Desmond Painter. Wie om te blameer vir die disintegrasie van ons wêreld

Coope, Boyes & Simpson is ‘n Britse a capella-groep wat meestal volksmusiek (sogenaamde roots-musiek) sing, veral uit die Keltiese tradisie. Met die lees van nuus vanoggend oor verdere oproer in Londen, kon ek nie help om aan hierdie groep se aangrypende liedjie, ‘Jerusalem Revisited’ (geskryf deur Jim Boyes), te dink nie. Dit is maklik om hierdie soort geweld te verindividualiseer en selfs te ‘versielkundig’: om Britse jeugdiges en hulle ouers te patologiseer sonder om na die maatskaplike en ekonomiese besluite te kyk wat vervreemding en anomie in die hand werk. Bestaande vorme van maatskaplike ellende word net vererger deur politiek-ekonomiese regimes wat allerlei jeugdienste en –sentra op dikwels siniese wyse verder afskaal – as deel van ‘neo-liberalisering’, ‘rasionalisering’ en ‘besparing’. Asof daar nie alternatiewe is nie. Margaret Thatcher (een van die argitekte van politieke koelbloedigheid en ekonomiese geweld in ons era; waarom hou Afrikaners tog so baie van haar?!)  het mos gesê daar is nie iets soos ‘society’ (samelewing, gemeenskap) nie, net individue en gesinne. Nou ja, as dit jou uitgangspunt is, moet jy nie verbaas wees as wetteloosheid, woede en geweld jou voorland is nie. As jou stede dwaalplekke vir wolwe word nie. Coope, Boyes & Simpson se liedjie is analise, aanklag en visioen. Dit herinner ons van die knusse middelklasse om nie te val vir elitêre retoriek wat die eintlike slagoffers van maatskaplike geweld vir die disintegrasie van ons wêrelde blameer nie.      

 

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Jerusalem Revisited – deur Jim Boyes

 

Out there on a doomed estate

A house is burning down

Another island in a wasteland

Another blackspot in the town

In a homeland for the homeless

Live the scroungers of the land

Stealing anything of value

For a little ‘Cash in hand’

 

Out there by the petrol station

Someone’s stalking with a gun

Head full of jagged images

Somebody’s crazy mixed up son

Out there someone gives the order

Shoot to kill the little swine

We’ve got to have some law and order

In this land of iniquity and crime

 

And we tried to build Jerusalem

Upon this island shore

But it seems that we’ve forgotten what it’s for

 

Meanwhile in the city

A jewelled finger clicks

Another zero in a total

A quick financial fix

Meanwhile at the scrapyard

Another supplementary wage

Another monument to money

Another symptom of the age

 

And as they close another factory

And reposses another home

As they cut another budget

Another splinter off the bone

As they waste another billion

Propping up a lost empire

There are clouds on the horizon

And the future’s in the fire

 

And what could have been Jerusalem

Is rotten to the core

Is it Dark Satanic Mills for evermore?

 

And did those feet in Ancient time

Walk on England’s mountains green

And the Holy Lamb was sacrificed

On every foreign field

Was it all a vain delusion

Built on centuries of war

Now all around’s confusion

And the beggar’s at your door

 

And they try to say Jerusalem’s

Forever passed away

But tomorrow always brings another day

 

Bring back the voice of burning gold

Stifle the Silver Tongues with fire

We’ll join our hands across the world

To reclaim what we most desire

We shall not cease from mental strife

For Unity is our demand

And bound together we will rise

To make this Earth a promised land

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19 Kommentare op “Desmond Painter. Wie om te blameer vir die disintegrasie van ons wêreld”

  1. Leon Retief :

    Daar is meriete in wat jy se Desmond, maar daar is ook iets anders wat my telkens opval: hoe ander persone/instansies altyd geblameer word vir sulke geweld. Daar is absoluut geen verskoning vir sulke barbaarse optrede nie, en ie blaam moet vierkantig voor die deure van die misdadigers gele word. Soortgelyke geweld het onlangs in Vancouver losgebars na ‘n hokkiewedtsyrd, groot dele van Vancouver se middestad is in puin gele. Die misdadigers was nie veronregde werkloses wat onder rassediskriminasie gebuk gaan nie, maar middelkas jeugdiges wat ‘n heel gerieflike lewe lei, universiteit toe gaan en so voorts.

  2. Desmond :

    Leon, ek stem saam: blote geweld en vandalisme sou ek nie wou goedpraat nie.

    Maar in die geval van Brittanje veral is die aftakeling van maatskaplike dienste, insluitende jeugfasiliteite, ‘n reuse probleem.

    In die lig daarvan is dit vir my ironies as die PM (jammer, ek kan daai outjie nie verdra nie!) die oproer afmaak as uitsluitlik krimineel (met ander woorde, dit het GEEN politieke of politiek-ekonomiese dimensie nie; nie eers as simptoom nie) en as ‘n “kriminele minderheid” se aanslag op “die publiek”.

