Thursday, September 23, 2010

I hope that in this latest round of flogging that public sector workers receive at the hands of the media, people remember that the vast majority of those in the sector earn far less than their private sector counterparts. Furthermore, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with GPs earning in excess of £100,000 a year, and I don't think most other people do either. I DO have a problem with management consultants in the NHS being paid six figure salaries while there are nurses who have to work second jobs to get by. Personally I think that publishing a list like this is intentionally inflammatory and i wonder about the motivations of those behind it; harping on about 'gold plated pensions' and flogging the public sector whipping boy completely detracts from the real problem which is that across the board those at the top of the pyramid are being paid gluttonous amounts that are not only many times the wages of those at the bottom, but also those in the middle. (with the drip-drip stealth transformation of public sector agencies such as the CSA into 'third sector' operations, it's not like pension funds and employee rights will be safe for much longer anyway) And to focus on this inequality in the public sector, which is frankly a pittance in comparison to obscene private sector salaries, is frankly ridiculous. But then, one of the downsides of trying to sustain the public sector in a world in which corporations are becoming ever more powerful is that problems like this will always arise. So long as we have this weird sort of hybrid system, the BBC are trying to compete with commercial interests and Private hospitals can offer Drs far more ample wages and the state school system will not improve because many of those with the power to make it better don't REALLY care all that much because they can put their own kids through private school. The problem with trying to run these two sectors alongside one another is that the profit driven private sector will eventually leech all of the money out of the public sector until it's drained dry. Capitalism is based on competition; I agree that the public sector can't compete with the private in terms of wages and in fact it shouldn't be trying to. If we don't want our ailing public services to reach a point where the only option is to dismantle it and privatise it piece by piece then I suggest we need to sit down and have a good hard think about what we want from them, because the current model obviously isn't working. But for gods sake lay the blame where it belongs.

And on that note, I'm not entirely sure why the above article divulges that "Some people earn more than the Prime Minister", as though I should be expected to turn purple and fall off my chair in shock, sputtering, until I have been calmed down with suitably soothing words and a cup of hot, sweet, tea. It doesn't surprise or bother me because a) If Cameron decides it's not too crass, he can always follow in Blair's footsteps and make his money on the lecture circuit. b) It's not like he needs it. c) Why should politicians be paid obscenely high wages anyway? It's not a 'career', or at least it shouldn't be. It's a stressful and important job of course, but Cameron's six figure salary seems plenty ample. Some guy on the radio the other day made the comment that we shouldn't pay our politicians crazy amounts of money because it attracts the wrong sort of person, and I rather feel he may be right.

And finally; reading the reaction to Cable's 'marxist' utterances the other day (what is that all about anyway, are we in 50s America? "Sacrilege, he has dared speak ill of the money god! What a commie, go back to Russia!") I was struck by something which has hit me on occasion before; like a ton of bricks, it floors me. Some guy, who I will name and quote directly when I'm at a pc and not writing this on my phone, who I think was the director of CBS, made some sarky remark along the lines of "Well, if he thinks Capitalism isn't working so well then I'd like to see him suggest something that works better", and I remembered, once again, that the minds of the public have been colonised to such a degree that they actually believe this rubbish about there being no other alternative - "We have to accept the flaws of this system and all of its injustices because there is no other option", "Capitalism is the law of the jungle", "This state of affairs is a natural product of human nature." Orwell hit the nail on the head; repeat a lie enough times and people will think it true. The form of late capitalism we operate under now is just as engineered as the towers it built, as the urban landscapes that spiral out, fractal like, across the ground you see getting smaller and smaller as you fly into oblivion in the plane, glass and metal forged by men, by machines forged by men, always one step further away from blood and sweat and tears. We disregarded the idea of a creator God around the time we took to stroking the sky with our cold steel fingers, grew the lillies of the silicon valley, imagined new spaces of freedom and tried to conquer those as well. We made this world with our own hands. Take some fucking responsibility.

