Successful Illusion

Successful Illusion

Millennial men are earning less than any generation before them – to the tune of £12,500 (around $15,600) a year. Over £1,000 a month less than men before them, by the time they’re 30.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that “the economy is rallying – house prices are up!”

Whoever decided to use house prices as a measure of a successful economy was either a consummate shyster, or completely naive, to the extent that they should be nowhere near any kind of role which involves making important decisions and announcements.

For a start, it isn’t “house prices” that are being used – although this is what we’re told – but rather the mortgage market.

In short, we measure the “health” of an economy by the inherently unhealthy habit of debt.

This illusion of success is portrayed as: “More people are being approved for loans, therefore people are earning more, which proves the economy is flourishing.”

No.

The reason more people are approved for loans is because people have more loans – try getting even a small, short-term loan, or a catalogue, when you have never previously borrowed money. It’s nearly impossible. Yet, once you have a history of borrowing money, people will fall over themselves to lend you more. It’s the same mentality that has friends more willing to lend money to their well-off companions who’re “in a spot of bother” , for something those friends could easily do without, than to their unemployed friends who need that money for essentials.  If you have money, people will give you more. If you have debt, people will give you more.

If you have nothing – that’s your life, now and forever, unless you get exceptionally lucky.

When you run an economy – or a business, or your personal life – on someone else’s money, any success you have is only ever an illusion. However impressive, it can never be more than a glittering image, because it has been built on inherently unstable foundations.

Success that is built on what you have, and not a penny more, is less impressive, less spectacular, less far reaching. It rarely makes the headlines of even your local paper, let alone attracting national or international attention, yet it is more enduring.

Your duty, first and foremost, whether you’re leading your family or running a company, is to be enduring.

Debt is not enduring, and neither are the illusions it helps create.  Borrowed money means borrowed time. When you use only what money you have, however, you have all the time in the world to create something that will last. Something enduring.

Creative negativity is enduring. The things that go wrong for people tend to be repeating patterns, and tend to happen because of inherent flaws or inabilities in those individuals . Therefore, when you use your failures as the foundation of future success, you’re more likely to create an enduring, if not particularly spectacular, result, because, rather than trying to construct something entirely from scratch, you’re simply adding on to a strong, set pattern that’s already there, and changing its composition very slightly.

The illusion we have come to call success starts with the premise that “of course I’ll need to borrow money.”

Creative negativity starts with the thought of “If I use what I have, I will only ever lose that which, over time, I can regain.” Starting with nothing forces you to be both creative and  negative – you can’t afford dreams and ideals. You just have to get something, anything, done, with whatever you have to hand. You work around problems that other people use money to solve, and therefore gain more skills – and skills are what people may, one day, pay you for.

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The Decline of Risk

The Decline of Risk

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings,

And risk it all on one turn of pitch and toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about the loss…”

(Rudyard Kipling, “If”.)

Risk has always been big business. Risk drove the housing market into the stratosphere. Risk is what fuels consumer credit. Risk built an entire sector – the financial sector. Risk is what makes sports exciting, why we play the lottery, why kids love arcade games.

Risk is what keeps us alive, and, ultimately, what kills us. We live because we take risks – the risk of being excluded from a group we want to join, the risk of being turned down for our dream job, the risk of being mocked by the person we fancy, the risk of a pregnancy not working out, the risk of going bankrupt buying a house or starting a business, the risk of regretting the decision to jack in our job a few years early and go travelling – and we die when the “turn of pitch and toss” doesn’t go our way. When risk bites back.

We will die because of risk, but we will also die if we don’t take risks.

Society has been slaughtered by risk run amok, risk that was released from any kind of supervision or control. Risk made without judgement.

But now, we stand in real danger of society dying because of an increasing unwillingness to take any kind of risk.

High Street book shops are stagnating because mainstream publishers refuse to take risks on unknown, exciting, genre-free authors, and haven’t caught up with the fact that the book buying public isn’t going to buy another 400 pages of the same story in a different place, with different people.

The arts are dying because governments aren’t funding them, and artists have become too used to being funded by the Establishment, and won’t risk trying something new, trying other ways to get the show on the road.

The economy is dying, because employers are unwilling to risk accepting the paradigm shift that’s needed, to embrace ways of working that don’t involve expensive offices and close supervision.

Intelligence is dying, because teachers daren’t risk standing up against a rising tide of government meddling, and actually exposing children and young people to the lessons they need to learn, the sources that will light the individual sparks in all those children, and set a blazing love of learning, and of knowledge.

Manners and compassion are dying, because no one will risk disciplining people when they fall short.

Society is dying, because no one will risk a “Hello” to a stranger.

People are dying, because no one will risk radical care, medicine that is more than medication, support that is more than just keeping difficult people out of sight.

The decline in risk is a fear-fuelled response to the death toll of ungoverned risk, which came in the form of mortgage defaults and corporate collapse, evictions and dismissals.

But the thing is, that risk was only culling the old and the sick. Those institutions, lifestyles, and people were already dying.

The reaction to it, the decline in risk taking across the board, is attacking the healthy, the vital, the necessary. It is killing everything that keeps us alive.

The world needs you to take a risk – now, today, forever.

