Tag Archive: Future Shocks

I am deeply concerned about the working world. Already the statistics of people with long term and serious mental health conditions obtaining and/or maintaining long-term work are very poor and speaking as someone in work with such conditions it is very easy to see why.  I will concede that the discussion around Mental Health has improved to an extent over the last 20 years from what I have witnessed.  What was once very specifically taboo can now be discussed more openly, people are able to declare and people are coming forward to seek professional help.  But in my experience and that of many I see that structure to cope with people needing help just isn’t there, it isn’t there at a clinical level and then you leave someone in a heightened state of vulnerability more alone to face the world, at which point they may be more aware of the help they need at a time no one is willing to provide it.  It goes the same way at work.  I have long since declared my Mental Health conditions in the workplace formally, I have my reservations about doing so and I understand those that do not but the nature of the job I know means I do not feel I could counsel others to do it in their workplace if I had not done so in mine. I am aware though that when speaking to others about it I am cautious to try to assess into what environment they would be placing themselves if they do.

We are still in a world where if you are in many jobs and off work for a reason that is a disability your absence remains recorded just as if you had a cold. Whilst this is direct discrimination if you were to suffer any detriment such as hitting trigger points for review meetings etc. the law has no real recourse unless you were to lose your job and most people are aware enough of the difficulty of getting a job that to risk it on the basis of the law helping out seems foolish and indeed most certainly would be.  The law is not there for the little person, its protections are scant and difficult to enact, there are many loopholes for employers to avoid falling foul of it that only really the most naive or the most dogmatically nasty should do so.

Of course employers know how to play the game and will talk about the importance of mental health and wellbeing as if it is at the forefront of their agenda, they may even cite the very sort of research that suggests it indeed should be.  ‘Thriving At Work’ [2017] a study commissioned by the last government some years ago showed as a result of extensive Deloitte research that money proactively invested in promoting and maintaining good Mental Health in the workplace had a return on investment in £ pounds of up to 9:1 and very often at least 5:1+ whilst reactively trying to clean up the problems of poor Mental Health and wellbeing could show only 2:1 at very best. You might reasonably therefore think that if even the bean counters should be impressed that the agenda must move along.  I have heard anecdotally about companies looking to utilise this information and take a proactive approach and have Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace and the promotion of positive mental health and in the examples I have heard it has proven hugely beneficial.  But these have been anecdotal and from small enlightened environments and very very much in the minority.

The problem I would assert is a sense of risk aversion coupled with a lack of humanity.  We have moved in the workplace often to a position of default mistrust, more people have to spend vast swathes of their time justifying what they have been doing rather than actually doing it. The people they are justifying it to often have little or no idea about the actual job and therefore it is more about justifying the latter’s existence than anyone actually doing any work.  In this culture you must therefore be able to show what you have been doing all the time and that just isn’t how people tend to work.  Everyone has time when they are productive and time when they are not, days when we are more ‘on it’ than others are not restricted to those with Mental Health conditions this is just the nature of Mental Health in general. The great problem for Mental Health is you can’t easily verify it and in the position of mistrust there is an assumption that perhaps someone is putting it on if they should refer to having issues in a way that would be unthinkable for a physical disability.  The damage that sort of rhetoric is allowed to do is seismic and should be stamped out but it isn’t because to do so would require admitting the scale of many problems, not least what the hell the tranche of middle managers are doing and whether or not the best way to get service running wouldn’t be to have more people trained and happy working at the coal face.

I have worked in many environments in the Public-, Private- and Third Sectors and none had their act together on Mental Health apart from a Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation which took a sufficiently enlightened view towards Mental Health and sought to support as much as possible that I felt empowered enough during my 6 months there that I never needed to call upon them to support me because I felt it was there and my productivity remained pleasingly constant for all parties.  Most organisations however enlightened they may like to portray themselves, whether or not they believe their own rhetoric, when it comes to issues of disability are only interested in covering their own backsides, the risk aversion runs to simply ensuring they cannot be sued.

What worries me most is that although I know my rights and am not afraid to exercise them I also know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em, I know certain battles that aren’t worth fighting and other times when a point of principle has to be held firm and that the former usually vastly outnumber the latter.  Yet I have found the working world to be intransigent to the point of belligerence, the ignorance and lack of compassion is astounding even when it becomes clear (and not by ramming it down someone’s throat).  I have tried to work to help better things but invariably been seen as someone being difficult to the point where it has made my position untenable on more than one occasion.  By and large I have managed to just about stay in work but it has not been at all easy.  I worry for the others who are not so bolshy, who for reasons of childcare or accommodation simply cannot afford to fold and have to trudge through the anguish and take it again and again. The long term implications of this are huge and I believe ultimately will lead to the premature death of a great many people who did nothing more than try to keep going in the face of it all.

Song Of the Day ~ Sinkane – Everybody

What has become clear to me is the scale of the crisis that I think we are now facing. Some time ago I wrote a series of pieces called Future Shocks which may or may not merit revisiting now that we are a decade or more along the line. What I could not have foreseen was the nature of the last 12 months, however I was aware of the trend towards a world where the increasingly isolationist nature of our lives was going to have an impact on our mental health. My mistake perhaps or naivety was the belief that with the rise in disclosures and discussion of mental health which had been taking place so the effects would become clearer at least in some quarters there would be moves to alleviate the damage. Covid-19 has robbed us of so much collaborative working, rendered so many people dead, ill, damaged, shellshocked and in crisis such that it is impossible to quantify the human cost and the likely impact on our species because it cannot be measured merely in the figures of the dead, there is scarcely a person anywhere that will not have been affected by it all in some way. My greatest concern is how long some of those things will take to manifest and come out into an arena where it can be identified and the individual, hopefully, helped through it and whether or not our society has the capacity to care as much and for as long as is going to be necessary.

‘Coming out’ with a condition or general mental ill-health is no easy task. There remains a stigma in many arenas to the idea, such as there is for many of the equality strands still. The lack of understanding coupled with the nature of the world in which we live makes people fearful declaring anything that demonstrates such a personal sense of vulnerability and giving what they may reasonably see as ammunition to other people in whom they may have little reason to trust. I have spent a great deal of time working in environments supporting people with mental health conditions and trying to navigate the line between when to declare it and when not, sure the legal protections are there if the condition qualifies and is officially declared, but these protections only come in against behaviour that constitutes a ‘due detriment’ in UK law, I would be interested how it is elsewhere. Due detriment means that there has to be a definable method of determining exactly what the person has suffered as apart from those who do not have the condition so as to claim the treatment was less favourable. In most circumstances this means action such as dismissal, however those with mental health conditions in work know just how fragile that situation can be and therefore are likely to be disinclined brazenly going down the line to dismissal with the intent of taking their employer to court. They are more likely to just try to keep their head down until they feel better because to tackle something like this when you are already feeling less than 100% does not sound like a good idea to many people and thereby the discriminatory behaviour against them manifests and entrenches and the circle continues.

