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Yuletide Cheer December 19, 2011

Posted by markswill in Media, Politics, Schmolitics.

I don’t know about you, but during the past few months I’ve felt a sense of mounting if indefinable dread,  cloaking not just my sordid personal life – which, regrettably, we may come to later – but universally. Railing, as they do, at the greed and irresponsibility of the financial sector which precipitated the recession-going-on-depression that engulfs most Western democracies, the transatlantic Occupy movements are but one symptom of this. I read in a recent New Yorker the tale of Ray Kachel, an apparently secure  computer programmer who finding himself unemployed and broke as a result of America’s economic downturn (a/k/a collapse), decided to join the Wall Street squatters only to end up a penniless vagrant, but there also are other bad signs and evident consequences of our unquestioning reliance on capitalism and its feckless political governance.

The EU’s over-arching response to the Euro crisis, for example, is to compel governments to make swingeing public spending cuts which will, if they haven’t already, reduce the living standards to which we’ve become accustomed for decades. Cameron’s recent hissy-fit at the umpteenth crisis summit was, we are told, to ensure British sovereignty over the financial services sector which threw our economy down the toilet and ignores the reality that 50% of our trade is with a Euro-zone that’s almost surely bound to follow it. Smart move, young Dave.

Correctly, it’s been pointed out that unfettered reliance on credit has done for both society and the political apparati that was supposed to secure its finances, but when the spending has to stop, then the consequences must be faced. That said, I disavow lefty apologists who contend that this summer’s riots were due to social inequality and deprivation, but it seems clear to me that a population brought up to expect a welfare safety-net, if not certain levels of affluence, is not going to quietly buckle down and metaphorically dig for victory when they abruptly disappear. At least not when the trappings of prosperity and instant, unearned celebrity are rubbed in their faces by the media 24/7. So when the cuts really start to bite, as they already have in Greece, I would expect there to be far more civil unrest – a euphemism for fightin’ an’a lootin’ – on our streets, too.

Proof? Well although we don’t of course live under a dictatorship, on the evidence of the so-called Arab spring, and what we are now seeing in Russia and the US, regardless of the painful personal costs depressed and/or deceived citizenry are becoming emboldened to rebel against their oppressors like never before in my lifetime. What, for example, are millions of longterm unemployed youngsters, many of whom who’ve been forced to pay heavily for a further education that no longer guarantees them work, supposed to do with themselves and their accumulated debts? Sit quietly at home and play computer wargames that espouse mindless violence?

I also find it extraordinary that despite a groundswell of respected economic polemic, our government fails to acknowledge, much less exercise, the need to revive Britain’s manufacturing base which successive administrations have willfully run down in the dumb belief that north sea gas and financial services would be our balance of payments salvation, ho-ho-ho. Instead we hear daily wailing about the beleaguered retail sector which is  supposed not just to be a barometer of the nation’s economic health, but the engine that will drive up employment and tax revenues. For chrissake get real guys: with massively escalating unemployment, energy prices and constant warnings about our dire economic state, who on earth is going to go out on a sustained shopping spree… on imported goods which enrich only remote eastern economies?

And Mary Portas, whose smug hypocrisy I have previously excoriated, has now unveiled her plan to revive Britain’s high streets which basically boils down to easing local taxes (which councils strapped by government cuts clearly won’t), tighten lucrative planning regimes (ditto) and cut restrictions that deter market traders (irrelevant). Tellingly, when one of the few reporters who raised her conflict of interest in also advising shopping mall developers who are in large part responsible for the decimation of the high street, Portas said she “didn’t want to go there”. I bet.

Anyway, with 200 outlets closing every day and Amazon offering an app that allows you to compare its inevitably lower prices as you walk round your local shops, town and city centres are basically screwed. And so as my oft-bemoaned consolidation of retailing into the hands of just a few online and supermarket giants moves ever closer, with all the disadvantages and dangers that holds, I’ll get personal.

I learnt last week that the site of the aluminum foundry that finally threw in the towel earlier this year is likely to house my hometown’s first supermarket. And this on top of the recently announced closure of one of the town’s two banks, HSBC, with the likelihood that following its recently announced ‘rationalisation’, the other one, Lloyds TSB (which operates just three days a week) will follow suit. This, allied to the increasing incidence of home delivery trucks from Hereford’s Tesco and Asda some 24 miles away, would seem to sound the commercial death knell for the high street of what was, at least before the recession hit, a fiercely independent little town.

Much of this you’ve heard from me before, although repeated tornadoes and flocks of dead birds falling from the skies aren’t driving this writer into a psychotic bunker mentality as they did the hero of Jeff Nichols’ gripping, if overlooked recent movie, Take Shelter… But as I began this little rant by claiming, there is I think something rather more ominous than wintry gloom in the air. And having taxed your patience with some 950 words today, if you can handle a little more pre-Xmas cheer, watch this space on December 23rd.

