'To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?'
Marcus Tullius Cicero 106 B.C. - 43 B.C. (Roman philosopher, lawyer & political theorist)
baroness margaret hilda thatcher
In 1990, the world saw the distant figure of Nelson Mandela, walking from his prison on Robben Island to freedom, a man who came to represent all of the positive aspects of humanity, and the fight against the wicked apartheid regime in South Africa. People sung about the freeing of Nelson for the larger part of the previous decades. In Britain, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at the time, Margaret Thatcher described the man, walking into the light of the media some 23 years ago, as a terrorist. Pro-Thatcherite politicians might point out that it was the ANC the Iron Lady referred to as a terrorist organisation. ‘Semantics’ might be an appropriate term in dealing with that particular subject, as Nelson would almost certainly tell the world ‘if you label my colleagues as terrorists, then you label me the same’.
As for Mrs Thatcher, well she presided over a very dark era in U.K. politics between 1979 and 1990, in my humble opinion. Her passing I regret, mainly for her children’s sake. Carol Thatcher is a good person. I would wish that Mrs Thatchers children not be upset. Therefore I would wish mrs Thatchers children have their parent around them to give them company and comfort for as long as possible.
If I said I was devastated at the passing of the Iron Lady, I would be a hypocrite. All told, I feel somewhat indifferent. I saw the first female prime minister as a hugely positive development in 1979, even allowing for the fact that she was a Tory. Personally, I have always carried the flag of the working person. Fair days pay, for a fair days work etc. Very quickly Mrs T began to let the stature of women down immensely. Those women who would support the Iron Lady, would, by and largely, be those over the age of 65, with a sizeable amount of disposable income, a blue rinse, with a political leaning far to the right of most of the U.K. populous. ‘Better during wartime’ type of generation.
Almost one year after appearing on the steps of Downing Street, she had quickly declined into becoming the least popular Prime Minister of the twentieth century. This was a a very speedy decline, bearing in mind that the clumsy Labour government, led by the Labour right winger Jim Callagahan, had led the country to ruin in a very short time period in the late seventies. Good old Jim was never elected into power at a general Election. he was elected leader following Harold Wilson’s resignation in 1976. All told, the job was too big for Jim, so everything, progessively, went pear shaped, ending up with the Winter of Discontent. What saved Mrs T’s skin, shortly after coming to power, was something of a ‘happy accident’ for the Iron Lady. It came as a result of a cost cutting exercise introduced shortly after she was elected into office.
In the late Seventies, the British foreign secretary, Dr. David Owen (yes he soon to create the SDP at the time) was overseeing the dealings with all of the U.K.’s oversea’s territories, one of which were the small islands in the South Atlantic, namely the Falkland Islands. Fairly regularly, across this time, the Argentines, who long claimed the islands as Argentine owned, would despatch a boat or two towards the islands, as a show of interest in bringing the Falklands under Argentine rule. The usual protocols across this period were, they send their boats, we send down a warship, they back off, the status quo is maintained. When Mrs T came into power, this despatching of vessels became discontinued. Galtieri, another politician, with a weak agenda and standing, sought political capital by sending out his small fleet again, however this time, no British ships to usher them away. The Falklands were landed on, and two political careers were laid on the line. History is now written, that Galtieri had to back off eventually, and the Iron Lady went from zero to hero overnight domestically. She won election after election, and made Middle England feel great about themselves. Great if your situation was a wealthy white one, however, if you stood for the working classes, you became described by the Iron Lady as ‘the enemy within’. ‘The Enemy?’
Mrs Thatcher was the darling of the media. Whilst managers and wealthy employers were described in the media as ‘offering and proposing’ during disputes, the working classes were depicted as ‘claiming and demanding’. The Sun newspaper was the comic for the working person, where you would read just how greedy and demanding you really are, so here is a woman without a t-shirt on to cheer you up. That ought to advance the profile of women in society!
Perhaps the biggest misadventure of Mrs Thatcher's reign, manifested itself in her crusade against the Trades Union’s. If they could be broken, then you would break the Labour Party, who were set up by the Union’s to represent the working classes. Employers could employ workers for much less money, and without Union intervention. Whilst Mrs Thatcher concentrated on the Mining union’s, the other union’s suffered, spooling into decline in the mists of conflict. Mrs Thatcher put hundreds and thousands of working people out of jobs. This was largely funded by the proceeds of North Sea Oil. That oil brought in 17 thousand million into the coffers of the treasury. The large part of that sum would be spent on keeping people on the dole, thus breaking the working classes rights, and more importantly, their will. The rest of the funds were blown on a huge party held in the City of London. Greed is good, unions are evil.
The banking institutions always used to be the financial fortresses in which we kept our hard earned finances, some to, perhaps, to pay for life long medical treatment, some for pensions later in life. The banks roles were turned around. The way we looked at these institutions were reinvented by the ‘Iron will’. The monies held within these institutions were now released into the hands of financial gamblers, who played on the stock markets with peoples lifelong savings, in the hope that they might reap huge rewards for the treasury, and more so, themselves in bonuses. ‘They don’t need to know what derivatives are, they sound reliable don’t they?’ (the taking out of a loan, whose collateral is another loan of an unknown stability). We are told by those on the markets that stock values can go up, as well as go down. Still, it did not matter, whilst the oil flowed, so did the champagne. We were all encouraged to be greedy. Ayn Rand rules. Savings turned to borrowings, and we forgot about our fellow human beings. It is this aspect of Thatcherism, which led to a more selfish society in the Nineties and into the new Millennium. The Labour Party stumbled into reinventing itself, divorcing it’s links to the working person, thus becoming a watered down version of the conservatives. The conservatives blame ‘what they inherited from the previous government’, which is fundamentally an inheritance invented within the money markets, under the tutelage of the Iron Lady, Alan Greenspan, Ayn Rand etc.
Whether you believe that Mrs Thatcher left us as a better nation is very much down to which part of the U.K. you currently reside. In the less affluent north of the U.K., Mrs Thatcher is a dirty word. In the more wealthier southern shires, she is seen as something of a saviour, as many were able to get rich quick utilising her ‘put yourself first’ agenda, however, I would ask you to look at the nation as it stands in 2013. Was this the view of the U.K., which, if we are led to believe by some sections of the media, we have been led into the promised land from the sorry state of affairs in 1979? This morning, one of the right wing journalists in Fleet Street stated that ‘Mrs Thatcher rescued the country from one of the worst depressions of the 20th century’. Right now, the current recession isn’t quite the ‘after party’ I, personally, had envisaged following on from Mrs Thatchers ‘salvation’.
I recently listened to a radio commentator telling his audience that he ‘is sick and tired of people blaming Mrs Thatcher for making us that much more selfish today’. ‘Sick and tired’ seems to indicate that he is being told that viewpoint on something of a regular basis. Lot of folks think the same way I do? Perhaps. Sure, single handedly, Mrs Thatcher could not have made everyone in the City of London greedy, however, I would strongly suggest she played the mood music very loudly, and the guys in the red braces listened in high definition.
I will not miss Mrs Thatcher, not through any vindictive aspect of my own personality. Truth be told, I never knew the grocers daughter from Finchley. Those who did said she was great. I am sad for her children, but sadder for those who lost their lives under her watch, and more so those whose communities were obliterated by her political posturing. Those ‘big ideas’ became a ‘big odours’. The ex conservative Prime minister Ted Heath was once asked ‘what do you think will be Mrs Thatcher’s place in history’? Ted was on the David Frost programme one sunday morning several years ago. I remember him telling Sir David, he believed she would be remembered as a ‘political aberration’. He was a real statesman. I would never have voted for him, personally. I am a Labour man (old school Labour, by the way).
The sight of David Cameron proclaiming Mrs Thatcher's name from the rooftops posthumously, does resonate with something of a hollow sound. Something of the worst aspects of a sycophant in that man. It was Mrs Thatcher's own party that stuck the political knife into the woman, after the debacle which was the Poll tax, circa 1990. Now there was another of her policies which led to the Iron Lady’s final demise. Us? Well we have three of the weakest party leaders I have ever known today, leading each of the parties to the same political destinations, the financial markets in chaos, the European Union creaking under the weight of debt, but we still have Meryl Streep around to give us a dose of ‘what we all know is very good for us’! The good old days? Perhaps a few more statesmen might be the order of the day, statesmen along the lines of the ‘terrorist’ leaders in South Africa!
Margaret Hilda Thatcher....The Iron Lady....'Rust' In Peace...
Toby Walker 9.4.13.
For the last 23 years I have worked, on many design related projects, using the Apple Computer system. This was by way of an architect (called Ron Heron, who was famous for his concept of Walking Cities in the Sixties) bringing the machines into the design company I was working at at the time. The Apple interface was a great deal less threatening than the PC machines, which took over half of one section of the company, that already existed at the place. Bear in mind, during the late Eighties, the Internet was not widely available, and people were still being admitted into hospitals as a result of injury's dragging their 'mobile' phones around their hometowns. I used to get a lot of grief from families and friends, as the PC machines were seen as the 'serious' computers around. Apple computers were for the design community, but not much else. We all lived through Bill Gates assuming the role of 'God' for a while, then Steve Jobs took over the mantle, and life without an Apple this, or an Apple that, would soon become intolerable for many folks. The computers, thanks to the British designer, Jonathan Ive, have somewhat become works of art, which, (as works of art have a habit of becoming), are quite collectable thesedays.
In recent years, Apple has transformed itself from being a company, who were al also ran, to becoming one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) companies in the World. As with Microsoft, Apple's predecessor, these 'machines' become, very much, money making concerns. They, if they are not very careful, can begin to stare at their proverbial navels, and this current issue with Bruce Willis, his music, and leaving this stuff to his kids, is a good example of just that.
Here, I am in a peculiar place, in as much as, my generation bought hard tactile copies of musical product in the past. We loved the artwork, the changing of the playing sides, and the smell of a new record. My shelves here are full of vinyl albums covering a span of some 50 years or so. I use my music thesedays, in part, to help some stations get this music out there, music which hasn't made CD just yet. Still only around 50 percent of all of the music on vinyl, has ever made it to the digital disc. Those tunes, on the smaller labels, which appeal to the specialist market, may never see the digital light of day. So here I am, working with my tiny section of this product, digitising the music for the radio stations. This is great for the artists. Many of them get in touch with me, here. Charles Drain's grandchildren had never heard their Grandad's music before, so they got in touch here, I CDR'd the album, and returned the disc to it's originator.
john lennon & charles drain
Sounds like a nice story that one, however, I broke the law in doing so, so I was later advised. The act of archiving the analog to digital, made the medium transferable. In theory, I should have paid for the music a second time, although, doing time in San Quentin for doing this seemed a little harsh at the time. Oddly, if I had downloaded a series of mp3's of the album, from someone's blog out there, that is O.K., as I own a copy here on vinyl. So O.K. to receive, but not to give. Well, the digital arts folks caught me bang to rights, I'll pay for what I did, and society is to blame!
Bruce's position is in a place where he will never win any legal cases against Apple. If they can defeat the might of Samsung, it will take a little more than John McClane, and his trusty ripped T-Shirt and wit, to have his way. Oddly, Bruce's argument is a correct one. He has bought all of the music, legally, for his computer, and he wants to leave his music as a legacy to his children. He should be commended for doing so, as I know the man has better taste in music than many folks out there. Apple tell him that he is only 'borrowing' the music for the duration of his life, after which, his kids will have to re-buy the product. Shame as his children's lives would be culturally enriched by the legacy. Just briefly, let's look at another aspect of our day to day lives, and ask ourselves if the same argument should apply in that field.
When children leave home, after falling in love, getting married, and saving for a mortgage, they go looking for a property to live the rest of their lives in. In a similar scenario, the couple would speak to an Estate Agent, who would arrange a mortgage on their behalves, they would move in and begin paying for the place over, say, a 25 year period. What would be the reaction, if the Estate Agent was asked, 'when we pay off the mortgage, we would like to leave our house to our kids', and the response came back, 'I am sorry, but the property will revert back to us following your demise'. Rioting in the streets? Certainly, the government that implemented a policy such as that one, would never move into the halls of power again. So why is the digital medium any different?
