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.