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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Blog 64. the George Osborne Delusion plus – the new seasonal hit ‘Jingle Bells – Downwind of Westminster’

Christmas credit CARNAGE, the horror of household debt, zombie consumerism – these are the rotten limbs holding the current financial body together.

This week isn’t going to be another morbid musing on the disaster which is the modern Mammon-made, merry yuletide madness (see blog 58 for that). I'm simply highlighting – in reference to Osborne’s line that we are ‘moving forward’ and breaking out of the economic doldrums - that this is unreliably fuelled by household debt and hammering the most vulnerable in society. If there is an upturn (and clearly that depends on which stats you decide to read) it’s over a massive black hole which is the hidden domestic fiscal fiasco of households responding to ad-land delirium of buy-now-pay-never. And this year – if the state of the nation’s economy private and public is anything to judge by - will be the all time Christmas credit carnage.

Thrashing about for new ways to keep money pumping to the top is nothing new. After the initial heady period of the Industrial Revolution where new products and new markets seemed never ending, the profiteers hit the skid patch where growth slows, markets are saturated and the only way to keep the profits up is to cut wages and conditions, degrading the workforce utterly. We already see an echo of that in the public sector where there is understaffing, pressure to work more for less and with less security and worse conditions. This is coupled with an attack on the weak, the sick, the unemployed while whipping up a fever against Johnny foreigner as per the usual script.
But Osborne has another income tool that his forebears could never have dreamt of – easy personal credit. People without money can still spend. And with the insatiable appetite of that voracious modern beast – Rampant Consumerism – people need little encouragement. We know that personal household debt will not prevent millions tramping the streets or the internet for those must-have items that will be staring up at them all unpaid for and lacking in lustre on Boxing-day. This is what is fanning the faint embers of recovery. It’s a mean fire that won’t keep many people warm.

If anyone is in any doubt as to the disgraceful depths some employers will sink to in order to keep making profits – just look at the recent estimates of the numbers of human beings living and working in what is described as ‘modern slavery’ in Britain today – 10,000

But at least MP’s are being looked after.  IPSA has proposed 11% pay rise that the poor dears can DO NOTHING ABOUT mwoooahL. To commiserate, here is a new version of Jingle Bells – feel free to borrow the lyrics if you are at all musical.

(Down-wind of Westminster version)

Chorus 1.
Jingle bells, something smells
MPs need more pay
They hope Santa’s bringing
Some money on his sleigh

Verse 1.
IPSA says it’s time
MP’s should be updated
Maybe wages should be
Per-for-mance related
Even Knickers Clegg
That shameless little twit
Gets paid to be in Westminster
And he’s a lying git

Chorus 2.
Jingle bells, something tells
Me they are a herd
Of bovine morons on the take
To pay more is absurd

Verse 2.
Cameron’s a crumbly
Elitist through and through
Can’t say what I think of him
Because it’s all too blue
We need opposition
To work and make a stand
But all we’ve got are stooges
Ed no-balls and Ed Bland

Chorus 3.

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Are we going mad
Mediocrity is king
And we have all been had
Weee – have – aaaaallll – beeeeeeen – haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad!

Season’s Greetings
For this week’s cartoon click on the orange Amanda Baker in the top right hand column of the blog.

Brown girl will be back January 7th 2014.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Blog 63. Nelson Mandela – If Not a Prophet....

It’s true that if you were fortunate enough to meet Nelson Mandela the experience endured. To look up into that strong handsome face, hear that unmistakable voice and be caught in the radiance of his energy was, for me as for many others, remarkable. I have met many people who think they are important or charismatic. It’s not easy to imagine any of them eliciting the eruption of near hysterical joy that Mr. Mandela caused when he danced spontaneously on an open air stage in Glasgow (blog 44.) But years later, and in the aftermath of his new absence, it is people’s resistance to enlightenment that is puzzling.

From his own mouth Mandela insisted that he was not a prophet but surely that was because he perceived what people saw in him; the statement contains its own dichotomy.

Desmond Tutu is justified and entitled to point to failures and proclaim that Mandela was no saint. I must admit I am not someone who has great use for those strange creatures anyway. Tutu has also the gravitas and track record to be listened to when he points out that the ANC is being undermined by corruption and led by the kind of figure African countries are burdened with all too often.

Makaziwe Mandela spoke movingly of the father who did not, along with many men of his generation, have the emotional language to communicate with those he loved. She is also an important reminder of the horrendous personal toll on the Mandela family and the man himself. It is hard to read in Long Walk to Freedom the account of this famous prisoner being led into a room where he embraced his then wife, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, only to realise it had been 21 years since he had even touched his wife’s hand.

But he is not revered as a saint, nor as a perfect family man but as someone who had a magnificent vision of the possibilities for his country and dedicated his life to encouraging others to believe in that potential.

