If you aren't sure what the Panama Papers are, haven't heard the name Mossack Fonseca or aren't sure why David Cameron is being questioned a lot about his taxes in the last few days, then I might suggest putting this blog down for a minute and taking a gander at whatever news site you think appropriate.
Was anyone actually surprised that this was happening?
Did anyone truly not suspect, at all, that there were companies set up exclusively to ensure that very rich people could dodge taxes in quasi-legal ways?
Nobody should be surprised. Surprised that there is actual paperwork and evidence, yes - but unless you're a buffoon, then you can't think it's never happened.
Isn't that fact in itself a damning indictment of this entire farce?
Nobody wants to pay taxes. Everyone wants to benefit from what those taxes pay for, of course. Everyone wants to eat the lobster, nobody wants to foot the bill. That's just the nature of humanity. We're greedy creatures at heart, and in a society and system that determines success by possessing both Things and Way-To-Get-Things, any means of getting Things without losing Way-To-Get-Things is going to be exploited to the maximum.
There is a bottom rate at the cost of living in any given country. A pure minimum, which is the basest essentials. Anything above and beyond this particular rate, well, here come the taxes. You go shopping, you pay tax. You rent or own, you pay tax. You contribute directly to the welfare of the entirety of society. At least - that is how it is meant to work.
Those on benefits - the people commonly painted as the bad guys whenever the boys from Eton roll out their media machine - spend damn near everything they receive in ways that make it back to the government via tax or otherwise bolster the economy. If what they buy isn't taxed, then it is paid to a shop or corporation that is in itself taxed based on its income. In a way, benefits are an almost guaranteed investment made by a government to itself.
The wealthier you are, though, the more opportunities there are for you to not contribute at all. Churches don't after all. Some companies just choose not to, and when asked about it, offer an insulting paltry sum as a way of indicating they've read the papers and know that people don't like them. Offshore accounts exist. They've existed for a long, long time, and they exist so that the rich can make their money and then keep it to themselves.
Why should anyone else benefit from their hard-earned cash after all? I mean, they earned it all fair and square, right? They earned it working hard just like all of us did, and so they shouldn't have to pay any of it to anyone -
- except for the fact that everyone else pays. The person that shined your shoes this morning pays. The taxi driver pays. The waiter pays, tip or not. The little people in your life all pay. They pay for things that you use, like roads and police and infrastructure and education. They pay and you don't.
You put your money in some account in some foreign nation that by virtue of paperwork means you don't have to pay tax on it, and in doing so, you become the freeloader. Even by HMRC's most conservative estimate in 2012, tax avoidance cost the public four times more than benefit fraud. There are bad apples in both barrels, but the tax barrel is worth a lot more, and those apples stink to high heaven.
And here comes the Panama Papers. Unmasking legions of wealthy individuals twisting the system to further line pockets already stuffed full while the rest of us continue to scrape by. There's been resignations and fall-downs already. Iceland's PM suffered a very public tearing-down.
So now, in this time of austerity, in this time of belts being tightened and people being told to make do with what they have, in this time of us all being in it together, we find out that not only is the Prime Minister deeply implicated in tax avoidance, but several other members of the government could be as well, including the Chancellor, who actually has stakes in a business that in itself doesn't pay tax.
What happens here, you ask?
Nothing, because we're good calves, and we'll just keep eating the grass and getting nice and fat.
In another era, this would have been a powder keg. Protests would have become riots and streets would have burned, and perhaps, rightly so. The anger at the government for hurting all of us so very deeply and in such a hypocritical fashion...it would be a fire so hot the asphalt would melt.
But no. Today everyone shrugs and murmurs about things that don't matter and just go on with their lives. It's easier for us that way. We can absolve guilt with such incredible ease, all the tools have been handed to us for generations. Before the baby boomers even knew who they were, the language and theory behind apathy and denial had set in.
So those that contribute will be painted as leeches, and those that steal will be painted as heroes, and we will just keep on eating it up until we're happy as pigs in shit.
You know what happens to pigs?
The people that own them butcher them for profit.
Time and again, you have been fucking warned.
Forgive the anger, but it's been a bad year.