You Couldn’t Make It Up

Blair is a god-father to a Murdoch sprog
MI6 and Libyan torture connections
CEO remuneration and all the venal grotesques infesting board rooms
As for remuneration lawyers and all the other sycophant s…

Riding around rich areas – in the area you’d get if you drew the boundary to connect Henley, Maidenhead, Windsor and Reading – there are plenty of what I imagine are ‘CEO standard’ houses.

Obviously their pay sucks. It’s totally wrong on every level – even their own. These people boost profits by short-termism – cuts to the workforce, no job security, no benefits, minimum wage – and not ‘performance’ in any meaningful sense of the word. These people create a ‘no-future’ culture, the sort some people are citing as a root cause of the recent riots.

Naturally, you wish the riots would hit these people’s houses, directly, not shops and innocent people, but, ultimately, appropriate as it might be to see these venal idiots with their heads on spikes, what would that actually achieve? I suspect the answer is ‘not a lot’. Violence is always the temptation of the desperate, the frustrated, but it never solves anything. Resolution always has to come by some other means.

We can have a ripple of media concern as we did today, but that was it – just a ripple. No outcry. We can have a shareholders getting upset but they’re the arseholes who are funding these people, only crying now it’s too late.

What is needed is society as a whole to be disgusted with these people … and all the other things that are crawling out of the woodwork of late.

(Ask Who Gains From A) Culture Of Fear

Today was a glorious late summer day – largely clear sky, hot, quite still. Perhaps a little too humid to be perfect, but very, very nice indeed. A good day for riding up on the Ridgeway, so that’s what I did for an hour-and-a-half, with Charli for company as normal.

In the whole time we saw passed two walkers – and that was it apart from a horse and rider some distance off. To be up high, undisturbed and – by dint of being on bikes rather than anything motorised – not disturbing anything or anyone either is a real pleasure. Accepting that we’re operating within the realities of living in this over-crowded neck of the woods, it’s hard to think of a better way to get away from the day-to-day.

As with the ride around south Oxfordshire villages the other week, the urban world of riots and ‘disorder’ seemed totally and utterly alien as we rode today. The media has been going on about record numbers being in prison as a result. It’s very difficult to know what context to view things within. The reports vary but there’s probably been around 3,000 people arrested in connection with the riots. Let’s say there were, I don’t know, 10 times more than that actually involved? Even if there were 30,000 people in total engaged in ‘disorder’ over those nights across the whole country, that’s a tiny proportion of the total population, a tiny proportion of those that could have been involved. Given that – in theory – we all could have joined in, surely that makes looking at the numbers involved as a proportion of the population valid.

It always pays to be mindful that there’s a lot to be gained for ‘the establishment’ in creating a culture of fear. A lot of social control can be exercised in such a climate – witness the ‘war on terror’. And you’d be a fool to imagine that there’s not a small coterie at the top that’s in each other’s pockets – crossing all the ostensible divides between political parties, the media and business. Whether the churches are still listened to within that coterie is perhaps a moot point, and quite how the armed forces fit in these days is also less obvious than it might have been, but you can be sure both groups are there somehow too.

The trouble with conspiracy theories is that they assume an awful lot of intelligence on the part of the conspirators, and an awful lot of people staying silent. The theories are generally far-fetched and bogus. The absence of an active conspiracy, though, doesn’t mean there’s not a tacit collective attitude towards how things are handled, towards what norms are asserted.

Meanwhile, it’s sometimes surprising what turns out to be reality – like the British and American secret services’ co-operation with Qadhafi’s Libya that’s just starting to leak out. It’s tempting to say ‘you couldn’t make it up’, only you could.

It’s also worth remembering that back in March there was a large scale disturbance in Tottenham but it went unreported by anything but the local Tottenham press. The main media channels were preoccupied with the Japanese earthquake and its ramifications. If the more recent trouble in Tottenham hadn’t been reported so hysterically and without sensible context, it has to be at least extremely unlikely that there’d have been the escalation we saw in London and elsewhere.

