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Sunday, 25 September 2016

Money Talks

I'd like to conduct a mental exercise with your assistance.

Picture for me, if you will, a successful person holding an object of value. Imagine them in their home, and how that all looks.

Are we ready for the thought experiment?

Hands up if the person you imagined was wealthy, or had some obvious sign of being so - a suit or similar. Similarly, hands up if the object of value was an expensive one - and finally, hands up if the home would definitely rank on the pricey side.

I bet that's a few hands up. (Put em down again. You did it. Well done.)

Now you know my agenda, go ahead and look back at the request. I didn't mention money, not at all - though several of the words I used imply it.

We're paying attention to words at this point. The actual semantics of the situation. Now we can be careful about how we phrase things.

Who can remember a time when money didn't pretty much dictate our lives?

Not a lot of people who read this blog, that's for sure. There's a significant proportion of people alive in this day and age that live by subsistence farming and agriculture. Money probably doesn't come up for them very often - so I daresay it doesn't have the linguistic hooks dug into common parlance.

Here, though - here, today - most of the things we do have a coin involved somewhere. Work is so impressed on us, so central to our culture, that it is the default answer when someone asks us "What do you do?" - something I try and shake up whenever asked. "You mean for money or for fun?"

If we want to achieve almost anything, it is monetised - and if the act itself isn't, then the accessories and support services associated are. You can run for free, but these running shoes are £50 a pop. Lift weights? A branch will do - but unless you want splinters, join a gym, get the gloves, grab some dumbells.

To achieve things in this society - and to simply survive - we require money. It's difficult to do so otherwise. Some people do so, but they themselves will tell you how hard it is. Note that I do not mean living on benefits, as that is simply acquiring money from a different source (and is just as valid, if you are legally entitled to the money, you take it, it's yours). I mean literally not handling money at all. Often it results in criminality. This country has only just taken to heart the French idea to deliver unsold food - not even spoiled, just one day out of date - to places wherein the homeless and disadvantaged can access it.

Aspiration is often hitched to fiscal increase, too. If you want a better thing, it will cost you more - so you'd best get more money, hmm? And if the achievement doesn't require money or anything similar, then it is worth pointing out, because it is a difference, a change.

So when we talk about someone being successful, we assume that to mean wealthy - unless specified otherwise. Because what other universal handwave term for being well-off is there? Of course, in a world dictated by the flow of currency upward and upward, having more of it is a literal success.

Something being valuable is automatically assumed to mean expensive, too - because that is the de facto measurement of value. The thing is, the most valuable things to me are not the most expensive things I own, because there's levels of value. My most expensive possession is my laptop. Sure, I value it very highly - but not more than the silver chains my dad gave me, or the notebooks I have stuffed with old ideas, or the ticket stubs I still possess from the big five gigs of my life (Pearl Jam @ Hard Rock Calling 2010, Nine Inch Nails @ O2 2009, Counting Crows @ Brighton Arena 2009, Alter Bridge @ Portsmouth Guildhall 2008, Foo Fighters @ Wembley 2008), or the first CD I bought in America - also my favourite album of all time. Value is not monetary cost; however the cost is so important to us on a day-to-day basis that it becomes the standard assumed meaning.

The thing is, having money does not equate to having happiness or feeling satisfaction or security. It can contribute a whole hell of a lot, mind. If your income is very close to your expenditure, increasing that gap can only make life easier - there's less stress, less concern. We don't worry so much about having to take a week off, or missing the next pay raise, or the cost of bread increasing with little to no warning.

Of course it is also a truism that as income rises, so does expenditure. As we have more, so we take more. That's the nature of the beast - because again, in a society wherein the measure of success is money, that means that all goods that we may want have a cost, and the more desirable goods always cost more. Who doesn't want a slightly bigger fridge, a slightly nicer car, a slightly better laptop, a slightly larger house?

It all costs. We just accept that. To cover the costs we have to work, and we just accept that too. We earn so much less than the people who pretty much instituted this way of life, and we accept that also. It wasn't a shadowy conspiracy of a group of figures in a dark room. The people with the money just wanted to make more, and so they did. Because that's how it works. When you have it - you make more of it.

When you think about it like it not surprising that whenever anyone suggests doing something that casually disregards the constant hunt for further funds, that it is treated with incredulity?

