Tag Archives: wealth

Status anxiety and a spiritual life

There are a lot of things I am not, which sometimes bothers me. I’m not, economically speaking a very successful author – not a best seller for my publisher, not a big name in my field. I’m one of those people who goes in to make up the bulk of a movement, the crest of a wave someone else will ride on to far more glorious effect. History is full of us. We provide momentum for movements, we underpin change but individually, we are entirely forgettable.

Like a lot of people, I fret about how other people see me. I fret about issues of success, and status. For me this often includes a fair amount of angst over not being intellectual enough. It’s not been an easy process for me, coming to terms with the facts here. It’s been evident for a lot of years that at no point would I go back to formal study. I can’t afford it and I do not think I could take the pressure. The more I watch those who can, and the more I read, the more evident it is to me that I just don’t have the right kind of mind for this sort of thing. I don’t have the discipline, or much inclination to cultivate it.

The desire to be able to do this, or be seen as a certain sort of person has everything to do, in my case, with a desire to be taken seriously, and that’s really all there is to it. I associate academic status with credibility, and being taken seriously, which in turn would seem to validate the process of writing, and the time spent on it. Fame and money have similar, validating potential. There’s an illusion in here about achieving the kind of status that would stop the people who habitually put me down from doing that, but I’ve started to notice that anything I achieve seems to cause a devaluing of the thing in certain quarters, not an improved valuing of me. There are games I do not get to win.

It’s a very easy game to play with yourself, too. Set up a distant goal, a really tricky hoop to jump through, a magic point of achievement that will validate you. When I get there, then I will be ok. Then they will accept me and take me seriously and be nicer to me. Then I won’t have to feel all the put downs and humiliations I’ve been lugging around for all this time. Get the right job, achieve the right income level, raise the perfect child, become massively famous, save the world… And somehow all you ever get to do is run, not arrive.

Most of us will not be wildly successful, heroic, wealthy, famous or important in any of the ways we might want to be. It does not help that we have a culture where celebrity is some kind of holy grail, and ‘ordinary’ is tantamount to an insult. We prioritise the feats of the few whose names we can remember, and the vast majority of people, slogging away as best they can, are slightly invisible.

Spiritual paths will often tell us that we shouldn’t care about these things – fame, wealth, status etc are trappings of the world, traps, dead ends. Pulled by this in one direction and by massive cultural pressure to strive and feel like a failure in the other, the results can be untidy to say the least. If I’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that ‘you shouldn’t feel this way’ is the least helpful advice. I also wonder, because I’m cynical, what exactly to make of people who are making a lot of money and achieving fame as spiritual leaders and gurus who cheerfully dole out the message that the rest of us should focus on our spiritual lives and not worry about all the things they have accumulated. That can just create a new set of status goals, as you strive to be the best Druid, do the most meditation, have the best wand, or whatever becomes the substitute.

I should not worry about wealth, fame, power or worldly status because the famous guru I just paid a lot of money to said so?

We all seek validation, one way or another. We all measure ourselves. I wonder if the answer might be to support each other in finding some better and more available yardsticks, praising each other for what we can do, for what goes well, for modest success, and taking down the impossible goal posts for each other, so as to come up with a more sane culture.

Who owns the land?

Owning the land tends to equate to owning any resources in the land – minerals and water most especially. Thus the ‘right’ to control resources that everyone depends on, is not equally distributed. As Nestle push to own water, and fracking poisons water for many, the question of ownership is especially pertinent at the moment.

It’s worth thinking about how land ownership comes to exist. How do people obtain the resources to buy large tracts of land? And however many times the land has changed hands, the history of ownership comes back to violence. In Europe that tends to mean kings, feudalism, conquest, and in many parts of the world it means the violence of colonialism, the forced taking of land from its indigenous people and all that has flowed from that. Go back far enough in history and no one owned land. The idea of kingdoms, and the idea of big kingdoms and control of vast land areas, is more recent. How many people own land because their ancestors took it by force?