The role of the fourth estate should be scrutiny but we all know that’s rarely what they do anymore. Investigative reporting has almost died out. At the same time the quality of what is put out by the various media channels seems to be increasingly poor – either vacuous or plain wrong. And all the time the audience for the mainstream media is declining. I find myself wondering what’s going to be for the best. If we were all receiving less homogenised bullshit, if we all end up with our world views gathered as we see fit from an increasingly diverse range of sources, will that be a good thing or bad? It’s tempting, sometimes, to think it will be for the better. But on the other hand, if there’s no ‘mass media’ at all, then when something does emerge that really needs the coverage then it would be all too easy for that kind of thing to be brushed off. It would have been easy to bury the MPs expenses scandal if there was no mass media.

But on the other hand, again, the real efficacy – or otherwise – of the mass media as things stand needs to be questioned and not taken for granted. The consequences of that expenses scandal haven’t been far-reaching – quite the opposite. There’s any number of other issues that can quite properly be called appalling that either aren’t or are only barely covered now. I don’t know what the real consequences of losing any genuinely mass media might be. Their claim to be something positive in society is, at best, unproven.

Plain Wrong

There is so much to get angry about.

The fighting in Libya continues, and the media continue to trot the government line out and try and demonise Qadhafi. They’ve all conveniently forgotten that just a few years ago we were willing to deal with him. Watch what happens in the coming years – follow the money. It’ll all be about oil.

We’re being taken for fools again.

It’s the same as with bankers, the same as with public sector pay packets for the elite – there’s a whole culture of taking the public for fools while they rob us blind.

You don’t have to pay top dollar to get top people. All that attracts is people motivated by money – foul, venal individuals who are just out for themselves. The kind of people who’ll happily back a war if it makes them money. The kind of people who’ll get their noses out of the trough long enough to make an apology for whatever departmental failing they’ve been caught responsible for, but will then just go on failing for as long as they can pocket the money.

We are mugs. Absolute fools.

The bankers are particularly foul. The prospect of reform is looming so, as predictably as a seemingly endless stream of liquid shit comes after a stomach bug, so bankers and their mouthpieces are being given endless media time to tell us that reforming them is just all wrong and will damage the economy. These are the scum, the people working in a “socially worthless” industry (to quote one independent report), who’ve saddled the entire world with endless debt for years and years to come. To give them any credence whatsoever beggars belief. Expecting them to help with the rebuilding needed after the collapse they’ve caused is on a par with asking a rapist to baby-sit your daughter. And the media that gives them air-time, and the politicians that listen to them for a nano-second, are such transparently pathetic, supine stooges, I cannot bear to listen to them. Full stop.

All of which begs questions – not least, does anyone outside of the media-political-big business circle listen to them anyway? We all know we’ve been shafted, we all know the people are the top are filthy liars that you wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. If you took their media stooges away (also not worth pissing on) then they’d have no advocates and no audience.

The other question that always intrigues me is whether their mouthpieces believe what they say. It’s akin to religionists, “faith healers” and any other snake-oil pedlar. There is a vast difference between someone knowingly lying and someone who genuinely believes what they’re saying, however wrong it may be. I find it very hard to believe spokespeople for banking are anything other than liars, members of the same venal class that they’re speaking for.

Riding around today up Stokenchurch way and down to Marlow, I was struck by how many expensive private properties are having building work carried out. The recession only hits some of us – as always. Tour around the rich bits and they’re all doing fine.

Meanwhile, we can’t even get the roads mended. There’s a stretch of road near Hambleden on the way to Henley that’s just had the gravel-smeared-on-tar treatment. It was atrocious beforehand and it still is. Just a few days after all that money was wasted on it, the holes that were there before are already showing through and the new surface is disintegrating. To rub salt into it, just a few miles along, nearer Henley, the road surface was treated the same way, probably two years ago or thereabouts, and that’s a rotting mess. Why the common-sense-forsaken morons in charge of spending this money keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again defies any logic or analysis of any of the ostensible aspects to it. The suspicion has to be that we ought to be following the money to find the real reason. Always follow the money.

And all of that anger set me thinking, why am I getting worked up about it? I’m not doing that badly despite the bankers and the damage they’ve done to my future finances. The war in Libya hasn’t had any direct impact on me. Bad roads may rattle me around a bit but they’re not the end of the world. Sure, it’s my tax money the scum are blatantly wasting, whether it’s on road ‘mending’, military ordnance, inflated salaries or bailing out banks, but tax is unavoidable, and I can always pretend my contribution goes to something useful.

So, why do I get angry? The only answer I could come up with is because all these things are just plain wrong.

