I found this list of 50 questions on Joanna Best’s blog. They didn’t originate from Joanne Best, but she had a link on her blog to where she’d got them from. When I clicked that link it took me to ‘A War In My Brain’. Not literally of course, that was the name of Megan’s blog which was where Joanne found the questions. But Megan hadn’t originated the questions either, although she did like cats.
The fact that Megan liked cats didn’t really help me find the origin of the questions. However, the link on her blog led to another lady’s blog who also liked cats called Felina. I don’t mean this lady only liked cats called Felina – that would be pretty limiting; no, I’ve probably just missed a comma there somewhere – Felina was the name of the blogger who also had this list of 50 questions. I think the name of the blog is a play on the word ‘feline’, which is why I think she also likes cats. That and the fact that she has a picture of her tabby cat on her blog. I’m assuming it’s a picture of her cat and that the cat didn’t write the blog, but I don’t know the actual name of the lady who did write the blog either because it’s a ‘sparkle page’ blog, which is a set up I don’t really understand so I couldn’t find her name.
Anyway, Felina – or whatever her real name is – she didn’t have a link to where the questions came from. She just wrote ‘I’ve seen this on some blogs, thought I’d give it a try just for fun’. This pissed me off as I really wanted to know where the questions originated from. Anyway, England and Denmark were playing a friendly and it was about as action packed as a vegan child’s lunchbox, so I decided to answer the questions myself. First I opened a another can of Stella Artois as I’d drank the last of the one of the previous three I’d already had. Here are my answers:
1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Yes, my older brother and two sisters. I was the second youngest of five, so my younger brother was named after me.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
The second time I knew I needed a number two after I had my haemorroidectomy – after the first time I was aware of the agonising pain I was about to experience. After that I decided to make sure I was really drunk and high for the rest of the week.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
I’m not too sure, I use a keyboard most of the time, or a touchpad. When I write by hand it’s usually scribbled notes so it’s pretty messy.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LUNCH MEAT?
Jerk chicken served with rice and peas. I don’t want to be a grammar Nazi, but I think this should read ‘luncheon’. But it doesn’t matter because I don’t really do sandwiches, unless it’s a triple-decker bacon and egg sandwich, which I’ll usually have for breakfast, so I guess that doesn’t count.
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
No, I’m a male so I don’t have the biological mechanics to have kids.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I hope not, because that would mean the other person that I would be would be a schizophrenic and I don’t think being schizophrenic would be fun, even if I was another person.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
No, but I kept my daughter’s because I was really annoyed that I didn’t manage to save all of her baby teeth. At least with tonsils there is just one set so it’s not too hard to keep up. And even if it wanted to, the tooth fairy could never get in that jar because I’ve closed it really tight – ha!
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I would if it wasn’t so damn expensive.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE CEREAL?
Kellogg’s Cornflakes, but for some strange reason I never have cornflakes for breakfast. I tend to eat them after dinner, although I don’t really do desserts.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
They’re already untied when I put them on. I really don’t see any reason to tie them up when I take them off as they can’t go anywhere unless I’m wearing them.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
In relation to someone who is weak, I am most definitely a He Man.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ICE CREAM?
That’s easy – Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Munky.
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Whether they try too hard to be likeable.
15. RED OR PINK?
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
My fickle temperament.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
The first goalscorer in a winning bet. If got that prediction on target every week I would be a rich man.
18. ANY TATTOOS?
Not any, they’re there for life so I’m very particular about the tattoos I choose.
19. DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?
Yes – writing, Djing, watching movies, watching people, playing football, watching football, getting drunk and partying hard to house music and early 90’s drum and bass.
20. WHAT COLOUR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
I’m not wearing shoes.
21. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
A chocolate Boost bar, a Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and a packet of Walker’s salt and vinegar crisps.
22. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The pundits talking about the really boring International friendly between England and Denmark that’s just finished, although I’ve not really noticed that it was still on until now, so technically I’m just hearing it like background noise rather than listening to it. However, for some reason I am listening to the clock ticking on my wall and the rhythm of my fingers hitting the keyboard on my MacBook. A siren went past just then. I’m also aware that I’ve just listened to myself say to myself in my head; ‘you’re a strange man’ upon realising that the main thing I am actually listening to is the sound of me typing and the clock .
23. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOUR WOULD YOU BE?
A really dark purple.
24. FAVORITE SMELLS?
Freshly talced babies, fields of flowers, the names of which I couldn’t tell you if I was smelling them, the aroma of the air when walking through a pine forest, burning matches, ‘Antaeus’ by Chanel and ‘The One’ by Dolce & Gabanna.
25. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
26. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
27. FAVOURITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Football, Wimbledon (quarter finals onwards) and post 60’s to pre-milennium boxing.
28. HAIR COLOUR?
29. EYE COLOUR?
A brown so dark they’re almost black.
30. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No, I keep them in my phone like everyone else.
31. FAVOURITE FOOD?
My mam’s apple pie is unstoppable. The lamb roast she makes at Christmas and Easter is incredible. My own Caribbean salsa chicken recipe is awesome when it’s right. The jerk chicken and the curry goat and rice they serve at Notting Hill Carnival. Escovitch fish with rice and gungo peas, and the Thai hot and sour soup they serve at Ark Bar on Samui Beach (I love food lots) 😛
32. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
33. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
The last movie I saw was The Good Shepherd, but it was so tediously long and dull that I stopped really watching by the time Angelina Jolie got fed up with being ignored by Matt Damon’s cold, detached CIA husband. The last movie I watched was Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy, but only because I was holding out in the hope that it was going to come good before the end. It didn’t.
34. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
35. SUMMER OR WINTER?
Who likes the winter!? I’m a man filled with Caribbean blood living in Manchester for Christ’s sake, summer is like therapy.
36. HUGS OR KISSES?
37. FAVORITE DESSERT?
My mam’s apple pie.
38. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
39. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
Computer feeding movies and mini-series’ through my television. Television is like a social lobotomy.
40. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
I’m writing one and reading several for research. The most interesting and disturbing is ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ by John Perkins.
41. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
My computer, an ashtray, a can of Stella and various receptacles for storing stationary – these questions must have come from the 90’s because nobody uses a mouse pad anymore… do they?
42. FAVOURITE SOUND?
43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Somewhere out of my mind on LSD.
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I was told by my school teacher that I have ‘great perspicacity’. Aside from that I can pretty much sleep anywhere under any circumstances if I’m tired enough.
46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
SM7, St. Mary’s Hospital, Manchester.
47. WHERE ARE YOU LIVING NOW?
Manchester… I need to move on, really, holidays just aren’t enough.
48. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR HOUSE?
49. WHAT COLOUR IS YOUR CAR?
It will be silver when I eventually clean it again.
50. DO YOU LIKE ANSWERING 50 QUESTIONS?
It’s better than watching 90 minutes of England in an international friendly with Denmark… but yeah, that was fun. Now can somebody tell me where these questions came from please?