    Wat hy doen, op ‘n manier, is om die waarheid in te span in diens van ‘n leuen: sy soort politieke ideologie (“there is no society”, “there are no alternatives”) neem SELF oor jare nou al in baie gevalle die vorm aan van (simboliese, ekonomiese) geweld gemik teen presies die kategorie wat hy nou skielik koester — die publiek…

    Iemand wat ‘n gebou afbrand moet beslis vervolg word: daar stem ek met jou saam. (En ek het al in Londen rondgeloop en gewens ek kon een van daai astrante, aggressiewe belhamels wat klaarblyklik in troppe saam deur die stad beweeg persoonlik bykom!) Maar ons moet beslis nie vergeet van die maatskaplike ellende wat die teelaarde word van geweld, wetteloosheid, die dood van respek, ens nie. En ons kan ook maar weet: dit gaan net erger word…

    Wat jy vertel oor Vancouver is interessant. Ek wonder wat dit in daardie konteks veroorsaak?

  3. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Desmond, ek skat Billy Bragg se weergawe van Blake se weergawe kan ook kliphard gespeel word. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXEqFMFFsQo

  4. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    En my stukkie wise ass kommentaar vir die dag: Fascisme en neoliberalisme is twee kante van dieselfde munt. Neoliberalisme is die kop en fascisme die stert.

  5. Leon Retief :

    Ongetwyfeld is daar ;n afname van besteding aan maatskaplike dienste – soos die geval met byna als in die UK en elders is. Dit kan nie anders nie, die gewoonte om die belastingbetaler se geld kwistig rond te strooi het te veel mense aan te veel staatshulp laat gewoond raak. Cameron was reg met sy standpunt dat dit tyd word dat mense self begin plan maak om na hulle samelewing om te sien en nie gedurig na die staat (dws ander mense se belasting) te kyk nie.

  6. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Karl Polanyi, in 1944: “Our thesis is that the idea of a self-adjusting market implied a stark utopia. Such an institution could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society; it would have physically destroyed man and transformed his surroundings into a wilderness. Inevitably, society took measures to protect itself, but whatever measures it took impaired the self-regulation of the market, disorganized industrial life, and thus endangered society in yet another way.”

  7. Desmond :

    @ Leon, veral die figuur van die ongehude moeder wat op staatsgeld teer het ‘n soort ideologiese troop geword in die Britse openbare diskoers (op dieselfde manier as wat die diskoers van ‘white trash’ of ‘trailor trash’ in die VSA funksioneer as ‘n manier om sistemiese ongelykheid toe te skryf aan die agterlikheid en morele tekortkominge van bepaalde groepe en klasse mense — dit is heel moontlik en nogal gewoon om ongestraf in die openbare diskoers te verwys na sekere mense as ‘trash’, ‘yobs’ of ‘hooligans’ — ‘n soort ‘klasserassisme’, myns insiens).

    Natuurlik is daar mense wat staatsgeld misbruik, maar hier word ‘die waarheid’ weereens in diens gestel van die leuen: hierdie troop van die lui, onproduktiewe burger, veral die ongehude moeder, word die rookskerm wat ons aandag aflei van hoe die maatskaplike en ekonomiese sekuriteit van gewone mense sistematies en in die belang van ‘kapitaal’ afgetakel word.

    Die ideologiese ‘oplossing’ is nie gemik op ‘die probleem’ nie. ‘Die probleem’ word ‘n nuttige ideologiese narratief wat verdere klasseoorlogvoering legitiem en rasioneel laat voorkom — asof dit (en dit is die mees obsene deel) juis ter wille van die slagoffers gedoen word… ter wille van hulle selfstandigheid, outonomie en uiteindelike welvaart.

    Bollocks!, soos hulle in Engeland s^e.

  8. wysneus :

    Dis darem moeilik om by te hou met die taalverwringers wat hul bedoelings sluier in wolwoorde wat slegs vir ideologies makkers ontsyferbaar is.

    Uniek aan hierdie taal (ek noem dit Goebbels) is dat byvoeglike naamwoorde nie die betekenis van geassosieerde selfstandige naamwoorde nouer omskryf nie, maar dit verander. Bv: in Afrikaans is ‘n blou deur steeds ‘n deur, maar hy’s blou. In Goebbels sou ‘n blou deur nie meer ‘n deur wees nie, maar die teenoorgesteeld. Doringdraad, bv.

    ‘n Meer konkrete voorbeeld: Die Goebbelse term “ekonomiese geweld” behels geen geweld. ‘n Afrikaanssprekende sou dink “ekonomiese geweld” is ‘n eufemisme vir oormatige belasting, synde dit ekonomiese onteiening is gerugsteun deur die dreigement van staatsgeweld. Of, sal hy dink, dit verwys na geweldadige protesaksie om die staat te dwing om meer geld by ander mense te vat tot voordeel van die ekonomiese geweldenaars. Of, sal hy dink, dit is dreigemente van geweld om banke te dwing om roekelose riskant te wees ten gunste van die ekonomies geweldenaars. Nee. Dit waarna die Goebbelaar verwys as ekonomiese geweld behels geen geweld nie. Maar dit klink vreeslik wreed, en dis die punt. Op sootgelyke trant is “sosiale geregtigheid” of “ekomiese geregtigheid” nie geregtig nie. Inteendeel. Dit wat “polities korrek” is, is werklik onkorrek, anders wat dit nie “polities korrek,” nie, maar bloot “waar.”