I’m not saying things haven’t improved in certain areas, they have, there is more knowledge, more research, more legal protection than there ever has been and yet one could say the same about race relations and I hardly think anyone would consider that fight for equality anywhere near complete. The difference is that when your characteristic is hidden and you feel that your environment is not embracing of ‘your kind’ you face a choice as to whether to come out of the woodwork and assert your rights but risk persecution or to stay beneath the surface at a point in time you feel perhaps the most weak anyway. It’s a bold choice to take the former route. It is worth noting that whilst many strides in equality have been made until 2013 the Mental Health Act still prevented people who had been sectioned due to their mental health from officially being able to be School Governors, sit on a jury, be certain types of company director or be a sitting MP. This was in spite of the widely circulated figure that 1 in 4 people would suffer from an episode of Mental ill-health each year, yes not merely in their lives, every year, imagine that as a part of the population, it would be like the whole of London, Birmingham and Manchester getting the plague and the government decided to ignore it or determining that former plague victims no longer had rights. Yes this may sound flippant but there is sometimes no more evidence that someone will have a relapse of mental ill-health than there would be of them contracting the Black Death again!

For me it was ‘easier’ this time round, by which I mean I had no choice, the manifestation of the impact on my mental health was swift and left me incapable of work for some time. Similar to how I see the world in general that process had in some ways been a long time coming in me, in as much as there was a combination of factors at play, but also symptomatic of many in the world I had for some time been coasting and just about getting by, depending on your method of measuring these things. Often if left to get on with things you can cope for a long time and maybe even return to dealing with things better than that, especially if other factors recede. However if matters continue to pile up then at some point there is going to be an explosion of some kind. I had been open before about mental health, but not always with my employer or work colleagues and that speaks volumes because I am no shrinking violet and will seldom shirk that kind of fight but that workplace environment is one from which there can feel like little escape. On this particular occasion though what precipitated my crisis was not of my own making and therefore the consequent absence needed to be explained.

Being back at the mental health coal face means I get to see first hand what is going on, what facilities are made available, how quickly to people respond and what methods are offered in order to help. Of course there is an element here that is entirely subjective, there will always be much of that because as I have elaborated on before the whole issue owes as much to meeting the right person at the right time as anything. Sadly it seems little has changed over the last few years in that sense. I have a good key worker from a mental health charity and an at times ambivalent general practitioner who only sprang into action metaphorically when I sent him a lengthy diatribe explaining that perhaps telling someone they seemed to be coping ok when you hadn’t seen them in well over a year and had no idea really what they were or were not coping with was a bad idea.  This is not the ideal foundation by any means and relies on you having the staying power to keep banging your head against the brick wall in the hope that you may break it before it breaks you.

In the 21st Century I simply do not see that as acceptable in a society that spends money on all sorts of things designed to ‘enhance our lives’ and ‘keep us safe’, what is the point of any of it if people in crisis of any kind are not helped, it is a form of discriminatory behaviour predicated on pandering to the needs of those who do not need much at the expense of those who need something, most of all some help. It is a random and short-sighted arrogance for anyone to feel that they may not be one of the people in need one day because we know that money does not buy happiness and does immunise against mental ill health.

Such an injustice for those in need will not change overnight, it will take time and pressure but most of all it will take a debunking of the nature that this is somehow uncommon.  Many strides have been taken on account of people speaking out and declaring their mental health conditions, in some cases one might be cynical and claim that some had something to gain from that, be it publicity or such like, ultimately though it has still helped to shatter the myth of this being a low level problem that affects an underclass of people.  As more people come out and share their experiences so others are emboldened to do so and the general awareness of conditions and their proliferation increases, from that, one hopes the idea that ‘they didn’t have this much depression in the old days, people just got on with it’ will be consigned, rightly, to the dustbin.

Song Of The Day ~ Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

So let’s look at the old car first. I can get a nice old car for £500, I have done for the last few years, cars that in their day cost a great deal of money but are now out of favour.If my car were to get 35 miles to the gallon – not a great deal by modern standards (and actually a little less than I do get but it makes the maths easier). Say I was to do 500 miles a month with 35mpg and petrol at £1.40/litre that would mean I would need 14.29 gallons for my monthly mileage (1 gallon = 3.79 ltrs) so 54 ltrs. which is £75.80 per month. My tax would be £220 /year which equates to £18.33 / month. Insurance generally costs around £35/month and then you have to take into consideration general wear and tear and other costs such as MOT and any work that needs doing for it. (MOT – £40, assume £100 to sort niggles and £100 wear and tear, on brakes, fluids, tyres, seals etc. = £20/month)

So my old car, with nice specifications costs me somewhere in the region of £150 a month – no small amount of money when you consider I’ve spent £500 on the car in the first year this means £2290 in total so over a 5 year period (being that of the warranty of most new cars) this would mean £9450 – let’s say £10,000 for sake of argument, and the odd major blip to do with the engine or such like. At this point I own my car and could sell it for a similar amount to that which I paid provided I have kept it in good condition. (I could also decide to convert my engine to lpg gas power which would decrease emissions as well as lower the cost of fuel. This conversion would cost around £1000)

To get a new car of equivalent initial value at the time as mine is no small cost, but let us take one that is a hybrid to give the full advantage of a new car.. Were I to take a BMW (the same make as my old car) this would cost £48000 and get 44.1mpg so let’s not take that or the comparison would be not worth making. Let’s take a VW Golf Bluemotion. Reasonable spec and around £8000 outright buy price. For an extra £300 you can get a service warranty for 30000 miles or 3 years, whichever is the shorter. Taking my 500 miles a month figure you would not exceed the 30000 in the 3 year period. As the car is new you would not have to pay for an MOT test and let us presume the tax is £0 (I don’t think it is, but some hybrid cars are so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt). Let’s also give it an inflated mpg because I know some claim to be able to do over 70. So taking 70 mpg baseline x my 500 miles I would need 7.14 gallons half the amount and only £37.90/ month for fuel. So for my first 3 years I’m paying £9364 in purchase price and fuel, add £1260 for 3 years worth of insurance (although with the car being worth far more the insurance will be higher) = £10624. The subsequent 2 years will cost more, I will no longer receive free servicing and if I do not get the car serviced I will lose further value on it – already my car will have depreciated by >20% just for having used it at all. However the car should be reliable so let us half the £500 I have allocated to my older car for niggles. The insurance cost is likely to stay steady because although the car depreciates in value and I get a no claims bonus the cost of insurance is usually rising, and I was generous at the beginning so you’ll have to allow me this one! So £250 niggles, £840 insurance, £910 fuel, £100 x2 wear and tear = £2200 +£10624 = £12824 full 5 year cost. Rounding up as I did with the old car analogy it’s £13,000

The difference in latent financial cost is therefore £3000 however there is of course the environmental issue of my old car’s emissions, these have a much higher concentration of CO2 compared with a modern car, some of which have very little. Though I could get the lpg conversion for £1k. It is estimated that 11% of carbon impact comes from production of the car with the rest coming from the usage. So were you to buy a hybrid car for example it is likely to be more environmentally efficient than a used car. However in the example of the VW Golf as I have given I am having to come up with £8k just to start the process, if I were to go for the finance option of paying every month I would pay a great deal more in total – somewhere around £10k and if at any point I missed payments I would effectively own nothing. This does not detract from the environmental argument but even were I to look at a used hybrid car I am looking at around £5000 minimum, even factoring in a part exchange on my old car at full value that takes it down to £4500.

