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.
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.