Posts Tagged ‘credit crunch’

southport pierSince 2007 we’ve been observing a world in freefall. Something’s gone wrong with the money machine, and the machine is a mystery to me. Try as I might, I just can’t figure out how it works so, like my car, I tend to leave such things to the mechanics. All I know is that the mechanics tell us we can’t just print money when we run out of it. If we print it, they say, the prices in the shops go up, so we run out of money again and have to print even more. The result is a never ending and upwardly inflating spiral of destruction.

The problem is, of course, we have indeed run out of money – lost it apparently – but such is the depth of my ignorance, I don’t understand where the money has gone. I know money is largely computerised now, but when the pundits opine that billions have been wiped off the value of the stock market, does that mean there’s a computer program somewhere deleting it?

If I only understood these things a little more I’m sure I’d be less cynical when we hear the tired old politicians’ saw that we’re all in this together and tough decisions must be made. But I’m not so ignorant I don’t understand that phrase: “tough decisions”. It means diverting money away from anything that betters society – diverting it to where, exactly, I’m not sure, but certainly nowhere it will do the majority of us any good. Those tough decisions may be expedient in terms of getting the  machine going again, but it seems also morally perverse, no matter what the money mechanics tell us.

To my eyes, something is wrong at the heart of the machine, yet the solution the mechanics are groping towards appears to be a painstaking restoration of the very thing responsible for the breakdown in the first place. It seems unwise to merely restore a system we know has imperfections so deeply ingrained it cannot help but impale itself again on the future shards of its own avarice. I’m aware this is a naïve view and it’s probably why I’m unsuited to the field of money mechanics.

The majority of people remain silent on these things, like me, lost in ignorance and apathy, focussing purely on the next pay-cheque, the next bill. We regard the economy the same way as the weather – something we must occasionally take shelter from, and are powerless to control. So, we look on in dismay and gather those closest to us, that we might comfort them with platitudes as the tornado cuts another swathe. But human beings are not meant to live like this for long. And six years of “tough decisions” is a long time.

We are all of us aspirational. If we cannot feel the thrill of life, however we define it as individuals, it makes us crazy. We might be tempted to expand ourselves in directions we ordinarily would not. And if the compassionate, inclusive directions in life are closed to us, what then?

They say there are no powerful ideologies any more – left or right leaning, that we run in the safe groove of the middle ground. Indeed someone famously declared the end of history with the fall of communism in the 1980’s. I think that was premature, for what is the avaricious freemarket economy, if not an ideology? And what are ideologies anyway, but irrational beliefs, each born from the ashes of the ideology that preceded it? But the thing with ideologies is the seeds of the old ways remain, like prehistoric grasses, frozen into the glacier of the new. And that glacier of the free market economy, has been melting so very fast of late. At what point will it release, drip by drip, those ancient seeds?

In Britain the ancient seeds are most visibly represented by the minority politicians who occupy the far right. I saw their footsoldiers in the summer. They went leafleting en-mass along the promenade of a wealthy seaside town in my locale. Bright eyed, jolly lads, they were. White, shaven headed and patriotically tattooed, they strode out with a purpose. But they also seemed intent on a parody of themselves as they handed out their literature of race-hate.

The Britain of my personal experience remains for the most part inclusive and fair minded, and I’m happy to report those leaflets were received with largely contemptuous ripostes. But I wonder at what point will those fair minded summer crowds be rendered vulnerable enough for the dark seeds take root?

Although the money mechanics remain by far the most vociferous of the media pundits, it’s clear by now this is much more than a financial crisis. It’s something that has reached to the psychic roots of our being and has begun to reshape us as people. We must therefore take care in the ideals we hold to, as individuals, for the only cure the mechanics can come up with is more of the same – namely the ruin of nations and the impoverishment of our children, generation upon generation.

In order to repair our world along the old familiar lines, it seems we must first destroy it.

So, as we stand on the cusp of this new age, and look to the future, we must be mindful of the times to come, that we shall at times feel our hands so tied we can no longer do any good in the world, that we will feel at times ever more restrained, unable to expand and feel the aliveness within us. Yet expand we must, for this is our nature. But whatever path we choose, let us remember the old doctor’s saw, that we must first do no harm.

There is an axiomatic kernel of decency in all of us, no matter how cynical and pressed. It’s an ancient thing, God given and born of dreams. It would always have us act to safeguard our fellow man, not out of legal necessity, nor national interest, nor economic expedience, but out of compassion. If we could only wake up to such an ideal as that, we might fix the machine properly so it works for all of us, instead of so intractably against most of us.

There has to be another way.

I know, I know,… I write stories, and most of them are fantasies too, but I remain hopeful.


Graeme out.

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Dear Elsie,

Thank you for your letter of the 27th inst. I do hope you’re keeping well and you’ve managed to get over that nasty cold you were telling me about. Thank you also for the pictures of your “little” homestead on the prairie. It looks like you’ve landed on your feet there (at last). As for feeling homesick for old Blighty, I really wouldn’t bother. It’s not the place it was, I’m afraid, and if I could find myself a ticket like yours – though it pains me to say it – I’d be clearing out pretty soon myself. If you had a spare room or two that would suit the good Lady Eleanor and I – and that husband of yours could stand the sight of me for more than thirty seconds – we’d be on the next flight over.

