Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The more it changes.....

Here's a little quote for you - before you look below, guess who wrote it and when.
....What's more, the wretched earnings of the poor are daily whittled away by the rich, not only through private dishonesty, but through public legislation. As if it weren't unjust enough already that the man who contributes most to society should get the least in return, they make it even worse, and then arrange for injustice to be legally described as justice.
  In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can't....see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organising society. They think up all sorts of tricks and dodges, first for keeping safe their ill-gotten gains, and then for exploiting the poor by buying their labour as cheaply as possible. Once the rich have decided that these tricks and dodges shall be officially recognised by society - which includes the poor as well as the rich - they acquire the force of law.
Heady stuff, eh? Obviously the work of some deranged socialist or something. And so, therefore, right up my alley. However, there is one crumb of comfort - the person who wrote this described a world not that far removed from our own current one, where we seem destined to swell the ranks of the poverty-stricken once more to the kind of the levels this writer was talking about. We live in a country where the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has continued to grow beyond anything experienced in at least a century. We live in a world where the richest 0.13% of the world's population hold more wealth in secret accounts than the combined GDPs or the US and Japan, and quite possibly a lot more - in fact, a staggering $55 TRILLION may be involved. This is more than enough money to sort out the current economic woes of the world, to put it in context.
Yet why should we be surprised it's happening? After all, it's happened before, and I daresay it'll all happen again - humans being humans, after all. Yet I can't help but worry - I think that such a gross imbalance between what the very richest have and what the very poorest don't demeans the whole of society from root to tip. The distorting effect of this top-heavy money blossom at the very stem, as it were, this rotten stinking fetid bloom of lucre, overshadows the base of the tree, unbalances it under the weight of its foul petals, and poisons and saps the very bases of community and society. After all, a tree without roots cannot stand, so why should those who claim to lead expect the system from which they spring, and on which they gain sustenance, expect anything else?
There is a considerable amount of research that indicates that those countries that have a smaller gap between the very rich and the very poor are more likely to be more cohesive, have fewer social problems and greater social mobility, and, generally speaking, are more likely to be happy bunnies. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much chance of that happening in the UK or globally at the moment - instead, our Prime Minister seems hellbent on a deregulated goldrush for more of the Rotten Bloom's falling petals. And it's going to get worse at home - along with utilities bills increasing, fuel tax about to go on the rise, and, worse, a crappy grape harvest likely to lead to a quid on a bottle of wine, there will also be more benefits cuts to come in April. Life is going to get much, much harder here, and that worries me - look what's going on in Greece right now.Austerity breeds Nazis.
If the politicians are really serious about sorting out the economy, they should start at the top of the tree, not at the bottom - lop away a few blooms here and there, trim the branches a bit. It won't hurt anywhere near as much as attacking the roots with a jackhammer, which is effectively what the austerity measures announced across Europe and further afield are. Ah, I hear you cry, but then the rich will go elsewhere - my answer? Let them go - only a few will actually do it, and that ends up clearing a bit more space for everyone else. The fact of the matter is that the individuals who really make a difference are very, very few and far between - instead, society is the product of, well, society - you know, all of us, pulling together. May I point out that this is not the same as David Cameron's Big Society, or indeed Ed Miliband's One Nation - rather, it's the organic relationship between people that generally exists in spite of, rather than because of, politicians.
And anyway, we shouldn't be fooled into believing that money is the only true measure of an individual's worth, which is what the rich would have us think, or, to return to my rather organic analogy, what the flower on the stem would have the plant think: that its only role is to uphold a gaudy collocation of petals, doomed to wilt and fall all too soon. It's a pity that we associate wealth with power, really.
And the quote? Sir Thomas More, Book Two of Utopia, translated by Paul Turner in the 1985 Penguin Editon. A text written almost 500 years ago. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.....

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