The tit for tatting over Charles Drain's album 'digitisation', in theory, may open up the door for a sending in of the bailiff's? Would this mean that my entire record collection could be relocated back to the owners of the rights for the relevant songs? Sure, bit of a long shot, so I spoke to a friend of mine, who used to work for the computer company, and the conversation went round in circles as to who was entitled to do exactly what, and who should be reimbursed for their music. All told, the conclusion did not involve the artist or the customer, but it did involve that huge ocean of finance swashing around out there in the coffers of Apple. We came to two conclusions. One was a kind of Utopian dream (which to be honest with you, I didn't quite comprehend!), or my own way forward, which involves getting as many artists out there, performing live, and that is how the musician will benefit in the long run.
In the Apple stores in my home town, it is interesting listening to the conversations between customers and the staff. I overheard one young girl telling a member of staff how great it will be when she takes her Macbook home, so she can plug it into her best friends computer and download all of her iTunes. The face of the store staff member was a picture, however, there is a serious point here. If this young woman happily does this, thinking she is doing nothing wrong, then the message is not getting out there, is it? I believe recent figures put 'illegal' music downloads at over 90 percent of the music being downloaded at any one point in time. Oddly, if you do the right thing, and pay for the music, as Bruce does, he becomes something of a victim. If you talk to any 'suit' in the industry, you are guilty before any conversation begins, which is odd, as you are trying to behave in a decent and legal way. Do you know where you stand regarding that box of cassettes in your loft? You know, those one's that had stickers telling you that 'home taping was killing music'. In truth, time showed it never did, as music is as perennial as the weather.
As far as the argument, put to Bruce Willis by Apple is concerned, well I would suggest any prosecution lawyer that he has dealings with, he should suggest that they follow their own arguments by handing over their keys, of their own properties, to the Estate Agents after their demise, and their kids go live on the streets!
One artist, who Apple have heavily featured in their marketing in recent years, a certain john Lennon, once stated:
"Music is everybody's possession. It's only publishers who think that people own it."
Toby Walker 7.9.12.
music losing it's way a little?
The two images above don't quite work together, do they? One is of the last great Mississipi Delta Blues players, Pinetop Perkins, the other, the logo for the company, who currently have 61 billion pounds in their petty cash account, and aren't sure what to do with the money. Decisions, decisions! Pinetop passed away in the latter part of last year, as did the previous owner of the said computer company. Both people had a huge influence in the direction of music in the last century, along with this current one. One with creating a piece of enduring musical culture, another making the music available to all. Which of the two had the greatest credibility, all told? One thing they did both have in common, was their contribution to aspects of this culture. I sit at this desk, typing away on the guy from the corporate companies computer, whilst listening to the music of the Mississippi Delta Blues brother on another piece of the computer guys kit. So why are so many folks becoming pre-occupied with the death of the musical ideal in 2012?
A good friend of mine. A guy called Kirkland Burke, sent me a copy of a posting by the excellent Bob Davis, whose Soul Patrol website is held in very high regard by Soul folks across the globe. I hold both of these guys opinions in the highest regard. Bob was writing about the funeral of Whitney Houston. I found myself agreeing with many of the sentiments Bob was expressing regarding a pivotal point in music, which ocurred circa 1990, whereupon some of the younger generation of African Americans dropped their allegiance to the Civil Rights agenda, and seemed to accept some depreciation in the quality of Black culture, accepting a lighter, and more disposable standard of the media on offer to the public. Rap certainly did become less provocative, and more about the abuse of women and the 'length of a person's family jewels'. Public Enemy became 'Public Look at Me'. Arrogance certainly did seem to become the order of the day, although something else was going on in the early nineties. The web did not become a major influence until the latter part of that decade, however, one side effect showcased a change in emphasis, with the MTV generation evolving the look over the substance in the musical environment. The stage became the catwalk, and thus those who had something to say, were suppressed in order for those who had 'the look' to predominate.
kirland burke and bob davis
Whitney Houston's funeral may have seen one of the last of the Civil Rights generation's great Soul singers, heralded as individuals who have made a contribution to Black culture. For myself, I think Whitney's finer moments lay deep within the vinyl walls of her album product, and not so much in the singles format. I am sure I am in the minority with this view, however. Sure the Reverend Jesse Jackson did look tired at Whitney's leaving service. He has completed his own service to the cause, now who will take up the flame and run with it? Rhianna? Beyonce? Chris Brown? Not sure about that. Those who have something to say thesedays are making their voices heard in churches, not on stage. The singers of today, who the suits seem to really want to push center stage, are those who have 'the look', are karaoke singers, or those who have voices like butterflies. That is not to say that music has died. Music has been supressed, that's all.
Culturally, anything which involves creative expression is cyclical. That is to say, what is todays garbage, is tomorrow's high fashion. The tower blocks of yesteryear, are today's luxury high rise apartments. Things are continually being reinvented. The older we get, the more we recognise new fads, as water starts to pass under the same bridge for a second time. I once thought stacks and flared trousers had seen their last days, only for that fashion dinosaur to become ressurrected again in the new millenium. The great operatic dancers of today, move in the same footprints their predecessors used to in decades gone by.
We criticize the musicians of today for doing the same things that our parents used to. Davy Jones of the Monkees recently passed away. His band were artistically supported by Carole King and Neil Diamond in their songwriting capacities. A group formed in the response to the Beatles, who in turn copied the songs from the early Motown artists of their time, and released them on their 'With The Beatles' long player back in the early Sixties. I was a kid then, so I wasn't aware of the R&B roots of the material. These were just great original songs to me, as, I guess, are some the songs of today, which my daughter hears and likes. In turn, I find myself saying to her 'they nicked that from Stevie, or they nicked that from Smokey'. I have just been around long enough to remember the songs from yesteryear, and, as the folks a couple of years older than myself, would have told me about those Beatles songs...'they nicked that from the Isleys and Barrett Strong'. Cyclical as I said. When those older guys were kids, their older siblings would have listened to Elvis and said to their kids 'they nicked that tune from Big Mama Thornton'. Elvis begat the Beatles begat the Monkees etc. I am sure Pinetop would have found a few guys out there, back in the day, who would have begged, borrowed or stole some riff from some other brother...which brings me along to the root of today's issues regarding music, as I understand the genre.
Copying is different from borrowing and developing. How many artists do you hear saying today 'I have been hugely influenced by Donny Hathaway, Aretha or Etta James'. I know Adele likes the latter sister. If you get a moment, go to You Tube and listen to her take on the song 'Make You Feel My Love'. Hugely popular on the 'America, or the U.K.'s Got Karaoke' shows. Then go take a listen to Johnny Bristol's 'Love Me For A Reason'. It is the same melody, in large sections of the song, and in Adele's case, she is probably completely unaware it sounds like any other song other than the Bob Dylan 'original'. The development of the musical medium has to involve the influence of other melodies past. The trick is not to mimick and then add your name to the writing credits. Anyone can do that. Todays charts are full of nursery rhymes set to a disco beat. The trick is to take influences from several points of origin, and then develop those traits. Michael Jackson is a singer who worked this system beautifully. Just his dancing styles borrowed from James Brown, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly (with a dash of West Side Story thrown in for good measure). He took those influences, adapted them and created something that folks appreciated, crafted from all of those roots. His own recipe.
Music ought to be something that has several aspects, interpreted by the individual, merged into a part of the singers personality and love for the roots of the point of origin, in order to create a whole. If the artist is clever, those roots will be borrowed from places most folks can't remember. It does strike me that the wit and wisdom within the music around today, has been lost somewhere along the line. It does require finding again, as the current musical story is becoming a little repetitive and tedious, and this is where the pundits are beginning to become a little worried. There is an element of 'the comfort zone' which lies within the music. Whether the artists are grouping together for a little 'safety in numbers', who knows? One thing that is very often ignored, is the point that, for any progress to be made culturally, a) you need to know where you have come from to know where you are going to, and b) most importantly, you have to take a few chances. By this, I remember Stevie's 'Innervisions' album being released back in 1973. 'Talking Book' received some great reviews, as it was a fairly safe album of songs, with a hint of the politic ('Big Brother'), however, the papers hated 'Innversions' with a vengeance on first listenings. I took the album out of it's sleeve and put on 'Too High'. A chill ran right down my spine. 'He can't do this. He has ripped the heart out of a Jazz based track and turned it into a Soul Dancer.....this is fantastic'. When was the last time a Modern Soul artist ripped up the template and made folks sit up? Not recently. Could Chris Brown write a song along the lines of 'Too High'? Not a lengthy debating matter.
If you are starting your musical education, I would urge you to listen to as much music as you can, and think laterally. If you create any response to your music, be it positive or not, you are headed in the right direction. Listen to the music in your mum and dad's and friends collections and keep an open mind. Do not mimick. Listen and develop. Gamble. Understand your roots.These are the foundations of your career, and without those, tall buildings have a habit of falling down. Use the new technologies available, and do not dismiss the analogue versions of the music on offer. By a deck. Records are solid state. They will last, as do Compact Discs. Cassette's and Video tapes do not. They have moving parts, so invest your money wisely. Take American Idol and Britain's Gone Barren for what they represent. Light entertainment, not a creative way forward. There lies much of the malaise in today's market. Susan Boyle will never write the likes of 'Living For The City' or 'What's Going On'. She sings other folks songs, that's all. So does my milkman!
Toby Walker 22.3.12.
not on the outside
I think it was the ancient Japanese warrior Sun Tzu, who one stated that a leader should 'always keep their friends close, but their enemies closer'. Wise words, debatably, although the general jist of the phrase meant that, conflicts could be averted by staying close to those who you felt might do you harm. Winston Churchill stated that 'jaw,jaw, is better than war, war'. I would add that the term 'enemies' is an unhelpful one at the best of times.
The most annoying thing regarding Cameron, Sarkosy and to a lesser extent, Angela Merkel, are they appear to be currently influenced by their domestic situations, at the cost of the bigger picture. They have fallen out with their best mates. The image below is embarrasing for everyone concerned. The Camereon/Sarkosy 'love-in' of a few months ago, both couples sitting almost wife swapping (:)) has seemed to have become a playground spat. Two naughty little boys 'not talking to each other'.
Cameron came to power a year and a half ago. He didn't have enough votes to get in to office, so the Liberal Democrats had the say as to whether they got into bed with the Labour Party, or the Tories. They chose the latter, when it boils down to it, viewing the situation along the lines of 'a change is as good as a rest'. Sarkozy on the other hand, has an election to fight in six months time, and his ratings are not great domestically, whilst Angela Merkel has her own election a year later. She has to fight off two candidates, who are also performing pretty well, currently.
What transpired a week ago in Brussels had nothing to do with the current economic crisis for a couple of very good reasons. Firstly, Britain has no say in how the Euro functions at any time. We sit in at these meetings, but don't say much for most of the time. Sure, the decision making will affect the markets, but bear in mind, we had no say in the sub prime market fiasco in the States, yet we had a very friendly relationship with our special friends over there. Secondly, these talks in Brussels didn't amount to a huge hill of beans, anyhow. The finances Europe were proposing to place into the Euro slush fund, (remember, to help 26 countries within the EEC), amounted to some 200 billion. The financial markets had hoped for a figure nearing a Trillion Euro's. This meeting drifted. It became nationalistic, at a time Europe needed to come together, however, our leaders drifted us further apart.