To be honest , I’m finding this climate of penny pinching a bit wearing, to say nothing of bemusing, now. You won’t believe this but I was listening to the BBC this morning and I don’t know if they make this stuff up to annoy crotchety middle Englanders like me these days but apparently some government think tank wallah has decided my house is too big for me now, and I should be “encouraged” to move out of it.

Damned cheek, if you ask me!

You know as well as I that chez nous is hardly a mansion – more of a three bedroom bungalow with a walk in cupboard that even the most imaginative estate agent would struggle to stretch into another bedroom. Yet it seems to be such middle-England “excess” said think-tank is having sleepless nights over. I’ve managed to squeeze a writing desk into it, with just enough room left over for yours truly to shoe-horn himself behind it. I call it, rather grandly “the study”, but after listening to the wireless, even I’m left wondering now if it’s not a bit extravagant, hogging all that space, given the dire state of our benighted motherland at the moment.

Do you remember father’s airy study in the old place? All that walnut furniture and the polished parquet floor gleaming, and him sitting there with his books and his papers, sucking on his pipe, gold pocket-watch gleaming? I wonder what he’d think of us now, all cramped and narrowly focused as we are, hardly daring to look beyond our next utility bill, always a sharp intake of breath at the cost of doing anything, whether it’s a holiday in the sun or a trip to the shops.

Still, we must all do our best to help out, I suppose. After all we’re constantly being reminded by our ruling classes that we’re in it together. However I rather take this to mean it’s my fault as much as anyone else’s, that old Jonesy down the road managed to blithely rack up a fifty grand credit card debt he’d not a hope in hell of ever paying off – me and the good Lady Eleanor who have never owned a credit card in our lives, the pair of us being brought up to consider them as one-way tickets to perdition! But there we are; Mother always lectured us on the virtues of altruism, didn’t she? Now’s our chance to practice it I suppose. However, I note with some irony old Jonesy’s managed to hang on to the bloody Jag, while I’m still running round in my Vauxhall. At least the old rust-bucket’s paid for, though what good that ever did me, I don’t know.

 Anyway, getting back to the house. I find I’ve rather grown to like it over the years, and shall be sorry to leave. It’s cost the Lady Eleanor and me a small fortune – mortgage system up the duff and all that – but it’s in a pretty part of the country, with a nice, private back garden that I can do my Tai Chi in without the neighbours thinking I’m a looney – really, sometimes I wish I was still out east! We’ve such a lot of memories here, such a lot of emotional investment in the old homestead, and it’s surely not so extravagant a place we need feel we’re depriving some other poor bugger the benefit of it. The two other bedrooms are securely occupied by our offspring at the moment, so I’m hoping we’re safe for the time being, but eventually my little study’s going to be a problem when the bedroom inspectors come round. I’m assuming they’ll be sending inspectors – probably someone from the council, like when they come to assess you local tax band?

 You see, house prices are so abominably high at the moment, our youngsters simply can’t buy their own places any more, because wages haven’t gone up in real terms here for fifteen years, while house prices have tripled, along with just about everything else you can imagine. I feel for them. I really do – those poor youngsters. One of the few advantages of being an old crock these days is you don’t have to worry about starting out. My own offspring will be hankering to move on soon enough, but since they won’t be able to afford places of their own, they’ll be freeboarding with us a while longer – worst luck – no, I love ’em really, the little rascals. But I doubt even their tenacious occupancy will be convincing enough for the authorities, and I’m really nervous about those spare-room inspectors finding out about my study. The good Lady Eleanor says I should start calling it a cupboard – just in case.

I could argue the toss, I suppose, point out to the bedroom inspectors that you’d need to be a magician to get a bed in there at all, but you know me and officialdom; we tend to leave each other equally confused. Better just to keep my fingers crossed, then. I could always brick it up and hope no one notices – you know: like they used to do with windows when we were taxed on those as well?

Anyway, perhaps they’re right, those think tank wallahs. Perhaps you don’t need lots of space when you get old. I mean, you may have earned it, but you don’t really need it, do you? All you need is a bed-sit, with all the basic necessities of life cosily contained in the same room – the khasi curtained off in one corner as a gesture towards modesty, I hope – though the Lady Eleanor will have a fit when she finds out about that. (You know how fussy she is about her private comforts). We had it rougher out east of course, but there was a bloody war on, so one accepted the sacrifices of dignity with a good heart. As for a bit of garden, well, what do you want with one of those when you’re old?

Anyway, I’d better close it there. 

Do pass on my regards to Chester, even though he’ll probably choke on them. He’s not such a bad old stick, really, and at least he had the good sense to marry you.

Your ever affectionate brother.


Editor’s note: Re that BBC piece this morning? I jest not! 

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