The airport procedures involved in travelling by airplane are lengthy and laborious at best. Lots of checking, searching, walking, waiting and standing; yet it never ceases to amaze me how travellers can’t help but fall into the fruitless enchantment of the boarding gate wait. Despite the amount of dragging around of bags and beating of feet on hard marble and concrete floors they do, even seasoned travellers find themselves lured into this futile ritual. Airlines have tried to offer support by prioritising and calling out seat numbers in groups to save people the discomfort of pointlessly standing around for lengthy periods of time, but it’s like a mental illness that effects almost all travellers regardless of age, gender, race or creed.
So you know you’re allocated a specific seat on the plane, right? You also know that no matter what happens you’re not going to be asked to rest your hand luggage on your lap throughout the journey, right? You know that as long as you are at the gate prior to the departure time of your flight that the plane isn’t going to leave without you, right? You can see the seating scattered all around the gate for the purposes of your comfort. So why do you insist on standing up, edging forward one bag shunt at a time, pushing and jostling like a desperate refugee waiting for a food parcel, in a queue that stretches ten, fifteen, sometimes twenty metres back into the airport and has barely moved for the last half hour? It’s absolute madness!
I think this is one of the rare occasions when more mature adults act more childish than the young. Younger travellers tend to be more carefree in this situation. They often seem to just symbiotically merge with whatever formation of authoritative structure is placed in front of them as they laugh and chatter their way through the airport rituals. They’re often drunk or hungover and aren’t really paying attention to anything. As long as they have their bag, their passport and their ticket they’re happy. But the 40 pluses, the families and the retirees who holiday two, three and four times a year, seem to be hypnotically inured to assume formations of rigorous, efficient futility. Furthermore, they will defend that futility with a youthful vigour usually reserved for those evenings when the kids are out or Viagra night.
Maybe it’s years of state indoctrination of subservient adherence to bureaucracy. Maybe it’s a predilection to a domestication instinct to follow the crowd and join a queue. Maybe it’s all just part and parcel of the ritual excitement of travelling to a foreign land in a huge flying metal beast (although I find that hard to accept because people do it on internal and return flights too). Maybe I’m just trying to be nice and it’s simply the idiotic herd mentality of Sheeple.
Whatever it is it’s stupid, so stop doing it. You’re only going to be stood up longer than is necessary. You’re going to be wrestling with other passengers again when you get on the plane because everyone in there is probably a petty, priority Nazi like you. Even if you do get seated quickly, you won’t be able to relax because you’ll be spending the next half hour or more having your knees and elbows assaulted by the rest of the passengers and stewards as they stow away hand luggage and seat themselves.
If you had have showed some restraint and independent thought you would still be sat in the relative calm and comfort of an airport waiting lounge. You would have then entered the cabin of the plane facing a group of predominantly seated and settled passengers, and stewards who are far less agitated. You would also have done a favour to those who were seated before you by relieving them of the chaos caused by the rushing of irrationally impatient passengers onto a stationary aircraft. In short, you wouldn’t be contributing to the already excessive amount of hostile stupidity that plagues the world. You would have made one small, unhurried, step toward being one of the lesser fools of man, and hopefully made one sensible, independent step toward the betterment of mankind.
You see it’s bigger than just the terminal madness of the gate queue. The irrational gate queuers are usually the same idiots who unclip their seat belt as quickly as a sprinter leaves a starting block the moment the ‘fasten your seatbelt’ sign is switched off. They then jump up to be the first to get their hand luggage out of the overhead compartment, elbows lunging as they drag their belongings out as if there’s a fire. Then they stand in the gangway for twenty minutes clutching their bag, being nothing other than an idiotic obstruction as they wait for the cabin doors to be opened. These same people then rush to get to the baggage carousel in a scrambling hoard in a desperately futile belief that standing by the conveyor belt and staring at the hole in the wall will make their luggage come through quicker than the arbitrary baggage handling process permits. It’s idiotic. I know it’s idiotic because I have been one of those people. Now I know better. And if you have read this then so do you. A holiday is a time for relaxation. Extend that relaxation as far as you can and just wait for the inevitability of the process to run its course, it’s so much easier.
It has been pointed out that my postings are somewhat of a general moan – and this is probably a fair observation. I often reflect on myself and think, ‘Beasley, you’re a moaning, miserable twat’, because I can be a misanthropic cynic. However, I once read somewhere that a cynic is really a romantic who is bitterly disappointed by the weaknesses and failings of our blessed species; a species that has the potential to be so much more, yet perpetually reverts to its baser instincts of cruelty, greed, selfishness, complacency and the petty vanities of ego (I’m pretty certain I embellished that a little, but that was the general gist as I recall it). That said, believe it or not, when in good company and good spirits, I am the life and soul of the party and positively effuse happiness and good will to all around me, which probably makes my sporadic periods of gloomy cynicism tolerable. That and the fact that rather than be a relentlessly grim harbinger of the ills of the world, I like to sugar my moans with a bit of wit and some intelligent observation I hope. More Edmund Blackadder or Jack Dee than Brotha Lynch Hung or Mike Leigh.
Many of my gripes tend to address the seemingly irreversible travails of society that have diseased mankind for centuries, so today I’ve decided to sweat the small stuff. These are my idiosyncratic, personal gripes. The Devil’s details. Those minor things that ‘grind my gears’. So come join me and share my irritation at those little things in life that really piss me off (in no particular order).
When I can’t find the remote even though I have not left the sofa.
When I can’t find my car keys when I really need to leave the house NOW.
When I can’t find my glasses when I really need to see.
When technology works one minute, then for no apparent reason doesn’t work the next.
When I want to write ‘of’ on my phone’s touchpad and it selects ‘if’.
When I want to write ‘is’ on my phone’s touchpad and it selects ‘us’.
Most of all when I want to write ‘this’ on my phone’s touchpad and it chooses ‘thus’ instead – who programmed this thing, someone from the Shakespearean era?
When I put my cup on a coaster which then gets wet, sticks to the bottom of the cup, falls off the bottom of the cup and the sudden unexpectedness of it makes me flinch, thus (I meant to type ‘thus’ then) causing me to spill my drink, not just on the table, but usually on the floor or in my lap too.
When I am carrying a plate of food with the knife and fork safely (so I believe) weighted under the food, then one of them falls off the plate anyway, catapulting a big dollop of food with it too.
When people say ‘erm’, every few seconds when they are talking.
When people pre-tag every sentence with… ‘Well…’ we know you don’t really know what you’re talking about or you’re about to tell a lie.
When people pre-tag every utterance with… ‘Basically’, before rambling on and not being basic at all.
When people have a rising inflection at the end of every sentence… this might actually include every person under 25 from America and the South East of England.
When people have music playing… no – screeching directly out of that shitty little tinny speaker on their mobile phone – get some earphones you fucking cock, nobody wants to hear your shit music, let alone without any bassline.
