The Plastic Hippo

October 21, 2010

The history of the world in one object

Filed under: History,Media,Politics,Rights — theplastichippo @ 3:56 pm


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It was a bad and shameful day. The axe and not the ballot box has prevailed. Inherited wealth and privilege once again holds sway over those unfortunate enough to be born poor. Glib rhetoric describing “fairness” has replaced any semblance of care, compassion and responsibility.

The sight of democratically elected representatives screaming with the frenzied delight of a dog fight audience as each new cut to burden the weak, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable was announced in parliament, will sicken anyone who cherishes civilization. The breathtaking arrogance of Osborne and his rich chums in punishing those in need for the excesses of other rich chums will result in anger or worse, or utter, abject despair in those who played no part in creating a banking crisis that, to use the very words of Gideon, “brought us to the brink of bankruptcy”.

When this coalition government assumed power in what can best be described as a constitutional coup d’etat, democracy and basic humanity went the same way as the money going to bail out inept and greedy bankers and, for good measure, to pay obscene bonuses for their trouble. Only two thirds of the electorate voted in May and of them, only one third voted for the Conservatives. Considerably less voted Liberal Democrat but their votes can be discounted anyway as the Libdem manifesto promises were torn up along with the Conservative deceptions in exchange for snout room at the trough. This government simply does not have a mandate to beat the poor and send us hurtling back to recession and ultimate ruin.

Claiming that it “always pays to work”, Gideon`s 100 page bible (£45 for the print version) savages the welfare system to reduce national debt and at the same time condemns 500,000 public sector employees to a future without hope. Graduates will be guaranteed debt but not a career, the private sector will contract rather than expand and the old, the sick and people with disabilities will be left to rot unless they have the independent means of Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Osborne. It might “always pay to work” but in a Big Society described by Cameron as a “broken society” just a few, short months ago, vital services will need to be provided on a voluntary basis at no cost to government. Investment, not cruelty or charity, is the way to lead recovery.

The structural deficit is indeed calamitous when viewed as a collection of figures on a spreadsheet. It is mentioned in every second breath and it needs to be tackled. “Fair” is uttered in every first breath as if saying it over and over again makes it true. But the consequences of this debt have yet to be manifested in hardship, unemployment, homelessness or social disorder and nor are they likely to. That will change when the Spending Revue starts to bite. The coalition have had to move fast to instigate some suffering before the nation realises that carrying a £150billion debt burden has not lived up to the dire prediction of financial ruin. When the trouble starts, we will be told it is due to the debt and not the barbarism of abandoning those we should care for.

The BBC, itself now subject to a 16 per cent cut to satisfy the greed of another rich chum, a certain Rupert Murdoch, managed to resist the temptation of turning their cameras onto the baying, near hysterical MPs who did not possess the self control to disguise their delight at scroungers in wheelchairs finally losing rights and dignity. That would be a sight, along with their expenses claims, deemed inappropriate for viewing by their constituents.

The BBC recently ran an excellent Radio 4 series describing the progress of civilization through 100 objects. The admirable Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, illustrated human development using modern and ancient artefacts that signify step changes in the way humanity interacts with the planet. One of the earliest objects is a 2million year old basalt chopping tool discovered in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Created through the necessity to survive, it took another million years to evolve into a hand axe for both defence and attack.

Later objects chart the the Renaissance and the Enlightenment but the two most striking inclusions into the list is a credit card and the remarkable Throne of Weapons made by artist Cristovao Estavao Canhavato from present day Mozambique. The credit card has replaced the cutting tool as a means to live and the axe has been replaced by recycled AK47s. The next stage of human development, if the likes of Osborne, Cameron and Clegg are the best representatives of humanity we can offer, is a return to the axe and to oblivion.

It was a bad and shameful day welcomed only by the grim reaper.

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