It’s as simple as that. It really is. No relativism, no sophistry, no excuses. Some things are just wrong.

Fall-Out Saturation

Radiation warning sign

Fall-out saturation

The really perfect-for-riding spring weather continues. I’ve been out for varying length rides for five days in a row now and the legs (after a bad winter) are feeling it, but getting out on days like these is hard to resist. A bad day out on the bike is better than a good day at work, and other knackered and not really completely true clichés.

In contrast to all that good feeling, the air and missile strikes against Libya continue, and an awful lot of people in Japan are continuing to suffer. The death toll there is steadily rising too as uncertainties are replaced with harsh facts. The major development today seems to be the radiation in the water in Tokyo and presumably elsewhere too. That’s not good by anyone’s measure.

In a properly incredible coincidence, I overheard Bowie’s ‘Drive In Saturday’ while riding today, with the line about “fall out saturation”, coming from someone’s open top car.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about the general topic of happiness. The idea of some kind of happiness index, or measuring the nation’s happiness rather than crude economic data, comes and goes at the national level and is often met with the sort of baying derision you’d expect from people who get their kicks from money and buying endless amounts of stuff, none of which makes them any happier. But measuring happiness, making any judgements about it, is fiendishly difficult. It’s easy to feel there are a lot of forces out there lining up to rob us all of happiness. Something to cogitate on.

I do know I am very unhappy at the thought of peoples around the world thinking the attacks on Libya are being done in my name as a British citizen. The same applies to Iraq, Afghanistan. There are people around the world who might justifiably look upon any Brit as party to war crimes. That’s quite sobering.

Everyone was more-or-less fine and considerate today despite doing quite a few urban miles, with the exception of one Transit van while I was going through town. It was no big deal, not a close shave, but he cut across in front of me to take a gap in the traffic and yes, I had to slow down. I’m pretty sure he’d have done the same if I was a car coming at him at the same speed I was doing – he’d been waiting to get across for a while and it was busy.

As always, the key issue is how to respond – and the only sensible thing to do is to not get worked up, not gesticulate or shout or anything else. The real bottom line in life is that by and large what goes around comes around. If someone goes through life being inconsiderate, then he’ll be met with inconsideration. That’s a sweet enough thought. Getting wound up just brings you down.

Of course, it’s perfectly legitimate to spend a few moments dwelling on how best the inconsideration he will eventually be on the receiving end of might manifest itself.

Oil And War

So, there I am, enjoying riding a bike around English country lanes on a decent Spring day, while military personnel are going to war in Libya, in deed if not in name, and in theory in my name. Of course this isn’t on the same scale and there are no parallels that I can think of, but all the same I’m reminded about those lovely English summer days at the start of World War Two. That must have felt even more incongruous, surely.

My grandfather fought in North Africa in the Second World War. That was a clear-cut war. Today, the British (and coalition) action against Libya doesn’t ‘feel’ right to me, doesn’t ring true. After all, the Libyan regime’s been in place for over 40 years. It might not be a model of democracy but it’s not known for its atrocities. And let’s face it, the West has been pretty happy to cosy up to it in recent years. No, it would seem to be more the case that –

  • ‘we’ had convinced ourselves that we were happy enough with Qadhafi but he’s not perceived to be the most reliable of individuals;
  • on the back of the Egyptian experience, some kind of popular revolt started;
  • ‘we’ looked at what happened in Egypt and backed the Libyan rebels;
  • the Libyan rebels started losing;
  • if they lose completely, that would leave ‘us’ with a lot of impossible-to-clean-off egg on ‘our’ faces;
  • ‘we’ end up concluding we’ve no choice but to try and help the rebels.

Qadhafi’s repression of the revolt is a pretty flimsy excuse. And no other regimes have harshly suppressed their own people? Come on – don’t insult our collective intelligence. What would a government in London do if faced with an armed mass uprising in, say, Scotland, Wales or Cornwall? Just let it happen? Civil wars can happen very, very easily. Former Yugoslavia anyone?

And of course none of this would have happened / be happening if Libya didn’t have oil. ‘We’ wouldn’t have been keen to ‘rehabilitate’ Qadhafi and cosy up to him; ‘we’ wouldn’t have been so keen on regime change as soon as there was the first whiff of it being a possibility; ‘we’ wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now.

Military Communications

Military Communications