    Verder is enigeen regs van oom Joe ‘n fascis. Hierdie fasciste het natuurlik niks te doen met werklike fasciste nie, maar die Goebbelse term “fascis” beteken “hy wat gehaat moet word.” Moenie mislei word deur die feit dat liberaliste staatsmag wil inperk, terwyl werklike fasciste totalitêr is nie. Moenie vra of die Nasionaal Sosialiste dalk sosialiste was nie, en of die liberalistiese klem op indiwiduele vryheid nie effens teenstrydig is met werklike fascisme nie. Moenie vra waarom ‘n driejarige fotos van oom Fidel en oom Hugo by fotos van Mussolini en Hitler sal groepeer, en ‘n foto van Cameron by Rooseveldt en Chamberlain sal sit nie. Moenie vra waar is die strafkampe, die heropleidingskampe, die uniforms, die putsches nie. Moenie vra oor die afname in militêre besteding nie. Moet ook nie vra waarom Goebbelaars se fasciste pro-Israel is, terwyl die Goebbelaars self anti-semiete is nie. Moenie vra hoekom die Goebbelaars die mees suksesvolle vroulike leier in die geskiedenis van die heelal verpes nie. Hulle het geen probleem met sterk, suksesvolle vroulike vrouens nie.

    Laastens is ‘n rassis, in Goebbels, iemand wat almal gelyk wil behandel, ongeag velkleur. Nie-diskriminasie is onweerlegbare bewys van diskriminasie.

  9. Desmond :

    Wysneus, net om seker te maak ek verstaan: jy lees al bostaande (insluitende anti-semitisme!) in my standpunt dat dit eensydig sou wees om dit wat in Londen gebeur sommerso te blameer op slegte kinders, vrot ouers en anderlike luigatte, en dat mens ook moet erken dat ernstige vlakke van vervreemding, afname in maatskaplike vertroue, ensomeer, verband hou met politiek-ekonomiese (of ten minste maatskaplike) prosesse nie? Hoe maak jy sin van wat in Londen gebeur? Of maak dit nie saak nie — is jou deelname aan enige gesprek maar net altyd daarop uit om een of ander gewaande ‘rasionele’ (altyd jou eie) posisie te verdedig teen die bogeyman van ‘linksheid’?

  10. wysneus :

    Nee, my bydrae poog om te dien as ‘n gids vir Afrikaanssprekendes wat mog poog om die kloutjie by die oor die bring as hulle lees van Thatcher se “ekonomiese geweld.” Die insig dat Goebbelse byvoeglike naamwoorde hulle selfstandige naamwoorde in ‘n ander genus plaas, in plaas daarvan om ‘n spesie binne die oorspronklike genus aan te toon, is heel bruikbaar en dit sou selfsugtig wees om dit nie te deel nie.

    Andries se opmerking oor fascisme (wat alledaags is in Goebbelse kringe) het my genoop om stapsgewys deur die eienskappe van werklike fascisme te dink en dit te vergelyk met diegene wat ons vandag veronderstel is om te haat. Dit is in daardie konteks dat dit merkbaar is dat moderne anti-semitisme oorwegende links is.

    Ek sal nie voorgee om te weet wat die oorsaak vir Londen se krampe is nie; dit is jy wat Thatcher en Cameron (snedig) daarvoor blameer. Daar is ‘n hele paar relevante sosiale aspekte wat betrokke kan wees: ekonomiese ontwrigting (wat die huidige bestel voorafgaan en wat nie beperk is tot Brittanje nie); sekularisasie en die gepaardgaande materialisme waarin alles gaan oor hoeveel wie het; beklemtoning van groepsidentiteit deur grievance-mongers wat rassewrywing aanblaas; die onbeperkte vraag na kostelose voordele; disintegrasie van gesinne agv regeringsbeleid, losser sedes, morele relativisme, of die seksuele relativisme; die verlies van empire; uitbreiding van die welvaart-staat vanaf 1945-1978; Thatcher; Major; Blair; Brown; en Cameron. Dit is ook moontlik dat die geweldenaars self betrokke is daarby. Goeie mense kan hieroor verskil, maar nie as hulle met jou verskil nie.

    Jy skryf aan Thatcher en Cameron duistere motiewe toe, nie slegs goed bedoelde dwalinge nie. Hulle is sinies, geweldadig en koelbloedig. Hulle takel af, hulle lieg, hulle is obseen. Die dinge wat hulle sê hulle doen tot voordeel van die armes is ‘n rookskerm vir hulle ware doel, klasseoorlogvoering. Hulle sê dit nou wel nêrens nie, hulle weet dit nie self nie, maar dit is hulle werklike doel. Vra vir Desmond, hy weet.

