Friday, 8 March 2013

Who are we, what do we do and where are we going?


Would someone like to answer this question please? I’m not sure I can.
In recessions gone by, we at least had a national identity to fight for that was, loosely speaking,. Split down the middle and fought over by the political elite, one side proclaiming the voice of the state and of tax and spend, one side proclaiming freedom of trade and privatisation. Leaving the merits of those arguments aside, they were at least contributing to a valid debate based around the notion of the United Kingdom, its assets, its people, its culture, its aspirations and its truisms.

However, this time around, it’s all disappeared down the drain. We don’t have any assets that are worth mentioning, our people are all either retired, emigrated, unemployed or fed up, our culture has lost its…well culture, our aspirations have become watered down into Saturday night television and nothing that once was true still is true.

A house used to be a solid investment – but due to the disproportional increase in prices relative to income, prices are fixed at a ceiling which the growing demand refuses to acknowledge, causing stalemate throughout the land. Nobody can afford to buy or sell as they once did.

People used to have a strong sense of community and friendship, but thanks to the decline of industry, the increase in university places and the rise in Facebook, that has collapsed.

There used to be an inherent culture that then segregated into north, south, east and west, deep-rooted in communities, sport, the arts and entertainment. It manifested itself in music, in deeds, stories, film and drama. Now all we have is the latest X Factor.

People used to aspire for tangible goals and ideals, be they born out class struggles, wealth, passions or interests. Now they just want to be rich and famous, without the journey.

The last time we entered a period of sustained economic gloom, the usual things that rang true in such times were applied by those who had the experience to rise above the challenge – but this time around it’s not so easy. We’re not in a recession, but a depression and the last time we had one of those, it took a world war to move on and I hardly think a clash of the extreme ideals of fascism and communism is the ideal solution to this mess.

Sound a tad depressing? Well, for what it is worth, I am about to give you my take on why this situation is so dire, but before I do, brace yourself, because this is going to sound out of character. It is going to sound like I am completing my transition to the dark side. In fact, it is such an unusual thing for me to come out with that I almost need to start the sentence with the words “I am not a socialist but…” which when applied to those who use a similar thread to comment on immigration, usually means “I am a socialist and…” so who knows what medicine I need to take this time around.

"Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands
And make a stash"

Anyway, here goes. In my view, the big problem is that the gap between rich and poor has grown far too wide. We are a country at the mercy of shareholders and investors and it has ground our economic fabric into the dust. If you take commodities such as food, raw materials and especially oil – the biggest contributors to price increases are speculators. If you take the main contributors to the credit crunch, it was overly-aggressive lenders taking risks that led to banks having to borrow funds from the government to remain afloat. And yet look at who are taking the biggest bonuses at present? State funded banks. Necessities such as homes, utilities and food are sky high and yet luxury items are relatively affordable…which means that people's consumer aspirations leads them to a cycle of poor spending decisions, fueling the chasing of materialism over stability. Whereas aspiration is supposed to be based around the longer term rewards for hard work and genuine effort, the short term "wins" of investors have led to a genuine, widespread surge of faith in the power and merits of greed. The majority of twenty year-olds now are completely unprepared to forgo foreign holidays and nights out in order to save for a house and, whilst it might seem a tenuous link, it it almost directly related to the way in which shareholders and investors trample down on our endeavors. The much publicised (and rightly criticised) incident where Ashley "cashly" Cole was shaking with rage after learning of his "miserly" offer of £50k a week (or a figure of that ilk) genuinely happens up and down the country every day, albeit on a much smaller scale. 

"I'm in the high-fidelity
First class travelling set
And I think I need a Lear jet"

Nothing is impressive, or sacred or good or decent or worthwhile or fought over or earned or cherished. Despite this, most people refuse to accept that they live outside the thresholds of their social demographic or economic group. They see no difference between their present means and that of their rich neighbours. They see no need to save, to work harder, to sacrifice or to plan. And so the cycle remains unbroken, only to continue to increase the momentum, widen the gap and force the schism. 

"Money, get back
I'm all right Jack
Keep your hands off my stack"

Conclusion: people are generally idiots irrespective of the merits of a free market economy. In the words of Karl Pilkington, "there's nowt you can do."

Solution: go for a power yomp up your local hills, chuntering about everything and everyone under your breath, have a pint of real ale at a pub with an open fire and then go home and watch Richard Burton machine gun Nazis in Where Eagles Dare. It works a treat each time