As a U.K. citizen, I deal with many companies and folks within the E.E.C. What has become apparent in recent times, is the malaise that has spread throughout my own country, has spead across the E.E.C. Politicians are the problem, and they have the solutions, but none of them have the backbone to deal with the pressing issues that affect many ordinary working people, walking the streets of London, Paris or Berlin. We are concerned about finances. Jobs, Education, the sense we are being governed. In the U.K., for a long time, I have felt segregated from our politicians. A sense of not being governed. They go to the House of Commons or House Of Lords each day, take a good sized holiday (at which time the country goes through periods of civil disobedience), and look at their positions as a job for life. None of them have any conviction. No Statesmen or women anymore. Just a person with the letters 'MP' after their name.
everything is going so 'swimmingly'
In the U.K., David Cameron and Nick Clegg are in power by default. No majority voted for either of them. We have the bizarre situation where a Labour leader gets a sizeable chunk of votes more than his Liberal Democrat opponent, and the minority candidate gets political power, from within a party, whose political policy of choice is proportional representation! A U-Turn in policy no matter which piece of political clothing you take from the manifesto wardrobe. Nick Clegg is furious with his political bed mate, as he wanted to be sat at a table, quite rightly, along with the rest of Europe, taking part in putting the system back in order. Cameron decided to appease his own party critics in 'standing up for Britain', at the tables of decision. Sure a few lunatics in his own party think he has done the right thing, however, he has distanced himself, and the U.K., from the decision making process. We now have no say, Sarozy can rightly say 'there I told you so..those fish and chip eating English...', whilst scoring a few domestic political points of his own . Angela Merkel is the cat that got the cream right now, as her own domestic standing will have improved, whilst she also has the bonus ball of another year to wait before she goes to the German people.....but hold on a moment....jingo-ism aside, we are ALL in deep financial 'shirt'!....
...stepping backstage a little, lets look at the bigger picture. This crisis was born out of greed. The bankers in 2007-2008 we high on finance. Addicts if you will. Out of control, strutting around the financial institutions, without regulation. They took and took and became the unacceptable face of capitalism. Was the decision to loan to folks who couldn't pay the money back, for folks to buy their own homes in the U.S. a sensible one? If you and I haven't enough money in the bank to buy a new car, we make do with the old one. You and I know how to balance our own books. At the time, here in the U.K., we had bundles of letters daily dropping through the mail box telling us we should borrow this, and borrow that, in order that the interest on the monies could be placed in the hands of criminals in the city, who lent money using bad debt as collateral in the first place. Nurse! When the financial institutions went belly up, their employees carried on regardless. The U.S. had to be bailed out. The Japanese and the Chinese gave the U.S. a trillion dollars each. They were about to lose a market they could not afford to lose. The U.K. loaned the States 360 billion. No-one could allow the home of the capitalist system to fail. The sum the U.K. gave to the States has funded Barak Obama's 'get the people back to work' project, so I guess that is something.
Europe is a series of 'States', each of whom have their own political system. In the U.S. the geography meant that pulling the States together would take time, however this was not an insurmountable matter. In Europe, for the system to work, we have to all have a say, and we all have to compromise. This means that, in the current state of affairs, those who have, have to help those who do not. The French and the Germans have, the Italians and the Greeks do not. Those who have, need to ask themselves a couple of questions. Do we truly want closer Union? Are we prepared to pay for that Union? The U.K. is a problem in as much as the U.K. is inherently 'conservative'. Notice I wrote 'conservative' with a small letter 'c'. Sure we flirt with 'the left' from time to time. Historically we used to swing from the right to the left, politically, every four years, therefore Europe did not know what to make of us. Thesedays I have never seen such a weak bunch of party leaders. You cannot put a cigarette paper in between the three leaders. Hell, it is hard to make out who is who at times! This, however, could help Europe, as there has never been a better time to bring the U.K. on board. Essentially, the U.K. has three Liberal parties at the moment. Coke, Pepsi and Sainsbury's own brand! What transpired last week was a fall out over not a great deal. Sarkozy and Cameron behaved in a very juvenile manner. They should grow up!
The solution to the economic crisis is simple. Those who have (including the U.K.) need to work out a strategy between themselves. Bring calmness to the economic Euro Zone. Look at it this way. If I build up a huge bill on a credit card, what is the most helpful way forward? Jumping up and down, screaming at the neighbours? Might make me feel better in the short term, however, I will at some stage have to pick up the phone and talk to the institution to work out a way I can afford to pay back the money. It would be nice, in the U.K., to perhaps see more co-operation within all parties. Treat the financial crisis like any other crisis we have been though over the years. Get the best brains together from all of the parties, bring in the governor of the Bank of England, and sit in the 'war room' until the markets have stabliized. These people in power should look at the civil disturbances from last summer here. Hell, the Statesmen of years gone by, would have addressed the nation right now. Cameron, Miliband and Clegg could 'dither for Britain' at next year's Olympics, if they included 'dithering' as an event! People are fearful and are looking for strong government. All that there seems to be on the table right now are 'Cops out of Keystone' who won't talk to each other.
Toby Walker 12.12.11.
Received some e-mail this week from some folks oversea's, by and large, supporting and empathising with the folks living in the U.K. at the moment. 'Empathy' is a word which should be taught to children from a very young age. The dictionary definition reads:
'empathy: noun - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another'
Speak to most folks and they would say they thoroughly empathise with their fellow humans, and I, in my 'gold coloured spectacled' view of the World, do truly believe that the silent majority of us do just that. Curtis Mayfield said that most folks he met anywhere in the World, were pretty much the same. They 'had so many fears, shed so many tears, and died in so many years', a sentiment imparted on 'No Thing On Me' from the 'Superfly ' soundtrack. When we get bored, we empathise less. When we are not busy, the idle mind becomes the devil's workshop.
These last few tragic days this August were supposed to be all based upon the controversial shooting of this man.
His name was Mark Duggan. He was 29 and was shot by the police in Ferry Lane in Tottenham, North London a few days ago. Mark's shooting left a lot of unanswered questions, and the Police admitted as much. A complaints procedure was in place, and Mark was used by many folks involved in the rioting, as the reason why the troubles had transpired. It quickly became apparent that the man's family wanted nothing to do with the troubles, however, those with anarchistic intentions thought otherwise.
Yesterday evening the courts were in session throughout the night, dealing with a huge backlog of arrests, in an attempt to free up the jails of those who were less likely to recommit a crime. Overnight, as the procession of the guilty ones left the courts, it became apparent that there were those involved, whose places within the community made the public wonder. Not groups of young feral youths, but assistant teachers, graphic designers, parents of children, daughters of millionairres, ex-military, the list was surprising.
To undestand the mix of people involved in these riots, the groups by and large polarize into three sections in these particular troubles. Firstly, there are the individuals mentioned above. Secondly, there are those who are represented by the individuals shown on the television pictures above. This particular situation was very disturbing. A young Asian man had been knocked from his bike, hit and the two individuals above, helped him to his feet, and then when he was on his feet, proceeded to rifle through his bag and took away his belongings, leaving the dazed man on his own. One of these individuals has now been arrested, thankfully.
On an average day in the U.K., the general public in this area would have aided the injured man, and made sure he had reached the emergency services. During times of civil unrest, the residential population, by and largely, is made up of those without empathy. Those who are the 'behaviourable buffers' to the unruly vacate the scene. What remains are opportunists who are unshameable, and society would struggle to find a useful role within day to day life for these people. They are allowed to behave in this way, as the silent majority move away from the vicinity, and the worst aspects of human nature gravitate towards each other. No one can understand what goes through the minds of these individuals, because, by and large, not a great deal does at the best of times. The act as a single cell organism.
So who are the third group which comprises 'the whole'? These are the organisers. Hard to catch as, back in the Fifties and Sixties, these people whould gather in one place to discuss a robbery, stakeout etc. In 2011, you do not have to arrange these meetings. Get togethers can be conducted on mobile phones or online. The spread of the troubles indicate that the venues for the destruction were pre-arranged. Who was aware of the shooting of Mark Duggan in Manchester or Wolverhampton? Which rioter in these locations even knew who Mark Duggan was? These people are anarchists, who, as with the lone gunman in Norway attempted but failed to do, wanted to destablise the status quo. They try to make the issues race related, or of a religious nature. Smash the system? Possibly, although the system is propped up by the silent majority, and the silent majority's wishes always prevail in the long term.
Responses to the riots were put forward by politicians and pundits alike. In order for any of these matters to be dealt with, the numbers at the centre of the riots must be thinned down. Perhaps a different arrangement for a potential riot than at other times regarding the policing role might be an option? If, perhaps, a message was sent out that the police might be a little more 'active' in their responses to possible upcoming hot spots, those who are millionaires daughters, graphic designers or teaching assistants, might re-evauluate any involvement in any further 'evening activities'. That would leave the organisers and those without empathy out there for the police to deal with directly. Those who wanted water canon to be used, well there is only one in the U.K. It is Northern Ireland right now.
As usual, the political responses have been woeful. London had 16,000 policemen on the streets of London last night. The exact number who will lose their jobs in political cost cutting in London over the next three years.
David Cameron stated that Britain was 'broken' when he (partially) came to power. He then said Britain wasn't broken, and now he tells us that parts of our society are sick. Perhaps he might like to make a choice of political standpoint right now? What exactly are we? 'Broken' or 'sick'. He may be making the noises of a Statesman, however, his rhetoric is very childlike in many ways. 'Stop rioting, or I will hold my breath until I am dead'!! He told us we were 'all in this together'. No we were not. He was in Tuscany at the time the riots broke out, and it was there he had his George W Bush/9/11 moment. Stayed there 'monitoring the situation' before deciding to run the country. Very easy to say that a government is going to be tough on the unruly. People would like to know how, and how this enforcement will be funded. For instance, how can a government lose 16,000 policemen, and still maintain a constant level of performance?
Cameron's Home Secretary, Teresa May, was also on a continental break, and so was the London 'embarrassment', Boris Johnson. They all had to come back from their respective breaks, (that are out of the current financial reaches of certain teaching assistants, parents etc), proving they are all in it together, but it is a slightly different 'togetherness' than the rest of us. Nick Clegg's response was shock followed by tough talk from a political sheep. Ed Milliband's response was far too late and contained nothing radical, and it should have done. Parliament was recalled, and they were told that they could claim for any expenses incurred in the recalling of the rest of the sheep to the House of Commons! Nothing changes there.
The one voice of common sense, in all of this, came from this man:
His name is Tarmiq Jahan. The picture he is holding is a photo of his son. One of three men killed when they were run over, intentionally, by those from the section of the rioters who are those without empathy. He spoke quietly and clearly about his son, what a great person he was, how terribly he was hurting, and how we are all living in the same country and asked the question 'why are we doing these things to each other?' Certainly not in Mark Duggan's name. The true perpetrators are those who organise the anarchy. They will turn one brother against another. Ghandi wrote a book entitled 'All Men Are Brothers'. He stated that 'Western civilisation was a 'very good idea'. It is an idea which has not yet reached fruition. Personally, I am very proud that we have people such as Tarmiq living in the country I was born into.
The causes of the riots are almost certainly related to the austerity measures, and the anarchist mindset that emerges during similar periods in our history. Society does not get assistant teachers, graphic designers and young mothers out stealing from broken retail outfits, without there being a yearning for items that they cannot afford on a day to day basis. Greed is a part of the problem, but not the sole reason. This is formed out of a tapestry of peoples perceptions of injustice's, mainly born out of fear and worry about the future (especially if the government is weak).
Folks are also finding the recession deeply depressing. Carte blanche to do whatever they wish for those rioters without empathy, I guess. What we do with these guys is anyone's guess. It seems that in jails, to keep the prisoners from rioting, we give them phones, televisions and computers to keep the peace. In the wider society, if a person can steal from a badly injured man, then who will save his soul? I have no solutions, although I would not stoop to their level in retribution terms either. Are we living in a wider national jail, where some of the inmates need chattels in order to keep them peaceful? I would suggest that some of the computer 'games' involving graphic violence be removed from the shelves, and I would ask every school to teach the word 'empathy' to every child up until the age of 14. We may have lost the souls of part of our current generation. No need to lose the souls of the next one.
A cold wind blows through the U.K. right now, although the good folks out there do form the huge majority, and the huge majority comprise of very good 'empathic' people. We should always remember that point.
Something for the government and the Olympic organisers to ponder over:
Toby Walker 11.8.11.
