion on the recovery from the psychological crisis to which our corporate leaders have subjected us. It is not twee or simplistic. I can say with certainty that when it gets busy or tiring or stressful at work, cuddling my two-year-old daughter helps – and helps to put things in perspective. Finding more time for ourselves helps as well. As does the simple sense that people are happy, even if just for the moment.

More time to ourselves, a smile and a hug? It is with absolute seriousness that I make the claim that these straightforward humanistic responses to what we are going through will do much more for the population right now than anything to be found in either a political manifesto or a budget. The policy change will have impacts but we will possibly never know what they are. Real human experience? It’s real in a way that GDP can never be real.

So why is no-one talking about the psychosocial effects of neoliberal economic crisis? Because, unlike Spanish toddlers, we’re too damn clever and easily forget what matters.

Robin McAlpine