Bad Weather, High Costs
It’s startling how much darkness descends on Northern Europe at this time of year. One minute it’s light until 10, the next you can’t see after 4. For an extra hour of light in the mornings we put our clocks back and as the earth tilts us away from the sun we progressively lose light at a speed of two minutes a day. It’s cold here too and damp. The UK is a flint cold island anchored in the North Sea. Arctic winds carry ice. Harsh frosts and wet weather blast our shores, bitter winds freeze our bones, boilers break and many do not know warmth as crippling fuel bills give the elderly and poor a choice between food and heat.
So with bad weather and high costs, Why do people visit?
It seems they visit to see international landmarks of history notably Big Ben, the timepiece of Westminster, a beautiful example of Gothic architecture and the symbol of a government with a questionable colonial past. London has a long history of Imperialism. We have looted and stolen, oppressed and tyrannised, we are a country which has been at war for 100 years. We have cheque-booked and financed conflict as far back as the 1670s when England invaded both Scotland and Ireland and had conflict with the Dutch. In all cases this led to suppression of civil liberties with a virus of racism being introduced. There’s a blanket of Amnesia over our historic past.
Consumers in the shopping streets, plugged into their gadgets and into themselves seem blissfully unaware how many innocent lives have been lost in our ‘humanitarian interventions’.
Perhaps it’s easier not to care. Or perhaps, in an act of hypnosis with credit to the success of human engineering we do care, for new clothes and bigger homes and more shoes and holidays but we don’t care who has to die in order for us to have these items. Has the media been so successful in normalising the unthinkable? The problem is, you can never be satisfied with more of what you don’t need.
The uncomfortable truth is the UK has played second fiddle to the US on it’s quest for global dominance and oil – THE commodity of modern capitalism for the last 40 years. Using force to extract it, it’s in our interests to destabilise and distress those countries where it can be found. Our strategy is one of mineral exploitation; buy assets at underpriced market value, sell overpriced products to European consumers who exchange the hours of their lives to buy products they don’t need. The profits lie in tax havens and would be enough to eradicate world poverty four times over. Material interests drive imperialism and while the poor in our country freeze and go hungry, they lie bleeding in other lands.
The leadership class in this country, the entire establishment talk utter nonsense for their own benefit. Schooling in the UK seems to popularise ideas of royal lines and empire. The truth is not being told. With slavery and exploitation, division and partition we have carved up lands, peoples and families and robbed the natural mineral wealth of the planet for European institutions.
People being photographed with Big Ben, unwittingly align themselves with agendas of supremacy and racism. Intervention is a colonial idea prescribed by the rich, powerful and white, telling other people how to run their lives. It’s legacy is one of control and exploitation for western interests at the cost and tragic exploitation of other people, an arrogance which has denied many the right to self-determination. So while we strive for bigger homes, new gadgets, prestige, recognition, status, security and more often than not, meaning in our lives, our ambitions may need more careful thought as anywhere you find wealth, exploitation is not far behind.
Weapons and Wars
Little known to the 7 million tourists who visited the capital last year, London hosted the world’s largest arms fair. A bi-annual and little publicised event drawing visitors from over 50 countries and giving international arms dealers opportunities to network and generate new business. While the UN Arms Trade Treaty of April 2013 claims to ‘regulate trade in conventional arms to foster peace and security’, weapons are sold in London for profit with little concern war evacuates, shatters, scars, tears apart, ruins and destroys. Three hundred export licenses worth over 12 billion pounds were sold to countries including those with repressive regimes. Who needs to fight wars when money can be made simply selling arms to people already in conflict.
Police screening arrival of demonstrators witnessed a line of women, children, pensioners and disabled people boarding a double-decker bus on a rail replacement service. No threat, their numbers too small. Had they been a threat, there would have been no protest at all. In the UK we legitimise and encourage the sale of weapons and criminalise those who object. For demonstrating against violence several women had been arrested. A police record makes life hard. Your employers are notified, you risk losing your job. The establishment asserts control and will not tolerate having that assertion challenged.