Above are three people who have, undisputedly, had a huge influence on the planet over the last century. One whose arrogance was terrifying, the dude on the bottom left...one of her disciples, (who was and is a dangerous individual), and the one on the bottom right...the media realisation of the concept of Rand's Objectivism. The unacceptable, the anarchist and the greedy.
Ayn Rand is the woman (who looks as if she may be a bit of a control freak). She is at the top of the three images. That is because she was a control freak. Many capitalists look to her writings, and see these as the template for the advancement of the individual. Ayn wrote the book 'The Fountainhead' in 1943. A Russian born 'philosopher', whose movie was turned into celluloid in 1949, featuring Gary Cooper as an architect called Howard Roark. The book was a controversial novel at the time, as it put forward the idea that people should place themselves above all others, with those who 'lived through others' are essentially, as she described them, 'second handers'.
Rand authored another novel in 1957 called 'Atlas Shrugged', which also dealt with the pursuit of the individual above all else. An anti-matter Mr Spock from Star Trek if you so wish. 'The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many'. Personally, I believe that she was, whichever perspective you take on her writings...an immense snob! I have always believed that the individual should care for those less fortunate (if they have the wherewithal), and we should always treat others in the same manner we would like to be treated ourselves.
In a strange way, Ayn Rand's philosophies affected many of those who worked on the newer technologies in Silicon Valley from the early eighties onwards, with many even calling their children after the characters in her novels, or even after Rand herself. In a society run with the same values which Ayn Rand promoted, we would not currently be helping those in immense difficulty in drought ridden Africa as I write. Ayn would be instructing us to ignore the rest of the World and work on our own self promotion. Ayn Rand was a very dangerous individual. Control freaks do what they do best....control people. One of her 'disciples' was instructed by Rand to leave his wife and have an affair with her, telling the follower that 'it was the right thing to do'. The man followed Ayn's instructions, left his wife, but soon found a younger model, and left Rand, which only goes to show that you can control folks for some of the time, but you can't control......
In an interview with Rand in the Seventies, she was asked about another of her philosophies. The belief that when she died, the Universe would end at the same time. She stated 'that is correct'. Ayn passed away in 1982, and left us with one of her circle, working his way through the political system, until he became the most powerful man on the planet. Alan Greenspan.
Greenspan was very close to Ayn Rand in his youth. He attended her funeral. She counted on him to be her most ardent follower. He did everything he was told to do. Her followed Rand's own philosophy of 'Objectivism' which stated that 'man is a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute'.
Greenspan ran with that one from the outset. He persuaded Bill Clinton to reverse a fundamental principal of his own mandate, when he was in office, that being that the U.S. economy would grow, if finances were made available for business to thrive. Instead, Greenspan instructed him to make huge cutbacks in the U.S. economy, strangling the business sector, which resulted in an economic recession. Problem with Alan is he got cold feet whenever he tried to implement any of Rand's teachings at their purest level, primarily, as they were the belief's of a barking mad woman!
Greenspan believed that in 2007 that the U.S. was about to enjoy a financial surplus, which would endure, at least until late 2008. These figures were based upon computerised statistics, which enabled bankers to borrow finances more readily, and more importantly, at a far great speed, and these sums could be offset against other loans. These are derivatives. Money borrowed against other loans. Everybody has a loan someplace or other, so money would be available, freely and in just about any place you could think of. Fundamentally, money that doesn't exist in reality. Figures on a hard drive program.
This money was borrowed against debt, which gave the economists the wherewithal to loan finances to individuals they would never have given the time of day to in the past. Namely the poor. In a true piece of anarchistic financing, Greenspan put his hand in the magicians hat, but there was no rabbit to be found. He was caught with his financial trousers down, and, as is the way with all crooks in the markets, the hedge fund company Paulson & Co. hired Greenspan as an adviser, on a huge salary. So if I go rob a bank, I will be congratulated and offered a prominent position in a bigger band of gangsters on the posh side of town. It is at this point where I normally reach for the telephone and call the nurse for my medication!
The likes of Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand, rely/relied on, what another bizarre character, Mrs Thatcher, once called 'the oxygen of publicity'. Rupert Murdoch is an individual whose newspapers I never buy, and whose television channels I would not subscribe to either. His recent actions, regarding his own staff members, are very much the behaviourable aspects of the man which simply do not appeal in any way whatsoever. The closing of the News Of The World newspaper, is the action of an owner who is shooting the messenger, rather than the perpetrator.
millie dowler's family millie dowler
The bugging of phone lines are one thing, the disgusting aspects of some of these actions leave me speechless. The tapping and deleting of phone messages of a child who is missing, and was later found murdered, were the acts of a despicable individual, leaving the parents of Millie Dowler (the victim of the crime -above) believing their child might still be alive, due to the activity on the handset. The proprieters stated they were disgusted by the activities of the person involved, however, who instructed the reporters to undertake these actions? Who created the marketplace for this information, and, most telling of all, the tone invariably comes from the top in most workplaces. That family have been through hell and back.
Those workers who lost their jobs at the News Of The World were not even employed by the newspaper at the time of these crimes. These were other less reputable employees, although a certain editor, who was there at the time, still seems to be holding onto her position. Rebekah Brooks is her name. Murdoch likes her. Very good hatchet woman. Murdoch represents the unacceptable face of journalism. An extension of the Rand/Greenspan pursuit of the individual over the needs of the many. 'The Right thing to do?' Seen as weakness by these individuals. Money is God.
All told, Rupert Murdoch views all of the newspapers, which currently fall under his ownership, as small fry when pitted against the might of the BSkyB organisation, which he wishes to increase his ownership from 43 percent to 100 percent. Of course he does. BSkyB made a profit of 1 billion pounds last year. 'having a very good recession', as one middle manager stated on television earlier. So what of the U.K.'s political response? Our politicians are there, but that is all they are....there. They will ultimately do whatever Murdoch bids them to do because they are weak, and sadly none of them are Statesperson's either. Rupert will probably believe that when he dies, the Universe will end as well! It can't, it ended when Ayn passed away in 1982! Great, 9/11 never happened! Nurse!
The prevailing aspect of all of the three protagonists here, Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan and Rupert Murdoch, highlights one of the least attractive sides of human nature. That is the presence of arrogance. Arrogance you can see in many area's of society. As the recession deepens in society, the arrogant are surfacing, showcasing an insatiable need to present themselves to the world as successful and how somehow the financial demise is not hitting them in the same way it is affecting the 'failures', as they perceive them in society. The 'failures' are a fundamental necessity in the lives of the arrogant, however, as without those who are perceived as lesser mortals in their eyes in society, they would have no benchmark to illuminate their own success and position in the pseudo intellectual upper middle classes that emerged when the financial going was partying in it's heyday.
The recent series presented by Dr Brian Cox, relating to the formation of the Universe, contained many facts, which, are quite humbling, and fly in the philosophical facets of the Ayn Rand's, Alan Greenspan's and Rupert Murdoch's of this world. Much of this planet is composed of recycled material. The Himalaya's are constructed from limestone, which is in itself, is constructed from ancient marine life. Although we are laid to rest, physics tell us the planet will eventually recycle everything, including you and me. The possibility of the remains of Osama Bin Laden holding up the same mountain as parts of Ayn Rand...or even George W. Bush, ought to send out a message that we are all the same, and no-one should look up or down on any other individual. That initial thought brought a smile to my face.
Here is a thought. We have for many decades now, been trying to find out whether there are other forms of life in the universe. Imagine for one moment that we were visited briefly by a passing 'visitor' in the early Seventies, who thought they would tune into the airwaves of the planet, in order to find out what sort of inhabitants reside on this small ball of rock and water (inhabited by some carbon based species). They hear one of two broadcasts. The first one is that presenter interviewing Ayn Rand. They overhear her telling the presenter that the universe will end when she dies. The second broadcast is from a music station. The deejay is playing 'Just My Imagination' by the Temptations. On listening to the first broadcast, if it was me, I would think the planet was crazy, and fly on very quickly, placing a marker buoy to alert any other extra terrestrial visitors not to go near the place, as it is full of lunatics!. Eddie Kendricks' vocals, however, would make me very curious. Beautiful planet, and these occupants seem to be able to create something of genuine beauty. Let's go take a look.
Treating others in a manner you would like to be treated yourself may not always work. Lot of troubled folks out there, but it can be rewarding. The rewards are always worth the odd disappointments. Arrogance leads to bitterness, loneliness and disappointment, and in Ayn Rand's case, isolation, as this is the only environment in which the individual can live out a life of false superiority that has no base in reality, all told.
Toby Walker 12.7.11.
a year on...and a decade on...
It's been almost a year since we didn't (absolutely) vote in either of these guys into Parliament. One got more votes than the other two (he's the one on the left). The other dude on the right, came third, however, under the first past the post system of voting, which is part of the current electoral system here in the U.K., the only way either of them could step into 10 Downing Street, was to do so together. The guy on the right wanted to change the voting system. He saw it as unfair. In his opinion, a much fairer system would be something called A.V. (alternative vote), which meant he (and his band of merry ditherers) would be part of any government for the foreseeable future. Odd that his party got into a position of making that governmental piece of constitution through a system that he believed was morally untenable. All told, he sold his political soul in order to force the British people to vote for his version of democratic governement. Oddly, the voting population used their opportunity to voice their democratic rights, by passing on the message to him and his liberal cohorts, that he could put his A.V. voting system someplace where the sun doesn't shine! The bloke on the left didn't like A.V. either, so he now looks like a credible leader, with no mandate to run a government on his own, whilst the liberal guy is licking his political wounds, whilst coming to terms that, if a politician sells his soul, we are not a stupid electorate, and he should learn from his burns.
A.V. sounded like a much more democratic way of electing a politician. If you don't vote in your first choice, you vote for your second, and so on...until you have lost the will to live! P.R. / A.V., call it what you will, in practise makes for weak government. It always has done wherever it has been adopted as a voting preference. Italy is a good example. Whether you liked Mrs Thatcher, or as I wanted to, place her in an asylum, if she said she would do something, you knew that she would do it. Folks vote for people with strong belief's (albeit lunatic ones in her case!). First past the post works in most countries, which it is why it is the most widely utilised system globally.
So how have Ant and Clegg fared in their first year? Well not a great deal has changed all told. The economy is still bumping along, interest rates are still on hold, and Clegg has seen his political credibility wane, along with the rest of his political associates. They never believed they would ever get into power. Now they have slipped in through the side door, all of the radicalism has been left way behind, and they sit around, picking up their pay cheques, and once in a while saying something along the lines of 'the great financial mess the last government left us in'. Cameron's street bandits also say the same thing. Does make me laugh. I thought it was the banks. Maybe I was in a parallel universe over the last couple of years? Does anyone remember 'derivatives' or the 'sub prime market' disasters. The latter involved selling property to people who had no ability to pay back the loans they were falsely sold in the first place. Derivatives are, fundamentally investments which are loans secured by other loans. People who should not be in the position of handling finances, as they are irresponsible, handling insurances, personal savings, pensions and anything else that is based upon capital, largely owned by you and me. So who got punsished for all of this? In the U.K., Labour have been the fall guys for everything from the financial crash to who killed who in this weeks episode of 'Emmerdale'!
So what about the rest of us in this glorious first year of political romance? Well, my original suspicion was that we would carry on, basically ignoring the politicians, and try to make ends meet somehow. You can tell if a politician has run out of idea's, when they say something along the lines of 'we believe that we should listen, and talk to the people, find out what the man in the street really wants'. Well, if they haven't worked that one out by the time they have gotten into a position of political power, then what the hell have they been doing with their time? From a personal perspective, it is my belief that every political party that has had anything going for it in the past, has been successful for having one central idea in it's manifesto. The Health Service is the best example of a fundamental idea that people liked and have been very pleased with (despite Mrs Thatchers attempts to privatise it by flooding the place with overpaid middle managers during her reign of terror). What of the political opposition at this point in time?