When people who aren’t homeless smell – there really is no need. You can get a stick of roll-on for £1 from a pound shop you dirty twat.
When someone on TV is asked a question and they simply paraphrase the question that they have just been asked without actually answering it.
When footballers or pundits talk us through a goal – do we need it? The player kicked the ball and it went into the back of the net – what else is there!?
When a football pundit says; “If it had just been half a yard to the left/right/lower it would have gone in” – really? No shit. That’s a bit like saying “If there was no keeper and no other players and he could have used his hands to pick it up and place it over the line – it would have gone in” – SHUT UP!
Any interview with a footballer: “Obviously, errr… [followed by nothing of any real consequence]” They’re contractually obliged not to slag off the ref, their fellow players or their manager – so is any of what they say actually worth hearing?
When you stand on a crooked paving stone after it’s been raining and it splashes water all over your shoe and down your sock.
When you leave the house and suddenly realise you’re going to need a poo very soon.
When drivers use up two free parking spots with one car.
When drivers wait in the far side lane at traffic lights, then indicate to turn once the lights have changed – if I’d have known I was going to have to wait for you to turn I would have got in the other lane you twat!
When drivers don’t indicate – it’s a simple fucking finger movement that can make such a difference.
When drivers don’t acknowledge when you have let them pass or cut into your lane – UTTER BITCH! (yes, it does tend to be a trait of female drivers)
When I go to the bank or the post office and the clerk starts trying to sell me some shit that I didn’t ask for and probably don’t need.
When I ask for a burger in a McD’s or a BK and the clerk asks me if I want fries with it, or a meal – if I wanted fries or meal I would have asked, stop trying to sell me shit!
When you ask the waiter or waitress in a restaurant what’s good and they automatically suggest the most expensive dish on the menu. Really? Doesn’t anybody actually prefer something other than the largest most expensive cut of steak?
When you call the helpline for… well for anything, and the guy in the call centre in India repeats ‘Sir’ and ‘I’m sorry’ after every single utterance – just sort the problem out please and you won’t need to be sorry.
When my beloved wants to cuddle up to me but insists on delicately touching me under or around my armpit – honey you know that tickles and irritates the hell out of me, so why? I mean really, why?
‘Breaking News’ – Breaking News!? Get the fuck outta here. Every news channel churns out the same pre-vetted nonsense. Toggle between BBC and Sky News – it’s the same damn shit! The last thing I remember that was truly ‘Breaking News’ was the fall of the Berlin wall – that was in 1989! Everything else is propaganda and distraction.
My aunt and her whole family – you’re a bitch and your kids are all wierdo’s who won’t read this because your matriarchal oppression has turned them all into lazy, workshy, social misfits (that was so cathartic).
‘Trending now’ – aw go fuck yourself… ‘Trending’! What does that mean? Lots of people are talking about some shit that probably isn’t even true!?
Every time a professional salesman opens their mouth and speaks.
I’m gonna stop now and have a cup of camomile tea because just writing this is winding me up. But my list is by no means exhaustive. I’ve avoided fashion (pants hung low around your arse – WTF is that all about dickhead), celebrities (where do you start?) and musical tastes (way too subjective). But please feel free to share your personal hates with me, I want to connect with my readers… maybe I can tweet this blog as ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and see if it starts ‘Trending’… grrrrr!!!!
Now I’m going to end with a poem:
I’m sick of buying things that break,
I’m sick of excuses call centres make.
I’m sick of numbers to get through –
“Sorry, you are in a queue, your call will be answered very soon”.
I’m sick of stuff that doesn’t work,
Demands for payment with no returns.
I’m sick of turning the TV on at a commercial break,
Of adverts selling debt and the threat of lifestyle choice mistakes.
I’m sick of ads for porno-telephony
I’m sick of premium rate numbers aimed at the lonely –
“Call me, call me, call me…” – No!
“Then watch this program and gamble away your dough”.
I’m sick of facile daytime TV
Filled with artificial sincerity.
Fern Britten, Philip Schofield and Lorraine Kelly
Sold with cheap ads trying to get the gullible to part with their money.
I’m sick of officials talking crap,
Of politicians who are lying twats.
I’m sick of PR and press officers and publicity spin.
I’m sick of resignations when they should have sacked them.
I’m sick of this and I’m sick of that
And I’m getting sick of the whole bloody lot.
I want my services to be better
Without complaints and calls or having to write a letter.
I want Ronseal promises, not endless spin.
I want people to do exactly what they say on the tin.
I should feel protected even if I’m naïve,
By promises made, when I choose to believe.
So there I was, sat in the kitchen at my mum’s house, just passing time. I’d come around to visit the old dear, but she was pottering around the garden talking at nobody in particular and ignoring me as retired mothers are prone to do. Although I know she still likes the company of her visiting brood, I sometimes get a little bored, so on this day I put the kettle on for both of us and as it boiled I decided to skim through the newspaper that was lay on the kitchen table.
The Daily Star is one of the most popular tabloid newspapers in the UK with a circulation of over half a million, yet by the time the half-full kettle reached boiling point I’d pretty much read everything of interest that was written in there. Being a Man City fan I wasn’t interested in reading about the boring 0-0 draw between Chelsea and United the day before, so I ignored the sport section and skimmed through the whole paper again just in case I had missed something. I hadn’t – there was literally nothing of any real consequence contained within the 56 pages of that newspaper. So what filled those 56 pages and was I bored enough to find out?
With my holidays coming to an end along with the British Summer, my boredom got the better of me and I decided to work out what constituted news in The Daily Star on 27th August 2013. It wasn’t too difficult – simply measure the column centimetres of copy text for each real news item. There weren’t many.
Spread out flat the paper has an area of around 5.75m2 on which to write news. Add the newsworthy copy and you have a diagram that looks like this.
The little red bits represent the serious hard news. The kind of thing that people should know about – what our leaders are doing in the world of politics, serious global affairs and crime stories of national interest. According to The Daily Star everything is just peachy with the world around us – “Move on, there’s nothing to see here.”
Next up are those soft news stories, the noteworthy, the strange, the bizarre and the ‘human interest’ stories that you usually get at the “And finally…” section of News at Ten.
Not a huge amount there either really. Stories include: a diamond estimated to sell for £12million at auction, Brazilian prostitutes learn English in preparation for next year’s World Cup, police caught ogling celebrities on Twitter, a man who claims to have photographed the Loch Ness monster, a Brazilian footballer called Elvis who was shot dead, a giant gooseberry, a botched wedding proposal, the Royal Mail have done what they have supposed to do and delivered mail on time, and of course, a story about a Panda that may be pregnant – awesome.
There’s half a page dedicated to Hollie, 23, from Eastbourne who has great tits.
There are four pages dedicated to what’s on TV.
There are ten pages dedicated to all sport, apart from horse and dog racing.
There are four pages dedicated to horse and dog racing times and results.
There are some regular features, including puzzles and games, the daily horoscope, letters to Jane the agony aunt, photo casebook and consumer advice.
