Saturday, 31 December 2011

Here's to a better year in 2012! Even in Barnet...

2011 was a strange year. I've never felt moved to write corny greetings on New Year's Eve before, but I'm going to this year.

On a personal note, I've been reminded too many times for comfort this year that time and tide wait for no man and that I am a man. Well, obviously, I am a woman but you know what I mean.

In 2010 my dear grandmother died, but I didn't feel so miserable then as I have this year when too many people died untimely. Ali, Patrick and Alan I knew personally and will miss. People close to me have also lost loved ones, and one of those has had a big impact on my life this year.

We have lost some national figures as well, Brian Haw stands out for me.

In the world at large, I'm sure there have not been an extraordinary number of deaths, but there were many that were truly shocking, for example, the 77 Norwegians murdered by Anders Breivik, and those who died during the riots in August.

If I tried to enumerate the astounding international and national political events that took place this year, I wouldn't do it half as well as the Sunday supplements will tomorrow so I'll spare us both.

I wish everyone well always. But humanity is divided against itself, men from women, nations, races, religions, along lines of sexual orientation and physical ability, age and so on. In all these tensions, real and imagined, I don't take a side. But there is one way that people are divided where I do: class.

I don't believe that we can make progress in healing all our other divisions unless we end the inequality of resources and opportunity which stifle many of us as individuals and the absurd waste inherent in the capitalist system which stifles us as a species.

I don't expect most of you to agree with me, but I'm sure there will be times in the coming year when we will share views on the way things are going in Barnet - downhill! - and class, I believe, has a lot to do with that.

There, I have left myself wide open to some digs from David Duff. So I will end with something my grandmother said, which was hardly original but effective. She always said it as a toast: "Here's to those who wish us well, and all the rest can go to..."


Mrs Angry said...

I think that the subtleties of class division that used to exist are no longer true: now it has become horribly simplified into two categories, the haves and have nots.

What really divides people, though, is lack of empathy, the lack of ability to, or the lack of interest in, seeing the world from another person's point of view.

Albert Camus said that almost all the evil in the world comes from ignorance, and that really resonates with me: if people can be helped to understand the world from a different perspective,maybe we might all benefit.

Oh dear. Too much gin probably. Must go and lie down.

Happy New Year.

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

Food for thought, Mrs A. But I haven't drunk nearly enough yet this evening! I'm going to go and raid my own drinks cabinet. (At home en famille this evening.)

Happy New Year, Mrs A. 2011 was the better for knowing you - can't remember whether we'd met at the start of it, oh, yes, we had. But, anyway, still the better for knowing you!

Mrs Angry said...

thanks vicki: and don't worry about Duff - he's probably down the golf club getting rat arsed ... time for me to go to bed in a bad mood

David Duff said...

Well, I wouldn't wish to let you ladies down so let me begin by asking: Brian ... who? I've never heard of him.

But let me start the New Year by agreeing with Mrs. 'A's opening remark: "I think that the subtleties of class division that used to exist are no longer true". Absolutely right. However her next remark I would correct to read thus: 'now it has become horribly simplified into two categories, the have loads and the have loads more.'

There-in lies the reason why Marxism and its followers have dwindled into a tiny sect stuck endlessly in a 19th century perception and memory which was false in the first place and now, in the face of the reality which capitalism has wrought through its overwhelming victory, simply looks quaint! (No wonder you spend so much time trying to preserve museums!)

Also, it is a delicious source of amusement to me that those wealthy (yes, wealthy!) young people shagging for Britain in their grotty little tents outside St. Paul's talk endlessly of the 1% versus 99%, never realising that it is they, with their antiquated analyses of society who constitute the 1%! All that funny baccy has rotted the very few brain cells they ever possesed.

Even so, I applaud you ladies in your stalwart efforts to keep your local authority under scrutiny. However, I do sometimes wish you might spend just a little of your time looking into the working practices, including the sick-note culture, of the 'Bruvvers' and 'Sisters' who are employed by your tax money!

In the meantime, I wish you both a happy personal New Year - and a disastrous political New Year!

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, well I wish you a happy new year too, Mr Duff, and I welcome the resolution you have made to agree with me, sort of: this is progress, I feel.

Watching Great Expectations this week has set me musing on the subject of class, and social mobility, in fact: watch out, long and boring blogpost in gestation.

I must object to your dig at 'sick note' culture - I can honestly say I do not recognise this as typical of any ordinary public sector workers I know: perhaps here your own ideas are set in the frame of the Daily Telegraph circa 1973. What is undoubtedly true in my experience is that the employees who benefit from the exploitation of the public purse are the obscenely overpaid senior officers working as 'interim' consultants, many examples of which you will find here in Barnet. They are not subject to proper appraisal, and do not lose their posts when clear evidence of failure and incompetence is exposed. Such appalling underperformance would not be tolerated in any ordinary council worker. It is comparable to the perception of scrounging that is attached to anyone who is found guilty of benefit fraud while the major corporations who evade billions of pounds of tax payments. As Marx said,it's the rich wot gets the pleasure, and the poor wot gets the blame.

David Duff said...

Mrs. 'A', what on earth gives you the notion that somehow vice and virtue is dependent on one's postion in a management structure, such that, the top managers are crooked wastrels and the lower echelons are full of unsullied virtue?

