Perhaps it is something in the Himalayan air; Perhaps the peaceful, nature-loving culture of the country has provided the fertile environment that is needed; Perhaps the stunning natural landscapes have been absorbed into the people’s genes and manifested themselves as incredible aesthetic beauty in their own right. Whatever it may be, the visual delights of Nepal are not confined to the sunrises and mountain ranges alone, for the country is home to some of the most beautiful women on the planet.
At last, the finish line is in sight. Once this mammoth set of blog posts is out of the way I can get back to working my way through a list of things that I have been meaning to write about for some time. This will be the final post on the book Philanthrocapitalism and the topic. I promise.
So, where were we? Towards the end of the book. Chapter 11.
Once again Philanthrocapitalism continues its seduction of the large multinationals with more grovelling to Nike, Shell, Barclays, Pfizer, and Coca-Cola. Walmart is singled out for numerous pages of praise, despite the innumerable criticisms it has faced. Even with the text in the book, the criticisms still far out way the praise. Celebrities are then introduced and afforded a hefty pat on the back themselves. Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna are just some of those who appear.
Writing for The Daily Mail in 2008 (says it all really doesn’t it) Richard Branson said: “Entrepreneurs have made the world a better place, taking the risks involved in innovating products and services that make people’s lives easier, better and safer.” A bold, sweeping statement that is not entirely accurate.
Branson’s piece for the newspaper was titled “In defence of capitalism” and is precisely the argument you expect to hear from a man that is worth, according to Forbes’ latest estimate, some $5 billion.
For Branson, capitalism is the answer to the world’s problems. He admits that it may need a few tweaks and changes, but he is insistent that it is only through the pursuit of profit that societies are to improve.
The Virgin boss is just one of a number of billionaires that appear fairly frequently in Philanthrocapitalism: How The Rich Can Save The World. It is a book that I read a few months ago, but did little to convince me that the wealthy are indeed the world’s saviours.
Never in the field of human existence have so many been robbed by so few.
It has been well documented how inequality is now at levels that we have never seen before. This time last year, the news broke that 85 people share a combined wealth that is equal to the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet. That is 85 individuals owning as much as 50% of the entire population of this earth.
A year on from such a startling announcement, things have got even better for those at the very top of the pyramid. Recent figures show that if current trends continue, the wealthiest 1% of people will own more than the remaining 99% of the world’s population by the year 2016.
That is the global context of the situation we find ourselves in. Quite literally the 99% are in a fight for their future, and in some cases, their very survival.
In the UK we have political leaders who seem content to see things this way. In fact, content would be the wrong word to use. A more appropriate word may be excited. Our political leaders feel excitement due to the current state of the world, because judging on where things are heading, it is about to get even better for them, and even worse for us. Just this week the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, stated that Boots – one of the UK’s largest tax avoiding companies – has a duty to its shareholders to pay as little tax as it can. His exact words: “These guys, I’m afraid, have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to minimise their obligations.”
Ever since the Liberal Democrats supplied the lubrication to get them in to office, the Conservatives have been waging a war against those less fortunate than themselves. Their weapons are sanctions, tax loopholes, and zero hour contracts. Their allies are bankers, big business, and the mainstream media. They are the oligarchs who run the UK, utterly out of touch with the average person and looking to put even more distance between us and them.
Now you may think my words are a little exaggerated, and that this is all hyperbole in order to get people on side, but that is where you are wrong. To say that the Tories have been waging a war on the poor is less fiction and more fact than they would dare to admit.
On the third of July the Guardian ran an article entitled “Coalition’s austerity policies are hitting the poor hardest…” 18 months later this fact was reaffirmed by the BBC when they reported that “Families and poor hit hardest by tax and spend changes.” This is proof that despite knowing their policies were hitting the poor the hardest, the government continued anyway. These were deliberate policy actions that followed a well-thought-out strategic plan. A continuation of the war they had started when they first came to power.
An A-Level history student can tell you that not all wars are fought with guns and tanks. There are cold wars, proxy wars, economic wars, propaganda wars, and there are wars that are waged by governments against their own people under the guise of policy. When government policy is directly responsible for the deaths of its nations citizens, and when the campaign is continued regardless of these deaths, we are left with no option but to call it a war.
David Clapson, 59, was found dead two weeks after his benefits were cut. Elaine Lowe, 53, committed suicide fearing her benefits would be cut. Mark Wood, 44, starved to death after his benefits were stopped. Paul Reekie, 48, committed suicide after his benefits were stopped. Karen Sherlock, 44, was found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. She died a month later. Tim Salter, 53, was declared fit to work by Atos despite being almost blind and a desperate agoraphobe. He hung himself when he was denied benefits and was facing eviction. Tragically, the list goes on, and on, and on.
These are just a handful of the victims of the war waged by the Coalition.
Figures from the 21st of February 2014, state that 104,200 disabled people had their benefits sanctioned in just 12 months. The total figure for the Coalition’s time in office far exceeds half a million. In 2013, in England alone, 112,070 people were declared homeless. A 26% increase from the figure four years previously. “In May 2013, a month after the “bedroom tax” was introduced, the Department for Work and Pensions(DWP) estimated that 660,000 people” would be affected by the policy. David Orr, of the National Housing Federation, said that it heaped “misery and hardship on already struggling families.”
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed jobseekers have to participate in workfare schemes, where as “work experience” you are forced, under threat of sanctions, to work for 30 hours a week in order to receive your meagre amount of benefits. Following the rise in university tuition fees, 24,000 less students enrolled on courses as they were priced out of education. Those that did decide to go to university are now saddled with a lifetime of debt, which means that the overwhelming majority will still owe as much as £30,000 when they reach the age of 50.
From April 2013 to April of the following year, The Trussel Trust, a food bank charity, said that it handed out 913,000 food parcels to people who could not afford to eat. This was a 51% increase from the 12 months previously. Child Action Poverty Group now believe that due to government policy the number of children living in poverty is on the rise. According to their figures, 3.5 million children live in poverty at present, and this number is set to increase by a further 600,000 in the next 12 months.
In stark contrast to this misery and suffering, the already privileged minority have been gradually improving their already vulgar fortunes. This is Money, the financial website of the year, reported in May 2014 that: “The fortunes of the 1,000 richest men and women in the UK rose by 15.4 per cent compared to last year.” Since 2009 the wealth of the top 1,000 people in the UK has doubled.
This means that whilst government policies are driving people to foodbanks, to the streets, or even to suicide, the elite members of society, the 1%, have had their most prosperous period in recent memory. Added to their rise in wealth was also the fact that the government lowered the amount of tax they had to pay on their earnings, meaning that even more money was retained at the very top of the pyramid.
The bleak society that we have come to reside in is no accident, the conditions for such poverty and desperation have been created by the Coalition as part of a planned and coherent political strategy. This war against the people has been raging for four years, and what is most troubling is that given the chance, the current government would intensify the conflict.
Even with my pacifist tendencies, this is one war I shall certainly be fighting in. A counter-offensive is essential and long overdue.
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Society heads to ruin, and those that lead us there,
Take us forth on promises of making things more fair,
Our benefits cut, our bedrooms taxed, we’re squeezed for every coin,
Ever since Clegg’s yellow and Cameron’s blue did join,
The rich are getting richer, at the expense of the poor,
They may use the front, but we’re shown the back door,
UKIP is persistent, it’s the foreigner we must fear,
Despite the twenty billion pounds they’ve added living here,
Continue reading “2014: A Broken Britain”