Still, with all those sections covered, there’s still a hell of lot of space left.
Now bear in mind that apart from the hard and soft news copy, the vast majority of the content of the other pages highlighted are made up of headlines, advertisements (there are several ‘Daily Star reader’s offers’) and photographs. So what makes up the rest of the space? Well, the rest of that space is made up of advertisements and photographs of celebrities with various bits of facile and inane celebrity related gossip. I could illustrate how much of The Daily Star’s pages are made up of advertisements and pictures, but life is too short so I’ll make a rough estimate. My rough estimate is that only about 5% of the remaining space contains words that aren’t headlines – and I’m being generous. Sure there are those broadsheets that have ‘proper’ news, but surely even a tabloid should offer something more informative and stimulating than semi-naked, celebrity titillation.
The Daily Star is a pretty poor example of a newspaper, but it is indicative of what you see online, in magazines, on the television and in every media outlet. Marketers and broadcasters will defend themselves by saying that they are supplying a demand – essentially, you get the media you deserve – and they wouldn’t be wrong. But the obsession with celebrity trivia seems to have become a social addiction. The side effect of this addiction is inertia and complacency and a section of society whose lives revolve around an illusion that is sustained purely by their attention. If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.
Right now England, America and their allies are considering going to war with Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Detainees in Guantanamo Bay are still starving themselves for justice. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from corporate industrialists. Honeybees are threatened with extinction. Women in India are fighting for humanity, justice and protection from getting raped, beaten and brutalised. There is a global recession that show’s little sign of abating. Bankers and corporate giants are still pocketing offensive amounts of money whilst people all over the world are facing unemployment, bankruptcy, homelessness, increasing food and oil prices. Crime is rising and so are suicide rates… etc, etc, etc. A little bit of light relief is all fine and well, but there’s a lot more important things worthy of a double page spread than what’s going on in the Celebrity Big Brother house and the “controversial” performance of a young Disney star who still looks like a child, sexually gyrating on stage in latex underwear with a bunch of teddy bears.
For most of us there isn’t a great deal that we can do to effect change in what is going on around us. For many of us, the simple pleasures of our day-to-day is the best we can look forward to without worrying about things that we have no control over. TV, movies, magazines, video games, drink, drugs – all these social sedatives make a life less ordinary – or at least palatable. However, when you look around at the media distractions, you can’t help but notice the sheer amount of trivial, celebrity, nonsense that’s staring right back at you.
The irony of this celebrity overkill is that it mainly serves to highlight the shortcomings in your own life. You look on and find yourself worshipping a lifestyle that is unattainable – Photoshop dreams and fake images of ‘bling’. This can either motivate your aspirations or make you feel miserable. Either way, every time you watch and buy into the celebrity bubble, it inflates. The celebrities bay for your attention, you feed their ego and the advertisers fill their bank accounts whilst you go back home to your dissatisfaction and debt and forget that all is not well with the world around you.
If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.
Toward the end of the Zeitgeist documentary the narrator talks about the media being a deliberate distraction from the real issues that affect people’s lives. The Roman’s used gladiatorial battles to deflect their public away from the affairs of state. Today it’s gadgets, games, sport and popular ‘culture’. Every hour spent on some trivial nonsense is an hour not spent making yourself aware of what is happening around you. It’s an hour not spent educating and improving yourself. It’s an hour not spent supporting a cause. It’s an hour not spent lobbying your local MP for improvements in your local area. It’s an hour not spent soliciting your government to change its policy on something that is worthwhile; something that will improve your life, your children’s lives, your grandchildren’s lives, or just the life of someone less fortunate than you.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in a little escapism, but too much of anything tends to be bad. The serenity prayer tells us to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. There’s nothing in there about burying your head in the sand and pleading ignorance. Ignoring what is happening on your doorstep and in the world around you doesn’t make it go away, it just helps it continue to remain the same.
Last summer I decided to visit the beautiful city of Rome. I had never been to Italy before and IPM were hosting their annual club promoters festival and pool party, so it seemed a good excuse to take in some sun, fun and a bit of ancient history. Since the events for the festival were scattered all over the city, it seemed sensible to hire a car to get around. I’m quite an experienced driver and I’ve driven in many European cities and felt quite confident getting around without incident. My general rule of thumb when driving abroad is to follow the signs and the flow of the local traffic, never park in a place where nobody else is parking, and if in doubt – ask somebody. So it came as some surprise five months later – just before I was heading out to Turin for a bit of winter ski – to find that Advantage Hertz Car Hire had debited six lots of €30 from my credit card for ‘traffic violations’.
“How could this be!?”, I fumed. Rome is the 3rd most congested city in Europe, you can’t help but be careful. You have to perpetually check your rear view and wing mirrors just to survive. And in a Fiat Panda, no one can really speed. Especially in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with a Tom Tom One with speed camera alerts. I didn’t even get a parking ticket! So after notifying my credit card company and making enquiries with the people at Advantage Hertz, I decided to do a search on the internet to see if other people have had a similar experience. And lo and behold I found a thread on Tripadvisor with over 30 postings from unhappy customers. So I decided to use an alias and chip in with my experience. However, Dbabe from Pittsburg was not happy with what we had to say… me in particular.
Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
25 June 2011, 7:09
1. Dear all
A stark warning about the above – avoid making the same mistake as me.
I booked a car from these people from “Rome Fiumicino Airport”, believing (understandably) this would be convenient for my flight. What they neglect to tell you is that they are in fact several kilometres away from the airport, and offer a very limited shuttle bus to the airport, at times that suit them and not you (it is certainly not 24 hour or even close).
We nearly missed our flight having to deal with navigating our way to their offices, and then waiting for ths shuttle bus when it eventually turned up late.
I simply do not understand how, given the critical nature of timing around getting to an airport, they can claim they are based at the airport. If you want the convenience of an airport-based car rental service, avoid Advantage.
After 33 postings of complaint, Donna (aka Dbabe) entered the fray with a staunch defence of Advantage Car Rental.
Dbabe is a destination expert for Rome and she travels there often with her husband, but only once a year with the kids. The Dbabe profile states that she is aged 35-49, she is female, hails from Pittsburgh and her travel style is “splurge occasionally”. When travelling Dbabe tries to “blend in with the locals”, and although she likes to travel for fun, a great holiday includes: Museums / Cultural / Historical sites / Great food / Wine
Donna joined Tripadvisor in 2003 and at the time of writing has made 13,487 posts, written 39 traveller articles but only 10 reviews. Donna often writes her name without a capital letter at the beginning. I’m assuming that this is because she is so busy writing postings for Tripadvisor that she just doesn’t have the time to check for such grammatical detail.
34. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
05 November 2012, 17:47
Destination Expert for Rome
Their website clearly states that the site is “near” the airport, not at the airport. Their website also states they do not accept debit cards. You should have read this information before booking. This is your fault and not advantge’s.
