Peddling Twaddle or Taking Back Control!

Here in the UK, the expression “Take Back control!” has been widely abused by those who should, and do, know better.  It has been promulgated and promoted by those who know exactly what they are doing, and they have been steadily building on their control for decades.

They are using the familiar propagandist’s ploy of saying something easy to grasp repeatedly, until people begin to believe, and echo it.   

Unfortunately, they have been remarkably successful, but that seems to be the way these days.

The trick is to make people really believe whatever piece of twaddle you want to peddle and begin with saying it so often that it becomes the accepted truth.

Noam Chomsky hit the nail on the head

I’ve been a bit cavalier with Chomsky’s quotation below, but I’d argue that replacing his chosen example “Support our troops” with the UK’s Brexiteers’ “Take back control” does not materially change the substance of the quote:

“The point of public relations slogans like “Take back control” is that they don’t mean anything… That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy? That’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”

“Yeah, take back control”

…of our country, our borders, or any other old tommyrot that suits our particular purpose at any given time. 

It implies that some unnamed entity has stolen something from us and that we have a right to get it back.  More than this, it suggests that we have a patriotic duty to get it back!  Of course, the implication is that once we have got our hands on it, our world will take a turn for the better and we will enter a golden age.

We all hear this nonsense spouting from the mouths of the manipulated, carefully implanted and nurtured by self-serving propagandists, the movers and shakers, and the foolish ones really seem to believe it. Hell, they even think they understand it, and will fiercely defend their position, showing a complete disregard of any contradictory evidence !

But could it mean something?

Well, I’ve decided that it could. In fact I’ve decided that it means that some unnamed entity has stolen something from the rest of us and that WE WANT IT BACK!

So, I’m starting a series on Taking Back Control, not from the EU, but from those who have taken stuff from us, the public, over the past few decades.  

I want to look at all of our best bits that have been stolen and flogged off, on the cheap, to the well-connected, the well-heeled; to those who already have a very large slice of our cake stuck in their ever-open gobs.

I thought I might start with basic inequality and look at wealth and privilege. 

Now this one is a bit of a corker because it has so many facets.

Clearly, there is a huge gulf between those in poverty and the wealthiest in our society. 

Working but still skint,

– or as we used to say in my day, boracic;

come on, boracic lint, skint;

skint, stony broke.

Let’s look at income first: More than a fifth of our population lives below the poverty line once housing costs are taken into account, even though most of these households are in work.

Think about this for a moment.  We have an awful lot of families working their socks off, who, by government standards, are still having to live in poverty.  We, the run of the mill taxpayers, are presumably subsidising the companies that employ these poor folks, by paying their staff all sorts of benefits, so that the employers do not have to pay them a living wage.  Now there are lots of complications running around minimum wage levels and keeping businesses afloat and anchored in the UK – See Tim Harford’s article http://timharford.com/2019/11/minimumwage/ on the risks of increasing the minimum wage as an example. However, it is an area crying out for wider analysis and more, rather than less, government involvement.

It sounds like a good deal for someone!  Maybe we should take back control of this situation?  What do you think?

Please Sir, I want some more…

Nearly one in three children live in poverty and the use of food banks is rising.

Combining this with the income bit above and consider that 73% of children in poverty in 2017/18 lived in a family where an adult worked

Think about this for a moment.  Children growing up in poverty are pretty much destined to get the rough end of the stick for the rest of their lives; in terms of health, housing, education, life expectancy, and their life chances in general.  

These kids are likely to remain a constant drain on the nation’s resources because of our unwillingness to redress the balance and to treat them fairly. We can even be entirely selfish about this and still see the benefits to us all in the longer term.

Sure, some kids escape but one hell of a lot more don’t! So, should we take back control of this aspect of our society and set out to reduce inequality, or just let it drift into an ever-increasing chasm?

Food banks are booming! Hurrah! Thank goodness that our charitable attitudes have allowed us to create a soup kitchen society to prop-up a failed government social support system; a failure knowingly brought about by a government programme aimed at stripping out the cost of the social care sector. Maybe we should reinstitute the Workhouse system.