Not just by his near three decades of incarceration but in his manner of dealing with that tribulation, Mandela earned the right to have his words taken at face value.  He cannot be held responsible for whether or not people took heed. Preachers, prophets, leaders and dreamers show us the light. Sometimes the light is so bright we can see the rainbow. But rainbows are less than ephemeral. Before this one faded, a minority was already working out how to grab the pot of gold for themselves.

What is a prophet if not someone who can see the ideal that the rest of us fail to comprehend? What is a prophet if not the visionary and the dreamer who puts those ideals and ideas into words and makes us listen?

Few would argue that Gandhi did not walk in the spiritual shoes of Jesus. The unadulterated words of the prophet Mohamed surely echo true humanity. And in the year that we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the resounding, ground-breaking speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, we have lost the most iconic humanitarian of our time, Nelson Mandela.

As the leaders of the world in its current state, divided, war torn, starving, scuttle into news rooms to have their say, will any of them recall the words of Nelson Mandela, “poverty is manmade”? Will they recall that Dr King dreamt of ultimate equality or Ghandi of religious tolerance and an end to oppression or Jesus and Mohamed of love and respect?

Earlier in the day that ended with the passing of this Robben Island survivor, I listened to a report from a giant penal institution in California USA. I stood frozen in my kitchen as I heard the harrowing, secretly recorded screams of a mentally disturbed man in confinement being repeatedly pepper sprayed by prison guards LEGALLY. His pitiful terrified shrieks for mercy were sickening – in 2013 in the country that regards itself as leader of the free world.

Britain spends many millions more on weapons than on aid and people are dying under collapsed factories in one part of the world so another part can have cheap commodities. Last Thursday, George Osborne announced that Britain was ‘moving again’ – but surely leaving behind those folk in the queues at the food banks, the school leavers who can’t read and those with personal debt that will crush them.

In my head I see a personified figure of God, possibly an image that solidified in my childhood at Sunday school; a large man with an impressive beard upon high. Now he is somewhat bent and tired. He stares out wearily into the middle distance while angels weep for the passing of another of their own.
Meanwhile, downstairs the other fellow laughs heartily.

(no cartoons this week but if you want to look at the collection so far click on the orange 'Amanda Baker' at the top of the right hand column of the blog)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Blog 62. Boris Johnson’s IQ test.

Boris Johnson’s I.Q. is surely now I.n Q.uestion. Any credible academic concluded long ago that the fashion for those socially skewed tests was just another con trick by the ruling elite to justify unfairness. Parents shuffle their kids off to private schools for reasons of social exclusivity and advantage morally protected by the notion that some I.nnate Q.ality of brain justifies this. The only logic about exclusive pay-for education is that it is tax free and prepares the attendees for the rest of their privileged tax- free lives. There the common sense ends.

Boris’s latest attention-seeking blather just shows how fantasies fester in the I.ncestuous Q.quagmire that is the roped-off member’s only club of the British elite. I.neQ.uality has to be constantly justified.

This I.nsipid Q.uixote, this I.gnominious Q.uasimodo (the opposite of a metaphor with his deformity of character) is simply jester in the rotten court of I.neQuity. Would not a true test of intelligence be an indication that a person could utter even one sentence, one scintilla of an idea that is not an obvious and predictable product of their background?

No one, especially the high flyers want their egos dented by the notion that their position is based on un-earned social advantage. Their enduring delusion is that they did it all themselves. They are the deserving rich. Somewhere in their black hearts they know that a decent human being is I.nstinctively Q.ueasy about the startling, unjustifiable unfairness that oozes round us now like poison gas. I.neQ.uality is an ugly I.niQ.uity.

The flip side to the fantasy of deserving rich is, of course, the undeserving poor. It is an equally important lie to maintain.

In a country governed not by a fairly elected group but by a pervasive system of I.n-crowd Q.aungos the lies are easy to perpetrate. Every organisation with power is stuffed full of people who have benefitted from the I.nstitutionalised status Q.uo.

Solidified privilege does not just keep down potential talent it elevates mediocrity. Whoever said you couldn’t polish a turd clearly hasn’t looked closely at what is floating round in the gilded cesspool of contemporary British high society.

Bobbing on the surface, for example, are the bankers with their 35% income increases - average take home - £1.6m this year. Meanwhile, the bottom feeders, the vast majority of ordinary people have average household debt of £50K+ but it was their taxes that paid to bail out those bankers just 5 years ago.

Complaint is punished severely, I.nstantly Q.uelled. Take npower (see blog 59). As a warning to anyone complaining about their profiteering they are shifting of 11,000 jobs abroad. There are worse things than being ripped off, they say, loudly and clearly.

Boris Johnson is simply the I.nsuferable moral Q.uisling, an I.nfernal political Q.uack, the pudgy face of the terminal British disease. He is the personification of the illness that is dragging society down. He is the ugly embodiment of unearned privilege.

Rather than the I.nspired Q.uintilian he believes himself to be, Boris Johnson is an I.rritating Q.unt.

for BJ cartoon go to top of right hand column of blog and click on the orange 'Amanda Baker'