I wonder what it would be like if no one had the right to privately own and exploit material resources. Land, and all that is in the land, and on the land, the water, and the air held as common property in which fair access for all is the priority. Without the scope to exploit these commons for profit, we’d probably have a lot less consumerist culture, and fewer accumulation habits and would be more sustainable. If you can only exploit the land for the good of your community, the whole basis for decisions about benefit and usefulness would shift.

In such a situation, we would own the fruits of our labours. We would own our ideas, the work of our hands, our time. It would move us away from stuff, and towards doing. I suspect such a shift would create radical cultural change, because that minority of people who do nothing useful for anyone else but extract wealth and power through their ability to control the resources we all depend on, would no longer hold that power, while people doing useful things would more readily be respected.

Affirmation politics

I’m just going to assert this because I believe it to be true: Political systems mostly exist to keep power in the same place. Democracy is usually an illusion. Here in the UK, was can vote between the same suited men with the same beliefs who will do a bit more or a bit less of the same things. We do not have a great deal more genuine choice than a Feudal peasant, Eton sends us a steady supply of new masters, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It seems, looking at the international scene, that you can’t have substantial change without bloodshed, and then people who acquire power work out ways of getting more of it.

I think there’s a relationship between the ways in which money makes more money, and power makes more power. To lead, you do not have to deliver for anyone else. You don’t have to solve real problems, or improve quality of life. You do need the PR skills to convince people that you’re less bad than the other suit. We vote for what we find most bearable, because there is so seldom an option to vote for what we want. Overpaid smug bastards strutting about before the cameras talking about the heroic tough choices they are making for the good of the country while children go hungry.

Tribes tend to deliver very different political systems, because there is a much more direct relationship between the ruler and the ruled. You may quite literally all eat at the same table. You bear the consequences together, and you know exactly where the one in charge lives. The smaller your unit, the more answerable your glorious leader is, perhaps requiring them to be more like the chair of a committee in which everyone gets a say, negotiating a way forward everyone can get behind. Or leading with vision, safe in the knowledge that if the vision doesn’t deliver, they’re out of a job. I’m not a bloodthirsty person, anything but… however I can see how the idea of sacrifice kings in times of crisis would keep a ruler on their toes. Tough, heroic hard choices for the good of the tribe do not, in that context, mean letting children go hungry. It will fall to leadership to take the brunt – and that’s a much better system.

Yesterday I talked about affirmation community. The natural extension of that is a small scale politics dependent on affirmation. People have to approve, agree and be willing for the politics of an affirmation culture to work. In an affirmation culture, everyone has their place, it is known, recognised and commented on. People who have a value are not pawns to sacrifice for the greater good – because at that point, the people are the good. There may be times when someone has to step forward and take the risks, put life and wellbeing on the line, but to do that by choice is very different than to be forced into it by a smiling tyrant’s ‘tough choices’.

Affirmation creates a social currency of valuing. If we have that, we will not demonise the vulnerable, or think it acceptable to leave the struggling to die. If we learn to see the best in each other, we won’t find it acceptable to have far more than others. We will want to express value through sharing, and we will want to be valued as someone who possesses virtues like compassion and generosity. In an affirmation culture there is every incentive to want to be seen as a valuable contributor to your society, doing the best you can with what you have. And so a culture that was based on affirmation would have no place for the kinds of parasites who give nothing, but draw wealth towards them and ask other people to do all the work, whilst at the same time devaluing the bent backs on which they stand. Separate ideas of value from stashes of money, and everything changes.

Art or Craft?

This week I did a post for the local Green blog about the politics of art.  This is a follow on, because I have been mulling it a lot, and the issues are many.

So, what is the difference, between art and craft? Both are visual, both require skill and are generally intended to result in something pleasing. So why do some activities get one label and some the other?

As far as I can make out ‘Art’ is something rich men pay other people – usually also men, to do for them, and it should have no particular practical application. Craft is made by the poor, and by women. If a very wealthy woman does it then (historically) you’d whip out ‘accomplishment’ as a term instead. Not having so much space or spare resources to lavish on decoration, those of us who are not wealthy have always tended to favour getting beauty and utility into the same item. Quilts. Rag rugs. Pottery. Gorgeous baskets. Beautiful shawls. These are crafts.

