It’s a warm day today. There’s a scent of summer in the air. The G8 summit in Northern Ireland has taken place and David Cameron has shown Vladimir Putin that he is right about Syria because he can go swimming in cold lakes too. People are wearing flip-flops. Tell you what, let’s quit this heaving metropolis and head for the beach. Let’s go Brighton.
We’ll get the bus to the train station. Come on, we can sit behind two ten year old boys who go to St. Paul’s school. They’re discussing the most expensive cricket ball ever made and effortlessly move into opining on the value of their family homes. ‘Yours must be worth £400million.’ Says the blond, slightly Lady Di-looking one. ‘Oh no,’ protests the other, modestly. ‘I’d say only about £40million.’ ‘No but furbished,’ insists Lady Diana. ‘Ah, yes well with the sauna, steam room and gym…’ ‘And all the furniture…’ ‘Then yes it probably is worth £400million.’
Platform 16. Bring the paper. What’s happening in the news? Well, people are protesting in Turkey and they’re protesting in Brazil and in Mexico, in a case of life imitating a Charlie Brooker synopsis, there is a growing campaign to elect Morris the Cat as the next prime minister (slogan: ‘Tired of voting for rats? Vote for a cat.’) But never mind about that because global warming isn’t happening after all. It’s sunny today like they promised back in the 1970s. As long as you don’t read that email saying the melting ice caps are releasing methane jets a kilometer wide. Don’t read that. Look at the view. We’re nearly there. Off the train, out the station and… shit! What’s that smell?
Ah, didn’t anyone tell you? There’s a problem between the rubbish collectors in Brighton and the city council. Apparently, see, because of this austerity thingy, everyone has to have cuts and the rubbish collectors in Brighton are not happy about losing the additional payments they get for working constant overtime, so they’ve gone on strike, which means no one is collecting the rubbish. And because making rubbish is one of the things people now a days are really, really good at, there’s a lot of it piling up on the street.
Oh. Bummer. And we were really looking forward to having a super fun time by the sea.
The thing with this ongoing and mounting disparity between the rich and the rest is that it is like pulling a ball of chewing gum apart with both hands. You can stretch the thing surprisingly far but there will come a time when the limit of elasticity is reached and that lump of sticky stuff snaps.
Like gum, the glue that holds our societies together is being stretched further apart. And when the glue breaks then there’s really no knowing what will happen. If there’s no coherent, inclusive story about togetherness then all those aspects of the social contract, like people walking on the left, or curtseying to someone because she wears a crown covered in jewels, all that snaps apart with the glue. It doesn’t matter how much bunting you run across Regents Street, or how much you rig a royal wedding, the Olympics and a royal hatching, if the social glue is broken then people don’t care anymore what they do. The rules are broken. In the words of Cole Porter: Anything Goes.
The Coalition’s catchphrase of ‘We’re all in this together’ is now widely viewed as bankrupt; insincere and insubstantial. It is not a phrase backed by any coherent desire to bring the dissociating extremes of the spectrum back together. But unless action is taken to do just that, then rubbish uncollected will be the least of all our worries.
Someone said in America that global riots are about a year away. To the people of Sweden, Turkey, Syria and Brazil, that year has come. For the rich in this country, widely hoping that the brief excursion into petty theft that took place in the summer of 2011 was the last scent of trouble in England, spilling bins of Brighton must seem like an uncomfortable nuisance.
It is understandable that the rich want to salt away greater quantities of wealth, imagining that by hoarding it they can avert the worst effects of social collapse. The logic of austerity functions in the same way. But by acting out of fear they are producing the very effects they most want to avoid.
Instead of hoarding a greater portion of the wealth for themselves they need to be unleashing investment on grass roots projects to recycle, reclaim and reuse, providing ethical work for the millions who want it, redistributing from the anxious few to the increasingly alienated many: sharing the land so more people have a chance of supporting themselves and each other.
The alternative to voluntary redistribution is something altogether less organised, more rabid and chaotic. I don’t know how much serious attention was given to that at either the Bilderberg meeting or G8 conference this month. I suspect rather less than was given to deciding which country’s leader filled his trunks best.
- Some rubbish in Brighton (newleftproject.org)
- G8 summit: Syria set to dominate agenda during gathering of world leaders in Northern Ireland (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)