Pray for petrol?

The things that really get our goat tell us (or otherfolks?) a lot about where we’re at as people, right? As ‘individuals’. They give stuff away. Like looking your fellow in the eye when you talk to them whilst simultaneously trying to tell the minimum amount of the truth – or an outright lie I suppose – they represent a tactical error, a cheap submission of possession. So I should probably be somewhat circumspect before blazing into some further Vinnydiatribe about well… anything. But life would be less fun, eh, if purveyors of colour and opinion such as my good self let too much restraint and consideration get in the way of a good rant? Rants can be okay – both entertaining and cleansing even – if they manouevre or lurch accidentally into the lush territory of comment; real comment, where spite and spittle and punkydelic revelation bridle against dumbstuff. So, eyes a-swivel… here goes…

Let’s start as so often with the abstract; the felt. There is a direct correlation between my feelings for and about my Outlaws (which are mixed), their adherence to the gospel according to the Daily Mail and the panic buying of petrol. And by surreal but clearly imagined extension the demonization of single mums/chavs/gays/blacks/Asians/everyone who has not the fortune to be starchily anglo-saxon with-a-little money invested, is further enwrapped, infuriatingly, into this blue-rinsed(?) bundle. Meaning the wasps’ nest that is currently and indeed typically my head responds with a kind of spontaneous fury to linkages between What The Mail Thinks – or its obvious but sometimes unsaid manifesto – and what then actually happens in the wider world. Although – forgive my anarcho-pedantry here but I am loathe to view this particular landscape as in any sense wide – it’s surely arse-clinchingly narrow but let’s move on. It is, therefore often the machinations of the sub-Middle Class Right that get my goat.

The comb-over racists; the instant coffee-slurping homophobes; the blandly bitter; the church-goingly devilish, Jammy Dodger-toting entrenched. With their silver cars and silver spoons. Their white sugar. Their propensity to sound so one-dimensionally thoughtless whilst in Twenty Eight Second Deep Political Conversation Mode that you wonder if they might implode like some un-gay fairy at the culmination of their most killing observation that everything is because “All these people are getting all these things and we’re paying ferit!” Yup; luv them.

So the panic buying of petrol – which I don’t of course entirely blame on The Mail – has troubled me. In terms of the demographic of the slavvering topper-uppers it might be interesting to see who these folks are – even who they think they are? – but sadly anthropologists are otherwise engaged in (relatively?) lucrative projects in Dubai or Cambodia, I suspect. Allegedly, much of England – you poor poor loves – has been standstilled by these decently law-abiding and Minister-attentive folk. Only a heroic few have resorted to battling on the forecourt in defence of their honour and their right to dismember the opportunity of other, less aggressively responsible souls. Should their physical condition allow it – ie. if Gaviscon/Werthers levels have been sufficiently respected, these Defenders Of The Right To Get Absolutely Mental have launched themselves from their Renault Clios in lion-hearted response to some other’s hands upon the precious nozzle. I picture them, rolling around in the blotted sands of the forecourt; legs thrashing the unleaded air, flat caps awry, brogues still immaculately tanned but twitching out, violently, the death-throes of Moral Rectitude. For the good of this great nation; for the civilised world; for Biddy Baxter and Douglas Barder and yes! David Beckham. Then dusting down and finding that bloody Tesco Clubcard.

There is no strike, incidentally. And if there was all the Great Powers know/knew that a week’s notice had to be given, begging questions about the realness of any emergency. (In fact, probably wee-weeing all over any such notions at all.) Interestingly or not, fairly compelling cases have been made for this whole farrago of clunk-clicked politically-motivated or simply inept ‘statements’ being a sharp little number from the government to help swiftly massage income up at a time when unhelpful figures might bundle economic commentators into using words like Double Dip Recession (and stuff). Conspiracy Theory or Truth? As always the twitter/internet beast seethes with contradictory passions but queues down the road have made a comparative irrelevance of such unpatriotic sideshows.

Perception is nine tenths of the law. People have been led to believe those commie lorry drivers (who spend surely too much time in French travel-stops talking to their unwashed comrades?) are about to stitch us all up; best get our retaliation in first. The top man himself has even suggested it might be prudent to stock up. The paper says The End Is Nigh – right there, on page 1, 2 and 3, next to the stuff about George Wassuname and the other Scots peril. Salmon! No – Salmond! He’s a red an all! And now he IS trying to nick our petrol!! Best strike a blow for the family, for us, by filling right up; in the blurry understanding that this might even have the double benefit of denying some treble-chinned Jock or workshy other from dribbling 5 quid’s worth into his unroadworthy Escort. Why not? I’ve paid my taxes; bet they haven’t.

If I’m cruelly extrapolating or inventing well then so be it. Personal experience leads me to believe and to fear in this way. On the one hand I ooze faith in people; on the other their herdiness, their plodding dumbness and perhaps most offensively their selfishness is, to me, galling. How dare I? Well, having during the writing of this mal-focused reflection visited out of some honestly genuine – ie. diesel-deficient necessity – a fuel emporium in Haverfordwest, only to find it bereft of that syrupy elixir, the hackles are again rising. I am transported by the vogue for rage.

So don’t talk to me about pipelines or planning or tankers or truths; get me a club. For I am preparing, raging but prudently, for the next life, where karma ensures I now know that I fetch up on some snow-blown floe, icily bank-full of purpose, marching at some doe-eyed seal pup; a particular and hypnotically engaging one; wearing a flat cap and – admittedly bizarrely – brogues.


