It Is Up To The Rest of Us

If you want to make some serious money sell clothes pegs for our noses. It stinks out there. The paperboy or girl might as well deliver a bucket of manure every morning. At least it would be honest…

This week seems to have been all about Bankers. I doubt if I can add many more words or expletives to those you will have read or spluttered into your cornflakes this week. So, I won’t add many…except to say what an exceptional time we seem to be living through. What follows is not about the Bankers because this is about a lot more than the Bankers.

One by one the respected pillars of society – once respected by the gullible as institutions of morality – have become exposed as deeply corrupt, opportunist and exploitative of the rest of us (or maybe as the rest of us).

The law has always been an ass. Barristers have always told very tall tales for money. We expect little better. If ever I need one I hope she does a good job for me. But lately…MPs fiddling expenses, priests fiddling with little boys and girls, other priests covering up for them, Church of England Lords taking twenty-seven grand plus a year for turning up, phone tapping, policemen abusing women and taking bribes from journalists (and who knows who else?), bankers taking our money in bail-outs, mis-selling, insider dealing and fixing interest rates, supermarkets fixing prices, oil companies not passing price falls to the pumps, the already very rich giving to charity (and some very dodgy charities among the genuine) before paying tax whilst the rest of us buy our poppy after paying as we earn (or being “loaned” their pay by offshore holding companies (alternative comedy can’t even laugh at itself now) etc. etc. etc..

Suddenly all but the determinedly deaf will have woken up to the fact that not only the moral high ground but the very legitimacy of the institutions and persons that rule our lives has been nothing but a facade; a fantasy stage set behind which they can get on with all their dirty dealing, theft, perversions and embarrassingly conspicuous consumption that is obviously the reality of life behind the scenery and outside the theatre the rest of us were mis-sold tickets for. Honest MPs, bankers, politicians, priests, vicars, police officers, journalists and comedians must feel particularly sick.

Everyone is entitled to be an ass sometimes. In the Seventies sensible people – and anarchists – used to challenge me about the corruption in the Soviet Union. They were outraged by the theft of the aspiration of human liberty by grey men who put the Party ahead of people and themselves somewhere ahead of the Party. Men so immersed in bizarre, systemic hypocrisy and corruption that all they could hope was to learn to somehow direct it’s petulant and unpredictable tides whilst everyone else aspired only to float on the flood and avoid open drains. I tried to answer by pointing out Socialism had only been going since 1917. Capitalism had a 400 year start and had brought us a thousand little wars of empire and two world wars. A pathetic excuse for murder, famine, red empire and the gulag. But I was a EuroCommunist and it had nothing to do with me…

Corruption in a socialist state is something to point a finger at and be deplored as hypocrisy. However, capitalism IS organised corruption. Buy low, sell high, fix the market, intimidate, monopolise, export poverty, underdevelopment, disease and environmental degradation. Rob them, rule them, fool them with religion and racism, enslave them with credit, trade inside. Screw the rest of us. Keep the bonuses coming. The last few years have been a political education and more and more of us are learning.

These incidents are adding up to more than the sum of their parts. The rot seems to be running everywhere. The columns are crumbling quite severely and the temple is in impressive danger of collapse even without the crisis in Euroland. What will we read in the news tomorrow?

I find myself using the phrase “the rest of us” a lot in this article. I’m wondering how long The Rest of Us are going to put of with this behaviour. These days “The Rest Of Us” could be the big banner at the front of a very big demonstration or even the basis of the fabled broad democratic Alliance of the Outraged that overthrows the Coalition government to replace it with a Labour government that broadly demands…an end to austerity and a more humanitarian and compassionate capitalism. More fantasy then?

More than ever, it is up to The Rest of Us. A very nice young woman from the Green Party phoned me on the M2 this week and asked me to double my subscription. I did. Join me.

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A Family Party On The Edge of Civilisation

It is a sunny fresh Saturday morning, even here in Walton Leisure Centre where Heather is selling books to passing gymnasts and swimmers. The coffee shop manager has three kids and two jobs. She is not quite at her best this morning. It has been an exhausting week for everyone. This will be a long blog entry. I’ve been working, listening and watching not just drinking and sleeping…

My Dad used to ride a bike around Westminster as a messenger for Conservative Central Office during the Heath Government. His political conclusion from this and other experiences was that the country was best run by the Tories with a very strong, inquisitorial, challenging Labour Opposition.  We used to argue like any working-class Tory and his teenage socialist hippie son but now I find myself wishing the country was in just that position as maybe some kind of improvement over the messy incompetence we are splashing about in on all sides. I also wish Mr Altzheimer hadn’t knocked Dad off his bike and ridden off with it.

In 1973 I bestrode the stage of the Colwyn Bay Theatre for four nights as a new, young, enthusiastic member of the Colwyn Abbey Players as a cuckolding dentist in a medley of Alan Ayckbourn sketches with a performance that the critic from the North Wales Weekly News described as “barely competent” (It’s OK I’m over it now). Ed Milliband bestrides the Political Theatre stage to similar acclaim. People come and applaud at the end of the play because it was well written, some of the other actors are quite good and they are very bored with the black and white “Austerity” documentary playing endlessly at the Gaumont down the road in Llandudno. Tickets are sold but there is muttering in the theatre bar and the young would-be star is blanked back-stage. The electorate swept the Tories and their orange labadoodles out of Town Halls in reaction to the incompetence of the Coalition and in spite of the incompetence of Milliband. I left the Abbey Players and both they and I moved on to better things. Labour needs a Real Star for The Next Time.

The fading Livingstone’s predictable failure in London should be a very sharp lesson: with Milliband as leader Labour won’t win the next election, even if Cameron loses it. With you, me or almost anyone else at the top of the bill they might win. I’m sure he’s a nice man though.

Globally the Great Economic Experiment has become more interesting .

A “socialist” France (how socialist it will be we’ve yet to learn) will seek a sort of hopeful, Keynesian, Nouveau Deal, growth-led route out of the depression of recession to set running alongside the British public service cuts-led route that seems to be based upon the increasingly obviously mistaken belief that the sainted private sector will take up the challenge to provide the services and paid jobs that will allow people to spend on their credit cards again and get the whole bloated illusion of capitalism off the ground…again. If only UK wages and pensions can be depressed enough to make investment attractive enough in competition with the Chinese, Indians and soon-to-be desperately poor and desperate for jobs Greeks. Let’s see who gets out of recession first. The French? or the UK? Where would you invest? In people with hope or in people without hope? Either option means working people accepting – and one way or another paying for – a “reality” they did not create and need not accept.

The extraordinary people of Greece have not accepted the Poverty Is Inevitable option and have voted; expressing their anger at having been told the crisis is all their fault and at the same time distrust and confusion in the absence of any clear political alternative. Recently unified (remember?) and energised Germany, who might (perhaps embarrassingly) have been quietly achieving dominance in an increasingly politically unified Europe (a kind of bloodless 4th Reich?) now seems increasingly willing to let Greece leave the Euro if those unreasonable Greek voters insist upon having decent schools and a health service. The Greeks are, when you think about it, further down the road of Prosperity Through Impoverishment than the Tories can yet confess they are about to lead the UK.

Sadly the various Greek fascist parties have become dangerous again as Greek voters (this time including the ignorant and angry searching for scapegoats) get desperate enough to vote. In the UK the Nasty UKIP offer populist, petit-bourgeois, free-small-business, cut-red-tape (read workers’ rights), foreigner-blaming, solutions in a relatively small way so far.

Meanwhile Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail attacks Cameron for not being a Conservative and not using the Queen’s Speech to pledge still deeper cuts to public services so we have enough cash available to shore up a couple of the banks that might be overexposed in the Eurozone. Simon, what if we just said “Bollocks!” to that. Maybe a new spectre should be haunting Europe…

Obama has begun his campaign for a second term with speeches from a moral ground considerably higher, more competent and more intelligent than that scrapped over by the collection of bizarre Republican personal grooming models that oppose him.

China’s economic miracle/threat has faltered a little because people in the West can’t afford to buy stuff even at their prices. Russian generals threatened pre-emptive action if the USA and NATO pushed ahead with the deployment of anti-missile technology in Poland (designed to stop any stupidity from Iran we are told) whilst Putin was sworn in (again) and blessed (again)  and continued to back the Wrong Side in an Arab Spring after which only the truly courageous and lucky look like seeing Summer.

The world is not without hope, even if it looks more disgusting and disturbing the closer you look (especially around Rochdale). We do our best to make our way in it. Before it gets right down to you or me it gets down to families and here, a little closer to the abyss at the edge of Civilisation families must strengthen and enrich themselves as the secure and loving home from which we venture out into the wasteland that is being created by a capitalism that looks like it is running out of wheezes. We might not be able to vote with any meaning but we can do that.

Stick together out there and bring something to the party. We did. My son William was 21 on Wednesday. Together we recommend Bluebeckers ribs followed by chocolate cake with candles on.

I have recovered from The Swarm at Thorpe Park, which is best visited on a rainy day it turns out…