Cynicism

When I look at politics and society today it pains me to see so much cynicism.

cynicism

[ ˈsɪnɪsɪz(ə)m ] 

NOUN

  1. an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism

This cynicism didn’t appear out of thin air. Several things contributed to the current cynical zeitgeist in our society. The terrorist attacks on the 11th of September 2001, and the subsequent attacks since, are bound to sap people’s faith in mankind. The recession, caused by wreckless, selfish actions by banks and corporations, has had a negative effect on almost everyone – people are bound to be more suspicious of the world around them. In response to these things, the government has been making irresponsible decisions that hurt the vulnerable members of our society while protecting the wealthy and powerful.

The latter of these factors is the most interesting. The government has played a big part in causing this cynicism, and now it uses the cynicism to gain support. Basically, the government gave us a swift kick to the balls and then made us pay them for the ice to stop the swelling.

Here are some of the cynical policies the government wants to enforce:

  • No more benefits for drug addicts and the overweight. It’s all their fault, so why should everyone else have to contribute towards them?
  • Privatise the NHS. People are using it willy-nilly. Maybe they’ll think twice if they have to pay!
  • Stop people coming into the country. They’re going to sponge off of the system.
  • Bring back fox-hunting. Those little furry bastards are trying to take over the world!

The government is happy with the current unsettled, cynical state of our society because it gives them leverage to manipulate people. The government is able to turn hate away from themselves and onto others. Suddenly the government is providing ‘solutions’ to problems that probably don’t even exist, marginalising a few outsider groups in order to please the masses.

But the government won’t provide us with any real solutions, because that would improve the chaotic, cynical, unpleasant atmosphere we’re living in. And as we’ve establish, that’s the government’s leverage – it’s not in their interest to improve it.

Luckily, I think people are getting wise (or desensitised) to this way of thinking. The right wing parties that were enjoying a resurgence are now dying back a little bit. People are tired of hating. Greece have embraced anti-austerity (which is scaring the wits out of the EU). I think a change has begun.

However, the change isn’t in full-swing. The UK elections are only a few short months away: Will the public be ready to vote for change, or will we be stuck with the Conservatives again? Only time will tell. I only hope that the future holds less cynicism and more compassion for our fellow man.

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Targeting the Vulnerable – Who is the Enemy?

Who is the enemy?

It comes as no surprise that the Conservative Government are targeting the overweight and people with drug problems as the enemy this week. If you didn’t know, the government has proposed that the overweight and people with drug problems who are on sickness pay should have their benefits cut.

The logic behind this is shaky. Actually, calling it “logic” is a bit of a stretch. The fact is, the government really doesn’t want to pay any type of benefits to anyone. They resent having to give one single penny to anyone who isn’t in their circle of Chosen Ones. So, as a starting point, they have randomly chosen a vulnerable group of people to pick on, and they want to make life even harder than it already is for them.

Wait a minute, this is familiar. I remember seeing another group of people taking money from an overweight person, only this was in a school playground, and they also gave him a wedgie!

The overweight and drug addicts are vulnerable people. They often have mental health issues. The next step for the Tory government could well be to cut benefits to all people with mental health issues, forcing the bi-polar and manic depressive into work (or onto the streets) when they are at their most vulnerable, putting them and the people around them in danger. But who cares? It’s only the lower class factory-working scum.

Let’s not forget why people get hooked onto drugs or become overweight. The poor have numerous stresses and hardships that the wealthy, such as George Osborne and David Cameron, are completely unaware of. The biggest problem in life some people face is whether to buy the Rolls or the Lexus. Others have to worry about staying alive and housing themselves. These stresses force people to turn to escape-ism in order to forget how horrible their lives are. This means recreational drug use, which is fine if you have the personality type to control it. Some aren’t so lucky, and through mistakes, moments of weakness, or mental illness, they may find themselves hooked on harder, more life-degrading drugs.

And the overweight? When you have to work full-time for minimum wage and you come home feeling like crap it’s hard to motivate yourself to do exercise. If you have family to look after that makes it even harder. Unlike the Tory cabinet, these people don’t have gyms, personal trainers and nutritionists either. The poor will often buy the cheapest and most convenient foods and drinks, which is often unhealthy.

Vulnerable people can easily fall into unhealthy lifestyles. The government’s plan? Attack them!

It’s an easy option, because they know that they will get public support. David Cameron says: “It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.” It’s a rallying cry to turn people against the most vulnerable in our society when really we should be turning our attention to the real enemy: TAX AVOIDERS.

Wealthy tax avoiders in business and industry cheat us out of billions. The Conservatives turn a blind eye. Why? Because these same people fund the Conservative Party, and will fund the Tory election campaign later on this year. The Tories aren’t going to bite the hands that feed them. They will allow these educated criminals to go about their business.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, our moral compass…

The Conservatives want to divide and conquer. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let them turn us against each other. The working class isn’t the problem. You need to look to the very top to find our real enemies.

Let’s get rid of the Royal Family!

The monarchy undermines the concept of equality in the UK.

How can our society even pretend to strive for any sort of equality when we have such a visual hereditary institution hanging over us?