If I say that we are living through extraordinary times it seems blandly, even arrogantly obvious.  But unquestionably historic stuff is “kicking off” – to appropriate Paul Mason’s stunningly appropriate term – all over.  A kind of us-centric response might proffer the Eurozone as exhibit A here, but large and hairy as that problem seems, perhaps it is right to acknowledge the proper, i.e. life and death stuff going off in say Syria/Egypt, for example. Oh and say Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan – remember them?

But I’m being perverse, right?  What I should be saying is something about Russia – that being the real news story of the moment.  And I should headline it with something like ‘Black Belt Bear Wakes With Sore Head’ so as to respectfully treat the issue.

If there is a point to this here outbreak of acerbic indulgo-cobblers, it is that news – that sensationally important backcloth to our mortal uncoilings – is often Naughtily Non-Representative of Anything Very Much.  Or at the very least we should be looking very carefully at its proportionality, its real import, its meaning.  In short, I’m not clear that enough of our news enlightens us to the story that makes the events.

It may be that all this vinny-mithering is a function of my disillusionment with our understanding of Euro-issues following our friend Mr D Cameron’s recent summit  performance.  Maybe I’m blaming the tabloids for the nation not getting it.  But getting what?

  • That surely the arguments against not joining with our European soul-brothers are much more about democracy than money.
  • That apparently there is still only black or white in all things because… because grey is just too difficult to contemplate.

I nearly, for one moment, asked if I was making sense but that’s not really what I’m seeking here.  I’m unravelling stuff; I seeketh not the crystalline – or at least I’m not in the position to make anything explicit.  Because there’s loads of stuff I don’t know.  However I do have some bloody good questions.

Like is it not perfectly acceptable to make an anti-thatnewtreatything argument on the grounds that tying so much in to one notion of (allegedly necessary) financial stability in such a draconian way is fascistically myopic.  You telling me that it’s not anti-democratic to disallow the possibility that individual governments, mandated to carefully stimulate their own economies, might act to promote recovery through prudent spending?

Bluntly, you saying that Leftism of any degree is kindof illegal?  Then I think, in the technical jargon of the financial industry, that you are jack-bootingly MENTAL.

Politics and the media seem to have colluded again in the exclusionment of ideas of this nature.  I wonder to what degree this is a function of the absolute stranglehold the god of economic growth has on legitimate debate.

So who’s having those important discussions about how new understandings of the essence of co-existence amid denuded ‘buoyancy’?  Who’s brave or stupid or smart enough to relegate mere matters of financial fact to item four or five of the real agenda?  Behind sustainable truths – behind the structural need for generosity.

I may have wandered again from the initial question of what is historically meaningful.  On the other hand, maybe I haven’t?

You banker

Recently I indulged in a little open description of my family finances. It may have appeared (as) some kind of cheap exorcism but as always the aim was to document how things are and how they feel. I stand by it as a social document and have been touched by responses to it. In the current lather that is my sports-blogging it feels appropriate to transport back and briefly revisit the real world but fog-bound motorway pile-up that is ‘the economy’ – everywhere.

This review is not, I promise you, in order to further bore you with developments –hah!- on our own situation, but rather to step into line with Deborah Orr’s “Children are unhappy…” piece from last Thursday’s g2, which deals with this notion that an economy must grow, or else die.  (Another UNICEF Report has looked at child well-being, in particular in relation to ‘quality time’/material things, suggesting to some that a) Money Can’t Buy You Love b) Buying Things is No Substitute for Love etc.etc).

I have to declare an interest here, having written a prophetically colourful play about a North European Protest Group who respond to an earlier UNICEF Report by committing rather wonderful acts of subversion and dissent; a play that was soundly rejected by The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.

Orr speaks inevitably of the links between the rat race and the accelerated pressures on good consumers/parents resulting in conflict between the “growth agenda” and human satisfaction. And this leading to unhappy children. She talks persuasively and broadly around and about issues of time/satisfaction/purpose, believing that our capitulation to a belief in growth as god is a cheap and inadequate response to the structural and philosophical challenges we face. She argues for a new socio-political conversation, as do I, as did Tony Judt, whose work has been something of an inspiration in these politically and arguably morally vapid times.

Deborah Orr wonders at the irony of Cameron being more engaged with the satisfaction agenda than Miliband. Judt calls on The Left to re-engage – on all of us to have a spirited debate – with political issues crying out to be addressed articulately. Issues like happiness, worth, proportionality, citizenship. Can we be bothered, we are asking rhetorically, to get past Daily Mail level exchanges in order to approach fairness and yes responsibility and wellbeing as a huge disparate group? It may take some thinking about.

As will the role of the City, the banks. I am one who is prone to judging bankers en masse as a bunch of reasonably dense, morally bankrupt parasites on the whale-like body of the economy. (Clearly it’s just most of them who fall into that category).

Once my prejudices have cleared, however, I remain with those who find it beyond belief that nations like ours have fallen under the spell of a handful of banks/global companies who have not and will not be held to account for their lack of intelligence/regulation/professionalism. It may be stupid of us to mindlessly serially abuse bankers… but they and the government(s) need to feel our hot breath, our verbal pitchforks, our gathering focus, our passion for that which is better.

Should we see this as an opportunity for an Arab Spring equivalent or a mere fiscal tightening, the point may be that we, the people are seeing that things demand our attention. People have been and may soon again be ‘on the streets’ – though clearly that fact is not necessarily a reflection of increased political intelligence in any quarter. Many of the rioters were criminal opportunists, or were caught up in something that felt exciting; it was hardly activism of any cerebral breed. Strikes may be different but in order for them to improve the general lot, let’s hope our Trade Unionists are quoting Judt and Orr as well as football songs when they stride purposefully out.