What will your risk be?

The REAL Demonisation of the Working Class

In 2011, Owen Jones published a book, “Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class.” In it, he sets out to explain how the poor, misunderstand chav (a UK slang term of uncertain origin, although “Chavo” is a Romani  word meaning “boy”, which refers to a certain type of – usually – working class youth, known for poor grammar, deliberately scruffy, poorly-fitting clothes, and generally treated with a roughly equal mix of fear or contempt) has been cast as a media scapegoat, on whom can be laid all the political and socioeconomic woes of the world – simply because they haven’t been listened to!

I am working class – I grew up with both parents working full time, no car, at one point no carpet (my father couldn’t stand the faded, threadbare dark brown anymore, and ripped it up – only to realise, when faced with bare concrete, that we couldn’t afford to replace the carpet) and, one year, no heating or hot water – the boiler broke down, my father attempted to repair it himself, but needed to get at the underfloor pipes – he couldn’t afford either the tools or a professional plumber. So, we lived without heating for about eighteen months, until he’d saved up enough money to pay a local plumber.

Even though – thanks only to my father’s death from a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and the resulting compensation paid to myself and my mother – I own my own home, I’m still living without heating or hot water – the boiler broke back in August. I can’t afford to fix it.  I also can’t drive for medical reasons, but wouldn’t be able to afford a car even if I could.  I can’t remember the last time I had a holiday.

I am working class, and I am not a chav.  I don’t care for them, or what passes for their culture, although I have had passing friendships, usually through work, with chavs who, on an individual basis, were pleasant enough, and, in many cases, brighter and more talented than their appearance and attitude would have you believe.

The targeting of “chav culture” is not the real demonisation of the working class – the real demonisation of the working class is a lot more subtle.

It’s the “Well, of course we ended up with Brexit/Trump – the working class vote ensured it. They voted that way because they’re incapable of understanding the broader issues at play.” (Thus simultaneously laying the blame for any and all ills those respective outcomes may bring at the door of the working class, conveniently ignoring the dedicated effort of the high-profile elites and their respective media to skew perceptions of what “the issues at play” actually were, and ignoring the many working class people who didn’t vote that way as “not really working class” – stripping them of their identity, and turning the people who should be their community and support network against them.)

It’s the unpaid internships in media, politics, law, the arts, which are not-so-subtle “Keep Out” signs to anyone from a working class background, whose parents can’t afford to foot the bill while they work for free to gain “experience” and “exposure.”  Unpaid internships ensure that the working classes are, for the most part, kept out of areas where they would, eventually, be able to tackle issues of social justice – and thus the elites and their media can keep up the pretence that the working classes are either incapable of managing high-level jobs with a lot of responsibility, or simply don’t care enough – that they’re quite happy doing their minimum wage jobs, playing the lottery, and trotting down the pub every pay day.

It’s the way social media, education, literature and art conveniently forget to mention the long and illustrious history of working class autodidacts, who came together first to learn, and, later, to demand and create change – the way these sectors leave people with the impression that education and intelligence are the preserve of the mythical “liberal elite”, that, if you are working class and intelligent, you are not, in fact, working class – again, stripping away an identity, community, and support network.

It’s the casual mockery of manual labour, the dismissal of those who make and maintain useful things, like cars, houses, and heating systems.

It’s university tuition fees, it’s mandatory membership fees to professional organisations, it’s the team lunch everyone is expected to “chip in” for in expensive, fashionable restaurants, it’s the focus on extra curricular activities.

It’s the savage attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK Labour Party.

It’s a “celebrity” culture that promotes and prizes stupidity and complete lack of talent.

It’s newspapers written in an easy-to-read format – ideal for those who may have had a hit-and-miss formal education (mine was more miss – the school I went to was consistently rated as “failing” by Ofsted, teachers were often not-so-functional alcoholics, and, thanks to daily bullying, I was only there about half of every term anyway), or with late-diagnosed, or, indeed, undiagnosed, dyslexia – focusing on celebrity lifestyles, racist and misogynistic invective, outright lies, and opinions masquerading as fact.  It’s the fact that these publications also happen to be the cheapest available, and offer things like affordable holiday offers, which will have an obvious appeal to someone on a low income.

The working class is a powerful, talented, intelligent, compassionate force for change – it has always, previously, been responsible for forcing through changes that went on to bring improvements to everyone’s standard of living – but the real demonisation of the working class is the elite’s subtle – and not so subtle – insinuation that, if someone is intelligent, if they are concerned about social justice, if they are involved in the arts in any way, they are “part of the liberal elite” – an enemy of the working class, rather than a member of it.

It is the withdrawal of funding for, and subsequent closing down of, Adult Education courses – the leaving of a token remainder of flower arranging and jam making.

It is the rosy-hued misinformation about how the working classes were and are happier, because “their lives are far simpler, and more practical.” It is the leisured classes adopting as hobbies, with a nice little side income from the fayres that working class people can’t afford public liability insurance for, upfront costs of, and travel to, of things that working class people did out of necessity – rag rugs and wicker baskets, home-made preserves and home-baked bread, sewing and knitting and keeping chickens.

The real demonisation of the working class is not a name – it’s a systemic attack.