Here is the answer to all our problems...Ed Miliband......oh dear.....I can hear many women out there thinking to themselves 'Not another one'...a suit that looks like the last one...which is this one's name?! Yes, Labour have chosen Ed 'The Steve' Mili-band. The answer to all our prayers! So what does Ed stand for? A.V.....oh dear.....Truth be told, Ed will not interest people at all. He is another politician produced from the political production line of blandness. In fairness to Ed, there ain't no more statesmen or women in Parliament anymore. Statesmen/Women were the politicians who came up with 'the big idea's'. Politic's today is very much 'same as it ever was', to quote David Byrne and company. If Labour wants to get into power, with a strong mandate, they should put forward a manifesto which contains a big idea. 'No more tuition fees' springs to mind. 'Education, education, education' was Tony Blair's war cry. That cry turned into a whimper, as by the time you got to the third 'education', it was barely audible. Another idea? Sure 'free dental care for all'. If bombing poor people in Libya or Iraq, or killing shepherds in Afghanistan is a money no object mission, then why spend all this money on war? We end up killing our own soldiers, and to what end? We had to talk to every 'enemy of the nation' throughout history. Why should peace suffer in preference to conflict?
On the other side of the Atlantic, my friends tell me that the economy is in just as a precarious position as it is here. Bush and the Bilderberg Group decided to 'let the Black Man' run the country, after Billy The Kid had screwed the economy. In my humble opinion, I believe they thought Obama would be a fish out of water in the Oval Office, although, his hands may be tied by the money men, and those who hold true power on Capitol Hill, from where I stand, he seems to be getting on with cleaning up the mess that his predecessor left him. He will never be allowed to have the freedom to do everything his heart would want him to do. The situation is similar in many aspects, to the time during the period the Civil Rights people achieved equality for all of it's national citizens. Sure Black people could vote, but what is the point of having a say, when, all told, the white majority chose not to listen. Thus the struggle went on, and still does to this day, which is a shame as, being a white man, there are still periods of my own cultures past that I am ashamed of, but to not blame for, I would add.
Barack and his team did, eventually, track down Osama Bin Laden, whose biggest crime is, probably, creating a fear of all Muslims around the World, which is unfair, and has created a great deal of animosity. Religion is a funny thing. Nearly all religions are peaceful at their purest. The Muslim faith is not a great deal different to many others. It attracted the likes of the singer Cat Stevens many years ago. I don't remember him being any different to any other Muslim I know. Most are peaceful. Same with any culture all told. We have far more in common with each other than we have differences. The differences are cosmetic, but certainly not fundamental. The lessons we learn from Bin Laden are the same that we learn from anyone who wishes harm on another person. They are in the minority. Should I hold every Irish person responsible for the crimes of those who bombed us in the Seventies? Of course not. In the same way that all White folks are not the same as Peter Sutcliffe. Human commonalities are to be celebrated. After all the O'Jays once sang of a 'Family Reunion', stating that 'we all bleed'. Indeed we do. If we see differences, thay are usually born out of fatigue or depression. Proverbially, walk in another persons shoes before you criticse them. What goes through Osama Bin Laden's, Peter Sutcliffe, Fred & Rosemary West, Saddam Hussein..anyone who feels as desperate as these guys obviously did? Arrogance, certainly. As with all criminals, a belief that they would not be caught. But more importantly, a deep inbuilt fear fed by a lack of empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
The resulting 'depression' going around the World, due to the global financial collapse at the hands of the gamblers, has kicked in with all of us. We all feel the pinch. People are getting more depressed. Understandable, and quite annoying when those in power tell us 'we are all in this together'. That is quite obviously not the truth. David Cameron is very wealthy. He tells us we need to economise. Touch of the Marie Antoinette, coming from his perspective. I do wonder about these politicians. If we have a huge amount to pay back to the IMF, then surely a longer repayment timescale ought to be the order of the day? Four more years of cutbacks and I worry greatly about the pscychological state of the nation. Still we have Ed Miliband around to save us.....oh dear......
Toby Walker 11.5.2011
...the state of the art...
Today I was taking a quick look through the new releases that have arrived here over the last couple of weeks. I've been busy on my design work, which I do love working on, however, it's nice to be taking a look at the newer musical material around at the moment.
Soulwalking can get quite morose at times, as many of the artists I grew up listening to, get their tickets delivered for a journey on to a better place, so a great deal of research and correcting misinformation (quite often my own!) has to be gone through. Can get a little depressing, however, those who have been in touch at the site, are pleased that some of these great people, who have gone to meet their maker, are not forgotten by those of us left down here on the ground.
The new music? Well, I have worked on an Apple Mac for nearly 25 years now, so iTunes, Peak, Toast and all that stuff are some work tools that feel like home to me, which is how it ought to be. Means that the technology isn't distracting the listener from the music. When new music arrives, I dump it all in a 'New Releases' section of my iTunes, and I take a listen to the newer albums when I feel at my most receptive. Each morning I check the main page at the site, as I like to switch the covers around, mainly to let you guys know I am still alive, and I am still finding some great material around the World! It dawned on me this morning, that the sleeves at the site had been in place for a couple of weeks now, so I figured it was time to recommend some new stuff.
I think 2010, for myself, will be remembered as the year of the one or two track album releases. The better, overall, albums have been compilations of the newer material out there. Sure there have been some great songs, but albums? Perhaps 3 or 4 at the most, which is a shame, as much of the year, I have to confess to listening more and more to retrospective material. I wondered why this should be? During times of recession, much of the creative juices get flowing in all area's of the artistic field. Nightclubs are usually buzzing, albums are remarkable, as folks feel the need to express themselves either artistsically, or in the form of letting their hair down on the dancefloor.
The four albums above are illustrative of times gone by, and recent efforts left unrewarded. Marvin and Curtis's albums were essentially concept albums. Records that dealt with War, Poverty and Urban Decline. I write those words with capital letters as they are important and still with us all told. Stevie's album showcases another lost format. That of the double album release. For myself, this release marked an album too far for Stevie. I think there is a single album within the walls of this double album, struggling to get out. Janelle Monae's album is a very bold attempt to move music on somewhat. Whether it works on all levels is doubtful. I mentioned that I disliked much of this set, loved parts of it, but recognised it for what it is, which is something challenging. Boy do we need more albums like this one around thesedays.
When the newer material arrives here, I pass on to a couple of radio deejays, anything I believe they, either might appreciate, or I believe is of note (pardon the pun). Those who are passionate about music will recognise a tune as being a bit special, as soon as they hear it. It usually comes from 'left field', hits you like a bolt from the blue, and you bore people about it for many weeks to come! This year, this has been the case here only a couple of times. Tracks like the Al Olive track from the Soul Togetherness compilation, are a different form of the same beast. Don't strike you straight away, but do grow on you until you love them. That song is his re-working of Luther's 'My Sensitivity' (in my humble opinion), however Al has added something of an era to the sound of that song, which is quite charming.
This morning I worked my way through the newer releases, and, although some were O.K., nothing really merited even a two star rating. Lot of music out there, which can be a little all engulfing, however, even with the best will in the world, I didn't want to mail out anything which I didn't feel was of the highest standard. So, I looked at the main page at the site, and added some albums I really appreciated from previous decades. Billy Stewart, who died far too young, Chairmen of the Board, with a nod to General Johnson, and Keni Burke, who I was fortunate enough to see play live last month. A genuinely lovely man, who made my favourite Soul Album from the last 60 or so years, in the form of his 1981 release 'You're The Best'. 'All time' is a bit of an irrelevant term. Few million years ago, a man living in a cave may well have had an 'all time' favourite dinosaur for a friend, but it doesn't mean diddly-squat thesedays, does it!
So where did the great music go? Probably folks from my generation to blame all told. I see a lot of promise in the Janelle Monae's of this world. Somewhere in the last quarter of a century, we lost our way, burying ourselves in technology, which has improved our lives in many ways, but try to get past someone in the street texting on a mobile phone, and you'll find yourself walking into them! Positives and negatives. The drum machines of the Eighties forced musicians to look for better ways of reproducing that particular instrument. Whilst they were at it, why not work on the rest of the orchestra? All that time saw the creators working on technology at the expense of content.
Stevie lost a lot of the warmth in his music, when he built his own drum machine. His real drum playing was superb. The songs were still great, but the drum machine 'took' rather than 'gave' to his melodies. I remember skipping tracks on his Eighties albums, in an attempt to get to a tune that was relatively drumless. This was the artist that gave us 'To find a job is like a haystack needle, cause where you live they don't use coloured people', but also gave us 'Well, I thought the bill was passed that said you could not discriminate, but I know some excuse you'll find'.....you will probably know the first lyric, but which song did the second line come from? Both great pieces of writing. 'Living For The City' and 'Cash In Your Face', the latter being a lyric lost in the technology enveloping the melody.
The recent releases in my iTunes here, are not bad. Some I like very much, and I have posted them at the site (and in the chart here). I really do recommend these. There is however, a definite feeling I have right now, that the likes of my generation have been uninspiring to the younger generation of musicians coming through. We were lucky. We had Marvin, Curtis and Stevie to inspire us. Who inspires the younger Marvin's and Stevie's of this generation? Thesedays anyone can make an album (and a great many folks do). The trick is not to duplicate your peers, but take a source of inspiration (from several sources if necessary), and utilise that source as a foundation for a personal musical concept of some description. Something you feel strongly about perhaps. Take a gamble. Stevie's 'Innervisions' album received some terrible reviews when it first hit the streets. After 'Talkng Book' I read one review that described Stevie as having 'lost direction', and being 'a spent force'.! The record scared people, as folks had never heard anything quite like it. 'Too High'? What was that all about? It was a change, and most folks resist change, forgetting that change can be a positive thing as well as manifesting a negative element. By the way, at no time during the writing of that album did Stevie brag about how great he was, and how women were second class citizens. 'Prospective songwriters...are you taking this all down!'
Toby Walker 5.11.2010
charity begins at...well....someplace
Charity shops are undoubtedly, and conceptually, a very good idea. They have occupied shopping outlets on every high street in the country at some time or another over several decades now. At the outset, the idea was brilliant and simple. There are people in the World who, either suffer some of the time, or all of the time. There are many westerners who collect chattels which clutter up our lives, when we realize we don't require them anymore. We give these items, for free, to the charity shop. If the pieces are in good condition, they can be sold as seen, or refurbished. The money then gets paid into one big account, which then provides the poorest on the planet with the neccessities of life, aided by volunteer workers, who work for free in order to make themselves feel as if they are doing something worthwhile, and in doing so make a poorer persons existence more bearable in one way or another. Brilliant idea, which no-one could question was a bad thing in any way. The Charity Shops, in those days, occupied the retail moral high ground, and so they should have.
As the decades have passed however, the moral high ground has become the territory of the better off in society. Let me explain.
I have just returned from staying with relatives in Cornwall over the last fortnight or so. The family are based in Camborne in Cornwall here in the U.K. Not the most picturesque part of Cornwall, but the central route which most folks pass through in order to get to the prettier parts of that great county. Camborne is much like many towns in the U.K. thesedays. The place has several Charity Shops, of which, probably about three, are true to the core charitable values illustrated above. The shops which occupy the more prestigious parts of the high street, are the usual suspects. The British Heart Foundation, Oxfam and Dr Barnado's amongst a chosen (wealthier) few. Thesedays these stores are well fitted out, with new floors, fixtures and fittings, along with state of the art lighting systems. Beware anyone who seeks to criticize these financial charitable outlays, as you will be viewed as the scum of society by those who work in these establishments, all enhanced by the smokescreen, which is the word 'charity'. How often do we hear on the news thesedays, that the charities are not getting the much needed supplies and medicines to those who are truly in need around the world (Pakistan being the latest to speak out)? If the charities don't respond quickly enough, the public are blamed, as 'they have been slow in donating'.
Personally, I have two friends who both work in a managerial role for one of the charities mentioned. When I bought the subject up in conversation regarding being salaried for the charitable work, I was astonished at the amounts my friends were earning. There are some odd anomalies within the overall charitable structure within these stores. Sure, there are those who give their time freely to these places, and they should be commended for their efforts. How does it transpire that a pensioner might work for free for Oxfam, several days a week, for an Area Manager who receives a six figure salary for doing likewise?