So using this rather basic example green cars are indeed cheaper to the environment than old petrol and diesel cars the cost is not environmental but financial. It is simply not feasible for most people to come up with several thousand pounds, when the squeeze on petrol prices, the loss of earnings due to inflation and the rise in home energy prices are pushing surplus income to a bare minimum. I would I confess reluctantly give up my old car but given the large reduction in monthly expenditure it would certainly persuade me to do so were I to be able to afford it. The lack of being able to save this money where those with more disposable income were able to do so further widens the division between those on the higher incomes from those on the lower ones. It is the same sort of argument with taking the train (where it exists as an option for your journey), or regular buses (should the routes exist that make you able to use these) the cost of these so frequently price the lower-incomed out of the market. Environmental considerations are wonderful if only we could afford them.

Song Of The Day ~ Deacon Blue – Raintown

Now that grabbed your attention didn’t it?! I’m sure no-one would expect me to be a believer in the right-wing theory that it’s all bollocks and just a trojan horse for the environmentalist lobby. Bear with me, I have not suddenly had a Road to Damascus (Texas) conversion!
What is quite clear is that there are those from a scientific perspective who say that climate change is a real threat and is either caused by, or exacerbated by the emissions and profligacy of humans. There are also those who claim that climate change either does not exist or is merely a cyclical meteorological pattern that has existed for as long as the Earth has and will continue to change the base climate regardless of the actions of the beasts living on the planet. What I do not understand is how this can have been the prevailing argument for so long when it could be rendered easily redundant. What this has in fact done is given the neo-liberals and neo-capitalists a chance to fudge the issue and spend endless years comparing the science and statistics of various positions, which the politicians have then picked up on and postulated at the relevant summits in order to not actually do anything about it.

What remains an issue without contention is the fact that we are running out of the substances that currently form the backbone of our energy provision. There is no science to suggest that this has been a hoax, the debate is merely over just how long each substance will last until it is exhausted. For some of us it will be within our lifetime, for others it may be in the lifetime of our children.

There are many potential reasons for this obfuscation of the real problem. Firstly for the corporations that have a vested interest in the energy industries their agenda is to maximise their profit for as long as possible whilst at the same time allowing themselves time to put the feelers out into other markets that they may be able to control to the same extent as they do at present. If one believes in a capitalist system of business, profit and market economics one can hardly blame them for this, to do anything else would be not to be fulfilling their mandate to maximise the companies profits.

[Some might say that this is an over-simplification and that companies have a vested interest in making research and development key in order to continue their dominance of the market but this is, in my opinion, not to take account of the very basic facts that the heart of capitalist ethic is to take more out than you put in, this is profit. The less you can put in and the more correspondingly you can take out the better the profit and the higher the sense of success. In times when money and industry abound inward investment may be seen as a good idea but in times of economic downturn the demands of the shareholders do not decrease as their purses are stretched but the company’s access to money will diminish. The pressures therefore to take higher risks are dramatically increased, as again can be seen from the example of the banks.]

In addition to the corporational involvement one must consider the governmental angle in this. For the United States the demise of oil will be something of an economic catastrophe and not simply because they run larger and less fuel-efficient cars than anyone else. The US economy is propped up by the very fact that oil is generally traded in dollars, this trade is one of the principle reasons why confidence has remained in the US economy and the US is more than a little keen to preserve this as can be seen by the measures they will go to in order to protect this trade. Already the US has declared oil fields legitimate military targets, it has engaged in war on Afghanistan on dubious premises in order to protect the Caspian oil and gas pipeline and then shored up control of the Iraqi oilfields by illegal regime change and the installation of a puppet state. It has declared as an ‘axis of evil’ those states that have attempted to switch their oil trading currency to Euros. It is true that much of the reason for the change in these countries policies is to be specifically antagonistic to the US but that in itself is not a crime, and neither is their choice of currency. However without the trade in oil there will be less investment in dollars, without that investment the US economy will no longer have sufficient confidence to hold the debts it is currently allowed to hold and loans will be called in. It is on a larger scale again the same situation as has happened to many of the banks over the last twelve months.

The cost of not changing the methods by which we power our economies is that we will enter a period of drastic inflation of energy prices without the wherewithal for most ordinary people to be able to source their energy from elsewhere. This means that the energy shortage will hit the poorest the worst. As the debates continue so the time within which to do something about it diminishes and therefore the costs to actually make a wholescale change in time rise substantially. It is worth remembering that it is not merely individuals that will suffer from massively higher energy prices, so too the small business will become less and less viable as their smaller profits will be eaten up by larger overheads. We are likely to be left with the larger conglomerates that have, at least in the short-term, the profit margins to absorb some of these increases. Of course the conglomerates will have more of a monopoly at this point and will be able to pass on price rises to the customers, the lesser choice coupled with the likely rationing of fuel will make customers far more hamstrung than they are used to being now.

One of the critical things that illustrates graphically that people in power have not grasped the true nature of the problem is that the main governmental force for an energy replacement is nuclear power. It may well be that nuclear power is a lower-carbon method of power generation but this reduction comes at an extremely high price. The dangers of nuclear waste and potential for nuclear meltdown are well-known and in their worst case scenario quite catastrophic, one must add to this the security risks of nuclear weapons and also the fact that if using Uranium there is a finite resource, if Plutonium then the resource is less finite but the risks higher.

Why is it therefore that each new house is not being built with solar panels on its roof? Why are the larger rivers and estuaries not being looked at for tidal, and why critically are schemes such as large scale solar panel development in the Mediterranean or Atlantic which could power much of Europe not being given cross-national funding in order to be online as soon as possible. Instead people are being asked if they like windfarms and many communities have responded that they do not and do not wish such ‘eyesores’ to be in their vicinity. One does wonder how many of said communities would prefer a nuclear reactor blocking the skyline? Furthermore it is quite clear that these communities are being allowed to take a purely selfish view, or the smaller picture of the view through their window rather than looking at the bigger picture of whether a country’s economy survives and all the comforts they are used to alongside it. In my view communities that wish to ensure they are not in the target areas for sources of renewable energy should be allowed to remove themselves from the national grid and be responsible for sourcing their own power. If they produce a net surplus then they may choose to sell this back to the national grid thus not only creating a disincentive for disassociation but perhaps an incentive for very small areas that do wish to be progressive. Areas such as these would remove further pressures on the national grid itself and give impetus to communities looking at being ahead of the game. A community that is self-sufficinet in power terms is far more likely to be able to withstand the further pressures (should there be any) of global warming.

For industrial purposes it is not feasible solely for each community to generate power for its inhabitants and there needs to be a greater range of solutions to cater for the larger users. These should be looked at where possible in offshore solutions. Companies that pay money to research and development of renewable sources of energy provision should be given subsidised energy prices for any of such energy that is generated. Companies that do not can pay tax on the fossil fuel generated energy that can and should solely be used for further development and construction of renewable sources of energy.

