Dear “The Rich”

I don’t know whether to post this or not. I suppose I’m going to, because I keep thinking it, it’s bothering me, it’s keeping me awake, and I can’t be the only one looking around and thinking: Dear The Rich: can you not see where this is going? And that it is going there so quickly and in so many countries?

We used to be happier.

Not all of us, but more of us. When we thought if you went blind you’d get a cataract op, we were happier. Or if your hip joint or knee joint went phut, that you’d get given medical treatment for it: we were happy with that. We were happier when we thought if we were unlucky enough to be very ill or disabled, then at least we had a system which helped a bit, and which afforded us some dignity. And there were problems, there were poor people, there were people falling through nets. Women were never well served, some kids grew up with more nits than ambitions, and we knew that. But we had libraries and there were some council houses. We had free education. We had a fuel allowance for old people in the winter, and a mobility allowance for the immobile. We had rents we could just about afford, train tickets we could just about afford, gas bills we could just about afford, and it wasn’t unimaginable for us to maybe buy a little place, one day.

There were people who were richer than us on our tellies at night. On Location Location Location, or Grand Designs. And although we wondered how they’d got so much more money than we had, it was only two or three or four times as much. Now those people are on Flog It, scrabbling about for Great Aunt Hilda’s ormolu in the loft, so they can afford to get their one remaining car serviced. Kirstie Allsopp’s gone from looking for a holiday cottage in Oxfordshire with a budget of only 700K to dabbling with papier-mâché, like someone doing occupational therapy after a breakdown.

Most of us can’t even afford some glue and a bit of découpage paper to give it a go.

In Britain Edwina Currie, still shaking the glitter out of her knickers after Strictly Come Dancing, scoffs at the idea that anyone is poor enough to go hungry, while the holes in the nets stretch ever wider. Oh, but it’s ok! Big Society is there with a darning needle. Although if you have no means of getting to the food bank – well erm. Well, er.

On the bright side, if you can’t afford a computer or an internet connection, it is unlikely you even know that food banks exist.

Our MPs nicked our money and a couple went to jail. Our children nicked sports shoes and all of them went to jail. No banker has yet gone to jail.

Our government uses our money to bail out a failed building society – then sells it off at half what it cost us, to one of the richest men in Britain. So more of our dwindling money moves permanently from being a public resource to lining a private pocket.

But that pocket’s not in Britain, is it? It’s abroad. All of them are. So they don’t have to pay anything but the bare minimum back to us in taxes. And nobody goes to jail for that, because it’s legal. It’s legal because the people who make the rules are the people who have the fortunes the rules protect.

In place of addressing the issue of property costs in this country (and go with me on a little fantasy trip for a moment, come on, ride the rainbow! Because if we did address that issue, this country wouldn’t be such an expensive place to live in. Workers wouldn’t have to be paid as much, which means we could be competitive in the manufacturing industries again, which means job creation, which means economic recovery. Ok, the unicorn is getting tired now. Off you get), our government now proposes to use what’s left in the public purse – our money – to underwrite loans for first time property buyers. At a time of enormous economic instability. When nobody has any job security. When industries themselves have precious little security. And they want to use the public purse to … wait, who was that nice couple who got into so much trouble over mortgages a few years ago? Freddie and Fannie somebody. It’s on the tip of my tongue…

That small coffer of remaining public money that we can no longer afford to waste on people who have cancer – if they’re vulgar enough to survive it for more than twelve months – is allocated without question to the purchase of missiles. The idea of invading Iran is slipped quietly into the inky water of the public consciousness like rohypnol, barely a rainbow-hued ripple marking its arrival. We know there’s no point in saying anything. We said things when the idea of invading Iraq was floated, and all that happened was David Kelly died and a million pairs of feet filed into Hyde Park, while the PM looked the other way.

Hush,

hush,

hush.

Young people who can’t get jobs are sent to Tesco where, for no pay, they do a job someone else could be doing to feed their family. Tesco. One of the world’s largest and wealthiest multinationals. I say they work for nothing – that’s not quite right. Tesco doesn’t pay them anything. But we still pay them their job seeker’s allowance – which works out to about half the legal minimum wage. But then, you know, there isn’t much left in the public purse.

Our police are paid off by the press. Our politicians are owned by the Murdochs, the banks, and the warmongers, and have been for decades. There is no longer anyone we want to vote for, so we don’t vote, or we vote for change, putting our little panicked X beside the one who isn’t in power now and who isn’t in the BNP – knowing that nobody in politics has the power or the will to put change on the table.

Which makes them no different from us, really.

When we complain, we are told the Police have been authorised to use water cannons. Around the world it gets worse than that. When we complain we are kettled, beaten, pepper sprayed, disappeared, raped, silenced by any means. The pictures of it are in the newspapers. They are on the television. They are on the internet. Nobody in charge of any country has criticised the actions of their own police, yet, or held them to account. In some places the people in charge of a country send the army to kill the people who complain.

Don’t tell me off for comparing what’s happened in Egypt or Libya to what happens here, or what is happening in the States. When the police can kill peaceful people, haul a disabled man out of his wheelchair, or pepper spray a little girl without consequence, and when we can say to someone “well done for surviving that cancer for 13 months. Now you have to carry on surviving it without a home. Or food” – we aren’t haggling over whether a principle has been breached – the vessel is sinking. We are disagreeing over how long it will take it to hit the bottom.

What bothers me about this is how it ends. We know how it ends.