  11. Leon Retief :

    @ Andries: ek is nie ‘n voorstander van die selfkorrigerende mark nie – dit, dink ek, het die VSA getoon is ‘n ondier.
    @Desmond: ek probeer nie mense afmaak as lui, wat ook al, omdat hulle aan ‘n seker “klas” behoort nie – mens kry trash onder alle lae van die samelewing. Die feit bly egter staan dat die spul wat Londen op horings geneem het niks anders as barbare is nie en dat daar geen verskoning daarvoor is nie. In 1985 was daar soortgelyke oproer en toe kon daar geen verskoning aangevoer word dat daar ‘n besnoeing van fasiliteite vir die jeug was nie. My punt was (en ek dink ek het dit te haastig gestel, by die werk geskryf so tussen gevalle, moes liewer gewag het tot ek by die huis is soos nou) is dat die Ingelse, soos ek hulle uitgekyk het in die twee periodes wat ek daar gewerk het, veels te afhanklik geword het van handouts van ‘n welsyn/nanny staat en niks meer vir hulself doen nie.
    ‘n Vergelyking tussen die oproer in Londen en Vancouver: in Vancouver het van die omstanders die vandal probeer keer, sommige is in die proses beseer, talle omstanders het foto’s en videos van die gebeure geneem en die volgende dag aan die polisie oorhandig om hulle te help om die skuldiges te help vastrek, die dag na die chaos het ‘n geskatte 5000 Vancouveriete op eie hotjie die middestad ingevaar en die munisipale werkers gehelp met opruiming. Terwyl Kanada ook tot ‘n mate ‘n welsynstaat is en dit natuurlik nie noodwendig in alle opsigte ‘n slegte ding is nie, is Kanadese meer betrokke by hul samelewing en doen hulle meer vir die milieu waarin hulle woon en werk. Waarmee ek nie probeer voorgee dat Kanada ‘n utopie is waar almal mekaar omhels wanneer hulle op straat by mekaar verbyloop nie, ver daarvandaan, maar ‘n groter betrokkenheid, meer eie inisiatief word deur die tipe van staat wat soos dit vir my lyk in die Uk bestaan gesmoor – en dis een van die gevolge van so ‘n bestel. Die tipe van finansiele onverantwoordelikheid wat vorige Arbeider regerings aan die dag gele het is nou chickens coming home to roost.
    Ek sluit ‘n artikel in, geskryf voor die Londense oproer, wat my standpunt dalk beter verduidelik.