In the case of transport infrastructure must be replaced and set up to ensure that those who do not wish to use cars should have a viable alternative both financially and logistically. Those using cars where such an alternative exists can be taxed and this revenue ring-fenced for transport spending to increase and improve the network. Transport must however come under the umbrella of local government, it must have as its primary function the service provision and not that of making a profit. Each town must have a railway station and each village at the very least a regular bus service to the nearest amenities including hospital, schools, shopping, railway station and industrial parks.

In the case of foodstuffs it is ridiculous for farmers in Africa to be growing cash crops that are transported by air to western countries whilst millions on the continent go hungry. this must be seen as a supra-national problem and not an “I’m all right jack” situation. The West must look after its own food needs and we should all get more used to eating the food that is seasonal and can be transported short distances easily. There are many methods by which such food can be saved throughout the year so as to vary diet.

You may be under the impression that renewable energy cannot sustain large economies and is therefore only feasible as a part of the solution, but this is information generally fed by an ill-informed media and those with an agenda, whether hidden or otherwise. Scientists have in fact calculated that a large solar panel development in the Western Med/Atlantic could generate most of the power for the whole of Europe. of course politically this would necessitate an interesting set of compromises but nevertheless it proves that such methods can be employed were the will and then the finance there to support them.

It is likely that at present we still have another fossil fuels left that we have the ability to make up the shortfall whilst we increase renewable energy to take over full capacity, there will however be a tipping point at which there will not be enough left to do this. I am at present at a loss to see just how a move to a renewable economy is in any way a bad idea, it completely transcends the climate change argument because it makes long-term social and economic sense, if therefore it could be implemented we would see the results of the climate change argument from the position of already having safeguarded our economies and development. Where is this not a win-win?

Song Of The Day ~ Nubla – Nada Se Olvida

As I had this one as a work in progress I see Big John has beaten me to it.  However John and I are coming from a very similar perspective and I find his post lends weight to my assumptions as he has a little more life experience of the days before ‘the man’ took over than I do.

I find it interesting that one of the principle criticisms of what many see as having been the embodiment of Communism is that everything is required to be the same, no variation because all is dictated by the State.  Leaving aside for the moment whether what they are basing this on is a valid system of comparison or whether this idea of a uniform-requiring State is correct to any left-wing ideology I wanted to try to see just how the alternatives to anything left of centre manufacture this difference, if they do so at all.

If one looks across the Western world and in particular the United States the reach of the corporations is practically all-pervasive across the board.  From one town to the next there is a worrying homogeneity that renders each town devoid of any singular identity.  Much of this can be seen most graphically in comedian and broadcaster Dave Gorman’s Unchained America in which Gorman seeks to travel from Los Angeles to New York without paying any money to ‘the Man’ ie the chain corporations of America.

Gorman’s choice of vehicle may be more in keeping with the romantic wooly ideals that one starts any such road trip rather than to do with any practical study as to what sort of vehicle one might actually need in order to safely conduct a trip but this in a way is part of the charm, along with his tendency to veer off at tangents that make interesting broadcasting if not fiscally or physically prudent.

Gorman’s presumption is that the trip will be relatively straightforward but this proves to be far from the case.  On his trips into towns called Independence across America, he finds either that the faceless corporations have rendered the town utterly indistinguishable or that the few places of character and individualism are in terminal decline, one particular gem closes on the very day he is there having served as a diner for the community for over 60 years.  It will not be replaced and is unlikely to be revived.

Interestingly the smaller independent places whilst ‘economically unstable’ do sometimes fulfil more one of the fundamental points attributed to Marx and Engels namely to provide workers with more of a stake in things and therefore an interest into their success.  There were numerous examples of multi-generational working through the family business.  It is not surprising that in this situation these people care about the business in which they work and the community feel of such places can lend itself to a belief that one is providing a service to the wider inhabitants and not merely in the pursuit of profit.  Of course this is not always going to be the case and standard employees may feel no more empowered than were they to be working at K-Mart or Wall-Mart or AN Other-Mart.

The people running these independent premises tend to be those with a sense of family tradition or occasionally a sense of the absurd or the non-conformist as embodied in the dog-shaped hotel that Gorman stayed in en route.  These are people, generally 50 and older who have lived through times where the homogeneity was not so pervasive, the 1950s with smaller more intimate shops outside and even often inside the cities, the 1960s with its social changes and cohesive ideals.  These are perhaps the few people that didn’t grow out of such intentions and sought to continue to live by their principles in one form or another.

What the corporate premises cannot provide the same is the value-added service that the independents can, it’s just that this is not appreciated in today’s world as it once was.  Everything now comes down to the bottom line price.  No longer is it important for the cashier to know your name, or what your usual order or to have a specialist expertise in their field and this means not only are we offered merely the selection due to the pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap philosophy but we are also given homogenous staff who have no field of expertise and cannot give any depth to the shopping experience.

Even the few places holding out like a Gaulish village against the invaders are having to make sacrifices, butchers are forced to buy in much of their stock wholesale in order to compete with the supermarkets on the prices of staples such as sausages and mince restricting themselves to the more premium speciality items.  Bakers are now usually chains producing the same items daily in one shop as another, and could the young today tell the difference between a Grocer’s and a Greengrocer’s let alone cite any place that they might have seen one?

I find as I get older that I look forward to the chat at the butcher’s on a Saturday morning as I pick up my meat for the weekend.  I know many who make the monthly trip to the farmer’s market in town mainly because they .  When even the local pubs in many towns are run by national companies serving the same beer at the same price and keeping it badly in the same way

This trend is not set to stem in its tide.  As the time in our lives as well as the budget gets steadily ever more squeezed people are understandably feeling that they are forced to count the cost above all other concerns, choosing to shop in the huge monolith one-stop supermarkets and their partners online and this is a service that can generally only be provided by the big guns and a token smattering of a select few enterprising farmers.

Gorman’s conclusion is that whilst he just about managed coast to coast with only one corporate petrol station payment and one burger that only made a brief foray into his stomach before rejection his journey was far from easy and like as not would be impossible in ten years time.  Big John’s idea of doing a similar thing in Britain I suspect would be beset with many similar problems especially through the more industrialised sections of the country, however owing to the smaller distances I imagine the refuelling would be less of a problem.  This should not make us be complacent about it, what has happened in America has frequently over the last 50 years translated itself over here in time as the culture melds itself into the hegemony and the businesses seek greater influences in the market.  Most of the time the smaller independent businesses survive now where there is far less economic viability as the great corporate entities are uninterested in the service ethos unless it carries a hefty profit worth their while.

There is therefore a real danger of Britain becoming awash with such uniformity, it already reminds me of the America in which I lived 18 years ago and not in a good way.  But can we really be surprised?  One cannot expect businesses to reign themselves in because they have become too successful.  Whilst the marketeers may talk about competition and freedom of choice being the ideal these do not make good business sense as much as having a monopoly on the market and the ability to keep overheads low and profits high, it is as if the competition phase is the fiscal capitalist revolutionary stage necessary to facilitate the vultures from picking off the corpses of the dead and the dying in order to facilitate their subsequent dominance.