Here’s a thing though, because if people with money suddenly get excited about a craft – Shaker furniture, historic quilts, etc, then they can buy it for silly money, put it in an art gallery or display it as an Art item, and magically it becomes Art and no one uses it for its intended purpose any more. Only when we stop valuing an item in terms of utility will we see it as a beautiful piece of Art and want to display it. I think there’s a very interesting reflection of the human condition in all of this.

We tend not to value small beauty, or beauty in the mundane, or the grace of everyday items. We value things that someone can be persuaded to pay ridiculous amounts of money for. We treat utility as ‘common’ and innate uselessness as attractive.  I could take a sidestep and rant extensively about women’s footwear on these terms, too.

There is also beauty in effectiveness and efficiency. There is beauty in age and durability. There is beauty in the love that goes into crafting. I am in no way opposed to Art as a form of creativity, but I am increasingly uneasy about where it sits in terms of affluence, gratuitous displays of wealth, consumerism and smug superiority.

Historically, that which is deemed ‘great art’ has mostly been funded by either the church, or the nobility. Patronising and patronage are related words, it is worth reflecting. Our history of great art has a lot to do with who was willing to pay up, and our history of artists is frequently one of struggle and abject poverty while they were alive. The best career move an artist usually makes, is to die. They become more collectable when you know they won’t make anything better. That’s hideous, when you think about it, and the whole underpinning logic seems very wrong to me.

Questions of worth

We live in a culture that values people based on their economic power. It is not the value of how that money was earned, or how it is deployed, but the money itself. This is how we are able to entirely respect people whose wealth came to them by chance – via inheritance, by gambling, by using money to make money out of other people’s money. To make a fortune from share dividends is perfectly socially acceptable. Never mind that the pressure to create dividends pushes down wages and quality in order to cream off a layer, and undermines scope for re-investment. Never mind that the desire to make money at all costs is trashing the planet.
If we valued people in terms of the actual contribution they make to society, we might be able to look at whether the massively rich are as useful as they claim to be. We are told that affluence trickles down (I see Smaug on his pile of gold jealously watching the one coin bounce away). We are told that the wealthy create jobs and affluence for others. Only if we stop assuming this to be a truth and start looking at it will we be able to see whether or not its the case, but I have my suspicions. The gap between richest and poorest is growing all the time. If wealthy people were good for us all, surely we should all be gaining materially at about the same pace, not seeing a widening gap?
Money, as economist Molly Scott Cato has been pointing out a lot recently, is a social contract. It is about trust, and the means to move resources around in a community. Money exists to get things done, and can be very useful indeed in this regard. We can use it to measure how much we value something, and it saves having to get the right number of chickens when you fancy a new rug. Money as an expression of exchange can be a great social enabler on many levels.
On those terms, valuing a person in relation to their money makes sense. They are worth what the people around will pay for the things they make or the things they do. Money could therefore be expected to flow towards a person who is really useful and highly valued. However, what we’ve been able to do as a culture, is manufacture scarcity. When things are hard to get, exclusive, or rare, their value goes up. The person who can control the flow of resources can therefore create extra wealth. Not by adding more value to the world, but by artificially pushing up the cost. Keeping land vacant can be a way of pushing up land prices to make more money off it, for example.
We have the resources to feed, clothe, educate and power everyone, modestly. However, that doesn’t allow a minority to stockpile wealth. The desire for wealth has broken the trust-contract that money was created to represent. We don’t move things around fairly, and we push up the prices to make profits, and squeeze down wages, and that is having the effect of starving cash flows in our economies. We need to look very hard at our system that allows people to make money by moving money about, rather than by doing something useful. If we valued what people contribute a bit more, and valued their bank balances a bit less, we might have a cultural revolution on our hands, quietly and with no bloodshed.