These salaries do require justification, and more to the point, how are they funded? Well the answer is simple. Describe your shop as a charitable institution, but to all intents and purposes, become an upmarket retailer for whatever type of product you are retailing. If it is china, you become an antique department with price tags to suit. Selling records? Buy a catalogue and become a high end version of eBay. The store would say to me, the more we charge, the more we give to the charity concerned, however, what is in front of the customer cannot be denied. These stores are very favourably viewed by the tax man, therefore the store does not receive the same financial restraints as a small retailer, therefore the profits are substantial. Sounds like a good thing well, look again. Prime retail space, well fitted out stores, and highly priced goods, all of which turn the original concept of the store on it's head. Remember, we give for free in order to get money to those who are most in need. We do not give to supplement a managers income, or provide a store a unit in a nicer part of town. Personally, I walk to the outskirts of places, to where the stores are situated in old disused, undecorated, shops, to buy something at a reasonable price in the knlowedge that the monies are 99.9 percent going to those suffering in Pakistan, for instance.
Everyone will have their own tales regarding their experiences within these establishments. Mine, of course involves music. In Kingston, which is the nearest big town to Surbiton, where I live, they have a few charity shops. In some of those, a book will cost you more in the Oxfam shop, say, than it will do in the discount book store on the high street. I went into the local Oxfam shop a couple of months ago, and in the glass cabinet, there was a copy of the Beatles album 'Sgt Pepper'. Those glass cabinets are the purveyors of bad financial news in most cases (pardon the pun!), and this was no exception. I must confess to liking the Beatles albums (apart from the childrens songs on some of them 'Yellow Submarine', Octopusses Gardem' etc., and besides, the early albums are pretty much R&B based recordings), so I do have a good grasp on what an original is worth. A mint, 1st of June, Mono, 1967 copy of Sgt Peppers should cost about £100 or thereabouts. It would have to be mint, mind you, to be worth that amount, and this copy was. As you can see from the ticket, this copy was on sale for twice that amount. For this LP to be costing this amount, you would think that the album was on sale in a specialist store. Instead there it was sitting in the Kingston branch of Oxfam. What is perverse about this are two things. One is that the album must have been donated by an individual for free. They must have thought that the overall amount would be going to Haiti or some other needy cause. Secondly, the folks who work in these stores appear to have received a directive from head office, to go get a valuation manual, look through the book and stick on a figure which is printed next to the listing. That's fine, however, after visiting several charitable stores, and seeing hugely inflated prices for albums which would have sold for a couple of pounds a few years ago, it would seem that these people do not read the ratings sections at the rear of the books. On one trip to Penzance, the local Oxfam store there had a Beatles Best Of, which I looked at, and the condition was average. The album had been priced straight from the Beatles page in the book (£20). The Sgt Peppers eventually sold for £150, which is still £40 above the rating in the Record Collector book shown at the start of this piece.
Camborne has it's own Record Store called 'Lost In Music'. It's run by a guy called Art, who is from Birmingham. Art loves his music and knows a great deal relating to album values etc. I go to his store and a great little record shop in Falmouth, whenever I am down in that part of the World. Up in Kingston, there is a great little shop in the London Road in town called The Record Collectors Centre, run by a guy called Keith, who really knows his stuff as well. Art is more into his Rock Music, whereas Keith knows more about Soul and Sixties material. The thing that struck me about all three of these stores, Kingston, Camborne and Falmouth, are they are all now cheaper to buy music from than any high street Charity Shop. Odd that, isn't it? The Charity Stores seem to have cut of their financial noses to spite their faces. All told, charity seems to start in a middle class home thesedays. If you do not think that is the case, well, it is interesting to note that the charity stores in my neighbourhood are now having stock shoplifted. Big price? Must be worth something!
This is Lost In Music. Odd place. Been there for many years. Art doesn't make a mint from the place, but I always go and buy an album or two from him, just helping to morally support his cause and empty my bank account! You go into the shop, and you'd think you were in a CD store, which also sells DVD's. Walk out to the back, and there is an Alladin's cave of vinyl. Most of the music is Rock stuff. Art sells Beatles albums for half the price Oxfam do (as does the store in Falmouth), and he has a Soul Section of sorts. It's the highlighted area below. You end up falling over boxes looking around, and you definitely do get 'lost in music', literally! I told Art about the Beatles album in Kingston. He stared straight into my face and stuck two fingers up! Thought he was angry at me! Just felt the same way I did, that's all. He has folks who pop in to see him. One guy worked for a production company back in the early Seventies, who fitted out a Four Tops show, and was given free tickets to see the band on the night.
The Falmouth store has many reasonably priced old Soul albums, some rare, wonderfully displayed, around the picture rail in the store. Jackie Wilson and Coasters originals I had never seen anywhere else. Heaven!
Keith's store in Kingston is very much the same. He sells music at a non inflated price, which is why we need these guys around. Keith displays his rare albums in the shop window. Old Roy Ayers albums, Donna McGhee etc., that sort of thing. I can envisage a day when people work for the charity stores for free, in order to be first in line to pick up the rarities which came into the shop to be retailed. If you get a moment, and have a few pounds or bucks to spare, this is a great film regarding the demise of the music store in the States. Absolutely essential viewing for any vinyl junkie.
So what did you pick up when you were away then, Toby? This stuff here....
Sure, not all Soul Music, and not hugely rare, however, in my humble opinion, everything that goes under the title of Rock, Blues and R&B, has roots in the music of the Black Artist. That is an undeniable truth. The originators, who genuinely deserve the word 'respect' through their groundbreaking endeavours. These albums would have cost me a small fortune in a High Street Charity store. The independent stores are now cheaper, as perfectly illustrated by Arts store, where the income hasn't been spent on the retail store cosmetics, but on maintaining the specialist interest, ensuring some longevity.
Charities? If you are curious, I send money straight to the dedicated charities thesedays, and miss out the high street retail middle managers. Soulwalking has allocated webspace (as you can see from the main page at the site) to various charities, including Haiti and the fight against breast cancer. I am not rich, but give when I am in a position to do so. Last time I gave money was to a charity helping people who suffer from Lupus. A good friend of mine passed away last year from the illness. Most donations are made to charities by folks who have lost someone to one cause or another. Long may the kindness of the individual endure.
Toby Walker 26.8.2010
'it's all up to you' - the dells 1971
That polling day back in May, in the U.K., 'the nation decided'! Well, in truth, we all leapt into a state of inertia and voted no-one into power! Could we make up our minds? There stood three men, with little to choose (as I mentioned before the election) between them, so none of them received a vote of confidence. If the Liberal Democrats were true to their belief that proportional representation meant just that, then they would not have a say in how we are governed today. But they sure do now. We forget however, that politicians are compulsive liars, who have lost their stature as statesmen thesedays. Instead they have become careerists. In truth, today we could still have Gordon Brown running the country, propped up by the party which came third (and a poor third at that). The Tories received the most votes, but not enough for an overall workable majority, so we were faced with the proposition of two lookalikes, the Ant and Dec of politics if you like, eating humble pie after deriding each other during the election itself, running the country. Vote for one, get one free! We are used to that scenario, aren't we? Hell, we've had 13 years of New Labour. It's time for a change!
13 years of New Labour......quite a lot of time to formulate what you would do, as a politician, if you got into power. For the Liberals it was Christmas time. No hopers with a say. Who'd have thought it? 'We never thought we'd actually have to carry any of this out.....oh Hell'! So, with Ant and Dec running the country, what were the big idea's? Stanley, I have a policy, but you won't allow me to put it into practice. Ollie, I have a policy, but you won't allow me to put it into practice either'! 'Another fine mess! David Cameron's big odour, sorry idea, was to 'ask the people'! Sounds great doesn't it, but if a plumber came to your house to fix your boiler, and looked at it, turned to you and asked you, 'what do you think I should do to fix it?', it wouldn't instill a great deal of confidence in the guy, would it? In many ways, asking the country what the country wants, is asking the question a second time. The answer was forthcoming during the election. You had a manifesto, you stumbled over the finishing line, being pushed over it by a bloke who looks remarkably like yourself, so get on with it. Politicians ask us, when they want a get out clause, that's all. 'Well you asked for it, didn't you'? Of course, we are not politicians. We have opinions, but opinions are like backsides. Everyone has got one. You have had 13 years to decide what you are going to do. Two things. Don't ask us. You are the politicians. We vote you in to make decisions on our behalf, not ask us to do your job for you. Secondly, don't blame the previous administration for the antics of those who sold property to folks who could not pay back their loans half way across the planet three years ago. You knew that there was a recession. Tell us what to do and we'll try to accommodate your wishes.
If Mrs Thatcher and Tony Blair had nothing else, they had blind belief in their own madness. Thatcher wanted to destroy the unions, privatise the health service and become a Sith warlord, Tony Blair thought their were stockpiles of weapons held by a bloke in Iraq, that we helped put there to destabilise the region, so he became paranoid that, within a 45 minute period we would all be exterminated. Advice from a Baghdad taxi driver! If you can't believe him, then who can you believe....and by the way 'you'll never guess who I had in the back of my cab this morning...'! Tony and George W, went to Iraq to find a guy, who was in Afghanistan, or possibly Pakistan. Sat Nav system must have been on the blink! Bit of a diversion, but through the madness, we voted for Maggie and Tony, who, if the pair of them told us, unequivocally, they were teapots, we would believe them, and thus vote for them. We knew that Maggie was crazy, and with Tony, things would definitely NOT get better, but we believed them that, if they said they were going to do something, by and large, they would do it.
Ant & Dec are very different 'kettles of poissons'. They dither a great deal. They are not strong in their beliefs and communicate poorly. This is why we don't comprehend Cameron's version of 'give power back to the people'. Sounds like watered down Thatcherism...I think! Cameron is very similar to those pundits, who categorically told us that England were going to win the World Cup. Strongly delivered rhetoric, delivered by a so called expert with no overall grasp of the situation. The government is not clear, and is still within it's first 100 day honeymoon period. The economy is, understandably, high on the agenda. The banks have accepted our bale outs, with very little grace. They are angry with the public and are not moving currency around the economy in the way they were instructed to do so by the prevoius administration. We are being charged interest rates which are currently well above three figures, for the smallest of overdrafts. Sure the likes of Vince Cable are telling them off, however, it was Geoffrey Howe who was once described as being as 'savage as a sheep'. Vince and his parties desire for proportional representation, makes for weak government. There is no consensus regarding how the economy ought to be handled. Those in the financial 'know' state that the economy needs an input of currency in order for growth to seed. Instead we are seeing a dithering at the edges, which is shrinking the economy. Higher unemployment is promised. Cameron seems to be saying to us, we should undertake the responsibilities that are currently under the control of the local councils, and perform these tasks ourselves. Great if everyone pitches in, but I would rather have someone who knows exactly what they are doing running the show rather than a few locals who actually can be bothered. They forgot one salient factor in this great unknown field of political dreams. That factor which is human nature. 'Build a community and 'they' will come'! But who are 'they'? Three chavs and a pitbull? What a mess. Perhaps we should run the Parliamentary seats as well? Lots of expense savings to be made there!
raoul moat / derrick bird
Truth be told....and all told....I don't feel as if I am being governed at this point in time. I don't now which direction the country is headed. I think the general population are confused and are preparing for austerity. Those who are desperate in society are easily tipped over the edge. When the financial support net is removed, those who have finances tell us that they will help the rest of us, although human nature would suggest that is rhetoric, and the assistance will be provided by that unknown, 'the other man'. In the U.K., in the last couple of months, two incidents have transpired, both of which involve guns and both involve murders. Raoul Moat and Derrick Bird were two men that, folks who knew them stated, 'they were just ordinary guys. The type you might have a drink in the pub with'. Can't think what tipped them over the precipice. Raoul and Derricks actions were those of two cold blooded murderers, however, both killed themselves after their actions. The publics responses, however, were most enlightening. Moat was given a tribute page on Facebook. Derricks' immediate family were less charitable, however, both incidents received huge televisual coverage and in the printed media. Subliminally, perhaps we are watching a soap opera unfold in front of our eyes. The results of someone else's lives being in a worse state than our own, thus making ourselves feel a great deal better about ourselves. During times of austerity, it is comforting to know that there are others who are feeling the pinch as well. I wonder whether we are losing our own self worth's. If it's O.K. on Eastenders, it doen't take a great leap of faith...except we are dealing with people's lives. Lot of hurt, however, as a species, we have a great deal of compassion within us. Time for some reflection, I guess.