I hadn’t read what Dbabe had wrote when I joined the debate, I merely relayed my experiences in a serious and sensible fashion:
39. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 16:45
Forget the distance from the airport – what about getting half a dozen deductions from your credit card for ‘traffic offences’ that are never corroborated? When I booked with Advantage this summer, not only did they not have the car I booked when I arrived, the car they did have was a grade lower and they charged me MORE than what was on the voucher! 5 months later and I have had not one, not two, but 6 deductions off my card for unexplained ‘traffic offences’. No paperwork has been provided to validate these, I never once received a parking ticket (I was in an apartment parked on a residential road with lots of other cars) and I was driving a Fiat Panda so speeding is impossible. This is still ongoing, but at present they’ve had me for €180… avoid like the plague.
Fatjack from San Diego understood, but gave me this stark warning…
Fatjack, San Diego
40. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
10 January 2013, 18:10
Wait a few months and you will be getting traffic violations through registered mail. Most likely they were for ZTL violations or driving in a bus lane.
41. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:15
Fatjack, you weren’t wrong – ZLTs and driving in public transport lanes! These ‘violations’ are obscure to say the least. Advantage seem to be taking advantage of the fact that these are obscure offences that only locals would know about. The staff at Advantage could simply tell you to be careful about what time you’re driving into the centre, or to look out for bus lanes. But of course why would they when they get an extra €30 as a ‘reasonable’ administration fee for each offence?
This is clearly a recurring issue with tourists yet its obviously a deliberate policy not to warn tourists of these pitfalls of driving in Rome. I simply keep on getting told I should have read the T&Cs, but they were never included when I booked online with Economy Car Rentals, and the type on the actual form is about half a millimetre high, and condensed, and after all the messing about when you arrive, who’s going to then spend an hour going through T&Cs when they’re on holiday? Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference unless you were aware of these random obscure violations. I’ve driven in many European countries and get around without incident and I’m sorry, this is just a con, and its more to do with Advantage than the authorities. So far their admin fees amount to practically the same as the price of the car hire!
So this was all very civil, until Dbabe decided that I was a woman and I was very naughty and I needed scolding…
42. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:30
Destination Expert for Rome
Another person who claims that because she’s a tourist she’s a target. If you parked on a street without having the proper sticker on your car then you would get a ticket. If you were speeding then you would get a ticket. If you were in a restricted zone (ztl) then you would get a ticket. If you drove in the wrong lane then you would get a ticket.
These are legitimate fines and the authorities go to the rental car companies for your information. Each time they have to do the research to see who had the car it costs you a fee. If it was six different infractions then it’s six different fees. You agreed to these terms when you signed the contract. If you didn’t read the contract before you signed it and didn’t read up on the driving laws in Italy then that’s your fault and not the car rental agency’s fault. The company is under no obligation to make sure YOU know what the laws are before you rent a car. I have never had one rental agency in the US tell me about restricted zones or lanes or times I could or couldn’t drive somewhere so why should they be responsible for that anywhere else? You were responsible to know this information-not them to tell you.
These violations are not random and they’re not obscure. There are signs telling you about bus lanes and restricted zones. If you missed or ignored them that’s your fault. If you chose not to read the T&C’s of your contract-that’s your fault. If you broke the law-that’s your fault. I get so tired of people complaining that this is a “tourist ripoff”. How the heck can a camera know who’s driving the car? Can you explain that to me? How does a camera target tourists? The simple answer is—-THEY CAN’T!!!! You broke the law and were caught (6 TIMES-NO LESS!!!) and now you come here to complain that the rental company should have warned you before renting you the car. Give us a break. Take responsibility for your actions, pay the fines and stop wining. It’s not a con, it’s what you agreed to when you didn’t read the T&C’s but signed them anyway.
Donna wasn’t finished and took the time to look up, cut and paste information from the Advantage Car Rental website, which I greatly appreciated.
43. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 12:40
Destination Expert for Rome
And by the way, this is on the advantage rental cars’ website:
Fines and Penalties
You are responsible for the cost of any parking fines or other penalties incurred when the car is on rent to you. We will pass on the relevant charge to you plus any administrative expenses, as follows:
– Damages Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
– Fine Administration fee: EUR 50/GBP 50/CHF 55
Fatjack asked if he could show my posting to his wife, which I agreed to before trying to calm down Dbabe.
45. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
12 January 2013, 22:10
Feel free to pass it on as far as you like fatjack… And despite what dbabe says, a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place. This is obviously a common problem so give a customer a break eh. No one wants to have their memories of a great holiday in a beautiful city tainted by a nasty little surprise debit on their credit card a few months later, it’s just a plain mean and deliberately exploitative way to do business. SO STOP SHOUTING AND REMONSTRATING as if I purposefully roared around Rome in my hired Fiat Panda like Michael Caine in The Italian Job. And If anyone thinks €30 is a reasonable ‘administration’ fee for typing a registration number and date into a computer to identify a car then I’d love you to be my employer, I’d be on footballers wages.
Dbabe wasn’t any calmer…
46. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
13 January 2013, 14:09
Destination Expert for Rome
Whether or not we think it’s reasonable is not the point. You agreed to this when you signed the contract. They are well within their rights to charge you for their time and effort. There is nothing mean or exploitative about it. If you thought the fee was too high you shouldn’t have rented the car or broken the law. It’s really that simple. Perhaps they charge so much as a deterrent so people will be more cautious of the laws, who knows, but that’s what they charge and you’re responsible to pay it just like you’re responsible to pay the actual fines when they catch up with you.
***a bit of consideration goes a long way to making the world a fairer, happier place****
I’m sure the Italian police think the same thing about people being more considerate of their laws and not driving without fully knowing what they’re doing. The fact that you broke six different laws shows you had no business driving in Italy and that you showed no consideration for the Italians who live there and have to put up with this kind of behavior on a daily basis.
Here is a picture of a typical days traffic in Rome.
Here is a graph of how many of those cars Dbabe seems to think belong to tourists.
47. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 9:32
Dbabe, I don’t know about you, but I imagine that most people look forward to going on holiday, as by its very definition it is a welcome break from working and a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and escape the pressures and responsibilities of home and work. Usually, once I’ve planned my vacation time I get the added bonus of looking forward to what is always an enjoyable experience. But that’s just the kind of guy I am.
Judging by your fervent defence of Advantage and your passionate advocating of the thorough reading of T&Cs, I imagine you’re the kind of freewheeling gal that plans your holiday nine months in advance with a detailed itinerary of all the fun activities you’re going to do, detailed maps of the resort and surrounding area with a chart logging distances between attractions, and variable times of how long it will take you to reach each place of interest depending on traffic, weather and wind direction. I would also imagine that you take time to learn the language of the country you’re travelling to, as well as local customs, bus and train timetables and the entire legal system. I bet you’re so organised that you vacuum pack your luggage well in advance so that its ready to go, and then adhere to a strict diet to ensure that your weight doesn’t change before your holiday and the clothes you prepacked don’t fit. Me; I pack the night before – shocking eh! But that’s just the carefree, reckless maverick that I am. That’s probably why when I booked my hire car online via an agent, I didn’t think to track down the company CEO to ask where the car hire company’s T&Cs could be found.