    THEODORE DALRYMPLE
    Austerity in the U.K.
    Britain discovers that shrinking government is a lot harder than expanding it.
    In Britain, government spending is now so high, accounting for more than half of the economy, that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the private sector from the public. Many supposedly private companies are as dependent on government largesse as welfare recipients are, and much of the money with which the government pays them is borrowed. The nation’s budget deficit in 2010, in the wake of the financial crisis, was 10.4 percent of GDP, after being 12.5 percent in 2009; even before the crisis, the country had managed to balance its budget for only three years out of the previous 30.
    Deficits are like smoking: difficult to give up. They can be cut only at the cost of genuine hardship, for many people will have become dependent upon them for their livelihood. Hence withdrawal symptoms are likely to be severe; and hardship is always politically hazardous to inflict, even when it is a necessary corrective to previous excess. This is what Britain faces.
    For some politicians, running up deficits is not a problem but a benefit, since doing so creates a population permanently in thrall to them for the favors by which it lives. The politicians are thus like drug dealers, profiting from their clientele’s dependence, yet on a scale incomparably larger. The Swedish Social Democrats understood long ago that if more than half of the population became economically dependent on government, either directly or indirectly, no government of any party could easily change the arrangement. It was not a crude one-party system that the Social Democrats sought but a one-policy system, and they almost succeeded.
    For countries that operate such a one-policy system, especially as badly as Britain does, economic reality is apt to administer nasty shocks from time to time, requiring action. When the new coalition government, led by David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, came into power last year, the economic situation was cataclysmic. The budget deficit was vast; the country had a large trade deficit; the population was among the most heavily indebted in the world; and the savings rate was nil. Room for maneuver was therefore extremely limited.
    The previous years of fool’s gold—asset inflation brought by easy credit—had allowed the Labour government to expand public spending enormously without damaging apparent prosperity. Labour’s Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer from 1997 to 2007 and then prime minister for three years, boasted that he had found the elixir of growth: his boom, unlike all others in history, would not be followed by bust. During Brown’s years in office, however, three-quarters of Britain’s new employment was in the public sector, a fifth of it in the National Health Service alone. Educational and health-care spending skyrocketed. The economy of many areas of the country grew so dependent on public expenditure that they became like the Soviet Union with supermarkets.
    Britain was living on borrowed money, consuming today what it would have to pay for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the day after that; the national debt increased at a rate unmatched in peacetime; and when the music stopped, the state found itself holding unprecedented obligations, with no means of paying them. Without aggressive reforms, it was clear, Britain would soon have to default on its debt or debauch its currency. Both alternatives were fraught with dire consequences.
    In the end, the new government chose to attack the deficit from both ends: by cutting spending and by increasing taxes. As many commentators noted, this approach risked a reduction of aggregate demand so great that short-term growth would be impossible and a prolonged recession, even depression, would be probable. Domestic demand would plummet, and export-led growth, many feared, would not be able to rescue the economy, for two reasons: first, Britain’s industry was so debilitated that its competitiveness in sophisticated markets could not be restored from one day to the next by, say, a favorable change in the exchange rate; and second, the country’s traditional export markets were experiencing difficulties of their own.
    But the general economic argument was not what fueled the fierce intellectual and street protests that in recent months have opposed the government’s efforts to reduce the deficit—efforts so far more symbolic than real, for state borrowing requirements have only increased since the coalition’s arrival in power. Nor were the protests directed against the tax increases. Since the end of World War II, the British have grown accustomed to the idea that the money in their pockets is what the government graciously consents to leave them after it has taken its share. When (as rarely happens) the chancellor of the exchequer reduces a tax instead of increasing it, even conservative newspapers say that he has “given money away,” as if all money came from him in the first place. The wealth is the government’s and the fullness thereof: where such a belief is prevalent, no tax increase will seem either illegitimate or oppressive.
    What did provoke the furious opposition was the government’s proposals to reduce spending in such areas as education and health care, as well as its plan to increase tuition at public universities. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, disproportionately consisting of public workers and students, gathered on London’s streets. One demonstrator, Charlie Gilmour, became famous. The adopted son of the lead guitarist of Pink Floyd, with a personal fortune estimated at $160 million, he was the very image of the caviar anarchist. Dressed expensively in black and booted to match, his dark locks flowing poetically behind him, he stomped the roofs of cars and stormed the Cenotaph, the most important war memorial in the country. Later, he claimed not to have realized what it was, though he was a student—of history, no less—at Cambridge, and you would need to be either illiterate or virtually blind to miss the words OUR GLORIOUS DEAD inscribed on it. His contrition and appearance in court in a suit and tie, in an attempt to avoid a prison sentence, afforded the nation some light relief in these most difficult times.
    The student demonstrators were right to be angry, but their anger was misdirected. They were merely protesting the prospect of paying for their education, which would force upon them or their parents the difficult but important question of whether the university education that they received was worth the debt that they would incur to pay for it. How easy it is to proceed to college without having to consider such sordid matters, or make such difficult calculations, because the state—that is to say, the taxpayer—subsidizes you!
    In fact, British young people have been subjected to a gross deception, which, if they recognized it, would make them far angrier than the demonstrators were. The previous government decreed that 50 percent of British youth should attend university, irrespective of students’ educational attainment or of the economy’s capacity to make use of so many graduates. In so doing, it doubled state expenditure on education in only eight years. This centralized planning had a predictable effect: the standard of university teaching and education fell significantly, as did the value of the average degree. While the number of graduates expanded, employers complained that young Britons were increasingly unable to write a simple sentence properly or do basic arithmetic.
    For the students, however, the connotation of university education lagged behind its denotation: in other words, though education declined in quality, students felt entitled to the same advantages that had accrued to graduates back when education was better. Graduates grumbled about the lowly positions that they had to take after college, which people who had not gone to college would once have satisfactorily filled. It was perhaps unsurprising, then, that students, suddenly asked to fund their delayed maturation for themselves, should explode in wrath. They saw the reform not as an attempt to align education with the needs and capacities of the real economy—by making students question the value of education and by encouraging universities to offer something of real value—but as a means of restricting access to education to the rich; this despite the fact that the total loan necessary to obtain a university education, supposedly an advantage for life, would still be a fraction of an average mortgage.