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1. davidcharleslancaster - December 19, 2011

December 23rd: Can it be that bad? You’re announcing your engagement to Mary Portas, and the two of you are opening an out-of-Hereford motorcycle emporium under her design tutelage? Recycled Rukka jackets, Halfords type servicing and Virago-styled Sat Navs? Must be better news. DL

markswill - December 20, 2011

Sadly, the fragrant La Portas bats for the other team so I fear would be resistant to my capitalist-doubting charms.

2. Pete - December 19, 2011

Take Shelter? I see a Presteigne version of Falling Down materialising out of this blog. Hold your chin up, stand in a certain light, well, there could be a hint of Michael Douglas if you grimace a bit.

Re the supermarket – seems many people’s main lament about the HSBC closure is the loss of the cashpoint and I guarantee there will be one of those in the new development – when local needs like that are met pretty soon folk’ll be eating out of the supermarket’s… well, doors. When the Lo Cost opened in Kington it excited lots of local rebellion. Nearly 20 years on I don’t think many boycott it anymore but its effect on the high street is probably worthy of a decent urban planning study. Hopefully the energetic traders of Presteigne will rise to the challenge in creative ways.

markswill - December 20, 2011

Flattery’ll get you nowhere, young Peter. My chin isn’t cleft enough, anyway. And yes, of course there’ll be a cashpoint in the new development. But as you’ll read on Friday, if it definitely happens, I’m leaving the area. Bloody site’s just a stone’s throw from my house and I don’t want to live in a town blighted by cruel progress. Bah humbug.

Pete - December 20, 2011

Ah, so it could be a combination of Falling Down and Vanishing Point, with lingering shots of the XM kicking up the dust in remote Radnorshire lanes as our impassive hero heads out of town. I’ll look forward to the promised follow-up on Friday…

markswill - December 20, 2011

Nothing impassive about me, matey! And the lanes are muddy as all hell.. at least they were taking the back roads home from Hereford this afto. Thank gawd the mighty XM has a crude form of traction control.

3. Linda Stokes - December 19, 2011

Bleak, isn’t it?
The people out here in the rurality are busy…..
lining their bunkers, and laying in tins, ammo, and power
generators….but thats a lot of trouble..so i’m going with
substances, and of course you’re always welcome.
Happy Holidays:-p

markswill - December 20, 2011

If they’d let an aging closet anarchist and convicted ‘international career criminal’ like moi into the Land of the free, I’d sure accept your generous invitation Professor. And yep, bleak it is.

4. Martin Craig - December 20, 2011

Well, that hit the spot. Best summing-up I’ve read in ages; & why? Because you’re allowed to write things like this without putting your job/brand/party line at risk. No MBA-speak here then, although I’m sure that Wiliams Corp IS passionately committed to providing exceptional blogging solutions to delight and inform its customer base.

I haven’t worked out the cleverly-encoded personal revelation yet, but I’ll get there before the 23rd when the answer is published.

markswill - December 20, 2011

Well Martin, yes we (still, just) have the freedom to scrawl whatever we damn well like in this wonderful democracy… but for how much longer after the sewage really hits the VentAxia? I’d warrant 10 million unemployed, food-stamps, the rich living in high security compounds (already happening if you stroll through Hampstead and St John’s Wood, armed guards and all), rogue elements of the beleagured armed forces wreaking havoc abroad, lengthy powercuts, NHS unable to cope etc., etc. Such fun. Personal revelation on the 23rd, though. There, that’s summat to look forward to, then!

5. Hed Maginnis - December 20, 2011

Jesus; that’s a fine start to the day unfortunatly it’s been like that here for years.,The local capitalist enterprises being the bar/restaurant and the supermarket/garage both of whom stick their hands in their pockets for a good cause.
The seafront bought up in a frenzy by housing .developers now looks like Beirut in the 80s. The high spot was getting told by some PR shite in tweeds and brogues that the seaview from my front door was going to be interrupted by apartments and a marina. He still can’t sell his big house outside the village and is persona non grata in the bar. Greedy people lost thousands, the rest of us hunkered down knowing that this too would pass and it did. Good news an old friend is now back welding again, not half a mile from my house I’m thinking 4 cylinder hard tail bobber anybody got any thoughts?
Happy Christmas to Juan and all.

6. Mark - December 20, 2011

Its all far too depressing 🙂

I’ve decided to track down an old Guzzi in the new year and retire to the garage with beer, smokes and dusty old manuals

markswill - December 20, 2011

I wish I had your vision… and, given the Guzzi, your selfless masochism.

Mark - December 20, 2011

It was a review of the 850T3 in Bike magazine Bike – way back in the dawn of time that caused me to go down the Guzzi road…. Its all your fault 🙂

markswill - December 20, 2011

<> I’ve come to the conclusion that most things are.