My crazy, mad, foolish recklessness was probably the reason why after arriving at the airport in Rome – soaking in the glorious sunshine that I am so cruelly deprived of in my hometown and excited about the vacation week ahead – whilst waiting to get picked up by the Advantage rep, I wasn’t thinking about reading T&Cs. Outrageous I know, but after the short journey from the airport through the organised chaos that is Roman driving, when I got to the hanger full of cars that were broken in one way or another, and was told that there was only one car available and it was lower than the class of car I had prebooked and paid a deposit for but I had to pay the same for it anyway, my thoughts weren’t “Ok, then direct me to your T&Cs”. Foolish me was thinking “Right, okay, I’m on holiday so let’s just make do and get on with enjoying ourselves and not make a fuss” – what a total fool I was. Even when I went to pay for this lower grade of vehicle and for some unexplained reason it was about €15 more than what was on my voucher, I still didn’t think “Hm, well let me just sit here for the next hour painstakingly examining the 3pt tiny text of your T&Cs in this hot, dimly lit hangar to see what has gone wrong so that I can take the ‘no choice’ option left to me, return back to the airport and spend another few hours of my holiday doing the same with another car hire company. I’ll phone the apartment owners from there and just inform them I’ll be a little late – maybe 12hrs or so.”
Clearly you are right for admonishing me for “wining” about all this because its obviously my fault for behaving in a recklessly human manner. Had I been the fastidiously organised automaton that you obviously are, and a stickler for loyally following rules and regulations to the very letter, regardless of how unreasonably impractical and improbable doing so is for a normal human being, then I obviously would be incredibly dull, irritating and wierd, but at least I wouldn’t have found myself in the predicament I am in now.
Could I ask you something that is not really related, only perhaps in an abstract way? Have you ever done that social experiment where they put you in a room with a machine that gives a stranger in another room electric shocks everytime they get a question wrong? The machine has a dial that goes all the way up to ‘DANGEROUS, RISK OF DEATH’, and with every wrong answer the voltage goes higher. But its up to you to turn it up and press the shock button. Obviously its a test, you can hear the stranger screaming everytime you administer a shock, but the ‘authority figure’ in the room just keeps on telling you to turn it up until you refuse or you electrocute the screaming, anonymous stranger to death – but not really of course because its just a test. I think if you did this social experiment that the anonymous stranger would be toast in no time at all. I’m not too sure what the test is supposed to say about the subject who is doing the electrocuting, do you have any ideas?
Here is how Dbabe prepares for her holidays
48. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
15 January 2013, 20:08
Destination Expert for Rome
Yes, foolish you!!! You booked the car in advance. This is the time to read the T&C’s! You had the time, you had the opportunity. Did you do it – NO. That is your fault for not finding them on the website. They’re there and very easy to find.
Also, you’ve made a lot of assumptions about me and the way I travel. Most of them are wrong. The one thing I will say is that when I book something, be it a car, hotel, apartment or even a tour, I read the T&C’s. This way I don’t get surprised by anything that may go wrong. Does this make me an “automaton”– I don’t think so. It makes me a prepared traveler.
As for the shock scenario- it’s just idiotic.
All in all, your whole defense is that you didn’t have time. You didn’t have time to find the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the T&C’s. You didn’t have time to read the traffic rules. You didn’t have time to find out about the ZTL’s. You didn’t have time for this…..you didn’t have time for that. I suspect that if you have invested as much time in your research of the driving responsibilities and the T&C’s of car rental as you have invested on this thread you wouldn’t have had any problems while in Italy. Yet you didn’t because —let’s all say it together— you didn’t have time! Yet, you’ve found plenty of time to come here and whine and make assumptions about people and accuse companies of being on the take and all sorts of other outlandish things.
You’ve made 4 posts…all of them complaining about how unfairly you were treated. You’ve not once taken responsibility for anything that happened. It’s the rental agencies fault for not telling about ZTL’s. It’s Italys’ fault for having ZTL’s. It’s the company’s fault for not handing you a copy of the T&C’s and for not reading them to you. It’s everyones’ fault but yours. I find that amazing.
I was quite impressed that Dbabe found my scenario amazing after all of that time she has spent looking at spectacular works of art in Rome, and I found myself warming to this lady who steadfastly reads all Terms and Conditions every time she enters into a contractual agreement – I wanted to know more about what made this lady tick. Unfortunately my next posting was deleted by Tripadvisor at the behest of the community of Dbabe and two Australians – Lynn B aged 50-64 from Sydney who has 15,039 postings, 38 reviews and 6 traveller articles to her name, and zomp416 from Melbourne who has 665 posts and 8 reviews – pretty impressive considering he has only been a member since September 2012… But here is a copy of the posting anyway.
Dbabe, again you are absolutely spot on. It’s just fortunate for me that Advantage refunded all the charges to my credit card today. They obviously do not retain the same fascist outlook that you and Mussolini both share. Fortunately I only have skis to get around here in Turin, and all the closed slopes are clearly signposted, so I have no need to worry about incurring the wrath of the authorities by doing something that I shouldn’t be doing when I don’t know what I am doing is something that I shouldn’t be doing. And rest assured that I didn’t spend too much time replying to your reply, I was just lucky enough to catch an internet signal in my hotel as I was taking a dump, which inspired my lengthy posting. Incidentally, is Babe your surname or is it something that you have added to your Tripadvisor ID to assert the fact that you are a hot chick. If it is your surname then that’s pretty cool, although quite a name to live up to. If the latter, then can you please send me a photo to confirm that you are actually a ‘Babe’ and not advertising falsely, its just that the three Donnas that I know – Donna Eetsalad, Donna Ecksersize and Donna Kebab – are all quite obese and very ugly, so I am naturally sceptical.
PS: If you aren’t actually a ‘Babe’ but have only added this to your name to make you feel better about yourself, safe in the knowledge that your true identity will never be revealed online, then I’m afraid we’re done. I can handle you being a Fascist as that would imply a penchant for S&M, which could be fun; but a liar too! That’s just a bridge too far.
