Saturday, 6 August 2011
Untitled due to apathy
A perfect example of the perils of deregulation (dullest opening line to one of my blogs ever? Probably) is demonstrated by what happened to Iceland.
The country, not the frozen food chain - do not do that joke, even in your own heads.
...By the way, I realise this is much more sober than my usual blogs (Bullseye hairdos, Peter Simon demonstrating a massage machine) but stay with me.
Or don't. It's not like I'll actually know. I already have you on my hit count anyway, sucker!...
So, Iceland was a thriving country, with a GDP of 13 billion. But then they privatised and deregulated their three main banks. The auditors who were meant to be keeping an eye on things didn't do their jobs - due to their close relationships with said banks - and this new found financial freedom concluded with the country having borrowed 120 billion within 5 years.
Compare that with their GDP and you don't have to be an economist to see the problem.
The upshot to all this was that a few people got stinking rich and everyone else lost their jobs and savings. And that little microcosm of an example folks, tells you why our economy, and pretty much everyone else's economy, is in the toilet right now.
And to think Cameron has everyone believing it's because of disability benefit claimants and civil servants' pay!
Why am I talking about this? Well, I'm pissed off is why. And I feel the need to have a little vent. Read it, don't read it. I don't mind. I just need to get it out of my head as it is all swirling around up there and making me crazy angry.
My dad, who was my age in the early 1980's - oh our parallel lives! - always warned me off being as angry as he was during the Thatcher years. He's a wise man (who saw all of this coming back then) so I'm following his advice. Consider this a mini exorcism.
I think we're all kind of down on life at the moment. It's been a shocking few days. The Government, in an homage to Auntie Maggie, and perhaps due to a love of 80s retro chic, seem to have landed us back in 1981 - why couldn't they resurrect something more harmless like parachute pants or Bros? - and it feels, to put it in the most eloquent terms, like things are all effed up.
There are a lot of people saying that anyone looking for a reason behind the riots (i.e those who don't believe that things can just happen in a vacuum) are 'excusing' what happened. Not so. The things that happened were awful and unacceptable. However looking for reasons is not the same as offering up a justification.
If we don't understand we don't learn. If we don't learn we don't change. And I think we can all agree that a change from whatever this is would be a good thing. Or we could just keep 16,000 police officers on the streets of London with 2 hour breaks between 17 hour shifts, forever?
Yes there were well-off opportunists in there - that teacher from Stockwell for example; unless he was doing a field trip with the kids to teach them about the failings of the Big Society, it's clear he was just a dick who jumped into the fray when he saw an opening for a free Iphone - but the people who were out there first, they are the ones we need to focus our minds on.
They were seriously enraged, and like it or not that needs to be dealt with, because people who are that angry are scary enough, but people who are that angry and have nothing to lose; they're unbeatable.
Which is why this petition to take away their benefits and homes is so excrutiatingly misled. Making the have-nots into have-nothings? Yeah that'll get them on the fast track to being productive citizens. Not to mention that if that principle gets enshrined in law, it sets a dangerous precedent for all of us.
It follows the same dumbass logic that the Sun and Daily Mail apply to prisoners. Every time there's an initiative to engage convicts they erupt in rage about our tax money being used on such frivolous things, and demand that these 'animals' be made to live in their own filth. They're in there to be punished, punish them. But then they get equally angry at reoffending rates. If you want people to emerge rehabilitated and ready to get a job with a briefcase you need to have used carrot on them as well as stick. Same thing applies here.
Whilst I understand the perfectly normal human impulse for retribution, we need to be thinking forwards, not retreating backwards and entrenching these problems even deeper.
Look around. There are currently a queue of graduates who can't get work. A lot of these kids rioting won't have degrees and given the fee rise, will never have access to one, so they are at the very, very back of a seemingly endless job queue. At the same time, unemployment is rising so the queue just keeps getting longer. Consumer confidence has dropped so shops are closing and service jobs are going. The EMA has been withdrawn, so staying on at sixth form or college is no longer possible for some. Education is losing funding - I should know, I work in the sector and have been lucky to keep my job - and this despite the fact that an unacceptable proportion of children are leaving primary school with a worrying lack of basic literacy. Local youth projects are having funding withdrawn and are closing. Owning your own home is an almost impossible dream nowadays. The welfare state is being slowly dismantled. Hope just drip, drip, drips away. For us all. But for some more than others.