Ironically when one looks at which ideology demands pureity and uniformity both racially, culturally and socially I think these are normally things associated with the right rather than the left so why is it still the perception that capitalism provides for a wealth of choice whilst any alternatives are the road to guaranteed totalitarian adherence and conformity?  For this one has to look at the great propaganda victory of the multi-nationals who now have us thinking that we have a mass of choice when actually we merely have a variety of ways to have the same thing and these are dictated by the middle men themselves.  The providers are squeezed in order that corporations can buy their raw materials for as low a price as possible and we are forced to pay the prices they want us to, whilst led to believe they are doing us a favour in doing so.

Go back to your shopping lists people and prepare for markets and local shops and local produce, it is the only way to make the stand.

Song Of The Day ~ Squeeze – Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)

As Liverpool mourns the death of an 11 year old boy, shot by another teenage boy on a bike the politicians are quick to come forward to claim they have the answer and will be implementing a series of strategies, the opposition claim in fact they have the answer and will implement a load of different strategies. Forgive my cynicism but I fail to see either of their chosen paths particularly relevent.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith thinks that a border force will stop people and guns from getting in. I’m sure that the Home Office is not at all jumping on the chance to slip some more anti-immigration legislation through tacked to some rhetoric about it being designed to get guns off our streets.

Conservative leader David Cameron’s answer is to give tax breaks to married couples, amounting most likely to around £20 a week. How they can see this as a panacea one can only speculate. I don’t know if they have really studied the figures or whether they, like Labour, have chosen to tailor make the problem to fit the solution they already wish to put in place anyway. Do they really feel that children from 2 parent families will never offend and that the culture that exists today will go away if parents are given a spare tenner each of a week. This is utter lunacy. I have a suspicion that many of the statistics that the Tories use come from a comparison that transcends local boundaries. Middle class children are less likely to offend, this is because their parents are often able to give them activities, a breadth of experience, some realistic chance of an education and employment not merely the fact that there may be 2 parents still together. It is true that a dual parent income may well enable a different upbringing but if the state provides things as it should be doing this fact will become an irrelevance.

The actual context of this area of Liverpool stems from the rivalry between the Croxteth Crew and the Strand Crew. This part of the city is pretty characterised by sink housing, unemployment, poverty and under-investment. There is little or no infrastructure in these areas nothing for children to do, same old story as in cities across the country. When the news crews did talk to Local councillors the message was clear that they didn’t feel that investment was coming in the area, and this combined with and contributed to a lack of education and jobs. Children from empoverished parents, and it doesn’t matter in this environment whether it be one or two parents present, see large sums of money and kudos changing hands in the gang and drug culture is it any wonder that it is a lure for some. Furthermore there is widespread evidence that those who choose not to get involved are persecuted as outsiders. This sort of peer pressure is already rife in children of these impressionable ages, if all your friends are dealing drugs and making money and carrying weapons…

A recent survey stated that Liverpool and Manchester were the easiest places in the country to get firearms. Whilst still a comparitively new and shocking phenomenon it is clear that this sort of crime is on the rise. As a whole crime remains in a slight downward trend over the long-term but in the short-term violent crime is increasing especially in specific city areas.

Children this age feel they are invincible, this is nothing new, we have all been there, the consequences of actions simply do not happen to us, statistics and warnings are only for those on paper. Kids used to go out mugging when I was growing up, occasionally they’d have got hold of a piece of wood or a flick knife, this was relatively common in the shit parts of West London I grew up in. Guns were pretty much confined to the US and the big boys. There weren’t a lot of guns on the streets but the mentality was there to use them of they were. The idea of carrying to protect oneself was a normal gambit for many I knew who carried knives. I carried one until someone made it clear to me that if you carry it you have to be prepared to use it and after pondering on this a while I decided I probably wouldn’t be.

Every now and again such an example will be deemed so terrible that it makes national headlines, but the events in cities such as Nottingham and parts of London barely make a ripple these days. Gun crime may be extreme but these days only murders tend to make the national news and it is generally put down to gang crime. People are shot with increasing regularity and kids are amongst the dead and wounded all the time.

When this does make the news we have a seeming scrum to offer opinions before 2 days later it has all died down. What is going on in the interim time before the next story? It would apear not a great deal. A policy being floated now is that witnesses will be compelled to give evidence and police claim, as always, that they will protect them. Their record on this is not good. This fails to take account of the fact that it is not cool to be a grass and those who are perceived to be so, whether or not there is any foundation in the accusation, are often beaten up, ostracised, mistrusted etc. Add to this the fact that if you are the wrong colour in the wrong place at the wrong time the police will stop and search or randomly arrest, this happens daily to black and asian youths alike depending on which area you are in and whom the police feel is the greatest threat. A culture of hating the police for their bigotry, harrassment and racism is becoming more and more engrained. This is not a environment conducive to obtaining information and whilst it persists the police will always be fighting a rearguard action.

A big deal has been made of the fact that the parents responsible for young offenders didn’t know where they were when they were committing the crimes. I know full well that when I was younger and went to school on my own on the bus I had the opportunity to get into trouble which I sometimes took and my Mother was not aware of where I was at a specific moment in time because she relied on good faith that I was getting the bus into school as I had been told. Should she have never let me out of her sight, I don’t believe this would have been good for my upbringing or self-reliance or social interaction.

It is being cited that central to this issue is that of home life but to my mind that is largely missing the point. Children do not spend all their time at home nor should they do so. We have to keep a healthy balance between allowing our children progressive freedom in order to face the outside world and facing the people in it and keeping them safe. Were our streets to be safe now we would have far less worry. The lack of social cohesion is always going to bite us in the arse and if we do not tackle this then no money, tax breaks or more plod is going to make much difference.

Looking at the youth as an entity is like holding up a mirror to our future. If we do not want things to escalate as they have done in the US where gun crime is far more normal then we must act now to give young people inclusion and a stake in the community in which they live. You cannot expect them to care for people or places when they have grown up in a culture that sees them only as a nuisance and to be locked up after the sun goes down. To my mind there should be a form of national service, it should be gender agnostic and put school leavers of 16 to work for 2 years and leavers of 18 for 1 year if going to University/Technical College (it is important not to favour merely the academic as this is not the only form of education) or 18 months if they are not going into some form of tertiary education. No buts, no exemptions. The work should be in hospitals, youth clubs, old folks homes, drying out hostels, nurseries. Everyone should get the chance to try these things out it is good for the community and good for the individual.

It can be achieved, even in this modern world but the will has to be there and at present that is open to question. Canada is right next to the US and yet it does not have the same level of gun crime as the US despite gun ownership being of similar proportion. If you invest with this in mind you are taking care of the future, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. But it has to be an integrated policy and it has to be continuous, there is no quick fix and there never will be. Until we start to address this we will watch young people kill themselves.

Song Of The Day ~Gary Numan & Tubeway Army – Are Friends Electric?

I got an email from my twin the other day. She asked me whether I thought the timing of the current alert level in the UK regarding the perceived terrorist threat was too coincidental to be plausible, I thought by the tone of her message that she might be afraid that she was presenting some wildly speculative conspiracy theory. I answered that I felt she had read the situation quite correctly and I felt that if you were to take the film The Matrix as an allegorical story about the flow of general news and information across the Western world then I think it would portray things pretty acurately.