Here is a picture of how Dbabe might actually look
50. Re: Advantage car rental “Rome Fiumicino Airport” – a warning
16 January 2013, 16:39
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Removed on: 16 January 2013, 23:05
I pleaded with Tripadvisor to allow me to make recompense for any offense my written nonsense had caused. I wanted to write some Terms and Conditions related to having a sense of humour so that Dbabe could read them and satisfy herself that it was actually OK to be a little foolish and irresponsible every now and then, and even have a smile at your own expense sometimes, because people who don’t make mistakes don’t make anything. I feel that with adequate instructions and T&C’s to follow that Dbabe may have lightened up. I even offered to write a poem to Dbabe as a show of amnesty; but alas, they would not allow me to add anything more to the thread. If they had then Dbabe would have surely seen me in a completely different light after reading these poetic words of penance:
Roses are red, violets are blue
Donna’s from Pittsburg and likes to read rules
Advantage Car Hire are great at what they do
And the Roman authorities, they are great too
But me, I’m just a lazy, inappropriate fool
And I should spend more time reading and following rules
For Donna aka Dbabe (forgive me)
(This posting is re-blogged courtesty of Another Angry Voice)
It was announced on Monday 8th April that the former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was dead. The sense of jubilation at her death is truly remarkable and obviously distressing to the many millions of right-wing people that describe her legacy in glowing terms, even going as far as claiming that she was the best Prime Minister ever, despite her massive unpopularity and her appalling legacy of failure.
The fact that so many people have taken to open celebration of her death is evidence of her legacy. The woman clung to power by dividing society and setting the factions against each other, instead of allowing them to unite against her. Even after her death British society is still clearly divided and the same divisive scapegoating tactics are being used again by the incumbent Tory led government.
Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, the first ever adherent of neoliberal pseudo-economics to gain power at the ballot box rather than through violent US backed military coups. She remained a lifetime friend of her fellow neoliberal adherent, the murderous Chilean dictator General Pinochet, even going as far as direct intervention to assist Pinochet in evading justice after he was threatened with extradition to Spain to face trial for crimes against humanity.
Thatcher’s rise to power signaled the end of the post-war consensus mixed economy and the beginning of the neoliberal age. The old agreement between the parties that Britain should strive to balance regulated capitalism with state control over vital infrastructure was torn up in favour of Thatcher’s barmy post-industrial dream of a hyper-capitalist nation built around the financial services industry in London.
One of the core tenets of Thatcher’s neoliberal agenda was the firesale of state assets based on the absurdly fallacious reasoning that capitalists can always run things more efficiently than the state. Huge swathes of taxpayer funded industry and infrastructure were given away at bargain basement prices. In some cases such as the sale of British Telecom, the exponential improvements in technology give the impression that privatisation was a success, however the privatisation of utilities like gas, electric and water have severely damaged the UK economy by eroding the disposable income of the public with ever inflating prices, meaning that the public have less money to save or to invest in genuinely productive activity. Even after Thatcher’s demise, this mania for privatisation continued with all kinds of barmy privatisation scams from John Major’s botched privatisation of the railways to Gordon Brown’s massive expansion of PFI economic alchemy schemes. Some of the most barmy privatisations include the sale and leaseback of the HMRC property portfolio to a tax haven based company (seriously) and the privatisation of the UK independent nuclear deterrent into the hands of a consortium 66% owned by US based companies!
Another way in which the Thatcher government fueled the City of London post-industrial fantasy was through the abandonment of capital controls and the deregulation of the financial sector, which opened the floodgates to an unprecedented tax-dodging bonanza. In return for these changes, financial sector interests and major tax-dodgers poured cash into Tory party coffers allowing them to present their loopy free-market ideology as some kind of slick modernisation programme through expensive ad agencies such as Saachi and Saachi. The Thatcher government introduced the new brand of politics where style took precedence over substance and the real political agenda remained hidden behind impenetrable layers of presentation. Subsequent leaders such as Tony Blair and David Cameron have pushed this kind of spin even further, seeming at perfect ease as they outright lie to the public (Iraqi WMDs, David Cameron’s debt reduction lies).
Slick advertising wasn’t the only way in which the Thatcher government managed public perception. Thatcher allowed right wing interests to build up vast media empires. The most famous example being her intervention to ensure that Rupert Murdoch could buy up the Times newspaper. This marriage of convenience between the UK establishment and Rupert Murdoch has continued to the present day. Murdoch commands a huge audience and continues to be sucked up to by British political leaders despite the shocking revelations about the disgusting criminality and corruption at his newspapers.
Aside from handing over valuable state assets for derisory prices and recklessly deregulating the financial sector, another way in which Thatcher coddled the wealthy was through huge tax cuts justified with the ludicrous trickle down fallacy. Allowing the wealthy to extract ever more wealth from society was never going to enrich the poor as the Thatcherites loved to claim, especially given the the way that the Thatcher regime facilitated offshore tax-dodging. Instead of investing the glut of North Sea oil wealth and the cash raised through privatisations into a sovereign wealth fund like Norway or reinvesting in British industry, Thatcher wasted it all on ludicrous tax breaks for the wealthy.
Another area in which Thatcher wreaked her havoc was in housing policy. Her loathing of anything social led to her direct attacks upon social housing. Her government arranged the firesale of social housing with the stipulation that the money raised could not be reinvested in building more social housing or renovating existing social housing stock. The construction of social housing was all but abandoned in the 1980s and has never resumed. Othodox neoliberal theory tells us that a reduction in state intervention in the housing market should lead to a rise in private sector housebuilding, however, just like with most neoliberal theory, the reality was completely different and this rise in private sector housebuilding never happened. In fact, private sector housebuilding has declined since the 1980s. The housing shortage created by Thatcher’s assault on social housing led to unsustainable property price inflation, with investors preferring to get fat as ever rising demand pushed their property prices and profit margins upwards, rather than investing in anything productive like the actual construction of new housing.
Thatcher also oversaw the deregulation of the private rental sector and the abolition of security of tenure for private tenants. Countless greedy Thatcherites have sat back and raked in the cash as they allowed other people to pay off their buy-to-let mortgages. This idle rentier class is now a clearly defined Tory demographic. In a way, it is a return to the old days of idle landlords soaking up the wealth of entire communities by renting shit houses to transitory “peasants”. One of the very worst aspects of Thatcher’s housing reforms is that one third of all of the social housing that was sold off on the cheap has now found it’s way into the hands of the idle buy-to-let brigade. In fact, probably the largest former council house property portfolio in the entire country belongs to the son of the minister charged with selling off all those state owned properties in the first place!
In order to build the foundations of this ideologically driven neoliberalisation experiment, Thatcher needed to hobble all opposition and consolidate as much power as possible in her own hands. She castrated local government, closed down the Greater London Council and oversaw a centralisation of the education system (based on privately operated exam boards) that has churned out generation after generation of inadequately prepared an politically naive students.
Undoubtedly the most famous way in which she consolidated her own power was through her war on the trade unions. She famously derided the miners that had been the productive backbone of the nation for centuries as “the enemy within” then removed their union powers and crushed their industries, ruining countless communities throughout the industrial heartlands of the UK. The fact that these communities built around their mines, shipyards, and steel factories were predominantly Labour voting areas was absolutely no coincidence. Not only did she castrate their unions and steal their jobs, she had no plan at all for the regions she was destroying, other than to leave them in a permanent state of destitution and social degeneration. It took the outright defiance of Michael Heseltine to save cities like Liverpool from suffering even more from the brutal indifference of Thatcherism.