    The biggest demonstration against the government’s proposals was on March 26. A quarter of a million people took to the streets—in solidarity with themselves. Many were teachers protesting the proposed cuts in education spending. Yet after a compulsory education lasting 11 years and costing, on average, $100,000 per pupil, about a fifth of British students who do not attend college after high school are barely able to read and write, according to a recent study from Sheffield University. Considering the disastrous personal consequences of being illiterate in a modern society, this is a gargantuan scandal, amounting to large-scale theft by the educational authorities. No anarchist ever smashed a window because of this scandal, however; and so it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the demonstration was in defense of unearned salaries, not (as alleged) of actual services worth defending.
    Protesters were also agitating against proposed cuts to the National Health Service. The cumulative increase in spending on the NHS from 1997 to 2007 was equal to about a third of the national debt. After all this spending, Britain remains what it has long been: by far the most unpleasant country in Western Europe in which to be ill, especially if one is poor. Not coincidentally, Britain’s health-care system is still the most centralized, the most Soviet-like, in the Western world. Our rates of postoperative infection are the highest in Europe, our cancer survival rates the lowest; the neglect of elderly hospital patients is so common as to be practically routine. One has the impression that even if we devoted our entire GDP to the NHS, old people would still be left to dehydrate in the hospitals.
    From 1997 to 2007, the number of people employed by the NHS rose by a third, with the number of doctors employed by it doubling and overall remuneration for personnel increasing by 50 percent per head. Yet it became ever more difficult for patients to see the same doctor twice, even during a single hospital admission; the standard of medical training declined, according to 99 percent of surgeons in training, while senior surgeons admitted that they wouldn’t want their trainees operating on them; and a government inquiry found that productivity in the NHS—admittedly, not easy to measure—had declined markedly.
    Wherever one looks into the expanded public sector, one finds the same thing: a tremendous rise in salaries, pensions, and perquisites for those working in it. In Manchester, for example, the number of city employees earning more than $85,000 a year rose from 68 to 1,746 between 1997 and 2007. In effect, a large public service nomenklatura was created, whose purpose, or at least effect, was to establish an immense network of patronage and reciprocal obligation: a network easy to install but hard to dislodge, since those charged with removing it would be the very people who benefited most from it.
    One of the Labour government’s gifts to public employees was overly generous pensions. While Gordon Brown raised taxes on pensions funded by private savings, he increased pensions for public-sector workers. In many cases, these government pensions, if they had not been paid for with current tax receipts and (to a growing extent) borrowing, would have required funds of millions of dollars to support. In other words, Brown was Bernard Madoff with powers of taxation. I leave it to readers to decide whether that makes him better or worse than Madoff.
    The press usually defends the public sector, viewing it as an expression of the general will and a manifestation of a rationally planned society, manned by selfless workers. It was thus quick to warn of the direst possible consequences of Cameron and Clegg’s austerity measures: school overcrowding, unnecessary deaths in hospitals, fewer or no social services. The streets would run with blood; mass poverty would return.
    Unfortunately, it does not follow from the existence of immense waste in the public sector that budget cuts will target that waste. After all, most of the excess is in wages, precisely the element of government spending that those in charge of proposed reductions will be most anxious to preserve. It is therefore in their interest that any budget reduction should affect disproportionately the service that it is their purpose to provide: cases of hardship will then result, the media will take them up, and the public will blame them on the spending cuts and force the government to return to the status quo ante. Another advantage of cutting services rather than waste, from the perspective of the public employee, is that it makes it appear that the budget was previously a model of economy, already pared to the bone.
    I have seen it all before, whenever cuts became necessary in the NHS budget, as periodically they did. Wards closed, but the savings achieved were minimal because labor legislation required the staff—the major cost of the system—to be retained. Surgical operations were likewise canceled, though again, the staff was kept on. To effect any savings in this manner, it was necessary for the system to become more and more inefficient and unproductive. It was as if the bureaucracy had reversed the cry of the people at the beginning of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno, “More bread! Less taxes!,” replacing it with “More taxes! Less bread!”
    So it is not surprising that the Guardian, which one could almost call the public-sector workers’ mouthpiece, has reported that hospital emergency departments are already feeling the budgetary pressure and risk being overwhelmed, even before the cuts have been implemented in full. Meanwhile, one can still find plenty of bureaucratic jobs advertised in the Health Service Journal, the publication for nonmedical employees of the NHS. One hospital seeks an Associate Director of Equality, Diversity, and Human Rights; another is looking for an interim Deputy Director of Operations and Transformation. Part of the “transformation” in that case seems to be a reduction in the hospital’s budget, and it is instructive that the person who will be second in command of that reduction will be paid between $1,000 and $1,300 per day.
    The legacy of Britain’s previous government, which expanded the public sector incontinently, is thus an almost Marxian conflict of classes, not between the haves and have-nots (for many of the people in the public service are now well-heeled indeed) but between those who pay taxes and those who consume them.
    In this conflict, one side is bound to be more militant and ruthless than the other, since taxes are increased incrementally—and everyone is already accustomed to them, anyway—but jobs are lost instantaneously and catastrophically, with the direst personal consequences. Thus those who oppose tax increases and favor government retrenchment will seldom behave as aggressively as those who will suffer personally from budget reductions. Moreover, when, as in Britain, entire areas have lived on government charity for many years—with millions dependent on it for virtually every mouthful of food, every scrap of clothing, every moment of distraction by television—common humanity dictates care in altering the system. The extreme difficulty of reducing subventions once they have been granted should serve as a warning against instituting them in the first place, but in Britain, it appears, it never will. We seem caught in an eternal cycle, in which a period of government overspending and intervention leads to economic crisis and hence to a period of austerity, which, once it is over, is replaced by a new period of government overspending and intervention, promoted by politicians, half-charlatan and half-self-deluded, who promise the electorate the sun, moon, and stars.
    When our new government came into power—after a period in opposition during which, fearing unpopularity, it failed to explain the real fiscal situation to the electorate—there was broad, if reluctant, acceptance that something unpleasant had to be done; otherwise, Britain would soon be like Greece without the sunshine. But the acceptance was on narrow grounds only, and this is worrying because it implies that we are far from liberating ourselves from the binge-followed-by-austerity cycle. A large part of the public still views the state as the provider of first resort, which means that the public will remain what it now is: the servant of its public servants.
    As soon as the crisis is over, though this may not be for some time, the politicians are likely again to offer the public security and excitement, wealth and leisure, education and distraction, capital accumulation without the need to save, health and safety, happiness and antidepressants, and all the other desiderata of human existence. The public will believe the politicians because—to adapt slightly the great dictum of Louis Pasteur—impossible political promises are believed only by the prepared mind. And our minds have been prepared for a long time, since the time of the Fabians at least.