Life skills and Druid values

There are a lot of things I’m good at. I can bake and brew, I’m good with textiles and at all manner of make do and mend techniques. I can tell different kinds of wood apart, even from bits lying on the ground and I know how to use them; what can be burned and what cannot, and how to make a fire. I can make a blanket, mend a sock, cook a meal from scratch over an open fire, I have a wealth of stories and songs to keep the people around me amused, and a grasp of first aid. I am good at problem solving and at reasoning things out. During most of human history, this skills base would have stood me in really good stead, making me a valuable part of any community. Not so now.

Our ideas about what is a useful and valuable contribution have changed a lot. I think this is because access to resources is now entirely about money, and has little to do with skill or prowess. How else could a man who does not understand that all children cannot be above average end up running the education department? We’ve come to assume that wealth and utility are one and the same. Someone who does nothing but pick up their dividends, is treated with respect, while someone poor, no matter how much good they do, is woefully undervalued.

I think in turn this is a consequence of no longer living in ways that connect us to our neighbours. When your individual success impacted directly on friends, family, fellow workers and neighbours, I think we all had a much clearer sense of who was useful and to what degree. What you did, and how well you did it was of far greater relevance in terms of everyone’s wealth, than your pile of gold. In a famine, that pile of gold may be entirely worthless. I think we also used to be a lot better at finding ways for everyone to be useful. The habit of consigning large numbers of people to the trash heap, is very modern indeed.

The more basic and essential a form of work is, the less we pay people to do it. The more abstract the work is, the more we value it. Thus toilet cleaning is not well rewarded, but you can lose vast sums for your bank, as a banker, and still expect to pick up a bonus. In some areas of life, we actively reward failure, with handsome pay-offs.

The more complex our systems are, the harder it is for anyone to understand them or have oversight of them. The more complexity we have, the more we seem to believe that we need ever greater levels of complexity. We must have guards to guard the guards who watch the watchers, and someone must be employed to manage them, and someone else must manage those managers, and a third party will be needed to make sure that the managers who manage the managers are doing so in accordance with a complex set of rules and requirements. And yet we have rising incidents of malnutrition in the UK. We don’t take good care of our elderly. Our roads are full of potholes, our prisons full of illiterate people, and our positions of power populated by idiots. All that work, and so little of any obvious use going on. But it is almost valueless to be able to cook a meal, or fill in a hole.

Whatever the answer is, I am certain that every greater abstraction and complication isn’t it. I remember reading a piece by Marx about how being a small part of a production line alienates workers from their work, and turns us into machines. We’d barely got started when he explored those ideas. We’re ever more obsessed with turning ourselves into the machine, and ever more oblivious as to where that machine is going.

The happy Druid

I’ve met a lot of people along the way so far, from people who were penniless and living in single rooms in Bed and Breakfasts, to people who have big country houses and go skiing every year. People who have been invalided out of the workforce, the self-made and the downright lucky. I’ve known plenty of wealthy people who were a long way from being happy, whilst misery and poverty go together very easily. Without a doubt, the happiest people I know are either retired, or self employed, doing something they care about and feel has value, and have strong friendship networks.

Often self employed people like me work longer hours than regular employees and do so for less money, but, you get to say no when you need to. You can fit your work around your life, and I see a lot of that amongst the self employed, especially around child raising. People who work for themselves always have more scope to be creative, and get more direct financial reward for the things they get right. There are more risks, but these days most regular employment is so insecure that the risks seem a lot smaller than they used to. At least when it’s your company you can really fight to keep it going and don’t have to depend on whether anyone else is determined to make sure your job continues to exist. What I hear from regularly employed friends suggest that increasing numbers of workplaces are becoming unreasonable, disrespectful pressure fests. The self employed may not have as much cash, but we don’t endure any workplace bullying unless we do it to ourselves.

There are basic essentials that we all need. Recent discussions on facebook around food budgets demonstrate that a person who knows their stuff and has enough wriggle room for some bulk buying, can live well on fairly little. Less desire to be fashionably dressed keeps the clothes budget down. Feet as transport save money, and the cost of gym membership. There’s an art to being less affluent, and one of the key requirements is knowing that cash does not equate to happiness. Yes, life without the basics is miserable, but that’s not always a money issue. Rest and sleep are basics, plenty of highly paid, high flying jobs will deprive you of those. Human relationships are also a basic human need, and if you’ve got to work all your waking hours, or deeply antisocial hours, money costs you in terms of relationship.