That's pretty bilious, sorry. Politics frustrate me.
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

I just had the eerie experience of driving past a Lidl shop in the proximity of a motorway entrance near Wallasey which looked almost identical to one I visited once in Germany. Isn't it so strange, that the way we live now means that some places can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time?
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Little brother, big chair

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Last night a friend and I went to a screening of The End of the Affair (1955) in St Lukes church in Liverpool. The choice of film, with it's portrait of Catholic guilt against a backdrop of war torn London, was echoed by the setting - St Lukes is also known as 'The Bombed Out Church', a casualty of 1941. At times Deborah Kerr's onscreen urban world of strange new London streets, hewn from rubble and shadows, seemed to segue into our own; I half expected her to wander out from behind an overgrown pillar, to prostrate herself in front of the overgrown altar, unused for decades. When humans make rain fall from the heavens, we do not nourish or bring life - it doesn't nurture, it kills. But then, even though the church is no longer used for religious ceremony, I would like to think that some of the things that happen there now could be perceived as a new kind of worship - people coming together to make music and to celebrate life, rather than a preoccupation with ritual, an infatuation with death. The sunflowers that stood around the old walls were like cheerful sentries. It made a beautiful frame for the black&white world of the film, which was all clipped English accents (why does nobody talk like that any more! 'oh darlink - i think - i must punctuate - every three words - with a pause - and remain curiously atonal - even when declaring love.') and burning eyes and understated emotion. And the clothes....

The Bombed out Church is one of my favourite places in Liverpool. For many years it was a half-shell of a place; sometimes, as kids, we would run around the outside and jump up on tiptoes to try to peer through the gaps where there used to be windows. In 2007, a group known as the Urban Strawberry Lunch collective became artists in residence and since then the half-building has been given a new life, with all sorts of things going on - urban gardening, lots of film showings, and musical events happen on a regular basis. If you're local, I suggest checking them out.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I would like to make it known that although I find David to be the undeniably more attractive of the two Milliband brothers, I nevertheless find myself far more amenable to the policies of his rather earnest brother, Ed. Despite his burning eyes and strong jawline, I find David a little too 'New Labour', whereas Ed's stances on the unions, living wages and gender equality generally don't make me a little bit sick in the back of my mouth. And when it comes to politicians that's a very good thing.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

So I am currently sat on a terrace waiting for one of my childhood friends to get married (which is obviously blogworthy in and of itself, but not really something I feel I can do justice to on a tiny phone keyboard). I got here with a few hours to spare, entirely thanks to a total stranger who saw me walking by the side of the road, blissfully unaware that I would soon be walking down a busy a road with no pavement. This utterly unprovoked act of general niceness got me thinking about the usual thoughts these sorts of ocurrances provoke, such as if-only-we-were-all-a-bit-more-trusting and also there-are-still-some-nice-people-after-all. Then I found myself thinking about other similar occasions when galvanised either by youth or stupidity (providing you don't consider the two terms to be synonymous anyhow) I dared to throw off the bounds of social convention and trust a total stranger.

The two events which spring to mind illustrate the breadth of the spectrum; the first being an occasion when a friend and I flew to Germany with the intention of spending the night in Frankfurt Hahn airport (note to reader: don't ever intend to do this, it is a bad idea) and got chatting to the guy who had sat behind us on the plane. We ended up crashing at his lovely flat (sorry mum) and avoiding a scrotty three hour coach journey in favour of a ride down dark fast German roads in his lovely, air conditioned car. Nice bloke, and we're still in touch with him now, sort of (as much as facebook friendship counts as being in touch these days). So that was one situation in which a fairly stupid risk actually turned out to be a good idea.

The other occasion that I thought of was less of a laudatory anecdote on the inheret goodwill in all man; when I was 14, I was in New York visiting family and some guy thought I was a teenage runaway and tried to recruit me into his prostitute ring, or whatever the technical terms. I scuppered his nefarious plans by completely failing to understand what he was asking, and then spotting my mum and running back to her after a cheerful "It was nice to meet you!" and a wave.

So either way, basically the score is 2 - random acts of kindness make for a beautiful world, 1 - white slave trade recruiters in dodgy NY parks. Those odds will do for now I suppose
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Friday, September 03, 2010

#hintikka "This possibility of using language as its own metalanguage explains how speakers can recycle signifieds for their personal needs without loss of communication, provided the new meaning and universe of discourse are properly defined."

So when I say tomato and you say tomato, we're really describing two different but similar objects, because fortunately we're part of an English-speaker-wide agreement to use the word as an umbrella term for all things which conform to a certain group of characteristics. Does this mean language is always a compromise - we are always trying (necessarily, unsuccessfully) to convey a sense of our own internal experience to another being who will only ever be able to experience a passable at best simulation of it?