I have been on more demonstrations than I can remember in my time. I have picketed buildings, slept outside embassies, boycotted consumer goods and marched with my head held high, lustily singing campaign songs, sometimes in two part harmony. I have leafleted, canvassed, collected signatures and stood for election.
The right to demonstrate, to protest and the right to free speech are absolutely essential in a democratic society and I wish more people would do it. I find the political and social apathy of people abhorrent and the only time they seem to take to the streets is if someone challenges their inalienable right to personal comfort or threatens their access to free Wi-Fi connection in Starbucks.
OK, I admit that’s a little harsh, but I stand by the sentiment. We are turning into a society of whingers, tutters and softies who think the world owes us a living, that we deserve everything, yet we need do nothing in return. Not for nothing are references being made to the ‘L’Oreal Generation’. Well it’s come back to bite us on the bum.
This year, Britain was days away from being in the same financial state as Greece or Ireland. A country which once (rightly or wrongly) administered half the world, had manufacturing industries which were the envy of other developed countries, we had shipyards, farming, car plants, steelworks – you name it.
And we buggered it all up. Successive governments borrowed and borrowed, wasted and wasted, taxed and taxed and spent and spent. We have not supported our own industries and we have become such slaves to greed that our desperate and misguided pursuit of cheap goods and cheap food have put our own businesses out of business.
If a household finds that it has a reduced income or finds itself with its outgoings outstripping its income, the first and most sensible thing to do is look at how it can trim down the cost of living. Luxuries go, leisure activities are cut down, shopping bills are curbed, wine consumption may be limited, holidays may have to be curtailed. This is all done to keep the finances under control so the family doesn’t incur debt whilst strategies are found to stabilise or increase the household income.
If that family carries on as normal, buying on credit and spending the same as they did when their income was higher, they are soon going to find themselves with mounting debt and unmanageable interest payments. Even if their income subsequently increases, they will be saddled with the debt they incurred for a long time to come. If they manage their finances carefully, when the good times come round again they will be in a far stronger position.
If you have over-indulged and become too fat, however valid the psychological reasons, you have to endure a period of pain where you are obliged to forego eating the things you like and to move about more, in order to have the body shape you want and the comcomitant health and increased energy.
I am no economist and I am no politician and I’m quite sure that those of you who are, are jumping up and down and asking what the heck I know about it and how dare I be so obnoxiously simplistic. Obviously I am aware that a family is a micro-economy and a country is a macro-economy, and that the numbers and complexity of managing the beast in the red box are eye-wateringly immense.
But it strikes me that the basic principles are the same. If we stand any chance of enjoying the benefits and services to which we have become accustomed, well into the future, there has to be a major overhaul of the nation’s economy and a major change in our own attitudes to what we can do for ourselves.
As I said at the beginning, I have been on many demonstrations for many causes in which I passionately believed and, occasionally, with hindsight, I was mistaken in my beliefs. I was delighted to see so many people taking to the streets (shame about the violent and malignant tossers who got so much attention, but they always turn up and always will) to protest about what they believe to be wrong. I do hope that those marching people will go back home and play their part in supporting local economies and community projects and trying to make a difference on their own doorsteps.
If you have only £15 in your pocket and have to buy school shoes and something for dinner, you (may) have two choices. You can complain loudly that you can’t possibly manage on that, overdraw by forty quid, buy a pair of branded leather shoes, a tray of lamb chops and knuckle down to a bit of compound interest.
Alternatively you can buy a pair of £12 shoes and make a nourishing lentil and vegetable stew that will last two days. It may not be ideal – the lentils might make you fart a bit if you’re not used to them and the leather shoes would probably have lasted longer than the supermarket version. But in the long term, you won’t owe anyone anything and you’re not giving free money (that you could have saved up for the next pair of shoes) to the thieving, shameless, scumbag banks. Or the EU.
Right then, I’m bracing myself. Put the pitchforks down.