WORDS: The Riddler
The election is around the corner and politicians and political parties are clambering over each other to try and get their messages out. In the recent TV debate between the leaders of 7 major UK political parties, the majority of them focused their arguments around taxing and spending, as if the only thing that mattered in our lives is money, with the route to resolving every problem in our society lying in electing a government that will chose the best financial policy.
Of course it's an important debate, and money affects everyone's lives, but when a country comes together to decide how it should work in the future, it needs to consider much more than just money. When talking about shaping a future that fills our young people with hope, most of the leaders mentioned how much they would spend on one area or another, to hire new teachers or police officers or whatever. What was sadly missing, in most cases, was bright ideas to help our community to improve on every level. We're living in the age of innovation, and the world around us is radically changing, but very little of this innovation is taking place in our political system or societal structure.
When you don't know the answer to something these days, you don't go out and buy loads of books and read about it, you ask Google, where you can find various sources about it for free. When you want to talk with someone on the other side of the world for a couple of hours you don't need to run up a huge phone bill, you can call them for free using your computer. Along with many others, these are services that loads of people use on a daily basis, adding to our quality of life in some way that isn't measured in the country's GDP (well, apart from paying your ISP subscription).
Also, generally speaking there is very little difference between things you buy in standard shops and things you get from expensive brands. All you are buying for that extra money is an illusion of 'luxury' that comes with the brand. These days they are sometimes even made in the same factories using the same materials, just with a different logo attached.
This rise of 'free' services and standardisation of goods mean that GDP, market-based measurements and money in general are continually worse at representing the real value of services and goods, and more generally spending power, within our society. Not that they were ever particularly good at it.
Aside from this, while money can give you more options in life and material comfort, once you reach a decent level is there really any need to carry on accumulating more?
Scarily, the most common answers kids give about what they want to be when they grow up are 'rich' or 'famous', not 'a nice person' or 'happy'. Loads of people think that they would be happier if they had more money, but the relationship between money and happiness is very complex. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the subject: 1 - http://www.livescience.com/10783-worry-happiness-levels-set-stone.html & 2- http://www.livescience.com/10881-global-study-money-buy-happiness.html . Anyway, with some caveats there's a strong argument that money doesn't bring you happiness.
In fact, it's pretty obvious that a fascination with accumulating wealth is making many people in our society unhappy - in many cases this includes the 'lucky few' that have actually succeeded in their mission of hoarding vast sums of money, and their own dysfunctional families - to the degree that it has become unhealthy and arguably one of the largest drains on modern society. If you have some spare time try watching this documentary and see if you think the kids of the super-rich are happy well-adjusted people: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8o46HH-TfNY
Through setting laws and taxing us all to provide public services and infrastructure, governments can set up structures that increase certain behaviours and discourage others. This is not as simple as it seems though. One of the most obvious examples of how counter-intuitive this can be is the war on drugs: the idea behind drugs being illegal is that it discourages people from using them, the reality is that it marginalises vulnerable people, drives up our prison populations and in all probability results in people taking more drugs than would be the case with a sensible, taxed and regulated regime that would provide a legal supply for people who want to use them recreationally or medicinally at their own risk.
One example of a wise strategy for the future would be for our elected government (of any political leaning) to establish multiple independent studies on the best policies that we could use as a country going forwards, making this research completely transparent and easily available to the public. This way our representatives can take future decisions based on solid information that the public can check - one study on foreign policy, one on the criminal justice system and prisons, one on improving the services offered by the NHS through making it more efficient, one on the effects of the war on drugs, one on energy efficiency and sustainable energy, one on reducing the impact of lobbying, etc.
There are loads of other positive moves our government could implement to build the strength of our democracy and support our society, but the current political structure doesn't seem to offer the incentives or energy to spur investigations into a multitude of simple changes that could improve the world for everyone, including the politicians themselves and their families.
Leading politicians were recently caught out by journalists as they negotiated cash for access deals. One of these 'leading public figures' has been receiving £60k a year for being on the board of a medical company that recently won a public tendering process after submitting a bid that was £7 million higher than the bid submitted by the NHS. This is hardly a shining example of someone that intends to use his privileged position of power to improve our country.
Wasn't our current Tory government supposed to be about improving efficiency? David Cameron recently talked about how he had managed to increase NHS spending during every year of his time as Prime Minister, well, with policies like paying over the odds to companies directed by your mates, it's easy to see how he's managed to spend more while getting less in return. Supporting the NHS, my fucking arse he is!
Here's a big list (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/150209/150209.pdf) of all the OFFICIALLY DECLARED interests of our elected representatives. The best term to search for if you want a quick insight into where some of them make the big bucks is "remunerated". Many of the big boys are getting larger salaries for working 10-20 hours a month as non-executive board members for tax-structuring companies and arms manufacturers than they are from working as MPs. Where do you think their interests really lie?
When politicians argue with each other on the television for hours, proudly presenting figures they just plucked out of their arses, each promising us an amazing future if we chose them, if we actually believe what they say it's basically guaranteed that we'll be disappointed whatever the outcome, because the very few promises that they do make are likely to be broken anyway.
Unlike Russell Brand I don't think this is a reason not to vote, I think it gives me all the more reason to vote. It actually gives me a reason to become more involved than that. I personally intend to write to politicians about some of the above issues, amongst others, and I hope more and more people can wake up and organise, to apply pressure on subjects that matter to us all and the generations to come, so that even just a little progress can be made.
Improving the political system, by increasing the accountability and traceability of decision making, is something that needs to be at the top of the national agenda - not fucking immigration - because there's no other way to start to control the continual lies coming from politicians. The only way to get this to the top of the agenda is to talk about it and write about it more than we do about immigration, to get the media focusing on it more.
Here's a believable conspiracy theory for you: politicians of all stripes absolutely love Nigel Farage for getting everyone talking about immigration, because it means we don't have time to talk about their corruption. We need to stop accepting it as par for the course and speak out, and we need to start by focusing on cases that are easily proved and difficult to debunk, cases where they are given gifts, receive money or attend fancy events or holidays.
Understanding some of the realities of this situation doesn't just make me want to pressure politicians, it makes me want to become a more active person, taking control of my life. Yes, politicians could radically alter the structure of our societies to accelerate positive change, but until that happens I intend to take power over my own life.
We can't be made to feel powerless by their endless corruption and fucking yacking on about shit, we need to be strong and act to the best of our moral standards, even though this can be difficult at times. We need to make sure that we are putting something back into society ourselves before we complain that others (including politicians, CEOs, etc.) aren't. We need to educate ourselves. We need to be forgiving. We need to be kind. We need to accept our own mistakes and be open to positive changes in ourselves. We need to be friendly to strangers. We need to enjoy our experience on this planet, and make sure that we can help others to enjoy theirs too. Whether you're rich or poor the wealth and power of love can't be bought and sold, although it can definitely be passed on to others for free, give it a try.
Words: The Riddler