The New Age Workhouse

Maybe that’s what we have effectively: A New Age, distributed, workhouse system. Are you fit enough to work according to some arbitrarily applied rules? Have you attended every session, interview, panel, scrutiny session, etc that we have scheduled for you? Have you met the job seeking target numbers? Have you completed the target number of job application forms? and so on. Answer Yes to all of these questions and we will reluctantly give you nearly enough to live on, as long as you keep it up and keep your nose clean. Answer No to any of these questions and we can save a few shillings, put you further into debt, and make sure that your chances of coming up for air are almost as slim as you will be after a few weeks.

If you get into trouble, we will give you a note of introduction to the charity sector who will stop you actually dying of starvation…with any luck.

To paraphrase Dame Vera Lynn’s classic song…

We’ll eat again, don’t know where, don’t know when,

But I hope we’ll eat again some sunny day…

Keep eating toast, ‘n’ dream that it’s a roast ,

Till the rumbling in your gut sounds far away.

So, will you please pass my thanks to the local food banks,

Tell them I won’t last long.

There’ll be sadness I know, that as you saw me go,

I was gasping this song…

We’ll meet again, I know where, don’t know when,

But I hope we’ll meet again some sad old day.

If you have any doubts about any of this have a brief look at The State of Hunger 2019 report from the Trussell Trust and Herriot-Watt University. We once had a much better system, even though it was hardly generous. It has been asset stripped. Where did that money go?  That also sounds like a good deal for someone. Maybe we should take back control of this situation?  What do you think?

While you are pondering this, bear in mind that the top 20% of our households have incomes that are six times larger than those of the bottom 20% and that at the extremes the figures are even more stark.

Not stinking rich just really wealthy

Now, it’s not just about income because some people have a lot of wealth too. Income is easy to hide, if you have enough wealth. Oh, how the poor would love to have their lives propped-up by daddy’s trust fund, or to have cars and houses owned by benevolent companies and trusts. Offer them the chance to have their day-to-day expenses run through their company books, or all their money tied up in maintaining their moat-ridden mansions, and the life-style that one simply has to maintain in order to make it work. This is much more insidious and could well be worth taking back control of.

The top 10% of the population own 44% of the UK’s wealth, which is five times as much as the wealth of the whole of the bottom half of the population.

This situation could have been addressed through social mobility but that has been severely curtailed these days.  Maybe we should look to take back control of this?  Have a look at the figures below and see what you think.

Did you go to Old Chumleys?

Just 7% of our population attend private schools. 

However, this small number of people  account for 74% of senior judges, 71% of high- ranking officers in the armed forces, 67% of Oscar winners, 55% of permanent secretaries in Whitehall, 50% of cabinet ministers and members of the House of Lords and a third of Russell Group university vice-chancellors.  Add the 44% of businessmen and women on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists, 33% of MPs, and 22% of shadow cabinet ministers, then you begin to get an inkling of how influential this clique is.  

The other 93% of us have to make do with what our underfunded state sector can do for us.

At the same time, we allow these same private schools many types of tax breaks and exemptions. They operate through all sorts of mechanisms that allow them to “minimise their tax exposure” and avoid VAT and Business rates. To make things even worse we end up subsidising foreign despots of one kind or another who also like the cachet of sending their ill-begotten offspring to our posh places.

Add to this, small things, such as the independent schools sector presenting a significant hole in our anti-money laundering system because they’d rather have the money than find out where it came from (and risk having to turn it down), and I think we have something else we should take back control of.  What do you reckon?

So, there we are for starters: poverty, income, wealth, inequality, influence, and social mobility. That’ll do for today’s little list.

If we took back control of any of these issues, we could transform our society, but I guess that’s not what is on the establishment’s agenda. However, it is what those with vested interests will be straining with might and main to keep away from our upcoming election.

I guess they’d only be prepared to see these issues discussed over our dead bodies, so to speak.

Any room in the ditch?

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