Such a centralisation of power runs entirely contrary to the libertarian and minarchist principles that supposedly underpin neoliberal theory, but the only way that such a barmy neoliberalisation process could ever have been enforced was through the ruthless revocation of power from anyone that stood in her way. The fact is that all of Thatchers successors have all enjoyed the dictatorial powers she carved out for herself, with very few central government powers being redistributed back to local government.
Another defining characteristic of the Thatcher regime was brazen economic mismanagement. From the massive inflation peaks in the early and late 1980s to the deliberate neglect of British manufacturing, the ever widening trade deficits; and the fact that her government ran constant budget deficits in all but two of the years for which she was Prime Minister (in fact the 1988 and 1989 budget surpluses are the only Tory budget surpluses recorded since 1973, so perhaps, with an 18% budget surplus rate as compared to 0% for all of her Tory party successors, she wasn’t actually that bad by the usual Tory standards).
Still, it didn’t seem to matter that interest rates on people’s mortgages went through the roof, that the long forgotten phenomena of mass unemployment was stalking the land again after a 50 year hiatus, that British industry was collapsing into terminal decline: The right wing press and the Tory propaganda machine spun an unrelentingly positive story of “modernisation” and the public lapped it up and carried on voting for her.
Returning to Thatcher’s war with the trade unions, the ongoing decline in British manufacturing can be traced back to this divisive class war against the working people of Britain. Thatcher’s ideological hatred of the trade unions was so rabid that she would rather the entire industry be destroyed than allow adequate trade union representation for the workforce. A good contrast can be made with Germany, where instead of playing class warfare, with the government and business interests on one side and the workers and trade unions on the other as Thatcher did, they built their industrial strategy on co-operation between the bosses and the unions, even allowing union representatives onto the boards of directors as a matter of course. Thatcher’s divide and rule strategy has resulted in decades of industrial decline, social fragmentation and vast trade deficits, whilst Germany have cemented their place as world leader in the production of high tech machinery, successfully reunified their divided nation and run enormous trade surpluses.
Any commentary on Thatcher would be incomplete without mention of the Falklands. It is quite clear from declassified documents that the conflict was deliberately provoked through the withdrawal of the South Atlantic naval defence. Thatcher was warned several times by military experts that such a withdrawal would be seen as an open invitation for the Argentine military dictatorship to invade. In the buildup to the invasion, Thatcher was languishing in the polls, the most unpopular Prime Minister in history. After the Falklands victory she rode the tide of jingoism to a landslide election victory and a whitewash investigation concluded that the war had been “unavoidable”.
Another incident that must not be forgotten is the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool FC fans were crushed to death due to police incompetence. It took 23 years for the evidence to be released, evidence which demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Thatcher government and South Yorkshire police colluded in a massive cover-up campaign, where blame was deliberately transferred to innocent Liverpool supporters with the willing assistance of the right-wing press. Especially the S*n, (belonging to Thatcher’s chum Rupert Murdoch) which is still boycotted in the city of Liverpool to this day as a result of the outright lies that were printed about the behavior of Liverpool fans on that tragic day.
The final factor that cannot possibly be excluded is the policy that eventually brought the Thatcher regime down. By the late 1980s Thatcher must have come to believe that she was invincible. She’d crushed the unions, castrated local government, sold off the national silver on the cheap, slashed taxes for her wealthy backers and done it all with three landslide victories at the polls. Her final folly was Poll Tax; a policy so unpopular that it provoked the largest wave of civil disobedience in living memory. Only a power crazed fool with a head full of neoliberal gibberish could possibly have thought that they could get away with imposing it. She was warned by her Tory party colleagues that it wouldn’t float but she persisted with it until she was driven out of office by her own MPs.
Only the blue tinted spectacles brigade would even try to pretend that Thatcher didn’t leave the UK countless toxic legacies such as over-centralised power, adherence to ideological neoliberal pseudo-economics, countless failed privatisations, the massive scale of tax-dodging, industrial decline, mass unemployment, housing policy neglect, rising debt (national, corporate and private), a hopelessly mismanaged education system, political reliance upon the Murdoch empire and the reckless gambling of the deregulated financial sector that eventually led to the global financial sector meltdown. Probably the single thing that stands out above all of these toxic legacies is the way that she ruthlessly destroyed the gains of the post war society, cynically setting sectors of society at each others throats whilst deliberately re-extending the wealth gap.
Another of Thatcher’s toxic legacies was Tony Blair. Many Tories try to deny the link between Thatcher and Blair, however the similarity is absolutely obvious to most people. Tony Blair was quite clearly a Tory in a red tie. Instead of undoing the damage that Thatcher had wrought, he intensified it with more privatisations, more dodgy outsourcing contracts, more Murdoch love-ins, more bank deregulations, more tax-dodging scams and more deliberate neglect of British industry. Even the most rabid Tory would hesitate to contradict Thatcher herself ,and when asked what her greatest achievement in politics was, her reply was “Tony Blair and New Labour”. The affection between the two was mutual, with Blair providing a grotesquely uncritical eulogy to the sworn enemy of anyone remotely left-wing or liberal minded:
“Margaret Thatcher was a towering political figure. Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour Government… As a person she was kind and generous spirited and was always immensely supportive to me as Prime Minister … you could not disrespect her character or her contribution to Britain’s national life. She will be sadly missed.”
Tony Blair was obviously saddened to hear of the death of his ideological mentor. I thought that I’d be much happier on the day that Thatcher finally died, however, it is absolutely clear from the shape of the UK political landscape that she is actually still alive. All three of the establishment parties are now wedded to her brand of ideologically driven orthodox neoliberalism; the scars of her economic blundering can be seen carved across the landscape and across countless communities; the gap between rich and poor is wider than ever and still growing; the post war welfare system is under ruthless attack from both sides of Parliament; crony capitalism and industrial scale tax-dodging are rife and the tactic of playing elements of society off against each other in order to distract attention away from the villainy of the establishment powers is as prevalent today as it was at the height of Thatcherism.
It doesn’t matter that the woman is so reviled that her grave will have to be kept behind a security cordon to prevent it from becoming an extremely popular open air toilet. It doesn’t matter that she is dead and that people are satisfied that she is gone. Her toxic legacy has not gone, in fact, the current government are busy with schemes that Thatcher herself would never have dared dream of, such as privatising the NHS and simply giving away half of the secondary schools in England, £billions worth of taxpayer funded property and all, for free, to unaccountable private sector interests.
It is 34 years since Thatcher introduced neoliberal pseudo-economics to the UK and we’re still paying the price now. Hell, we’ll still be paying the price in another 34 years given that the entire political establishment is utterly riddled with this rotten ideology. The economic and social destruction she inflicted can never be fully repaired. Too many industries destroyed, too many taxes dodged, too many communities divided and too many generations brought up on the right-wing mantra of “greed good; social conscience bad”.
Reblogged courtesy of: Another Angry Voice