  12. Leon Retief :

    ‘n Laaste opmerking: as ek ‘n Britse belastingbetaler was sou ek baie beslis moerig wees oor die ongehude moeders wat op staatsgeld teer, want dit is beslis die geval. Nie alleen kry hulle (heeltemal tereg) ‘n toelaag nie, (‘n te groot toelaag sou ek dink) maar ook sommer op die koop toe ‘n “council house”. Ek sien geen rede vir ‘n huis nie, voorts gebeur dit baie dikwels dat pa, ma, boeties en sussies dan hul eie huis ontruim en by sussie en die baba intrek. Oftewel, die belastingbetaler subsidieer nou sommer die hele familie – te danke aan die hardvogtige Thatcher nogal, want dis sy wat hierdie sisteem in werking gestel het.

  13. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Leon, dankie vir die artikel. Ek hou van die punt oor Swede.
    Wysneus, ek’s bly ek kan jou weer irriteer. Op ‘n ernstiger noot: Neoliberalisme is duidelik nie fascisme nie. Ek dink egter Polanyi se ontleding van die onstaan daarvan het te doen daarmee dat markte sonder sosiale beheer die konteks skep vir fascisme om te floreer. Sy punt is dat die idee van ‘n vrye mark, soos kommunisme, utopies is.

  14. Desmond :

    @Leon: dankie vir die artikel. Sal dit vanoggend lees (dis Vrouedag, so ek’s ‘af’). Dankie vir die gepsrek!

  15. Desmond :

    @Andries, Wysneus, Leon: Nick Clegg se gesaniteerde kommentaar: “It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence, nothing more, nothing less.”

    Met ander woorde: gewoon individuele vergryp, ‘n slegte element in die samelewing. ‘n Mens moet darem seker ‘n BIETJIE wonder waarom dit so belangrik is om die fenomeen onmiddelik te depolitiseer, en seker te maak dit word gesien as SLEGS die gedrag van kriminele individue eerder as ‘n maatskaplike beweging? As opportunisties eerder as polities beduidend?

    Ek noem Clegg se kommentaar gesaniteer, want dit NOEM nie die slegte element nie. Maar dit hou ‘n bepaalde soort ‘raam’ in stand waarbinne mense dan kan mal gaan en sondebokke aanwys — kan verduidelik presies wie te blameer is, en wat aan hulle gedoen moet word. (Asof die enigste ‘looting’ in die strate gebeur. Wat het Brecht nou weer geskryf oor banke en diefstal?)

    Wysneus is natuurlik nie geinteresseerd daarin om hierdie soort diskoers te kritiseer nie; solank hy maar ‘linksheid’ kan aan die kaak stel. Maar gaan kyk bietjie wat gebeur binne die ‘raam’ — minder gesaniteerde variasies van Clegg en andere se ‘slegte element’ diskoers. Wysneus, jy sal dit like.

    “Nuff said. Shoot the f&^%^&ks next time.”

    “Why am i not surprised there are riots, im all for peaceful protest but there is no need for violence and destrcution, and it is black people who are guilty again.”

    “Casspir, buffel, LMG, curfew….then the ones that are left alive, put them on a big ship like the one that ran aground in KZN, tow it out into the Atlantic and see if they can swim.”

    “shame, they don’t have jobs…why? because the pussyfoot liberals think that the workers should always pay for the layabout criminals…..half of England doesn’t want to work, it pays better to sniff glue and be a torment to good people.”

    “Noe of these people are even English….ship ’em back home and let them see how their own governments treat them..”

    “Solve all the worlds crises in one fell swoop…..get rid of the blight that is ravaging our world….forever!”

    “Sometimes I think that the worst feck-up in history was the failure of Hitler to see out his plan to rid the world of all these useless cretins.”

    Hoop Clegg waardeer die openbare reaksie op sy uitspraak.

  16. Leon Retief :

    Desmond, ongelukkig is dit nie vakansiedag hier nie dus skryf ek maar gou voor ek na die soutmyne vertrek. Die vraag is eerstens of enige politikus iets anders as Clegg sou ges het. Onthou, een van die belangrikste take van ‘n politikus is om blaam te systap. Ten tweede is dit heeltemal moontlik dat daar wel ‘n groot element van georganiseerde bendemisdaad betrokke was (die feit dat petrolbomme gebruik is dui beslis op voorbereiding voor die tyd, niemand loop met ‘n petrolbom in sy sak rond soos met ‘n sigaretaansteker nie). dit was dus nie noodwendig ‘n spontane opwelling van frustrasie nie. Wat ek gisteraand op TV-nuus gesien het ondersteun hierdie sienswyse.
    Ek weet nie van waar die kommentare kom wat jy aanhaal nie – oa van SA lyk dit my, maar ek dink nie mens kan s dat dit nou juis deur Clegg geinspireer is nie – sowel sy as Cameron se reaksies lyk vir my eerder asof dit daarop gemik is om juis stereotipering mbt ras en klas te probeer verhoed.
    Oor Brecht: ek neem enige sosiale kommentaar deur iemand wat hom tuis gevoel het on Oos-Duitsland, sekerlik een van die mees repressiewe state in Europa, met meer as net ‘n knippie sout.

