I originally wrote this article for the Bugle Magazine, published by Bethany Christian Trust in 2011 , a local charity that works with homeless people. I have decided to post again in 2014 ( new comments in italics) because of yet another example of “the let them eat cake mentality” that continues to pervade. I was disgusted to read that the Lord who sat on the House of Lords catering committee, which has authorised the purchase of £265,000 pounds on champagne from the public purse, blamed the need for the food banks on the poor people not being able to cook in fact they should be eating porridge. The reality is they are victims of the food industry and supermarkets pushing cheap ready meals, which are unhealthy and expensive if you examine real nutritional terms
We are being told that the economy is getting better and we are all going to feel it, it may be for the wealthy, who in fact have become even wealthier during the crisis. We were also told this at the end of 2013; I and many others still don’t feel this at the end of 2014.
The overwhelming sensation I grasp from the current set of inept politicians is they are completely out of touch as to how people feel; the festering resentment regarding the bankers, their dealings, their bonuses, the libor scandal with a sense there is still more to come out and how it is affecting us all in our daily lives. And more has come out – the Forex trading manipulation. A few more concrete examples; the two mortgage brokers from RBS who had swindled money via a mortgage scam, they were on salaries of over a £100,000 a year but were spared a custodial sentence because the judge felt they had suffered enough and had paid back the money. Another banker has been banned from working in the city because he had been caught fare dodging and couldn’t be trusted. Could you imagine of that had been “benefit fraud”? Beggars belief, yet they continue to demonise the poor and the vulnerable. Deliberate policy of divide and rule; a tactic used in the Scottish Indyref campaign. It’s a smokescreen to split the poorer people to cover up their abusive excesses, to protect their accrued privileges with those at the bottom increasingly squeezed, yet so many people getting away with not paying tax due to loopholes.
Their attitude resembles Marie Antoinette’s ‘Let them eat cake’. Are we on the brink of another major revolution? Are things that bad and so similar? A suggestion to reduce the number of Lords is to let them retire from teh house but still have access to the facilities in the House of Lords for their business meetings at taxpayers’ expense yet another example with echoes from that era. Although historians still debate as to the whys and wherefores, the main reasons for the outbreak of the French revolution in 1789 have been accepted as –
Out of touch rulers and governors. In May 1789, the Estates General met for the first time since 1614. It was composed of three estates, the first the clergy; the higher ranking came from noble families, the second estate the aristocracy; they took up important places not only in the Catholic Church but in the Military as well by what they deemed as their right. The Third Estate was everyone else from middle class professionals to land owning peasants and labourers. They demanded a more just representation to reflect their numbers; they were ignored.
France had severe monetary difficulties because of being involved in so many wars – the national coffers were empty. What did the leaders do? They overtaxed the third estate, there was a 10% tithe on their income, plus there were taxes on salt much needed then to conserve food, and on cloth, bread, and wine.
Although the revolution is seen as the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th, for over a year, there had been riots savagely crushed by the military on the king’s orders. Think of the new gagging law in Spain and the way protests are handled here. The cause of the riots was the price of commodities, on the one hand scarce because of bad harvests and the over taxing. The first and second estates paid little or no taxes.
These factors were further influenced by French mercenaries who had returned from fighting the American Revolution and the ideas of the age of enlightenment were sweeping through Europe, pushing equality for all and that Kings did not have an inherent divine right to rule.
There are some quite eerie similarities. Out of touch politicians: Van Rompey the first President of the EU asked for a 5% increase in his entertainment budget and the new presidential palace in Brussels estimate cost in 2009, £280 million, final cost never revealed. The millionaire cabinet; David Cameron spending £700,000 tax payers money on refurbishment of the private PM residence in Downing Street. My personal pet hate George Osborne Chancellor with his smug grin and patronising tones who has £4,000,000 of his inheritance in a Swiss Bank account, is not paying UK tax on the interest and just popped off on holiday spending £11,000 on a weeks skiing trip for himself and family. He is obviously taking advantage of the improved economic conditions whereas most of us have not felt it yet. But don’t worry we are all in this together, us hard working families not forgetting single people. Okay George, with your conditions I’m in this together. What he spends in a week; People on zero hours contracts earn less than that in a year.
Severe monetary difficulties – what can be said for the Euro Zone the situation being dealt with the ostrich style of gamesmanship, making a bad situation worse. Our role in both Iraq and Afghanistan, which most people did not agree with, if only our politicians had learned to read some history, they would have seen it was impossible to control, quell, manipulate in the times of the Raj. The British Mission to Kabul was massacred in the 1860’s. The Afghans didn’t want interference then and they still don’t. What right do we have to impose our style of democracy, which on the one hand has evolved for centuries in Europe and has clearly been hijacked by our current set of politicians and their cronies in big business, I feel and fear we have become a kleptocracy.
As for over taxation as usual the poor are getting poorer to pay for the arrogant, extravagance, and selfishness of the bankers, their bonuses and warmongers through excessive taxation but are abolishing the higher end tax. Income tax always hurts the poor disproportionately and they have few resources to outwit the tax authorities and woe betide them if they do.
As for the price of price of food; a topic heard in everywhere as prices rise and rise and the saddening sickening increase of food banks, which simply should not happen in a country supposedly so advanced with an economy improving on the backs of people on zero hours contracts. The directors of the top 100 FTSE companies had pay rises of over 50% last year.
And for enlightenment, the diffusion of information through the Internet, social networking was an important factor in the Arab Spring and we saw riots in Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, and Thailand in 2013. Egyptians continue being crushed and Hong Kong’s umbrella movement has been defeated, though not as violently as Tiananmen Square. However, we all know about it and social media gives a different, wider reaching and more human perspective. We are all getting fed up with the politicians.
Will those in power pay heed in time – I doubt it. The French Revolution has been marked as the beginning of our current era and I feel it is coming to an end. The seeds for this crisis being sown in the Thatcher era, the privatisations, selling of council housing, erosion of trade union power, creating people more greed motivated than ever. They sold of the Royal Mail that the majority of the British Public didn’t want at what now appears to be a knock down price. East Coast managed by the public sector the best rail operator in the network is to be sold off even with concrete evidence that it works better as a public service. The losers the British tax payer, the winners the politicians’ cronies, yet they refuse to take heed, swamped in their neo liberal politics and dogma of austerity. . The gap between rich and poor, which had been reducing since the end of the Second World War, began to widen once more in the late eighties and has gone from bad to worse.
The retail sector is hoping for a good Christmas to boost dwindling profits, this year pre Christmas trading 2014 appears to have been better, though the importation of the black Friday concept proved sickening, watching as people fought over goods that are no doubt seriously overpriced to begin with. Our politicians such as they are whatever level or nationality will just tell us to buy and eat Christmas cake or just make porridge. History is cyclical and has shown repeatedly it repeats itself, as we do not heed its lessons. I have felt like many others for some time that something has got to give and this time the consequences will be worldwide as is clearly being seen.
However, I am more optimistic as I am proud to admit I voted Yes in the September Scottish independence Referendum, The grass roots reawakening of people’s interest in politics and the belief that there is another way, a better option and potential for a fairer happier society.