In addition to that recently I saw a news article that the police were issuing “unprecedented amounts of information regarding the recently arrested terror suspects.” I heard the information, much of it seeemed to relate to “possession of articles useful for preparing acts of terrorism” including instructions (no further qualifying information given) and maps, including maps of Afghanistan (no further qualifying information was given.) Now bearing in mind I have a copy of the Anarchist cookbook and a large 200 page atlas, I also possess the same information they have carted others off for. So if they want a reason to bang you up now, all they need is potential, this is no longer just some lunatic paranoid conspiracy theory it is exactly what they are doing, this to me spells one clear thing if they want to get you you’re fucked, after all who doesn’t have a map, some sugar, some bleach, or a can of petrol in the car? They still can’t determine what you’re thinking but they can lock you up just in case you might be thinking something they don’t want you to think.

Instrumental in this is the way it is all handled in the media, it is the frog and a pan of water analogy. Drop a frog into a pan of boiling water and the frog wriggles and writhes and dies in pain. However put a frog in a pan of cold water and heat the pan and the frog doesn’t notice the change in temperature and dies without a struggle. Were all the information presented to us in one go many would put 2 and 2 together, this cannot be alllowed to happen so it is trickled like the sand from the escape tunnels in the pocket of the POWs is sprinkled down the trouser leg into the yard. The proof of this is that if you present people with factual information about just how bad things have got they simply will not believe you, because they cannot conceive that such things would happen without them noticing.

The control of the flow of information and the desire to exercise social control by propaganda and tacit brainwashing is nothing new. The Nazis use of it is well-documented but increasingly less-taught, perhaps because through its teaching one would see the inevitable parallels. You might think that just rhetoric and sensationalistically extreme but I would suggest you look at the rise of a man called Alfred Hugenberg and his control of the German media in the 1920s-30s. If you cannot see the parallels between him and someone like Rupert Murdoch or Sylvio Berlusconi (the worst but by no means the only people to use their influence to attempt to brainwash the public to their own subjective view of reality.) then I would be very surprised indeed.

An example of how this media whitewash has been used is the way our parents and grandparents were subjected to was the treatment of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. It is very widely reported the key to the crisis was Kennedy’s standing firm in the face of Soviet threat to the Free World and how he made the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev back down. This just simply isn’t true, it neglects to mention that the Soviet claim for the citing of the missiles was in fact the protection of Cuba from the United States, after all under Kennedy’s presidency the US had already attempted to perpetrate a coup d’etat in the Bay Of Pigs incident in 1961. One must remember that if this claim to be providing missiles as defence rather than as an aggressive act does not stand up to scrutiny then the US was just as guilty having placed its missiles to “protect” the United Kingdom, Italy and Turkey. In fact the US was far more the aggressor of the time since it possessed over 300 land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles to the USSR’s 6 and overall according to the National Resources Defense Council’s Archive of Nuclear Data the US had 27,297 warheads to the USSR’s 3,332.

It was in fact the Soviets, principally Khrushchev who ensured that no retaliatory action was taken by Cuban forces against the aggressive US tactic of low-flying aircraft over Cuban territory seemingly in an attempt to provoke the first armed response. Khrushchev’s mistake was that in return for his decision to have the Cuban missile bases decommissioned the US withdrawal from Turkey was not widely publicised saving Kennedy the embarrassment of the climb-down. This failure ultimately led to Khrushchev’s removal from power 2 years later because the rest of the politburo felt that the propaganda war had been won by the US.

More recently the media propaganda situation has had to become more clinical, more systemic so much so that many people take it all for granted without questioning the legitimacy of the sources of information. We have news 24 hours a day but that does not mean we have all the news, we are reliant on certain key stations controlled by a very small number of organisations, the control must be absolute because it is no use trying to create fervour if the evidence from certain quarters contradicts it. These days you will find very little conflicting news.

After all if one charts major world events over the last five years they have gone something like this:

11/9/2001 World Trade Centre attacks. The US administration decides very quickly that since Al Qaeda have used training camps in Afghanistan, the Taliban are responsible for 9/11 and that gave the US carte blanche to exercise its “right” to a regime change. (Neither the fact that these camps had been setup with CIA funds, nor anything to do with the Caspian Oil Gas pipeline were mentioned.) After the Taliban had been removed from Kabul and a regime had been installed with a ‘safe pair of hands’ the US sought to turn its attention elsewhere knowing that the objectives for going into Afghanistan had been accomplished. Hamid Karzai’s election passed off with little fuss, no mention was made of the fact that in 1996/97 he was a consultant to American oil company Unocal on the US$2 billion project of a certain oil and gas pipeline between Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan, the Caspian pipeline. Interestingly much of the traffic of this pipeline is designed to provide support for the Dabhol power plant near Mumbai, designed to provide up to 20% of India’s energy needs and majority owned by Enron. You can see one might be forgiven for thinking that it is the same names cropping up again and again.

I do not think the 11th of Sept attacks were a conspiracy or the organisation behind them a fabrication this would be historical revisionism but I do believe the US government made what it wanted to out of them, after all they strung the war on terror out to include a nation that had previously nothing to do with Al Queda or the 11th Sept attacks simply because they wanted to remove a guy they put in charge in the first place. (No mention was made at the time of UN resolution 1441 that US President George W. Bush had already long since decided that it was a question of when rather than if the US would invade Iraq, and according to his Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill despite there not being any evidence of WMDs, Bush’s resolve was firm that it would be done whatever. No mention was made of Saddam Hussein’s past links with the CIA).

During the height of the Northern Ireland conflict only an idiot would have thought that because there were bombs going off in England that all Irishmen were terrorists and yet this is the logic applied currently, that Islam is a violent religion and by extension all Muslims have a guilt by association tag. And yet another example of the subjective presentation of events does come out of the Irish case because whilst globally the vast majority will know something of the IRA and the republican actions, only those far more involved would be able to name loyalist paramilitaries or the political parties that represent them. Ian Paisley, a supposed man of the cloth, is allowed to peddle his ideology of hate and intolerance whilst any foot out of line on the other side results in politician and media frenzy.

I do believe that Iraq had WMDs at least it had possessed them within the 10 years leading up to the US invasion, whether or not they had already been used is another question but to my mind the smoking gun the US was allegedly looking for was something they held all along, namely the invoices to the weapons they themselves and their allies had sold. The US had shown little interest in the welfare of the Iraqi people when Saddam was massacring Kurds, nor did they leap to help the Iraqi resistance in 1991 when uprisings around Basra and the Southern provinces were brutally crushed.

Now after the toppling of the secular Saddam and the leaving of an Iraq in no fit state to resist the US takeover of infrastructure and oil distribution, the US looks around for someone else and suddenly the Syrians are “sponsoring terrorism”, but it’s too soon after Iraq and they can’t quite get the troops together and there’s this public outcry so that dies down for a bit but wait, the Iranians are developing nuclear technology and this could mean they’ll have a bomb, but that just doesn’t seem to capture the imagination of the other major nations, they aren’t buying it Russia and China are standing firm, and lo, miraculously Hizbollah come out of the woodwork after Lebannon has been stable for years and there’s talk of Syria getting involved and now finally they’ve got a proper scrap in the Middle East.

