Category Archives: Inequality

Seeing the plight of Britain in Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman

He spends the majority of the play with one shoe on and one shoe off. He is Everyman, eponymous character of the classic English morality play, updated by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, whose production is currently on show at the National Theatre. The main theme of the late 15th century text has always been overtly religious, a play about salvation in the eyes of God – literally in his eyes, in front of him, as Everyman tries to save himself and prove that his life merits an extension as God’s minion, Death, stalks behind. Along the way, various virtues (Kindred, Fellowship) appear, none of which can save the doomed Everyman from paying the ultimate price for a life of turpitude. Consider this angle the bare foot (well, Everyman wears a sock, but that’s no matter); the foot that Everyman will crush glass with as a demonstration of his worth; the foot that will forever be rooted in the play’s piety.

But it’s the other foot that interests me more, the one clad for the majority of the show in a fancy designer shoe. This is the foot, the aspect of this new adaptation, if you will, which has seen me seek out Shamocracy again, this time to ask them to put straight politics aside for an article and allow me to try and shine a light on one of the great art works of the 21st century, one which speaks to the site’s core principals by way of scathing attacks on late-capitalism, vanity, greed, materialism and the narcissistic nature of The Self.

The story of the play has remained the same since its inception: Everyman, in his final hours on Earth, must give God an account of what his life amounted to. This modern-day Everyman just happens to be a wealthy banker, though, a self-righteous prick, prat and cunt; a man who welcomes in his 40th birthday with a table-line (of Last Supper length) of coke while his eclectic friends cheer him on. He is a bastion of rich excess: a high-flying, city-slicking playboy; a London elite; a man interested in only his own pleasure, in only pleasuring himself, in only the own pleasure of The Self.

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Time to strike…or not?

On Monday and Tuesday next week, employees of Network Rail were due to go on strike, but both unions have just called off their action. The strike had been called by the RMT and TSSA unions, and would have caused massive disruption for individuals and businesses, with perhaps 90% of trains not running. Should we be angry at those striking when it is so disruptive?

Network Rail last year posted a profit of £1bn, a 39% increase from 2013. Senior executives patted themselves on the back with ~45% pay rises, despite all the bad press Network Rail has had recently. Meanwhile, the rest of its workforce was only offered a one-off £500 taxable lump sum, and any future pay rises will track inflation. It’s easy to understand why the employees wanted to take action, and in a top down, hierarchical organisation, the only way to get yourself heard is to rebel.

Our new full-fat Tory government plans to make strike action require 50% turnout and 40% support of union members voting in favour, which will effectively make almost any future strike action illegal. Let’s not forget that the Conservatives won the election with only 24% of the population voting for them.

As cuts become more severe, and profit is directed only to those at the top, strike action should become more prevalent, and we need to encourage and support it. If your train is cancelled next week, don’t blame the underpaid staff, blame the senior executives and government.

 

Featured image – Rose and Trev Clough (via Geograph)

Living with disability in coalition Britain

Back in February, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith sent a message out to subscribers of the Conservative party email, subject: ‘Benefits’. In it, Smith passionately reiterated one of this coalition government’s key aims; he wrote, “At the heart of our welfare reforms is a simple goal: to tackle the culture of welfare dependency that Labour allowed to develop. So we’re creating a system that helps people stand on their own two feet – restoring the incentive to work and ensuring that work always pays.”

This system Smith speaks of has proven to be a controversial one. There’ll be talk of economic recovery and a drop in unemployment in the run-up to next month’s general election, but one thing PM David Cameron and his Liberal deputy Nick Clegg won’t be telling you about is how the sick and disabled have fared under ConDem rule. Benefits have been sanctioned for near-comical reasons; firms under-qualified to assess whether the sick and disabled are fit for work have had their government contracts terminated early due to “significant quality failures”; and doctors have been pressured to change reports on claimants in order to meet targets.

The effects have been catastrophic – claimants have committed suicide, starved to death and died from health complications as a direct result of their benefits being sanctioned. Some of the most severely ill have even died as a result of being made to go to assessments they were physically unfit to attend. A 2011 report revealed 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of being declared ‘fit for work’ between January 2010 and January 2011. All this, even though the experts argue hardline measures actually make it harder for people to get into work. Consequently, last year, the UK became the first country to ever be investigated by the UN over disability rights violations.

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2015 Gates Annual Letter

It is fair to ask whether the progress we’re predicting will be stifled by climate change. The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide. The next 15 years are a pivotal time when these energy sources need to be developed so they’ll be ready to deploy before the effects of climate change become severe. Bill is investing time in this work personally (not through our foundation) and will continue to speak out about it.

I love the positivity of his messages and the work he is doing to improve the lives of those that need it most. His call for us to become global citizens is greatly needed to tackle many of the problems we face and stop thinking, acting and voting just for ourselves.

However, global warming is such a big and immediate issue — we have until 2017 to start reducing carbon dioxide output, after that we lock in >2ºC dangerous, irreversible warming — that despite all the progress being made in developing countries today, the effects of climate change are likely to negate much of that work in the future.

In addition, this text demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the climate works. The carbon dioxide we emit today can take as long as 40 years to have its full effect, which means Gates’ plan of finding and deploying an energy source before the effects become severe in the next 15 years is redundant. While we can’t link specific weather events directly to global warming, we are seeing a trend of more extreme events and temperatures already — 2014 was the warmest year on record, indeed every year of the 21st century so far is in the top 15 warmest years on record.

Gates is bound by capitalist ideology, his emphasis on the need to develop a ‘miracle cure’ source of energy is evidence of that. He is a major investor in TerraPower, a nuclear startup (centralised energy sources fit into our current energy generation economic model, where large profit can still be extracted from the masses — existing low carbon energy sources are largely distributed) and climate engineering ideas such as sucking Carbon Dioxide out the air (an idea that is very controversial and will take more time than we have). Oh, and the Gates Foundation has at least $1bn invested in BP and ExxonMobil along with other investments in oil and gas exploration, production, services and engineering firms.

We have the technology we need to start solving the problem today, but it will require a fundamental shift of focus and wealth. We are putting profit before the place we live. We are betting big on the miracle cure in the future. What if that miracle never happens?

MP Penny Mordaunt wants to send 60-year-olds into blazing buildings, and she’s doing it for you

There are certain politicians that make it really easy to make fun of modern politics. UKIP, for instance, on the whole continues to make UK politics seem like some absurd comedy; see, for example, the UKIP candidate that recently blamed painkillers for turning him into a horrible racist and homophobe, or the fact that the party is currently looking to take £1.5 million in EU funding to form a new pan-European political party that opposes the EU.

Today, though, we’re going to be focusing on the recent actions of Splash superstar and occasional Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt, and that’s for two reasons. First of all, as Mordaunt has publicly admitted that she approaches politics as some giggling schoolgirl that says “cock” in front of the headmaster for a bet, we feel it’s acceptable to write about her with the same kind of reverence she gives to her profession. Second of all and most importantly, despite being responsible for fire and emergencies, Mordaunt seems to have very little understanding of what it takes to be a firefighter.

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Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

AmazonJust like Wal-mart, Amazon treats it’s low level employees like robots; pawns in their pursuit of unlimited riches for the few at the top.  That’s a bit unfair actually as robots require enough electrical power to keep them going, whereas Wal-mart doesn’t pay staff enough to live.  Without proper regulation, these corporations are costing the government money in social services and aren’t paying tax.  Meanwhile the Waltons (who own Wal-mart) cling on to their riches to remain more wealthy than all of their workers combined.