The Royal Family is a thing that we are all brought up with from birth. Everyone aged 3 upwards knows who the Queen is. We are raised with the idea that it is OK for this family to be born into wealth, luxury, and power. We are raised with the fact lodged in our minds that we will never be a member of the Royal Family because we’re not good enough – our bloodline isn’t up to scratch – we didn’t quite make the grade. We are raised to bow to members of the Royal Family and address them in a certain way, lest we forget our place in this world.

When we were children the Royal Family was shoved into our faces. At school we learnt about their lineage and what the different Kings and Queens did in history. From a young age we were told almost everything about the monarchy. The only thing they left out was the debate as to whether or not the monarchy should exist in modern day society at all.

This exposure to the Royal Family was the narrow end of the wedge. Once we have established in our minds that it’s OK for some to be born into power and privilege then it’s easier for the masses to accept all the other people who are born into power and privilege. I believe that’s the only reason we still have a monarchy in this day and age: it is being propped up by a network of people who think that they are superior because of some sort of birth-right.

The Royal Family contradicts democracy. It devalues the concept of intellect and achievement. It’s also expensive. Let’s get rid of it!

“The Queen is dead, boys, and it’s so lonely on a limb.”

-The Smiths

Equality in the Eyes of the Law

Every person in the United Kingdom is equal in the eyes of the law. But some are more equal than others.

When a lower class criminal sticks their hand in the till and takes a few grand the full weight of the law crashes down, splattering them like a bug. They will be publicly named and shamed, fined, and imprisoned.

When a wealthy businessman or banker commits a crime (often involving millions of pounds) they get a slap on the wrist, a comparatively small fine, or it is swept under the carpet completely. Or, which to me is even scarier, they follow legal channels so that they’re not technically doing anything wrong at all, even though they are causing just as much pain and damage to us underlings. To quote a Morrissey song, “Educated criminals work within the law”.

Look at the Libor scandal. Libor (which stands for London Interbank Offered Rate) is an average interest rate that many markets use as a reference point. It turned out that banks, most notably Barclays, were manipulating Libor for their own benefit – highly illegal. They stole billions, but was anyone held accountable? I bet hundreds should have got prison time for their part in the scandal, but they got off with a few measly fines.

Big companies are exempt from the law. Now and again, in extreme circumstances, one person will take the blame and lose their job. Yeah, and if I went to work on Monday and battered someone to death I’d lose my job too. But I’d also go to prison.

Then there’s the ability of the upper class to pay for the best solicitors (getting “justice” is easy if you can afford it).

And don’t get me started of judges! The people dishing out the sentences are from the same stock as the bankers, politicians, and the leaders in industry. The lack of diversity in the judicial system leaves it filled with out-of-touch white upper class males (and therefore the whole system benefits white upper class males).

To have equality in the UK we need to get the basics right. Equality in the eyes of the law is a must!

We Are All One

Mind the Gap documents my thoughts on class inequality in the UK. There are aspects of British society that I find frustrating. The wealth, power and life opportunities that the upper crust inherit is inexcusable.

However, I don’t see this as an ‘us versus them’ issue. Being born into a working class or privileged family is no more a choice than being born black or white. It would be wrong of me to attack a whole class of people for the situation they randomly find themselves in. This isn’t about two sets of people warring with one another. It’s about two philosophies, ideologies, going head to head.

Tony Benn was one of my heroes. He sadly passed away last year. He was born into a privileged, political family. He attended Westminster School and later studied at Oxford. He had a career in the army before becoming an MP. When his father died he inherited a peerage (a peerage is a title, such as ‘Duke’, ‘Earl’, or, in this case, ‘Viscount’), which prevented him from continuing as an MP. Benn campaigned for the right to renounce this title in order to continue in his political role, and was successful.

He was a great man, and always followed his heart in politics, even when it was detrimental to his career. He spoke out about the media and bankers about 35 years before our recent troubles. He was solidly against the fruitless Afghanistan and Iraq wars. His left-wing politics were aimed at equality and providing a better life for the cheated underclass.

Tony Benn was born into privilege, but that didn’t define him. His ideology and actions showed his worth as a human being. This isn’t ‘us versus them’. If you are born into privilege that doesn’t mean you can’t do the right thing. In fact, in order to eradicate our current social issues we need strong advocates on both sides of the fence.

We are all one. All people should be born with an equal chance to thrive. Nobody should fall straight from the womb into the scrapheap.

I’m a Glastonbury Festival man. Since 2008 I have worked voluntarily on the Glastonbury Recycling Crew. Tony Benn attended Glastonbury often, and I heard some inspiring speeches from him. He always used to say that it gave him a boost to see so many politically active young people debating and campaigning. Here are some great quotes from the late Tony Benn:

“Making mistakes is part of life. The only things I would feel ashamed of would be if I had said things I hadn’t believed in order to get on. Some politicians do do that.”

 

“A faith is something you die for, a doctrine is something you kill for. There is all the difference in the world.”

 

“All war represents a failure of diplomacy.”

 

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

 

“Normally, people give up parliament because they want to do more business or spend more time with family. My wife said ‘why don’t you say you’re giving up to devote more time to politics?’. And it is what I have done.”