Today’s ruling class is keen on conflict, there’s profit to be made from it. Financial services and arms exports are two things we do well in the UK. Banks and tanks are both forms of control, war and austerity are linked. To exploit the chaos caused to lives for financial gain and to ensure people remain powerless.
At the heart of everyone is a desire for peace. War is not the answer. Killing people is murder. Call it what you will. No war is humanitarian. People die in war. War is a disastrous pointless waste of life. War is hell, but luckily for the police so long as hell is somewhere else, London continues to welcome arms dealers every second year.
No one is Illegal
Another little known attraction to London last summer were two vans patrolling Barnet and outlying areas with slogans reading“In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest”. This obnoxious £10,000 pilot scheme from the Home Office prompted 224 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. One Pakistani man is said to have left the country. 58,800 people whose visas may have expired also received texts reading “You are required to leave the UK as you no longer have the right to remain”. This message was mistakenly sent to many people who have lived, worked and contributed to the UK for over 40 years and suggests we’d be hard pushed to be more offensive or hostile to foreigners. We scapegoat the poor, we apportion blame to protect our own financial interests, we are being misled by people who are supposed to keep the record straight. What would you do if there was a war in your country? Leave. It’s normal. Many people seeking asylum have left their own countries as a direct consequence of blood-shed made possible from the arms we have sold.
Most of us pass through school without a single lesson on the roots of inequality, the influence of corporations or the workings of capitalism. We’re subjugated, we think we’re choosing but we’re not. We ‘vote’ every four years then at best, spectate. We are not participants. Politics is boring and tedious. Behind the walls of Westminster in a world detached from reality, upper class schoolboys compete with each other for popularity, playing word-games of humiliation. Meanwhile for the rest of us, our true acts of participation are those of our daily lives.
Through work we sell our obedience and contribute to maintaining the status quo, channelling energy upwards into the hands of the few. The problem is once you start questioning the consequences of that decision, once you realise you are complicit in war and repression and unparalleled greed it becomes soul-destroying to continue and yet, we find ourselves trapped in routines of compliance just in order to survive. Very few alternatives seem to exist.
Perhaps things have been moving too fast. There’s been little room for alternatives to develop. But why continue to do as we’re told? When the majority of us are against war why are we so obedient? Why do we believe we have no choice?
And why do we continue to think they know better than us?
In the 1960s, normal law-abiding people gave complete strangers shocks of up to 450 volts – double the power surge of an electrical power socket, for simply answering questions wrongly. Stanley Milgram’s experiments proved 65% of us lack the resources to resist authority.
We’re lazy. We’ll do anything to minimise thinking.
Thinking is consciousness.
Conciousness takes effort.
Weighing up options takes work. We do as we’re told.
We believe we have only the capacity to look after ourselves and our immediate families. We see difficulties we face as personal problems when many of the problems, both financial and emotional, are systemic and manufactured to keep us controlled. The system was not designed to control us but it does. We are prisoners of illusion. But just because it’s been this way, does not mean it has to continue to be done this way or it’s even best if it continues to be this way.
We’ve been trained to accept but it’s time to start deciding and choosing for ourselves. Not in accordance with deadening media agendas designed to make us feel we belong. Change depends on us asking questions and creating alternatives for ourselves.
In order to transcend the difficulties we face, we first have to identify and understand them. None of us can do that alone. We need each other. Social justice is only possible if every person has a care for it.
So next time you’re thinking of taking a city break, why not consider visiting a country which needs your tourist dollar more than we do? The UK has plenty of cash stashed in off-shore accounts. London is a hub for commercial wealth. Deals and speculations made here affect the lives of millions. If you do decide to visit; perhaps come to New Cross – that’s where you’ll see foodbanks, derelict pubs, housing estates, the forgotten, unemployed, artists, people who are forever being pushed to the side and on my street, a community who support each other in the belief of mutual aid.
Thank you to Sanford Housing Co-op for giving me freedom to write.
World’s richest could end global poverty
Inside the world’s largest arms fair
War No Glory
Susan Sontag ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’