Just Say No


Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale includes a scene of community punishment. Not punishment IN the community but punishment BY the community. The oppressed Handmaids are goaded into participating in the execution of enemies of the regime, ‘particicution’ to use the precise term. For the fascist-fundamentalist state in the novel, the method of execution is a very deliberate means to neutralise opposition. Who did the killing? The elite who decreed the punishment, who took no physical part in it, or those common folk who did, each fearful of betraying any lack of enthusiasm?

One or two posts here have highlighted how the London regime has recruited military parades and remembrance events to its campaign of mawkish hypocrisy, in a bid to make everyone feel a part of the illegal, immoral wars waged in our name. We shouldn’t be taken in. We should continue to demand justice. We should continue to fight to reverse the current rule that only those who vote for mass murder may live at No. 10.

Last weekend, Channel 4 screened Roman Polanski’s film, The Ghost, in which a British ex-PM is on the run from justice. One of an ever-growing number of biting satires in which Tony Blair, or a character modelled on him, finally gets what the viewer expects to see. The fictional justice has to make up for the lack of the real thing. There’s laughter and relief, but sadness and frustration too that politics has failed, that war crimes suspects can walk freely in Britain and laugh at justice. Never forget: this happens because voters continue to return the war crimes suspects to Westminster as their honourable representatives. No-one else is to blame for this state of affairs but your neighbours and theirs, all denying their manifest responsibility for collective guilt.

Creating public complicity in war crimes has been a useful learning experience for spin doctors everywhere. They have learnt how to fine-tune fear into unquestioning support for intervention, and a smooth media-silencing of those deemed less than patriotic. In recent days, as the scandal over bankers’ bonuses – not, of course, the systemic issues surrounding them – continues to escalate, we have begun to glimpse ‘Phase II’.

There’s been plenty of bleating from the City and its friends about a ‘lynch mob’ mentality towards the bonus culture. The stock answer to public outrage has been disarmingly simple. That it is taxpayers’ money involuntarily invested in the failed banks and if taxpayers want their money back then they have to pay whatever is asked to those responsible for rescuing it.

It really isn’t that simple. If the banks can be turned around at all, it won’t be quick. Stricken businesses don’t make miraculous overnight recoveries. Remember Rolls-Royce. Remember British Leyland. A prudent investor might well ask how much more this is all going to cost. Might it not be cheaper to pull the plug? Switch off the life support?

Many jobs would be lost. In London. In Birmingham. In Halifax. In Edinburgh. Not so many in Wessex, and the money freed up could replace those with others that do more good. The Cheltenham & Gloucester business is in the process of being sold anyway. Lloyds and NatWest branches make nice wine bars and restaurants and no doubt there are other assets for which there’s still a market. It’s not as if these are firms we couldn’t live without. There is massive over-capacity in the banking sector and using taxpayers’ money to stave off the long-overdue reckoning isn’t pretty.

Often there is a cost to be paid to get clean of an addiction. You want to give up smoking? Well, do it now. Don’t wait until you’ve had the ‘benefit’ of smoking what you’ve already bought. Past governments haven’t shied away from writing-off colossal assets when it suits them. Margaret Thatcher happily sterilised hundreds of millions of tons of irreplaceable coal reserves in order to destroy her political opponents. Coal at least can be burnt. Most money can’t, because it only exists as entries in the banks’ accounts. Let’s get real, and concentrate on staying real in the dangerous years ahead.

It’s important for the regime that we collude in its financial as well as its military ventures. It’s important for us that we don’t. We need sounder priorities than those that most voters chose in May 2010. We pay our taxes so that public services can be provided in return. We don’t elect Governments to speculate with our money. Never mind Stephen Hester waiving his bonus: when are Alistair Darling and the rest of those involved going to turn out their pockets and pay us back for the bad bets they made in 2008?

But that needs to be just the start. We need to rediscover the power of politics to look ahead in defence of the common good. We might, say, repudiate the national debt to the extent that it was incurred to fund wars of aggression, in other words, illegal expenditure. Banks need to be reminded that all debts owing to them are null and void because they created the pretended ‘money’ out of nothing and so did not offer genuine consideration in return for allowing the loan to be secured against real-world assets. The heart of our economy is a scam, folks, and we let it continue at our peril.

Political transformation has to start from within. That’s why we need a one-word response to those who would entrap us within the spider’s web of deceit that passes for ‘the way the world is’.

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