The first secret to finding happiness rests on knowing what actually makes you happy. That’s going to vary for all of us, but whatever you think you’ve got, it’s worth poking it. The joy of shopping, for example, can often be about getting a temporary sense of power out of spending money, but if you run up debts, that disempowers you, it can become like an addiction. Getting drunk can feel like happiness, but there’s thinking out there that our young people do this just to blot out the reality of the rest of their lives. So just how happy a state is that? Merry is great, slightly pissed can be wonderful, but so off your face that you don’t know which way is up? Its popular, hugely expensive in terms of police costs and antisocial knock-ons.

I am able to get by on very little because I know what I need. I have books, online articles and radio 4 to supply me with intellectual stimulus on a daily basis. I have good company in the form of my bloke, my child, fellow boaters, excellent friends and a wide selection of casual acquaintances in the wider world. I need time outside and most especially, panoramic landscape views. Enough food, exercise and rest are possible to achieve, although I don’t always get that balance right. Lying in bed, snuggled with my man, cat purring in my ear, child giggling at the other end of the boat as he reads Pratchett in bed… of these things are contentment made. Happiness is not a big, dramatic sort of emotion. If I need thrills and adventures, moving the boat on a windy day, cycling a hill, undertaking an epic walk – I can challenge myself. I don’t get bored. I have the freedom to think and feel as I please, to choose a lot of what happens, or negotiate it in ways that work all round. I am free from bullying, and unkindness doesn’t feature much in my life. I feel very lucky in all of this.

I’m happy when small things go well, and when what I do works for other people, when publishers say yes, and the child says ‘today was an awesome adventure’ or things to that effect. I’m happy when I feel that I’m acting ethically, and walking my talk in some way or another, and when what I do manifestly benefits someone else. Money can be nice, especially when it represents people who bought my books. But money does not buy me the call of the cuckoo, a child’s laughter, or the man who looks at me with adoration in his eyes.

Earning it

We hear a lot from the government about workers and shirkers, the hard working who deserve their money and the scroungers who deserve nothing. By this we are to understand that wealth itself is evidence of effort while poverty indicates laziness. That would be a very convenient explanation, skipping over how much wealth is earned and how much inherited. Wealth buys opportunity, education and connections, but if you acknowledge that, you have to recognise that massive earning differences have nothing to do with worth.

Now, if someone is out there saving lives, then it would be hard to over value their worth. Firemen would be a fine case in point. Would any of us argue with massive pay rises and bonuses for firemen, who risk their lives on a regular basis to save the lives and property of others? Firemen are heroes. We will never be able to thank them enough for what they do. But, compare that to bankers who take other people’s money and effectively gamble with it, and seem to get paid whether they make money for their bank, are mediocre or actually bankrupt a country. I’d love to know how that works. The guy at Barkleys Bank wisely declined his obscene bonus this week, perhaps recognising it might not be politic to take what he clearly hadn’t earned.

We have a system based on ideas of growth, market development, investment and whatnot. Now, skipping over the issue of infinite growth with finite resources…. I learn from the Guardian that the economic boom of the noughties was an illusion. Businesses were not investing or growing, and most of the money came from borrowing against inflated house prices. FTSE top 100 companies grew by 2.6 % on average per year while executive bonuses went up by 26 % a year, on average. My ten year old can do the maths. It’s insane. If a person gets paid way beyond what they earn, or generate for their company, they have not earned it. A bonus based on actual profits, actual development would make some kind of sense, but this doesn’t. It’s all about those in high places having the power to set their own pay scales and enough friends also in power to back them up. If you can’t show your company is thriving, you haven’t earned a bonus, and the only bonus you could earn would be in line with company profit. Anything else is TAKEN, not earned.

Let’s backtrack to those thought forms about hard work and earning your money. No company could survive without the people who do the work. The makers and builders, the ones on the shop floor, the ones talking to customers. These are the people at the bottom end of the pay scale, least valued by the company and they aren’t paid bonuses, in the normal scheme of things. Why assume if a company thrives that it is only due to the efforts of the management?