Meanwhile, Ant and Dec's answer to crime seems to be that we need less paperwork for the police to undertake, but also less bobbies on the beat. This will probably not happen however. Politicians 'test the water' with controversial policies. If they want to cut the real values of pensions by more than inflation, they will leak a story about huge cuts in pension payments. When the final figure comes along, which is a cut above the rate of inflation for pensioners, we say to ourselves, 'thank heavens, it wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be'. Bit like a Union putting in for a 10 percent pay demand, knowing they will settle for half of that amount. Happens everywhere. Frighten, and then control. Seperate and conquer. In defence of Trades Unions, when was the last time you heard of a Union 'offering and proposing', or the management 'claiming and demanding'? Role reversal, but part of an interesting investigation by the Glasgow Media Action Group a few years back.
cameron being reminded he wasn't too kind to 'Dec' during the election, by the media
With my best Kevin Keegan-ism 'I don't make predictions...I never have done and I never will' hat on...I think that Ant and Dec's form of government will become untenable. Truth be told, the Tories should have been allowed to run the country as a minority government. No-one has any true belief that two men who stated they disliked each other during the election, have had a complete change of heart overnight. Human beings, after their teen years, are pretty much the same people throughout our lives, until we get the call to go meet our maker. Lovers beware of the prospective partner who tells you 'I have changed'. The fact that they have to tell you, is an admission that they haven't! Change is for others to decide, not the individual. When Cameron tells you 'he has found a soul mate', he really means 'he has found a cell mate'! The fact that we are being asked to help make the decisions in how we are being governed, is pretty sad, and pretty much a done deal. With or without Ant and Dec's help, we will, probably, be running our lives in one way or another from now on. It is how good our relationships with our colleagues and friends are which will see us either 'do' or die'. Personally, I'd rather do. I'll leave the other part to the politicians, who are in Parliament, but not placed there by the majority. Presently, as I have already mentioned, I do not feel as if I am being governed right now, and that is a cause for great concern if we are to perceive ourselves as living in a democracy....
...in the meantime, here's a calendar for 2010, entitled 'Goats In Trees' which Bangsy gave me at Christmas. Makes more sense than David Cameron....and it works for me!
Toby Walker 20.7.2010
'go back to your constituencies and prepare for government'
'Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for government'. Spoken by (the then) Liberal leader David Steel back in 1981, according to Wikipedia, although I can't remember there being an election that year. Perhaps he was talking about government two years down the line, still the phrase came to haunt the man, as with many politicians, what you see (or hear), isn't always what you always get.
The three current political stooges on window display right now are (left to right) Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg (David and Nick seperated at birth?), who all go to represent the U.K. political parties Labour, Conservatives and Liberal. In the U.S. this breaks down to Republican, Democrat and 'Pinko Commie' (Brown being the latter, but, when all is said and done, he is another Democrat!)
There really isn't a fly paper that you can slip between either of these guys. All a pretty boring bunch all told. They all speak about radical change, but in truth, they are all in agreement that we will have to tighten our belts, and the poor will suffer. They won't admit that, of course, but that is what comes out of most political rinse cycles if history is to be repeated. The Tories protect the better off, Labour try to protect the poor, but have repositioned the party to protect the middle classes, and, as the Liberals never seem to get into power, then they can promise anything they wish. Free trips to see the rings of Saturn is something I would vote for!
The economy is, as Bill Clinton once remarked, the bottom line during polling times. Folks vote for the party which they feel will work for them personally and financially. Human nature. What frustrates me as a voter, is the party which has one big idea, such as forming a Health Service, seem to be the ones worth voting for. They are seldom put up for election for some strange reason. Sure, no-one can be all things to all men, but, if you can promise to get one major facet of the economy ticking over, folks will usually vote for you. We all have family members who get seriously ill from time to time, so health seems to be a pretty good choice. This time round, these three super heroes will sort out a trillion dollar debt, whilst making our own lives more humble and uncomfortable. This is their big idea. As they all are in agreement about this, then the only political way forward is to insult each other until we have our next Parliament. That Parliament looks like it may well be a hung one.....now there's an idea!
The economy? O.K. 'Mr Know It All', what's your plan? Well, being a 'man with a plan', I have my own ideas regarding how to deal with this, which I will throw into the political hat for what it's worth....
The images of Cologne and St. Pauls, during the blitz and following the Second World War are now confined to the history books. I had to go to Cologne about 15 years ago on work. The place has been tastefully rebuilt since the blanket bombing, which left that wonderful cathedral intact, but not much more as you can see. There's a memorial outside the cathedral, which is worth looking at and taking in the gravity of conflict. The Allies had an agreement back then. You don't bomb our beautiful buildings, and we won't bomb yours. After all, both sides wanted the spoils of war, when either of them won. The problem with war is no-one ever wins. Everyone loses. Germany was, to all intents and purposes, flattened. The U.K. was made bankrupt. Germany was fed before the U.K. and Russia, as there were fears of reprisals. I guess a full country was a happy one, who knows?
St Pauls? Well that is a very famous image, which is taken not too far from the economic centre of the financial markets today. The Second World War costings vary, although one sum quoted in several sources puts the overall figure at 1.5 trillion dollars. That cake had to be divided up into many portions. Japan, France, Germany, U.S., Italy, Poland...the list is endless, however, you can guarantee that the U.K.'s share of that bill came to at least a third of that sum. Dollars translated into pounds, with inflation thrown into the pot, puts us into the same level of debt today, more or less, that we faced following the last major global conflict. The difference thesedays are there aren't the rebuild costs, however, the world is a very different place today. Oil reserves peaked three years ago. Now there is less and less oil in the ground.
That 1945 debt had to be repaid, and the country began reimbursing the relevant institutions as the economy kicked back into gear. A trillion pounds is an amount of money I cannot imagine. The number 1 with twelve noughts after it, I believe. Here is a question for you. The bill we owed America for their involvement in the Second World War? When did we complete our final payment on that sum? The Sixties? When Mrs Thatcher sat on the throne? The actual answer is 2006! 61 years after the end of the Second World War. In that time, we have squandered North Sea Oil revenues on keeping people out of work, and were advised to loan huge sums of our money to gamblers masquerading as bankers in the City of London.
The bankers took the U.K. to the brink of bankruptcy. Sucessive governments (Labour and Conservative) capitulated in this scenario, as the Labour left became the New Liberals, and the Conservatives became....well the New Liberals! Political Statesmen became a dying species, with only Vince Cable of the Liberals, being seen as any figure bearing political substance in Parliament at the moment. All told, 40 years ago, Vince would have been seen as a political lightweight. Todays politicians fiddle their expenses and appear to have no empathy with anyone other than themselves. Whilst they dithered, the bankers got on with their charade, and now we are left with a dim future.
Those that argue we need to keep those in the City, who took us to the edge, are fooling themselves. The guilty parties should be shown the door. Make that a revolving one which has an accountant on their way in, and a gambler on their way out (without a bonus!).
So what of this main political financial football, and why the references to the Second World War? Well it does seem to me that the 61 years we were paying the debt back, didn't seem to launch us into a long period of austerity. Far from it. 'Boom and bust' is a phrase often imparted in recent times, indicating a period when we had money to burn, and burn it we did. We were paying back our debt during the booming Eighties, the Winter of Discontent, the Swinging Sixties, and the housing boom of the last decade. My point is, perhaps, not avoid looking at this incomprehensible figure, but look at the duration over which we pay back the sums. Normally, when you buy a house, you go to an Estate Agent, they agree to find you a house, you find one, you go to a bank and arrange a mortgage. What doesn't happen is, you go to a bank and they inform you that the £300,000 loan they will lend you is only for the short term, and you will have to pay it back in a years time. They lend you the money, arrange a period of around 25 years, in order for you to pay back the sum, so you can use the rest of your income living your lives. The sum owed is a manageable amount. We hate owing money on credit cards, but are happy with owing bank a sum over a 25 year period. Owing is owing, it is just the interest that varies.
I wonder sometimes whether I am being a complete dumbo here, however, the U.K. owes a trillion dollars/euro's/pounds. The banks got us here, we didn't. Is it beyond the wherewithal of our species that we might arrange a timeframe, similar to the period we paid back the loan for the Second World War, with an option to pay back sooner, should we discover oil under Milton Keynes? The feeling I am getting with Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg is the economy is becoming a bit of a red herring. These guys all have a self confessed agenda. ' The money has to be paid back now....all of it!' Sure, none of us want to owe such a huge sum of money, but the problem could be addressed more creatively? Their political posturings would seem to indicate that they are more interested in using a serious problem in order to score political points. It is no wonder that the electorate are disillusioned. We are the innocent parties overseeing a group of people running our lives, who are proven accounting fraudsters, who are about to make us pay dearly for some poor decision making taken at the highest level of government, without our say so or knowledge.
The last year has been a very difficult year for many people I know. The climate is for change, however, economically, there seems to be little choice between a group of MP's who are at best, careerists, and at worst, fools. The innocent victims, as always, are you and I. If we had falsified our accounts claims, we would be up in court. If we had gambled away the total cost of the Second World War on loaning poor folks, who couldn't repay the loans in the first place, money for purchasing their own homes, and brought to country to it's knees, we would be imprisoned. These guys are looking at a vote of confidence from an injured animal, whilst being hugely rewarded for running the country into the ground. As voters we are left with voting for personalities rather that politcal parties, and that cannot be right in anybody's books. Vote for Simon Cowell or Ricahrd Branson? Wouldn't put it past them. Lost Michael Foot recently. Real shame. I would have voted for him. This time round I am not sure change will be a good thing, as the country is still in 'three wheels on my wagon' mode at the moment! I guessd by that I mean, vote for any of them, as nothing much will change who ever is in power!!
political poster circa 1979
Toby Walker 11.4.2010
one year on
Lot of water has gone under the global bridge since last Christmas. In the U.K. we were looking at the demise of the high street company, Woolworths. That retailer had the proverbial writing on the wall well before the financial crash, which has now taken the country to the brink financially. The real financial rescuers of the whole debacle have been you and I, all told. The politicians mentioned fiscal figures, which none of us could really relate to. The bankers proved themselves to be, what we knew all along, that is, the employees of the greedy within our society. We knew we loaned them our savings for a scant return in interest in the past, and we knew that, when it came down to the crunch, they would cover each others backsides, pay themselves huge salary increases, and pay themselves huge bonuses additionally and unashamedly. Our money all told. Who coined the term 'you can bank on that one'? Not anymore. The vibe these guys are sending out are, yes the country is in the deepest financial pit we could have ever imagined, we got you into this place, thanks for bailing us out, and can we have another huge payout, so we don't have to work again for the rest of our lives? Now if Jesus was in this particular marketplace today, he would be throwing the banking stalls across the shop floor all over again, and who could blame him? Their defence (if you can call it a defence at all) is that, to keep the best, you need to fabulously reward these individuals in order they stay in the country and not leave for greener monetary pastures. Does beg several questions. Whereabouts are these greener financial pastures? Why do we need to hold on to these individuals, who have 'gotten us all into another fine mess'?, and, if it is only reward that keeps these guys here, and not performance (which is hugely suspect at best), why don't we open the departure lounge right now? I think even I could have run the economy better than those on the current teamsheet. I remember being in hospital 3 years ago and talking to a nurse, asking her simply, 'why do you do this job?' Her answer was 'I want to help people and make them better if I can'. Bless her heart. At that time we were being informed that, if we didn't fabulously reward some senoir members of that profession, they would also all go abroad for richer financial rewards. These bankers and doctors need to take a deep breath and ask themselves 'just who am I serving?' The customer, patient.....or myself? When all is said and done, if it is the financial rewards that motivates these people, I don't want them running my bank account, let alone operating on me!
