Our Unfair Society (and Cavemen)

The current systems in place within our society do not work. They breed inequality, undermine democracy, and completely ignore important topics, such as the many environmental issues we face. We need change in a big way, but there are many obstacles in the way.

The main obstacle is ourselves. People are naturally resistant to change (ask anyone who works in HR). This probably stems back to instincts instilled in us when the world was a much more threatening place. Biologically, there is virtually no difference between us and cavemen. Born in the same environmental conditions, you and a caveman would be equals (the caveman would be a little bit hairier, granted). Cavemen had to live in a very specific way to survive in their world. Changes in their lifestyle could be fatal. Today, we still have that instinct that tells us, “if you are alive, you’re doing something right, so don’t change anything!”.

Just in case anyone’s reading this thinking “I’m using a computer – I’m way more advanced than a caveman!” – that’s due to accumulation of knowledge i.e. the people before us figuring things out and writing things down (which started with cavemen drawing on the cave walls). All I’m saying is, if you were dropped naked onto a desert island, how long would it take you to send an e-mail?

So, we are very cautious about disrupting the status quo, even if we can see, rationally, that we are being cheated. We feel secure when things stay the same.

There is also a well-established pecking order in our society, which provides another obstacle to reform. The powerful people at the top of the pecking order are constantly telling us that things are okay the way they are, and to change anything would be a big risk. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because they’re benefiting from the systems in place.

The people at the top of the pecking order are the mass communicators too, so their voice is the loudest, and it resonates in our ears constantly. They tell us that the people who want reform are crazy, idealists, and troublemakers. The people benefiting from the systems in place are the minority, so they have to turn us against each other to maintain their position. They also have to make us believe that social reform is out of reach, an impossibility. But maybe it’s closer than we think.

The philosophy we live by doesn’t make sense. One person starves to death while another is born the Queen (two people who are both shaved cavemen). Since the philosophy doesn’t make sense, the supporters of the philosophy lose touch with reality or use their influence to suppress real-world issues. All we get are minor changes designed to appease the masses – we are seeing plenty of them in the run-up to the general election!

As it stands, we are not in control of our own lives; we are used by the ruling class. We need to pry our lives from the desperate grasp of the powerful in order to live in a fairer society.

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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.”

 

 

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!

Mansion Tax

The prospect of a Mansion Tax has really rubbed rich people up the wrong way.

Myleene Klass has stated that the Mansion Tax, which would be aimed at properties worth over £2m, would affect “little grannies” in London. I believe that’s what she’s concerned about as much as I believe that David Cameron really cares about whether or not the Green Party are involved in the TV election debates.

Millionaire Myleene stated that £2m wouldn’t get you much in London, and that these “little grannies” will have had these properties passed down to them through the generations. Firstly, as I have touched on in a previous blog, some wealthy people are completely out of touch with the real world, therefore, what Myleene Klass classes as “not much” could well be a mansion to someone like us. Secondly, if people are getting mansions passed down to them through generations, these are the types of people who are born into wealth and don’t have to lift a finger their whole lives. Thirdly, if the Mansion Tax would cause these people so much hardship (although, what they call hardship and we call hardship may be totally different things), they could move away from London and purchase a whole street in the North.

Other well-off people have spoken up against the Mansion Tax. Do they expect people to show sympathy for them? If you have a property worth over £2m, you’re a very lucky, wealthy person.  I have seen a lot sympathy for these rich people in the press…but maybe that’s because the people who run the media are very wealthy people with £2m properties. Take it with a pinch of salt. And be under no illusions, very few of these people went from rags to riches. 99.9% of them were privileged from birth and had opportunities presented to them on a platter. The other 00.1% will know what it’s like on the flipside of the coin and won’t oppose the tax.

I’ve seen a few common arguments against the Mansion Tax. One is that a person may have bought a house for much less than £2m originally, but it has since gone up in value. So, am I supposed to shed a tear because the value of someone’s property has skyrocketed? Wait, isn’t that what dreams are made of!?

Some say it’s not equitable because the cash-poor asset-rich owner of a large house is liable for this tax. In other words, these are people who inherit a mansion and blow their money on a hedonistic lifestyle instead of getting a job. If born to the underclass these people would be called scroungers, deadbeats and bums. If they’re so cash poor, why don’t they sell their £5m mansion, buy a £1.5m property (if that’s not beneath them), and then live on their £3.5m? You wouldn’t have to work a day in your life with that sort of dinero. Or they could keep the house, and maybe just sell off one of their Ferraris, or a Rembrandt, to help pay the tax.

A Mansion Tax would help reduce wealth inequality in the UK and redistribute resources to help people at the other end of the scale. The rich will still be rich. The poor will still be poor. But it would be a step towards improving the quality of life of the worst off amongst us.

Bring on the Mansion Tax.

The Primitive Working Class

It’s no secret that the elite upper class that run the United Kingdom are completely out of touch with every day working class people. This is obvious due to the constant blunders that we witness on TV, radio, and social media. They are so out of touch that when they try to look ‘in-touch’ they look more out of touch than ever.

Rory Stewart (MP) describing his constituents as “primitive”. Michael Fallon (Defence Secretary) saying that towns on the East coast are “under siege” and “being swamped” by migrants. Lord Mandelson saying unemployed Brits are unwilling to work. Would he work in poor conditions for minimum wage?

I know Alan Duncan (MP) wouldn’t. He famously complained that MPs were treated like “s–t” and had to live off of “rations”. For those of you that don’t know, MPs get a basic pay of 64 grand a year, not including expenses. My heart bleeds.

Similarly, Boris Johnson (Mayor of London), described the £250,000 earning from his newspaper column as “chickenfeed”. Maybe if you’re a supplier for KFC.

Gaffes like this are commonplace, and they’re all very funny until you realise that these people aren’t cartoon characters. They are actually making real decisions about our lives. They are the ones representing us worldwide. Most of them see the working class as a curiosity at best, sub-human at worst.

This is dangerous because 1) they are making decisions about things they don’t understand and 2) they are causing people to turn to despicable political parties such as UKIP (who are also out of touch upper class elitists, only with nastier intent and ideology).

The UK is stuck in a rut. I believe the 18th century parliamentary set-up we have is out-dated. We need a huge political reform that encourages a representative cross-section of society to make decisions at the highest level.