What I’d like is legislation that requires bonuses and pay rises to be linked directly to profitability in a meaningful way. (Not think of a multiplier and use that). I think there should also be a requirement that bonuses be paid out to every employee, not to managers alone, in situations of profit and success, and that people who are discernibly doing a mediocre job, or failing, should not get pay rises. Workers don’t get pay rises if their annual review doesn’t see them as being valuable. Why should bosses be different?

The irony here, is that this would be a system to drive genuine growth and investment. Full on capitalism. The people who claim to be capitalists evidently aren’t – rewarding failure and not investing to grow do not a capitalist system make. It’s not about the market, it’s simply a leech culture. And here’s me, anarchic and anti-capitalist with a vision that, although it alarms me to say it, is really speaking more innately capitalist in principle than what the capitalists are doing.

Yes Mr Cameron, we do have a culture where there are hard working people, and scroungers. Generally speaking, the scroungers are doing really well at bleeding the economy dry for their own benefit, while the hard workers are not anything like as well paid as they deserve to be. This is because we have a system that rewards power, not effort, or achievement. Just power. But that’s probably not worrying you, given that you are quite definitively In Power. However, as every leech knows, if you bleed a thing dry, you starve. A little enlightened self interest might not go amiss

Accumulation sickness

There’s a certain amount of stuff, both physical and more ephemeral, that is necessary for a reasonable standard of life. I’m repeating an old idea here. We need shelter, food, warmth and affection to function. Sometimes objects give an illusion of security, and we cling to them for that, for imagined status and imagined need. Accumulation sickness is much more than that, though.

Where there is a flow of resources, quite a lot of things can and will move around sustainably and to good effect. From love given and received to quality work honoured with an appropriate payment, flow spreads the goodness. What happens when someone in the flow wants to accumulate excessively? All the love should flow to them, not anyone else. All the money should flow their way, not to flow on, but to stop there and pile up. There are plenty of people in our world who have more wealth than it would be humanly possible to use, stashed away in imaginary piles that reduce the flow of money and therefore energy for everyone else. There are people whose desire for importance diverts social flows in wholly comparable ways.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting what is needed, or even in having a safety net, something to fall back on. A little layer of insulation for the hard times is a natural enough thing to seek. Creatures do it, laying down fat in the good times so as to survive the winter, or the drought. But they never get so fat as to be unable to function. If they did, something else would eat them. Plenty of creatures store and accumulate. Bees with honey, squirrels with nuts, but the relationship between storing and need is pretty transparent. Nature doesn’t stockpile much, and when it does, get carried away, it’s usually an accident, as with the way wood becomes coal, or things collect up in one place by chance.

There are many reasons why wild beings do not do as we do. Most have their tools, weapons and insulation built into their bodies, and we do not. All other creatures are their own modes of transport. We mostly gave that up. Other creatures make homes and nests, but none quite like us. Somewhere along the way, the reasonable fear of death and the reasonable desire to have resources stored to avert that threat, became this other thing. This insatiable appetite to own stuff way beyond our capacity to use it, and to attract wealth and power way beyond any scope of either understanding or enjoying the implications of it.

All the while the mantra of ‘work harder’ is chanted at us by our politicians. Why? What do we need that we don’t actually have? What are we working so hard for? No matter what they tell us about working hard to get rich as an individual and do your bit for the economy, (poor, needy creature that it is) the reality is that resources tend to flow towards those glitches in the system where resources have already accumulated. The damns in the stream, if you will. There’s a thing about damns though. Every now and then, the blocked stream picks an easier path and stops piling more debris against the damn. Perhaps if we all recognised that we don’t need to keep accumulating, we could take the stream off in another direction. Anyone with a good vision of how to do this, please say!

Confessions of compassion fail

Forgive me blogosphere, for I have sinned. It has been 24 hours since my last confession. Give or take. I have failed to hold a compassionate attitude towards my fellow human beings. I have allowed myself to feel anger and resentment towards my government, and to assume that their behaviour represents the prejudices of the rich against the poor. Am I any less prejudiced than they? I cannot begin to imagine the burdens and trials that immense wealth must bring, or how hard it must be deciding to cut benefits rather than going after corporate tax dodgers.