Someone texted into LBC yesterday and said "if these riots were about poverty, they would be looting vegetables"
First of all, it's not 1602. Secondly, you don't loot according to your income, you tend to steal expensive shit that you can't afford, and would never usually be able to afford. Oh and imagine how many vegetables you could buy with the proceeds of a stolen plasma.
Anyway, my point I suppose is that yes, it's awful, and wrong and heartbreaking. But I think it is equally awful, wrong and heartbreaking that anyone should feel so little connection to their society and community that they could even contemplate doing those things.
Our society facilitated this. Japan, which has a far more co-operative social structure and a smaller gap between rich and poor, didn't experience any looting during the aftermath of a tsunami that wiped out entire cities! This is not a coincidence.
People keep saying it wasn't political. Well, maybe these people weren't consciously politically motivated, but that doesn't mean they weren't a by-product of our political system. Everything's political.
And anyway, a fair few rioters who were intereviewed did mention hopelessness and anger at their lack of chances in the world, so to dismiss them all as mindless is reductionist.
I'm currently reading a book about Henry Morgan (of the rum fame) and his band of pirates. On the third day of the riots I was reading this book on the train home, and a line jumped out at me: "By hoarding the riches and preventing these men from finding a place in the world, Spain (who kept all the trade routes to themselves) built its own perfect enemy"
Some truths are universal. Give people a stake in the world and retain social control.
...Can you believe this rant started with the sentence 'A perfect example of the perils of deregulation...' We're a long way from there now aren't we? Let's try and get back.
(If anyone is still reading at this point it will be a bloody miracle. I will give you a prize if you are. Leave a comment. The password is 'looted carrots')
So as I was saying earlier, this global, repeat global, financial crisis has somehow been blamed on excessive Government spending on the public sector and the welfare state.
The Tories - and be in no doubt this is a Tory Government, if not in name then certainly in spirit and deed - have an idealogical hatred of the public sector and the welfare state.
They are the party of business, of money, of competition. They allow their backers and rich friends to evade enough tax to clear the deficit whilst withdrawing support from the weakest members of society.
One of the first acts of this Government was to withdraw the statutory duty on local authorities to provide care for the disabled, so that they were no longer duty bound to ensure the disabled were fed, dressed and washed.
That should tell you all you need to know about who we have at the helm.
Lies like this are being spread:
And as a result there has been a marked increase in hate crimes against the disabled.
ATOS, the company carrying out the incapacity benefit tests are using a flawed system which ends up declaring dying people fit for work. Huge amounts of the 75% mentioned above win their cases on appeal.
People have been killing themselves because of the test process and because their benefits were withdrawn leaving them destitute:
And banks, the architects of the financial crisis, continue as before.
Incredibly Standard and Poor's, the credit reference agency that participated in the fraud which contributed to the crash (they were paid by investment banks to give AAA ratings to bad loans) are not only still in existence, but they are the ones who downgraded America recently. An act that shook the already frail markets so badly, that 4 TRILLION DOLLARS has been wiped off the value of global shares .
The world has been turned on its head.
If you're in any doubt about how all of this really happened, please watch Inside Job, a stunningly insightful docu-film which breaks it down perfectly.
If you don't have time to watch the film, read the Wikipedia entry. An impeccable summation.
For as long as this lie about excessive public spending is perpetuated nothing can change. George Osborne can keep defending idealogical cuts which harm the recovery and cause undeserving people to suffer.
George Osborne doesn't even have an Economics A-Level by the way.
I'm so glad I'm not a comedian anymore. I'd feel duty bound to tackle all this if I was, but it's not something I can see the funny in.
Luckily we have Josie Long. She has managed to write a fervent and searing but still extremely funny and warm show about the state we're in. It's called The Future is Another Place. If you're in Edinburgh at the moment, go and see it! If you're not, I'm sure she'll tour it at some point so keep a look out.
Anyway that's my rant over. I don't feel any better. Sorry dad, I'm trying!
For those of you who made it to the end, I salute you! As a reward for your tenacity and to cheer you up, here is a picture from yesterday's Daily Mail. Look into the dog's eyes. They tell quite a story: