A friend told me of a surprising find in a skip at local recycling centre. Sitting in a skip was, as far as he could tell, a perfectly serviceable Moog Synthesiser 1962 vintage. The sort played by Kraftwerk he thought. I’d seen one played by Keith Emerson in ELP at Trentham Gardens in 1971- but the less said about that the better. The point is that here seemed to be a possibly functioning piece of kit, which could fetch around £1000. My friend pleaded with the manager to let him have the Synthesiser. Continue reading
Working at a till at a checkout gives you a unique perspective on British society. For one thing most people use supermarkets and over a 4-hour period it is likely that you will see approaching 200 people. Some will be well off and the people on limited incomes will arrive late with the hope of getting some late bargains. Over the course of a day you will see many people engaging in consumerism.
I was working at the supermarket the other day and had occasion to look up. There was a line of several people looking very grim. On my facebook page I likened it to an illustration by Daumier from the 1820s of a line of prisoners being taken away in an execution cart to hang at Tyburn.
They all looked hollowed eyed.
People are not happy and it is a theme I have touched on before. There is something wrong in the land.
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For many years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest and possessions: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective worth. It is how we identify ourselves. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. I shop therefore I am.
The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not central, I believe, to the human condition. Much of what appears “natural” today dates only from the last 30 years: the obsession with wealth and the need to own, the cult of privatisation and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless economic growth.
We cannot go on living like this. David Cameron also thinks like although I suspect that the prognosis and the solution will be radically different. The crash of 2008 was a warning that unregulated capitalism is its own worst enemy: sooner or later it falls prey to its own excesses and like Cronos ends by devouring its own children.
If it is to be taken seriously again, progressives must find their voice, but it cannot be again taken in by New Labour as wedded to the false orthodoxy as the Conservatives. There is much to rage about: growing inequalities of wealth and opportunity; inequity of class; exploitation at home and abroad; corruption and money and privilege narrowing the arteries of democracy. There are now more former public schoolboys in the cabinet at any time since the 1950s. But it will no longer suffice to identify the shortcomings of “the system” and then retreat indifferent to the outcome. The irresponsible rhetorical grandstanding of decades past did not serve the left well. It must learn to engage with itself and with others. It should be a historic opportunity.
We have entered an age of neurosis””economic insecurity, physical insecurity, climate insecurity, political insecurity. The fact that we are largely unaware of this is small comfort: few in 1914 predicted the catastrophe that followed. Insecurity breeds fear. And dread””fear of change, fear of strangers and an unfamiliar world””is corroding the trust and interdependence on which civil societies rest. It is a reality evident even is as trusting a place as North Staffordshire.
All change is disruptive. We have seen that the spectre of terrorism is enough to cast stable democracies into turmoil. Climate change will have even more dramatic consequences in the years to come. People will inevitably be thrown back upon the resources of the state. They will look to their political leaders and representatives to protect them: open societies will once again be urged to close in upon themselves, sacrificing freedom for “security” and a fear of the other. The choice will no longer be between the state and the market, but between two sorts of state. It is thus incumbent upon us to recast the role of government. If we do not, others will.
The new MP for the Moorlands in the local paper talks about ensuring that the pain of the cuts will be equally shared but to quote a line from Samuel Beckett it will not. It will be the poor, the vulnerable and the isolated who will suffer the most
Poverty is a preoccupation especially for the poor. But the tangible results of an accumulated impoverishment are all about us. Poor neighbourhoods, derelict land, failed schools, the unemployed, the low paid, and the abandoned: all suggest a collective failure of will. These shortcomings are so contagious that we no longer know how to talk about what is wrong much less set about repairing it. And in that there is something seriously wrong.
To comprehend the depths to which we have fallen; we must understand the scale of the changes that have overtaken us. From the late nineteenth century until the 1970s, the advanced societies of the West were all becoming less unequal. Thanks to progressive taxation, government subsidies for the poor, the provision of social services, and guarantees against acute misfortune, modern democracies were shedding extremes of wealth and poverty. The Roosevelt New Deal and banking reforms being an excellent example.
Since 1980 we have abandoned this tradition. To be sure, “we” varies with country. The greatest extremes of private privilege and public indifference- the private affluence and public squalor argument- has resurfaced in the US and the UK: epicentres of enthusiasm for deregulated market capitalism. Although countries as far apart as New Zealand and Brazil have expressed periodic interest in deregulation, none has matched Britain or the United States in their unwavering thirty-year commitment to the unravelling of decades of social legislation and economic oversight.
Si monumentum requiris, circumspice
The UK is now more unequal””in incomes, wealth, health, education, and life chances””than at any time since the beginning of the 20th century despite 13 years of New Labour. There are more poor children in the UK than in any other country of the European Union. Since 1973, inequality in take-home pay increased more in the UK than anywhere except the US. Most of the new jobs created in Britain in the years 1977″“2007 were at either the very high or the very low end of the pay scale of which Stoke provides a good example. And on the radio this morning the head of the Centre for Cities gave a gloomy prediction for places like Stoke and Hull which have been loosing private sector jobs even before the recession.
The consequences are clear. There has been a collapse in social mobility: in contrast to their parents and grandparents, children today in the UK have very little expectation of improving upon the condition into which they were born. The poor stay poor. Economic disadvantage for the overwhelming majority translates into ill health, missed educational opportunity and””increasingly””the familiar symptoms of depression: alcoholism, obesity, gambling, violence and minor criminality. The unemployed or underemployed lose such skills as they have acquired and become chronically surplus to the economy.
. Even trust, the faith we have in our fellow citizens, corresponds negatively with differences in income: between 1983 and 2001, mistrustfulness increased markedly in the US and the UK, countries in which the dogma of unregulated individual self-interest was most assiduously applied to public policy. In no other country was a comparable increase in mutual mistrust to be found.
Inequality is a poison. It rots societies from within. And it is rotting the UK. The impact of material differences takes a while to manifest itself: but in due course competition for status and goods increases; people feel a growing sense of superiority (or inferiority) based on their possessions; prejudice toward those on the lower rungs of the social ladder hardens- think of the ridicule directed at Chavs. (Some of this mockery was directed at me as a checkout operator the other day) and the pathologies of social disadvantage become ever more marked.
The legacy of unregulated wealth creation is very bitter indeed.
As recently as the 1970s, the idea that the point of life was to get rich and that governments existed to facilitate this would have been ridiculed: not only by capitalism’s traditional critics but also by many of its staunchest defenders. Relative indifference to wealth for its own sake was widespread in the post war decades. Having carried out some research into the 1950s I can vouch for that at least from the greater social capital that we seemed to have in that decade.
How should we begin to make amends for raising a generation obsessed with the pursuit of material wealth and indifferent to so much else? Perhaps we might start by reminding ourselves and our children that it was not always so. Thinking the way we have done for thirty years is not deep-rooted in the human condition. There was a time when we ordered our lives differently. It is up to people to recover this past.
Racism is dead.Ã‚ Long live the multi ethnic multicultural homogeneous society, soon to be replicated in a town near you. Government spin doctors would have us all believe that Multicultural , Multiethnic Britain is the norm and therefore all is well with regards to community relations.
Well, we all know better than that don’t we?Ã‚ Political commentators from the right and left and indeed even the centre; must know the truth, in fact I know they know.
There are those on the right who would say that the illusory image of a Multi Cultural, Multi Ethnic Britain is nothing more than a smoke screen to flood the country with more immigrants.Ã‚ Ã‚ Moving migrants around at the expense of taxpayers to embed multiculturalism where there never was any.Ã‚ If the right had their way their never would be any.
Then we have those on the left who claim to believe that the introduction of multiculturalism and the “diversification” of society is practically a necessity if Britain is ever to move forward as a modern integrated nation, which fully represents the interests of all its people.
It seems somewhat ironic then that the position of the left actually suits the capitalist model better than that of the right.
If a country is divided along religious and ethnic lines differences are highlighted even exacerbated. The fact that both John and Mohammed were both born in Bradford in 1980 means nothing. One is white, the other Asian.Ã‚ One is English, the other Pakistani, One is Christian, One is Muslim.Ã‚ The list of differences goes on.Ã‚ Ã‚ The focus on differences between groups of people can make them seem a gulf apart.
The New Capitalism has so embraced globalisation that the above worldview must be removed and if not completely destroyed then it must at least be hidden from view.Ã‚ Yes, the “well meaning” egalitarianism of leftist politics has well and truly been ensnared in the capitalist dream. To achieve equality, we must all lose, nay, surrender our identity for the greater good.
In the minds of most right thinking people a society without internal conflict is something we mostly all desire.Ã‚ We want to think that our kids can mix freely on the streets and playgrounds without getting dragged into religious or ethnic based arguments.Ã‚ The very idea of it seems to make our blood boil though for different reasons, yet but with a common aim.
The left are outraged about racism and discrimination.Ã‚ Whilst the right feel that the introduction of migrants has been forced upon them. Whilst accepting publicly that repatriation is not a viable or realistic alternative, Both left and right have set their sights on the solution, Integration.
In a public effort to retain their integrity both camps seek to put clear blue water between their stances.Ã‚ The left seem to be hell bent on providing a perfect equality for every person in the country regardless of whether or not that equality is delivered at the price of the erosion of historic British values developed over centuries.Ã‚ Ã‚ On the other hand the right seem to expect the migrants and their descendants to fully renounce their history, culture and traditions overnight and become as British as the Whitest Briton with roots going back to Saxon times.Ã‚ Neither position is truly tenable in the current climate and both camps know it.Ã‚ Instead collectively we work on building the middle ground.Ã‚ Surely an honorable position of compromise?
The position of compromise will inevitably bring about the homogeneous society.Ã‚ Whilst many people reel at the thought of such a society, surely it is the ultimate aim of the British Governments present and future.
Ad agencies on the other hand, love the fact that they have ever burgeoning markets for their products.Ã‚ Ã‚ As Asian and African Markets come online for goods that were traditionally restricted to white Europeans, culture becomes blurred as well as the world seeks to conform to the acquisitive norms of society.Ã‚ White youths listen to Rap music and Asian youths are beginning to make breaktroughs in football, which will in turn lead to higher attendance of Asians at British football grounds.Ã‚ The notion of this availability is broadcast directly into the homes of millions of people via Satellite and cable TV
Britons who feel embattled and who cite a loss of culture, would do well to remember that is situation is not just happening here in the U.K but all over the world.Ã‚ Ã‚ Countries that had little or no exposure to the outside world are slowly coming into the Internet age.Ã‚ Mobile communications have made it ever more possible for culture to bound across borders unfettered carried not only people but by Television, radio, and internet.Ã‚ Cultural values that “we are all the same ” and should all be considered the same are spreading across the world in a way that many governments are struggling to come to terms with, let alone control.
It is only a matter of time before the pound is lost, then later the Union flag.Ã‚ These sybols of British identity will not be lost to an immigrant influx but rather the growth of a European superstate. Whilst many people resist the idea of globalisation and try to resist it’s individual impacts.Ã‚ Let us ask ourselves whether all of this is desirable or unavoidable?Ã‚ I put it you you that the nation state, my friends, is dead in the water, and any attempts to resuscitate it will be futile.
Part two of this article will look at the conflicting resitance and support of the old money powerbase to to sweeping globalisation and the contradictions within that position.