  17. Desmond :

    Leon, die kommentare is beslis nie deur Clegg geinspireer nie — mens kan hom darem nie vir ‘fascistiese nostalgie’ wat op ‘n SA webblad uitdrukking kry blameer nie. So ek stem saam — maar die erger uitsprake is nogtans variasies op ‘n tema wat reeds in die ‘amptelike’, versigtige uitsprake van politici teenwoordig is: die probleem is kriminele, bendelede, barbare, thugs — maar wat van die dinge wat bydra tot kriminaliteit, bendes, barbarisme en thuggery?

    Op my blog het ek bloot probeer suggereer dat dit te maklik is om die storie SLEGS in terme van kriminaliteit of ‘barbaarsheid’ te sien. Ek dink steeds so, al sal ek dan ook nie wil voorgee daar is nie kriminaliteit, bendeaktiwiteite en so aan betrokke nie. Soos Pierre Bourdieu in sy The Weight of the World gewys het, en mens in baie romans kan lees en in rolprente kan sien, die lewe in daardie estates (in Londen en elders in Europa) is nie maklik nie, en mens moet die ‘injuries of class’ (Richard Sennett) nie onderskat nie… daar is werklike lyding ter sprake, nie net opportunistiese misbruik van staatsgeld nie.

    Goed, ek moet erken, benewens ‘fascistiese nostalgie’ kan ‘n mens seker ook ‘n soort ‘revolusion^re nostalgie’ aan die werk sien: die gretigheid om hierdie gebeure te sien as polities beduidend binne die nuwe maatskaplike bewegings en georganiseerde anti-kapitalistiese protesaktiwiteite.

    Ek is gemakliker met die tweede as met die eerste nostalgie — en oor Brecht gaan ons vandag maar moet agree to disagree!! (Maar ek maak ‘n nota: blog oor Brecht…)

    Lekker werk en groete uit ‘n stralende Stellenbosch!

  18. Leon Retief :

    Desmond, ek dink jy het te gou van enige politikus verwag om ‘n betekenisvolle opinie te gee. Intussen het Cameron versoek dat dara ‘n debat in die laerhuis gehou word om die orosake van die opstande te bespreek – beslis nie die optrede van iemand wat “saniterende” salfies oor die gebeur wil smeer nie.
    Intussen was daar ook ‘n onderhoud met ‘n baie welsprekende swart Briste vrou, ‘n behuisingsaktivis. Terwyl sy vertel dat die inkorting van finasiele steun aan arm jong meestal swart mense beslis ‘n rol speel, is sy ook van mening dat die verbrokkeling van die gesinsturktuur net so belangrik is indien nie meer nie. Sonder om nou daaroor uit te brei, mens kan nie na my mening verwag dat ‘n regering ook nog daarna moet omsien as die betrokke samelewing nie self ook iets daaroor probeer doen nie – iets wat sy baie duidelik uitgewys het.

  19. Leon Retief :

    My laaste pos oor die onluste in Ingeland, weer Theodore Dalrymple.
    Theodore Dalrymple

    British Degeneracy on Parade

    The riots should surprise no one who’s been paying attention.

    10 August 2011

    The ferocious criminality exhibited by an uncomfortably large section of the English population during the current riots has not surprised me in the least. I have been writing about it, in its slightly less acute manifestations, for the past 20 years. To have spotted it required no great perspicacity on my part; rather, it took a peculiar cowardly blindness, one regularly displayed by the British intelligentsia and political class, not to see it and not to realize its significance. There is nothing that an intellectual less likes to change than his mind, or a politician his policy.

    Three men were run over and killed as they tried to protect their property in the very area of Birmingham in which I used to work, and through which I walked daily; the large town that I live near when I’m in England has also seen rioting. Only someone who never looked around him and never drew any conclusions from the faces and manner of the young men he saw would have been surprised.

    The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.

    At the same time, his expensive education will have equipped him for nothing. His labor, even supposing that he were inclined to work, would not be worth its cost to any employer—partly because of the social charges necessary to keep others such as he in a state of permanent idleness, and partly because of his own characteristics. And so unskilled labor is performed in England by foreigners, while an indigenous class of permanently unemployed is subsidized.

    The culture of the person in this situation is not such as to elevate his behavior. One in which the late Amy Winehouse—the vulgar, semicriminal drug addict and alcoholic singer of songs whose lyrics effectively celebrated the most degenerate kind of life imaginable—could be raised to the status of heroine is not one that is likely to protect against bad behavior.

    Finally, long experience of impunity has taught the rioters that they have nothing to fear from the law, which in England has become almost comically lax—except, that is, for the victims of crime. For the rioters, crime has become the default setting of their behavior; the surprising thing about the riots is not that they have occurred, but that they did not occur sooner and did not become chronic.

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