There is little analysis as to what is causing the problem in the this conflict, little criticism of the role of Israel, often the aggressor, whilst Hizbollah are subjected to widespread vitriolic condemnation. it can only be a matter of time before an individual in Hizbollah is singled out as the most evil person since… (notice also that the list of comparitive evil epitomes does not include certain people like Suharto, Pinochet, Kissinger, Nixon etc.) Nothing creates crazed frenzy and panic like a good old fashioned apocalyptic threat at home, that really galvanises people to hate the bad guy, proper pogromic lynch mob hysteria that is.

So I guess that’s a yes I do think the current terror alert in the UK rather conveniently timed. After all how can it be that the really big terrorist acts get through with no intelligence and yet capriciously timed others are found out, and strangely made public very quickly. Surely you would want people to remain calm, business to continue as usual, you’d keep it under wraps until it had been fully investigated and picked apart. In addition to this whilst it is claimed that security is on high alert across the country’s airports it is not especially evident in anything other than irritating bureaucracy and ridiculous rules and hand luggage. Perimeter fences remain easy areas to get to with full views of runways and the discovery of a 12 year old boy who got through all the security checks without even having any travel documents does not seem to backup the government and police assertions.

The trouble is we are rarely made privy to the intelligence they claim to base a lot of these alerts on, it is very wooley and non-specific and a raft of knee-jerk legislation usually follows, accompanied by much outcry and yet passed through the legislature just the same. This is the government of the state of constant heightened alert. If one takes the perception of the world at large and in particular that of the safety of people and property there is a perception that crime against the person is sufficiently on the increase to make people feel insecure in their own homes. Where has this perception come from? By and large most people find out about crime through their neighbours and the media. Since communities are being increasingly eroded the reliance on the media seems likely to become almost the only source of information.

If you listen to the government around election time they will tell you that crime is going down and has been for their tenure, they will in turn quote statistics to prove it whilst the opposition will look at the statistics for individual crimes and single out the ones that are going up. However when it comes around to the time of passing repressive home office legislation the government are quick to single out the upturn in certain types of crimes so as to make you afraid enough not to question their decision to further erode your civil rights. Since the opposition are just as right-wing as the government their critique is that the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

In the UK at the moment anyone would be forgiven for thinking that up until the last 5 years there was no such thing as anti-social behaviour and that we have seen this sudden surge in crime committed by an evil youth element. (No mention is made as to the lack of social spending focused on people between the ages of 10-16.)

Contrary to what the mass media might have you believe, Raymond Kelly, Commissioner of the NYPD says that crime overall is down 12% in the US and down 65% in New York. This is not to say that there are not genuine problems, gun crime amongst the young is emotive and shocking but hardly widespread which is why events like Columbine create national and international headlines. Interestingly the lobby who will campaign that there is too much sex and violence on our TVs never protest at the morbid fascination that the media has with real-life tragedy such as Columbine, after all they choose to see it as the vindication of their idea and not as could be suggested the propagation of the problem.

Yes you can switch off the TV, or not read the newspapers, but equally then you will not know what the masses are being fed and it is therefore more difficult to counteract it. The advent of digital cameras and blogging will undoubtedly lead to greater independence in the recording of information, albeit from many different subjective sources, but to determine what is the news is often easier than one thinks. Firstly disregard the pap, the celebrity shite, gossip and such bollocks, this is not news, it is noise. Secondly ask yourself who is doing the telling and what they may want to achieve by putting a particular point of view forward. Thirdly find a source of information that is diametrically opposed to the first source you found and compare the information they gave. Think of it in the sense of a football game. The news is who played and who won, if you ask 2 fans on opposing sides they will tell you many different things about events of the game but they will both tell you the same result because that part of the report is fact. The rest is conjecture.

If people fail to finally realise the processed homogenised information that is being fed to them then Orwell’s vision of 1984 becomes ever more real only with far more technological instruments than Orwell could ever have envisaged. After all, news published on websites, how many people have the power to check if what is there 1 week after an event is what was reported originally on the actual day?

“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”
-George Orwell

Song Of The Day ~ Zero 7 feat. Sia Furler – You’re My Flame

Original Comments:

kevin g made this comment,
Took me a while to read your entry, but I understand your point. Control of the media is a tool as you supply the facts/statistics you “feel” the public needs to know. But the public are just as much sheep as they let on to be. I know far too many “patriotic”/flag waving fellow citizens who really have no clue of what’s going on outside the US! It’s funny that I posted a bunch of The The lyrics in an entry, as I was hoping to drive the point home, the relevance, as the songs were from the 1980’s and related much more to 2006, though I guess I didn’t make an impact, as you are surely to do. Thanks.
-Redbaron responds – Hi Kevin, I appreciate your patience and committment wading through what turned into something of a marathon. The public are sheep, but it is important for every one of us to keep speaking up against the force majeure. Besides anyone else who quotes The The lyrics deserves to have their message heard. Which song did you use? Heartland/Angel Of Deception?

comment added :: 27th August 2006, 17:01 GMT+01

“No-one doubts the need for immigration controls, but it would be immoral to deport those already here that our economy depends on” -Jack Dromey Deputy General Secretary T&GWU (BBC article)

I am pleased that at least in part someone is finally questioning this ‘consensus’ on immigration and asylum. It is however only a moderate critique from within and I have to put forward 2 points of order here.

Firstly I do doubt the need for immigration controls. I guess it depends on your definition of need. It depends on what you see as a priority – whether it is people or possession. It seems to be an accepted fact that we cannot just have no control for this would open the floodgates and this is not a good thing. This is an interesting assumption, perhaps based at best partially on fact, there is after all no questioning that without any immigration control there would be more people seeking to live in this country. But I thought capitalism was about competition? Surely the competition for labour would in fact be good for business, it would streamline the workforce in a very Darwinist way. I am not saying that is a good thing from my perspective, I am simply pointing out that there is an anomaly when it comes to this isolationism rather like when it comes to the ‘Free Market’ which is in fact merely a series of trade tariffs and barriers to protect the rich countries from being undercut by the poorer ones.

The EU, or principally France has the Common Agricultural Policy, one of the biggest pieces of economic protectionism outside the US and what accounts for around 50% of the total EU budget. To illustrate the point even fellow EU countries that depend heavily on agriculture like Poland are not subject to the same protection as the French so it is a case of protectionism within protectionism. This does kind of pale into comparison with the US which has tariffs on almost anything of strategic importance and it uses political pressure to bring to bear weight on many other things. The US thinks nothing about forcing trade down routes that it controls or will profit from.

This is not strictly a post about trade, but it is a post about inequity and contradiction and expounding some myths that we tend to take for granted and the Western World’s idea of free trade is certainly a good example of that.