This doesn’t end well for the rich.

pepper2

Tahrir

Greece

Greece 2

pepper

gaddafi

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About chiller

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist on large data collections for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics from the news and politics to gardening and how very annoying it is, being disabled. Habits include drilling holes about 1mm away from where they ought to be, and embarking with great enthusiasm on tasks for which she is neither physically nor intellectually equipped.
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8 Responses to Dear “The Rich”

  1. Johnny B. says:

    At this point, I have nothing substantial to add but more of the same.

    And QFT: This doesn’t end well for the rich.

    My only addendum would be that we’ve labelled ‘the rich’ as such because it’s easy, and of course we know the difference between the (relatively few) people with money who actually do give shedloads of it away AND pay their taxes and get cross when they’re told they don’t have to, and the sick, immoral shits that are pushing everyone else as flat as they can so they get more elbow room.

    • chiller says:

      Yes, “the rich” is a lazy term, but I suspect we all know who we’re talking about here. It’s not the people who earned £200K a year and did nicely for themselves, and paid their taxes – they did well in life, good for them.

      When I talk about “the rich”, I mean the people who are asset-stripping the people of this country, lock, stock and barrel, and who are busy suggesting that we die quietly, from poverty, cold, ill health and despair.

  2. mattdp says:

    I wish I could agree with how it might end. However, history tells us that actually, it tends to end reasonably well for the rich. A small subset of them may suffer but the people who have the wealth keep the wealth and a new crop will rise up and fill the shoes of those who bow out. Otherwise why, given the long history of anger and revolutions by ordinary working people around the world, do we still have a rich elite who feel entitled to behave like this.

    Things get better, slowly. But only very, very slowly. And an awful lot of poor people are going to have to do an awful lot of suffering before we take the next baby step in the right direction.

    • chiller says:

      Well, the thing with the rich is, they don’t always start off that way – they’re the stuff that fills a vacuum. Branson didn’t start off rich, but he’s one of the top dogs now (and behaving like it). Tesco started as a little supermarket. Cameron and his ghastly ilk, who inherit their wealth, are there, but they’re not the only rich.

      Do things get better, slowly? Only things seem to me to have been alrightish up until a short while ago, and to be getting a great deal worse very quickly indeed. I think the point of my post is: why wait for an awful lot of poor people to do an awful lot of suffering? Why not take whatever that baby step is right now?

      • mattdp says:

        Things get better slowly in a two steps forward, one step back kind of way. Things seem grim now but the average person in Britain (and much of the world) still enjoys a better quality of life than someone of the same socio-economic background might have done 60 years ago. Partly this is down to technology but small wins like marginally better rights for women, substantially better rights for homosexuals, the painting of racism as socially unacceptable and so on and so forth do suggest to me that society is – slowly, slowly – moving in a progressive direction.

        But every small win that we’ve had has usually had to be prised from the vice-like grip of the elite with either a metaphorical crowbar or, at the very least, the threat of one. I don’t agree with Marx about very much, but it does seem a given that few people with money and power will voluntarily share it. Given that we have built a society where the most selfish, narcissistic, ruthless and generally mean people rise to the top, this is hardly surprising. You’re aware no doubt of the psychology paper that suggested most FTSE 100 CEO’s score highly on the test of psychopathy? Charming but utterly without morals – exactly what it takes to succeed in business. For those that don’t fit this model you can rely on good old-fashioned ignorance. I remember an interview in which a merchant banker, asked to guess the average wage in the country, guessed £80k a year. He simply couldn’t conceive of a strata of society where people earned much less than that.

        I don’t want to wait for the suffering. I want to take that baby step now. But suggesting that things are going to happen than way is a pipe-dream I’m afraid. The elites won’t share without coercion, and if coercion is applied, many more innocents will suffer than the guilty, and we’ll win a small improvement and then things will be back more or less to normal in a couple of decades’ time.

        Sorry to be so miserable about it. But show me an example from history that’s turned out differently.

      • mattdp says:

        (Oh and I keep meaning to say what a fantastic summation of the horrible state of the country right now. Everything in one place in a readable chunk that expresses the reasons whilst remaining angry and not straying into analysis. Well written!)

      • chiller says:

        Thanks for the kind words!

        I retain some optimism that this may not simply be a question of history repeating. The internet and mobile phones are a game-changer: we are very used to being able to speak to one another now, all day, every day. We swap videos of what happens to us, we tweet, we email, we text. It is easy to set up a demonstration, easy to pass on the information necessary to make it a success, easy to change plans, easy to create lobby groups and easy to find people who think the same way you do. The old school are playing the same game of chess they’ve always played, but they have failed to factor in that the board is different.

        Not unconnectedly, a lot of the institutions that have held together the poisonous croquembouche status quo are starting to crumble. A judicial review of the tax breaks given to Goldman Sachs and Vodafone is about to begin. Every country in Europe except Britain supports the Robin Hood tax. The tabloid press – which has had far too much power – is being examined and is coming out of it badly. The big money hunched behind it fares little better, on close examination. The politicians who were straightforwardly crooked have been weeded out of parliament and the police are being watched and openly criticised in ways which has forced them to change their behaviour. Meanwhile the citizenry demonstrates peacefully, and there are few greater obstacles to oppression than a peaceful mass (a game Gandhi played well, and I believe he may be the example you asked me to provide).

        I have hope. It’s cautious hope and it may come to nothing, but I believe the hope in and of itself is legitimate.

      • chiller says:

        I should add that my hope is somewhat contingent – I believe – on this coming to a head sooner rather than later. Because we are being asset stripped, and if it goes far enough, and we (we the masses) end up poor enough, we will lose the advantages we have, which are:
        – we are reasonable
        – it would not be reasonable to remove our ability to communicate.

        If we are made poor enough those two points will fall apart, in the same order I have listed them. At that point the game’s lost.

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