Woolworths days were numbered, way before the crunch hit us all, as I mentioned previously. 'Hit' is the operative word. What seems to have transpired regarding our reactions, are similar to those which might have been developing during previous disasters throughout history. Lets take the example of the Titanic, following the collision with that iceberg some century or so ago. Some of the passengers reactions might have been to run for the lifeboats, demand they be launched, in order that those individuals would have rescued, themselves, before any others on board that ill fated vessel. A second set of passengers would have told themselves that the boat was unsinkable and headed back to the bar, listened to the band, whilst downing a strong brandy. The last set of folks would have all looked at the situation, turned to each other, and began co-operating in trying to find a solution to the oncoming disaster. It is the latter folks, who adapt to these changing set of circumstances, who will eventually prevail. Those at the bar will perish, but convince themselves there was nothing that they could have done anyway, and, hey, what a way to go. The selfish may survive, however, they will be held accountable should they survive, and there is always that 'conscience' thing going on for the rest of their lives.
The financial crisis has changed things for the foreseeable future. Whether that is a good or bad thing will largely be down to your own disposition regarding your fellow man or woman. The balance of resources is something that will become an ineviatable issue over the next century. In truth, population has risen extraordinarily since the prospectors first struck the 'black gold' in the ground in the latter part of the 19th century. Sure oil was used on a much lesser scale prior to those times, however, the industrial revolution has affected everything radically, in a very short space in time, in the great scheme of things. Money may have been sloshing around the economies of the World over the last 50 or so years, almost to the point that the bankers have become drunk with the stuff! We have lost touch with reality, and the credit crunch will make us more human in the long term I believe. Look at the two graphs below. The top one is a population graph indicating the huge rise in population due to the massive increase in the use of oil. The lower graph indicates that we have just passed the peak of highest production. As Lenny Williams once sang 'There's Only So Much Oil In The Ground'.....
You may have also become aware that the untouchable Gulf States are now seeing the recession hit them. Dubai is beginning to look like a huge financial dinosaur. I was there a year ago. Manic building, in an almost panic buying mentality. Ironically, it has had the effect of distracting the attention from the fact the many of the oil rich countries are now sourcing their product off shore. Drilling in the sea? Imagine the overheads involved. I think they are now realising that the long steep climb to the year 2000 production peak, is now becoming a slow decline. How does this affect us?
Well, the cost of crude oil affects the markets. We all know that. What we miss on a day to day basis is the reliance on oil which all of us are a party to in our everyday lives. We have become so used to the material status quo that, well, look at yourself right now. The machines which sowed the clothing you are wearing right now, were made with the help of oil. The engines which drove those machines. Plastic is made from oil based products. The materials in your shoes, your make-up, the printed paper you write upon and read, the bus you travel to work in, the train, the airplane, everything relies on oil. The computer I writing on right now is made from plastic, The wiring within the computer the same, the wiring in your house, the internet, mobile phone, even sending man to the moon would not have been possible without oil. Oil is incredibly useful....and incredibly polluting. The decline in oil ought to cause a trigger effect, which should have us looking at utilising the oil we have left, over the next century or so, with a mind to manufacturing wind and solar alternatives in order that we leave our children the tools to exist to a reasonable standard of living, rather than throwing a huge party and following the example set by the banking community and those who ran for the lifeboats, selfishly, on the Titanic.....or your senior doctor for that matter!!
I think we are a resourceful animal as a species. I don't hold with the feminist Rebecca West's assertion that 'all men are lunatics and all women are idiots'. We need to beware of generalisations. They are counterproductive and I think they undersell us as a species. Today we need visionaries and not those who take advantage of oncoming social depressions. When we are depressed we can look for scapegoats, which is something we should be aware of when listening to the empty vessels which make the loudest noise at times such as these. Comparisons just make people lesser individuals. Let the bankers run for their own proverbial lifeboats. We should begin by looking at our own lives and see what we can do to lessen the imapct on the environment and those directly around us. We shouldn't lecture the emerging economies regarding matters which we are ourselves hugely guilty of in the past. We should be honest and say, those we elected to serve us, served themselves and we are truly very sorry for that. We would like you not to make the same errors we did, how can we help you? Tell, us what you need, we have learned from our own burns and we would like to help you avoid being burned yourself.
Heavy, heavy, heavy? Sure, but being hit by a bus is not pleasant. If we can see that bus coming from a long way off, we can do something about not being hit by the vehicle.
Personally, in our lives here, what has changed in the last year, is any spare money we have had in the home (not a great deal), we have spent making the house greener and more cost effective. It will cost us now, but will save us hugely in the long term. When the house is handed over to our daughter, her bills will be lessened, and she will be affecting the environment is a much lesser way, additionally. The car has gone, the boiler updated, all the windows have been doubled up and the domestic waste has been halved. All small things, however, governments will have to do likewise, either willingly, or eventually dragged kicking and screaming! My real faith is in people. My fear is that, as oil becomes scarcer, governments will use every method at their disposal in order to obtain the material. Personally, I am grateful for oil. If it wasn't for oil, we would have not seen a vinyl album, thus none of us would have heard Stevie at his finest.
Here is one scary statistic. For every tyre on your, or your parents car, the manufacturer has to use 8 gallons of oil to make that one tyre. 32 gallons for the whole car. Remember the wiring, circuit boards, steering wheels etc....which all have to be taken into account well before you drive into your local gas station to fill up.
Society is a long way away from going pear shaped just yet, so enjoy the Christmas break, and afterwards do think about getting the grey matter moving regarding things environmentally. Looking at this funny little meter the gas/electric people provided for us for free here right now, we are looking at an energy saving of one third overall by making these small changes. Money you will be investing in yourself, which will help with the bills, and will go to make your local street a little more of a nicer place to live. Doesn't make you a eco-warrior. It just means you are not a banker, a politician, or a lifeboat hog on the Titanic! Not a bad place to be.
Toby Walker 17.12.09
august 2009...how are you doing?
'a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.'
Thought I would undergo a 'wiping of the clean slate', now the dust has settled regarding the exploits of the British politicians, and we can now begin to get a clearer indication of just how severely the global recession has affected people. The Opinion page was bulging at the seams here, so the previous page has been archived, but is still there if you follow the links below.
Alan Greenspan (above) and his 'de-regulated bunch of cowboys' hit town, big time, last year. We borrowed so much money to prop up the banks that, the twelve figures which go to make up the written 'trillions' (on paper) our governements borrowed, also go to make up the number of individual cells in one person's body. It is a useful illustration which gives the individual a benchmark as to how to come to terms with the numbers handed over to these corporate institutions in order to 'correct their mistakes'. To see a human cell, you need to look through the lens of a powerful microsope. Those small pomegranite seed like objects that float across the glass on the viewing slide each represent the same number of pounds or dollars the banks have been given in order to get us all out borrowing and spending again. One cell equals one pound or dollar. The truth of that set of circumstances is that, the banks misbehaved, and should have been punished. Those that had consciences, well they apologised (after a fashion). Those that chose not to do so, still award themselves huge bonuses, which, at best, is completely distasteful, and at worst, ought to be seen as criminal, and treated as such.
I watched the head of Barclays Bank yesterday explaining how it is important for banks to take risks. Barclays had just make a 3 billion pound profit. Nice for those who receive their £100,000 half yearly bonuses, however, the gap between their world, and the real world outside that industry has become so immense, that the scene has become almost Dickensian. Upstairs Downstairs, if you wish. Speaking personally, I have witnessed the design industry collapsing to a point where, if there is any work around, it is short term and all payments have become negotiable. It is commonplace that the biggest burger retailer on the high street, now requires a prospective employee to work for 8 weeks, unpaid, after which it is up to the employer as to whether a permanent position is then available. If not, well they have had an employee for two months for free.
In the real world, the employment market is declining, whilst those still lucky enough to be in full time work, have seen their working conditions suffer, and their management adopting positions which utilise whatever draconian measures they desire, in order to achieve whatever they see fit for those in positions of power. To put it bluntly, the folks I know who are in work, are unhappy at their companies, and are 'treading water' until something better comes along. That 'life bus' will be one which will take a long time in arriving, it is my belief. Whatever a politician tells you, will be in contrast to your own experiences right now. Look out of your window and see what is developing in your neighbours households at this point in time. I would bet that many household bread winners are seeing more of their families than usual, as part time employment is becoming very much the norm. Costs cut in order to maintain the salaries of those who are at the helms of each relevant institution. Their biggest mistake, which is manifesting itself at this point in time, is this. If a work environment has become so unpleasant for a skilled individual to function within that place of work, when the time arrives that the institutions need to re-recruit, as the garden is looking more financially rosy at that particular time, those who have been mistreated, will remember the recession, and will not return to the fold. Many people of my age (fifties) will hold out for retirement. Many younger employees will be advised by those who previously left workplaces, just exactly how things once were at these companies, and warn the younger folks should the economy begin to suffer again. In many ways, recession is a good time for a company to sow the seeds of loyalty within their staffing ranks. People have long memories, and they will support the companies which support them when things got a little tough going out there.
In the U.K., we are headed, erratically, towards a general election next year. Our current unelected Prime Minister and his merry band of benefit cheats, are telling us everything in the garden is rosy, and that the worst of the recession is now over. The actual figures contradict that viewpoint. 5 years before those in negative equity can begin to get back onto a level playing field. Odd figures which come out of the recently privatised Northern Rock Bank in the U.K. state that they made a loss of £750 million in the first six months of 2009. Apparently all due to people defaulting on their mortgages. In the real world, people are hurting. The pound shops have never seen such a boom. Those who buy there, who used to be the unemployed or those of a modest disposition, now are shopping alongside people with posh voices and suits. There seems to be a shame, which many folks are carrying around with themselves, born out of wanting something better for themselves and their families, working toward that goal, only for the Alan Greenspan's of this world to remove that optimism and hope and firmly reposition individuals back in their ill-considered, wrongly perceived places.
There are those who look to apportion blame at the doorsteps of groups such as the Bilderberg elite, who seem to have their own mysterious political agenda's. I must say that I find it strange that Mr Greenspan has been placed in charge of righting the wrongs of his previous conceptual ideologies. Bit like Adolf Hitler being placed in charge of ensuring there would be no further rise in fascism post 1945!
I speak to many business people on a day to day basis. Working for myself, I have to. This past 6 months or so, have brought very few new projects to my front door. All of my work colleagues are experiencing the same. It is as if we are all in some sort of suspended animation, waiting for the green light to be turned on again, so we can all get back to work. My fear is that, when that green light is turned on, in the same way the banks were slow to begin lending again, the green light will be a gentle flicker and the companies out there will be slow to begin ordering and employing again. If I was a student right now, I would take a year out and go help a charity or travel the World. Recessions are very hard on the young. We teach them to work hard as they will achieve a decent position within a company if they do so. We make promises without proviso's. Right now we lied to them. Not our fault, or our teachers either. Just a series of unfortunate events, which were instigated by those who sought to lend money to those who had no wherewithal in returning those funds at a later date. You and I both know that situation was untenable, should have never been allowed to happen in the first place, however, those in the know thought they knew better, and they obviously didn't.
So what of the rest of 2009? Predictions? Well, by the looks of things as they stand, I would imagine that the days of, even just two years ago, will never arrive back again. Perhaps that is for the best. Recessions can be dangerous, as the far right can 'make hay' with the weak minded, however, if any good will come out of all of this, well, I would hope we would all become more public spirited, less materialistic, and try to be as optimistic as we can. One thing for certain is we have all been cast adrift in the same lifeboat. What didn't kill us will make us stronger. We will have to reside in this state of supended animation for at least another year, I believe, and after that, I am hoping a slow crawl back to some sort of dignity for all of us. At least we are not alone in this mess, and we can console ourselves that the mess is not of your or my doing.
Toby Walker 6.8.09