7. Paul N. Blezard - December 20, 2011

Hed sed: ” I’m thinking 4 cylinder hard tail bobber anybody got any thoughts?” Yes, add rear suspension, a proper seat back and a fairing and you might have a half-decent FF that handles. Something like this perhaps: http://www.bikeweb.com/node/2407
Or, if it has to be a V-twin, like this:
Well you did ask!

markswill - December 20, 2011

Isn’t “half-decent FF” a contradiction in terms, Blez?!

8. Paul Blezard - December 21, 2011

Mark said: ‘Isn’t “half-decent FF” a contradiction in terms, Blez?!’
I know you’re just trying to wind me up Mark, but I will reply simply by pointing out that Dan Gurney managed to sell 36 of the machines pictured at $30,000 a pop…..and that the Alligator was one of the best motorcycles I’ve ever ridden, of any kind…..albeit with lots of foibles that I would change if it were mine! Similarly, people are queuing up to buy the Peraves MonoTracer at $100,000 each because they like the idea of ‘flying on the ground’ in a safe, warm dry and comfortable motorcycle that does 150mph and 500 miles on a tankful…..with CD player, air-con and enough space for 2 people and 2 weeks’ luggage. The electric version will cost more, but it does have 200bhp at the rear wheel and will go 50miles at 150mph or 200 miles at 75mph, sipping juice at 300mpgUSequivalent. I could go on…

markswill - December 22, 2011

Very nice, but at $30-100,000 a pop? I rest my cynical case, Blez.

9. jiff - December 21, 2011

“always look on the bright side of life”

markswill - December 21, 2011

God knows I try…

10. Catnewn - December 21, 2011

Well said. Thanks. Despite the content this did in fact cheer me up quite a bit.
This article on llandod may be of interest :

markswill - December 21, 2011

And thanks to you, too. I also commend anyone who thinks my rants against supermarkets are a bit on the extreme side to click on the link supplied. Read it and weep.

11. Paul N. Blezard - December 21, 2011

Mark said “Read it and weep”.
I have read it, and I am weeping, not only at the contents but also because an otherwise excellent article is somewhat spoilt by mis-spelling Llandrindod Wells as “Llandridnod” all the bloody way through – about twenty times! Bleedin’ illiterate Englishmen, eh? 😉

markswill - December 22, 2011

Well what can one expect from the bludy Ingesh?

12. Paul Blezard - December 22, 2011

MW: “Very nice, but at $30-100,000 a pop? I rest my cynical case, Blez.” Not proven! Nothing hand-built by craftsmen in small numbers in the west is ever going to be cheap, least of all high performance motorcycles. If they were mass-produced like Honda 50s, Vespas, or indeed Fireblades and Ford Escorts, they would be no more expensive than conventional bikes and cars and a damn sight safer and more comfortable than motorbicycles, without being any less fun to ride.

13. Nigel Bull - December 22, 2011

Catnewn: I read Tescopoly a while ago and it left me quite deflated. Perhaps “V for Victory” was closer to the truth about our just what our problems are and how we need to sort them out! With the latest revelations about the power of the lobbyists and the Lib-Dems having the most left wing manifesto at the last general election yet becoming part of a pretty right wing band of millionaires who most definately are not in it with the rest of us,the answer appears not to lie in the ballot box. I have always had little time for the way the downtrodden in NI tried to improve their lot, but given the above I have some understanding about where they found themselves. The answer can never come from violence to tackle these fundamental issues. 38 degree’s have had some success, but not on major issues. Occupy Wall St has achieved little so far and is now off the radar of the mainstream press, so where do we go to stop Goldman Sachs et al bleeding civilised society dry of cash, choice, culture and hope?

14. Catnewn - December 23, 2011

No easy answer to that unfortunately. I do derive some hope from the present situation in that at least the enormity of the problem has become difficult to ignore. OWS et al have busted the ‘trickle-down’ myth and the middle classes are starting to wake up to the realisation that they have been conned. A radical reform of the financial system (along the lines advocated by groups like ‘Positive Money’) is needed at the very least, and I hope this can be achieved via the ballot box as the alternative seems pretty darned hairy. As to culture, that’s an on-going choice – it’s what we make it – so I guess we just do what we can, in good heart, and ( if at all possible)together…

15. markswill - December 24, 2011

‘A radical reform of the financial system’ may well happen by default, as in ‘no money left in the banks’. Scary, huh?

16. Frisco.mydermconsult.com - October 7, 2012

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on best cheap cigarettes.

markswill - October 7, 2012

Dear Mr Frisco (?),
Cheap cigarettes? I don’t believe they figured in my rant, or are you being archly elliptic? And flattered though I am to receive your comment, I wonder why and how it comes nine months or so after that rant was written?!
Cheers – MW

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