Traditionally, the Labour party in this country has been a left-wing worker's party. It was dragged more toward the centre-right in the late 90s by one Tony Blair. They did well, because after Margaret Thatcher's hatchet-job on the average blue-collar worker to line the pockets of the financiers, right-wing attitudes in this country had started to come to the fore - but the Tories still had the reputation of being nasty. So we can still be right-wing money-grubbers and also not be held up as evil? Sign me up!

The thing is, they took over the entire party. Tory-lites. Women and men whose view of the world was pretty much the same as their blue-tied brethren on the opposite benches, just with a nod to the poor and the sick. And don't get me wrong - having been on the receiving end of benefits and sickness support in both the Blair era and the subsequent ConDem/Tory era, that nod actually helped us out a lot.

Recently, the party voted for a new leader. That leader was Jeremy Corbyn, an old-fashioned left winger whose attitude is that we should really be helping people and doing the right thing regardless of income or profit.

For this, he was treated to a non-stop campaign of hate. People mocking him, calling him a communist (incorrect) and a socialist (they wouldn't know one if it hit them in the face), saying he was unelectable (despite being elected as party leader). There were threats of mass resignations, mass resignations, personal attacks, smear campaigns across the wide breadth of the media. The temptation of digging in and fighting back must have been great, but his line has always been the line of grace under fire. However much political capital he could have made from getting into verbal fisticuffs with all and sundry, he just got on with it.

All this came to a head in the most recent leadership re-election. A vote of no confidence was called. Those who wanted him gone were - as you'd expect - Blairite neo-Tory coatriders. Those who had profited from still being the right wing in an apparently left-wing party. Those comfortable in quiet opposition, which isn't really opposition when it comes down to it.

When it became clear that it would be down to the party members to vote, another hatchet job was put in place - and this time, it was basically electoral fraud. People who joined up for the party in droves in order to show their support for the party leader were told that they wouldn't get a vote, apparent reason, other than the fact that Owen Smith and his people had ascertained that those new members were signing up to support Jeremy Corbyn. It doesn't take a genius or a statitician to work out that this was a calculated attempt to undermine support for the man who had already been made leader once.

Out of 551,000 members of the party, only 285,000 got to vote - just over half. Can you imagine the outcry if 49% of a country weren't allowed to vote in a General Election because it was thought that they were going to vote a specific way? Can you imagine? (If you live in Florida you don't have to imagine. Thanks, Jeb.)

Even so - out of the 285,000 that got their vote, over 168,000 of them voted for the unelectable man. 59% of them. Then there were the supporters and affiliated voters, whose support for him ran at an even higher percentage.

It's only now that we can understand where the term unelectable comes from.

In a world where a successful person is one who earns a lot of money, and a valuable object is one that costs a lot of money, the one who understands both of these things to be inherently true is seen as more acceptable, more grounded than the one who does not. If we accept blindly that money should rule our lives, then the man who wants us to believe this to be true is our friend, and the man who wants us to question this belief is our foe.

In a world wherein our way of thinking is highly informed by money and worth being commensurate, the man telling us that there's more to life than just money has to be painted as a madman, a man without a grasp on reality. A hopeless man. A man that can never lead, can never expect to be followed. A man that is unelectable.

Now look around you.

Are you a failure because you aren't earning more? Because you aren't living in a mansion? Are you a failure because you aren't bedecked in jewels and driving a sports car? Are you a failure because you buy things at a discount rather than crates of expensive nasty-tasting champagne?

Or are you a success because you made it this far, rather than by how much is in your bank account? Are you successful for reasons other than a six-figure salary? Do the things you own have value that isn't connected to how much they cost you? Is your home your home, regardless of how much smaller it is than the homes of those that collect our taxes and make our decisions?

If the answer to any of those is yes, then you are already smarter than the prevailing attitude. The natural divergence of semantics based on who dictates what is good or bad hasn't changed you into a heartless machine, driven by greed. Because at the heart of it, nobody really believes it. Not really. It's just the way the world seems to be going, and is the way the world has been going since enterprising merchants started agreeing that this much maize was worth this much silver.

If we are to be higher beings than this, if we are to be better than simply biological machines to be used to make money for ourselves and others, then we need to look at the use of these terms. We need to apply them differently, to make specific examples. We need to find value in that which is inexpensive, success in that which is unmarketable, happiness in that which is free, and worth in that which is penniless.

That is how we elect a man who is unelectable.


  1. Excellent post. I never thought I'd see the day when Labour returned to its roots, but it seems to have arrived. But can Corbyn complete the job and win over enough votes to have political influence? Or even win a general election? I'd like to see that almost as much as the look on his opponents' faces.

  2. You and me both chum. You and me both.