The second point of order to Mr Drobey’s comment is the economic premise that were there to be an amnesty (which is not going to happen but it is a point of debate) that the illegal workers currently employed within these borders would continue to be as much an asset to our economy as they currently are. This, I’m afraid is romantic idealism. The very reason illegal workers are employed here, just as there are so many Mexicans and other illegal aliens in the US is that these workers are not subject to the same legal protection offered to legitimate employees. They are not subject to the minimum wage standards nor national insurance or pension provision. This is clearly not the choice of the workers but that of the employers who can circumvent a great deal of red tape and save themselves a great deal of money both in the payment of paltry wages and the avoidance of insurance payments for every worker. Furthermore they are able to exploit worker productivity as workers can be sacked easily or threatened with being reported to the authorities if they do not tow the line.

The worker’s very disenfranchisement is their sole usefulness to the employers. Were any amnesty to be contemplated not only would employers prepared to take on illegal staff be potentially exposed but their cut-price labour would also be under-threat. If such an amnesty were put into place the workers as part of the amnesty would have lost what made them employable in the first place. There is every chance some may find new legitimate jobs but it would not stop the illegal trade in labour. Firms relying on low-paid workers would either go out of business or simply employ new illegal staff.

To stop illegal immigration it must be done at source and thus you must assess just what it is that causes it in the first place. On the one hand there is the intention of the immigrant. If one chooses to see an artificial differentiation between political or economic migrant one is distracted by a common smokescreen, it is an irrelevance the difference is merely in the detail and the source of persecution. The intent of the migrant is to seek a better life. No-one doubts the merit of the human desire to strive for self-improvement and yet in this case politicians and the media appear to be in complete denial of its existence or the force with which it can propel people. The greater the adversity the greater the hardship people are prepared to endure to alleviate suffering. To assume that by trying to stop people coming in we remove their reasons for uprooting is lunacy. The best way to stop people wishing to leave their homes is to make their homes places in which they are happy to stay.

If the richer countries were compelled to distribute their wealth to provide the same quality of life to the poorer nations as they enjoy themselves there would be far less immigration because there would be far less danger and dissatisfaction in countries of origin.

The second party in the illegal immigration is less to do with latent human self-advancement and self-protection and more to do with greed. Those that profit from the trafficking or slavery of people exploit misery, suffering and desperation for their own ends. And yet precious little money is spent by governments on stamping out these people, certainly a minute fraction compared with what is spent on preventing the individual immigrants from getting into or settling in countries. There are many companies that seek to increase profits by reducing overheads and reducing labour costs illegally is one way of doing so.

You can contrast the illegal labour situation with many criminal trades. Take the drug trade as one example. If you choose to apply the law primarily to users you may seek or even partially succeed in removing part of the market but you do nothing to reduce supply or potential new customers. If you focus only on the supply chain you may reduce the supply but not the demand. Efforts must be dual-focused to reduce the dependence on drugs thus tackling demand whilst at the same time removing the profitability of the drug trade and remove those that benefit the most from it thus tackling the supply.

Were borders to remain the immigration problem could only be tackled in the same two-pronged way. The only way I could see this happening and being a viable long-term policy is a sustained period of investment by the rich to redress the balance of global wealth coupled with a complete dismantling of all borders. The two must go hand in hand because the dismantling of the borders would act as a perfect incentive for countries to make damn sure that they do invest in poorer countries or else they may be faced with the sort of flood of immigration they have always been hyping up and predicting.

However were the borders to be taken down entirely, people’s concept of the space they have control or interest over becomes very different, as does the amount of people they feel represent a threat to their influence. Over time people’s notion of country will diminish and with it the sort of ridiculous patriotism so synonymous with it. Likewise the affinity they feel with people will be more confined to local issues and loyalties which tend to be more pragmatic. There would be no need for monarchies, duchies etc. People would be more likely to ensure that equality is taken on a local basis, it would be in their best interests to do so.

What is the actual foundation of national borders? What is there to say that they should remain in perpetuity? In fact taking Europe as but one example if we look at the shift in borders even over the last 100 years it proves the fluidity. After all whilst some islands consider themselves separate nation states, others form conglomerates either by diplomacy or military intervention. On a larger land mass like Eurasia there is no basis for divisions it is an arbitrary concept. The boundaries cross natural borders just as they often cross over traditional tribal boundaries. Along with religion these man-made constructed borders have caused some of the greatest strife of humanity and are still the basis of wars and bloodshed across the globes. These boundaries separate peoples as well as natural resources, they deprive some just as they endow others. The removal of these borders would be indeed an anarchic proposition and it would bring about the wholesale destruction of large-scale government in favour of more local representation. How this would work I do not know, I do not know if it could work entirely without some regional umbrella co-ordinating cross locality trades but the very dismantling of these borders would bring about a paradigm shift in the way we see ourselves and our place in the society around us. Living as we do in countries defined as large-scale land masses with populations of millions or billions we cannot fail to see ourselves as insignificant and unimportant. If however we were to judge ourselves based on our place within family or local groupings we would automatically see ourselves as having considerably more influence.

In fact the removal of borders is not entirely in the realms only of anarchist fantasy. The Benelux countries have for some time had an open border policy with one another and this has extended to the Schengen group of countries within the EU. The reason these countries feel able to do this is because they feel there is not a threat of people from within this group of countries immigrating en masse. It is therefore seen that the political and economic stability prevents the need for emigration. Were this to be replicated on a much wider scale it stands to reason that more borders could be removed.

I’ll grant you this is a long-term strategy, and one could not expect many of those currently in power to give it up willingly nor for people who have been educated and brought up under capitalism to be able to embrace a communal way of living overnight. For many years I wondered how on earth the anarchist principle of no borders could possibly work when actually that is not the important question at all. Not knowing how something is done does not make it impossible anymore than it makes it less interesting or valid to analyse. The crucial question in this instance is should or shouldn’t it be done? If one cannot think up any cogent reasons for not tearing down the borders, and by cogent reasons I mean ones that are of benefit to the vast majority not simply the rich minority, then it follows that this is a good proposal to strive to implement, therefore to write it off because we don’t know what comes next is mindless reactionary conservatism. I heard a former Conservative MP talk about how the Conservative party had changed the course of people in Britain by giving many people something to conserve, it became crystal clear that he could only think in materialistic terms and that those devoid of vast wealth or material possession could only be in the state of wanting vast wealth and material possession. What are the reasons for having borders if we really think about it?

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…

Of course the song goes on “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” Quite.

Song Of The Day ~ John Lennon – Imagine

Original Comments:

Tabacco made this comment,
I commented the following at my blog. You reduced the whole subject of Amnesty to its bare essentials:


Jeux Sans Frontières – Future Shocks – Part 13 http://redbaron.blog-city.com/jeux_sans_frontieres .htm

“The worker’s very disenfranchisement is their sole usefulness to the employers. Were any amnesty to be contemplated not only would employers prepared to take on illegal staff be potentially exposed but their cut-price labour would also be under-threat. If such an amnesty were put into place the workers as part of the amnesty would have lost what made them employable in the first place.”

Read the entire Article at website above.


comment added :: 21st May 2006, 17:30 GMT+01 :: http://tabacco.blog-city.com/