This morning I have succumbed to anger, and considered writing a class-war tirade against those who have so much and begrudge the smallest generosity to those who have almost nothing. But am I any better? I, who would take away from those who enjoy the fortunes they have inherited, the educational advantages of rich parents and a leg up from the Old Boys Network. I would, if given the power, cut them down to size a bit and require them to have standards of living more commensurate with that of some of their less affluent neighbours. I do not wish to see them suffer, I would not wish them the poverty of benefit dependence.

And of course they must have good reasons for removing housing benefit from the under twenty fives. I’m sure they’ll make an exception for the ones who have no living parents to run home to, the ones who have been in social care all their lives, have no family they can safely return to, and whose educations have probably been undermined by being moved about a lot. They don’t mean those people under the age of twenty five, do they? Only the undeserving ones. So who would those be? The ones who didn’t get to go to the top school or get the best results and cannot find jobs? The ones who selfishly went to university and are now burdened with debt, and unemployed, and want to live somewhere they might find work? Inconsiderate swine, scrounging off the people who never had to lift a finger to get their head start in the world. Despicable! Or all those girls who went out and got themselves pregnant (stop a moment consider what that phrase means) and only got pregnant to get a council house and more benefits. Because we all know when you’re poor, undereducated and female, the only way you can get on in the world is through pregnancy and benefits. Living the high life on a few hundred pounds a week. Doing outrageously self indulgent things, like eating, and buying clothes for your child. Everyone knows that poor children don’t really need shoes. It’s character building for them to go without. Wouldn’t you agree, Mr Cameron?

Oh, guide me, wise ones, how do I feel greater compassion for the rich and spoiled men who want to ush in a new Victorian era? I admit, I like steampunk, I have worn a corset, I own some George Eliot novels. But the Victorian era illustrates so well what happens when the only way to make ends meet legitimately, for the poorest, means long, exhausting shifts, or multiple jobs, because the wages won’t pay the rent. Sound familiar?  It means families crammed into too small spaces, and children sent out to work. Chimney sweeps, at all, Mr Cameron? When being poor and decent means a life of drudgery, slavery and misery, people consider their options. The Victorian era was not a crime free period. It was also a time when prostitution rates were terrifyingly high. Forgive me, blogosphere for I have imagined that spoiled, wealthy rich boys might enjoy the idea of there being more prostitutes. Just because historically they were the ones paying the most to use women, boys, children, doesn’t mean that’ll hold true now, does it?

In the Victorian era, Christianity and its values still had a lot of influence. We have generations who have grown up being told that materialism rules, that wealth matters, that they are entitled to health, education and a job. What are they going to do when you pull the rug out from under their feet, Mr Cameron? Perhaps you don’t know that wealth is not created by the rich, it is derived from the labours of the poor. Real wealth, that is, not the kind of imaginary money games your old school chums and buddies are playing in ‘The City’. What happens, Mr Cameron, when people can no longer afford homes, and can no longer afford to feed their children? Perhaps you think this century’s people are sufficiently tamed with ciabatta and television. What progress we have since the days of bread and circuses! Perhaps you think a host of magical pixies will come and make it ok. Maybe you’re hoping for a pandemic to kill off the weakest ones and cut the running costs. I notice you’re closing hospitals. I guess the more people just do the decent thing and die, the easier it will be for you to balance the books. How hard this must all be for you!

But I think you’ll find this isn’t a nation of sheep, and that even sheep will fight back if they think you’re going to kill them, or harm their offspring. The future you are making, Mr Cameron, is not one in which people generally are likely to love or respect you. There’s nothing like desperation to make people do unpleasant and antisocial things. Remember Marie Antoinette? Mussolini hanging from a lamp post. The fate of those who betray their people is not always a happy one. I really hope we don’t end up there. Perhaps I can feel just the teensiest bit sorry for you after all; maybe that fine education of yours didn’t cover the causes of revolution.