 

“I think if you’re going to be committed to doing anything, you really have to care about it, and I suppose that is a romantic idea.”

 

 

To be Blunt…

MP Chris Bryant stated that it is easier for a person from a privileged background to succeed in the arts, specifically naming actor, Eddie Redmayne, and musician, James Blunt. James Blunt responded via an open letter, very maturely calling the MP a “classist gimp” and a “wazzock” before moaning about how hard he has had it, and that it was just as difficult for him to succeed in the arts.

James Blunt was born in an affluent area of the country. His father was a colonel in the army. He went to the best schools (Harrow) and his education was paid for with army bursaries. After education he went into the army and trained at Sandhurst, and was fast-tracked into high ranking positions. While in the army, he didn’t deal with the hand-to-hand combat and getting shot at kind of thing so much as captaining his army ski team. To be Blunt isn’t such a bad thing, as far as I can see, thanks to Colonel Daddy. During this privileged start he was able to listen to, learn, and compose music. He was also able to make contacts with powerful people and earn a lot of money. James Blunt is the definition of a “Chosen One”.

On the flipside, a person brought up in a terraced house, who starts with nothing, who goes to work in a factory at 16, who worries mainly about housing and feeding oneself, may not even think to pick up an instrument or a paint brush. Art is a luxury that people can turn to once the essentials are covered.

But James Blunt says that his privileged background was a disadvantage in the world of the arts. Believe it or not, I agree with him.

Working class people are the most diverse, interesting, gritty, thoughtful people on the planet. They are exposed to harsh lifestyles. They experience hardships and horrors daily. They work the hardest jobs for the crappest pay, and at the end of the week they go home to their families with a smile on their face. This is where real art originates.

Anything the James Blunts of the world can come up with will pale in comparison. James Blunt may be able to walk into opportunities because of his social class, and he may be rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But he will never write a song with the heart, pain, and emotion that the likes of Bruce Springsteen has written. He will never compose a melody that will rival anything by the Beatles. His voice will never convey emotion like Morrissey. He will never mesmerise a crowd like Tom Waits. He will never put his soul into an instrument like BB King or Jimi Hendrix.

So yes, I believe Blunt’s true artistic ability is diminished by his privileged life. But make no mistake, to be Blunt isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not going to shed a tear for him.

Democracy Day

Today is Democracy Day on the BBC – an event that marks the 750th anniversary of parliament and the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta (which established that the King was no longer above the law of the land).

The sealing of the Magna Carta transferred some of the King’s powers over to the nobles, and democracy as we know it in the UK stemmed from there. However, it hasn’t evolved quite as much as it could have done. Maybe that’s because parliament is used as a tool for individuals to gain and maintain power as opposed to being a force for good and equal opportunities across the country.

All those years ago, it was the nobles who were given the power. Fast forward to today, and it’s our modern day nobles that have all the power.

Of course, most UK residents are allowed to vote in elections now, as opposed to the privileged few. But we weren’t handed that opportunity on a silver platter. The people of the UK had to fight for their rights every step of the way. 750 years of parliament, and women were only given the vote in the 20s (by that I mean the nineteen twenties). Does that sound as crazy to you as it does to me? It wasn’t until the late 1960s that 18, 19 & 20 year olds were given the vote.

When people gain power they use that power to keep it. All the positive changes to democracy have come through relentless dogfighting, and further rights are given to the masses only sparingly and reluctantly as a way to try to appease people. This process has been continuously plodding on for 750 years, and we are still far from having a fair democracy in the UK.

The Chosen Ones still have a death grip on our society. Power is still hereditary. The underclass don’t have an official sway on policy (our only unofficial sway we have on policy and law is striking and protesting – a concept that is slowly dying thanks to legislation brought in by people in power that reduces the power of unions).

One could argue that the UK isn’t really democratic at all. A component of our parliament is the House of Lords, the second largest decision-making body after China’s National People’s Congress. It consists of nearly 800 unelected officials. And we supposedly live in a democratic country. It’s embarrassing!

What do we actually vote for, anyway? We have the choice of a few select careerists, and that’s our say over with. After that, it’s over to them to make all of the decisions (which is democracy for them, but not for us). What if, for example, you vote for Nick Clegg based on his shameful lies and then he gets elected into office? You’re stuck with him making decisions for you for the next five years just because of one day of public voting.

Of course, now and again a referendum comes along (see Scottish Independence), where the public get a chance to vote on one political question. However, this only occurs when either A) the government is pretty confident they’re going to get the outcome they want or B) they want to wash their hands of the decision and blame the outcome on the public.

Here’s an idea, why don’t we get rid of parliament and make ALL of the decisions ourselves? In this day and age most people have a computer, a smart phone, a tablet. I wouldn’t mind getting messages sent through to me a couple of times a week asking me how I want my country to be run. We could use the money we’d save on politicians’ wages to provide a tablet to all the people too poor to buy one for themselves, and invest in a broadband network to improve communication channels.

This would be true democracy, free of power-grabbing careerists. Do you think we could make this happen? No. Because the power-grabbing careerists in power wouldn’t allow it.

Happy Democracy Day, everyone!