Mrs Angry said...

hmm, an interesting point, but it depends whether we are measuring the vice by frequency or effect: the poor performance by senior officers has far more devastating effect, both in terms of financial cost and policy decisions and actions, than any by those at the bottom of the pile. And I think that it is obvious that more rogues are attracted to positions of power than any virtuous candidates with a vocation for public service ...

David Duff said...

I expected better thinking from you Mrs. 'A'!

General manager types are far outnumbered by the drones, so, to infer that the results of actions by one man far outweighs those of several hundred is, I would suggest, doubtful.

Also, it avoids your duty as a (unelected!) Tribune of 'The People' to be constantly on guard against malfeasance by managers and drones alike, acting, as you pretend to do, on behalf of all of us without fear or favour! Er, you do, don't you?

Incidentally, I always thought Camus was a, well, clunker, shall we say? If he did say that "almost all the evil in the world comes from ignorance" it confirms my opinion. To refute his nonsensical statement one only has to mention a couple of names which have resurfaced recently. The late, evil, wicked bastard, Hewlet Johnson; or the despicable Eric Hobsbawm. Both extremely learn-ed men who spent their lives excusing and/or ignoring mass murder.

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

Hello, both, I looked up the Camus quotation but don't know the context. He seems to be talking more about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons - or having good intentions but not enough knowledge to do anything really useful.

Either of these seems to be reasonable statements but I don't know the context of the remark.

David, I wish you wouldn't talk about drones like that. It's hard to think that you are anything but a snob when you use languge like that.

There are good managers in the world, most of them have come from the 'lower ranks' and know the job. But there are plenty of awful ones, spouting some jargon they heard at a seminar or read in a 'business' book.

In the world of local government top management, there is a thin layer of such people who seem most of all to be good at 'networking', as they slide in and out of each other's vacant posts, and also slide over to the private sector companies - Richard Grice, BT - that are bidding for contracts from the council.

There are people who are crap at their jobs lower down the ranks, but most public sector workers are decent people doing a decent job. Sometimes they are doing a decent job in spite of poor management.

All that said, there are also loads of people who are alienated from their jobs, and sometimes even if you like your job, spending too many hours at it can demoralise you.

I think people should have more control over the work they do, for example, deciding whether their work is useful or not, without the threat of a period of unemployment hanging over them if it turns out it isn't and they need to train to do something else more useful.

Measures such as that would probably get around some of the poor performance of work that sometimes happens.

As regards the people at Occupy London. I don't think they are by any means all young; some of them are marginalised people, homeless and so on. It's a mark of shame that in this society so many such people find themselves in such a position. I don't begrudge them a bit of community if they find it there. Most of the people at Occupy London are idealistic and enraged by the thought of how the City continues to thrive while more and more people are being pushed down into poverty. I agree with them about that.

As regards your idea of "the have loads and the have loads more", you should have a look at "The Spirit Level" which has plenty of evidence of how unequal societies - and we do have an increasingly unequal society - blight lives.

In any case, there ARE many people in this society do not have much; most people cannot be certain they will hang onto what they have. And my own socialism is based on having ambitions for the rest of humanity beyond the already developed capitalist countries.

Your comments about Marxism and capitalism and about people who apologise for Stalinism are interesting. Capitalism "has won" in the sense that socialism hasn't won yet.

The fate of the Russian revolution is a huge topic! I don't agree with this Hewlet Johnson bloke - who I had to look up, but he is one of a type that I recognise - or Hobsbawm.

I wouldn't make any apologies for Stalinism; I regard 1989 as a landmark year in the history of human liberation, albeit it was also the year when capitalism was able to get going in a whole new swathe of the globe.

Right, I'm off to help organise the drones.

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

P.S. DD, don't you dare complain about the length of the comments! You must expect to be replied to!

David Duff said...

Now, Vicki, really! You rap my knuckles for using the word "drones" and yet you are the lady who described those exercising their liberty by not going on strike using a four-letter word beginning with 's' - no, not that one, the other!

Not the least of the problems of morality is agreeing on what is or is not moral. Setting that aside you then have a problem with actions which are to be judged by a moral standard. Thus, there is the morality of the reason for carrying out an act, or the motive, if you like. Then there is the action itself. And finally there is the result of the action. In other words you can have a bad motive but do a good deed and end up with a bad result.

"1989"?! What the hell happened then? I must have been taking a nap.

Mrs Angry said...

The phrase, Mr Duff is from 'La Peste'/ The Plague: "le mal qui est dans le monde vient presque toujours de l'ignorance". I had to read it for A level, rather a long time ago, and this thought impressed me, and I still think it is true. Not wilful ignorance, overlooking something clearly wrong, which is an evil act, but being unable to see that the action itself is evil. Lack of imagination, and intellectual laziness, are more dangerous perhaps than we might think.

And my point about the greater impact of misdeeds by senior managers is that although there are fewer of them, they obviously have more power and influence and financial control than the ordinary workers.

David Duff said...

Mrs. 'A', If that's the sort of pretentious drivel they teaching at schools these days no wonder the country's going to the dogs!

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

That's very rude, DD. If I understand you correctly. Don't you like literature? Not even in 'your own' language?

You silly man.


Mrs Angry said...

Er, have you heard of existentialism, Monsieur Duff? Non? Still, I expect when you were at Dotheboys Hall your education consisted of learning your letters with a piece of chalk and a slate.

David Duff said...

Not only is it nonsense but, dammit, ladies, it's French - quelle horreure!

Need I say more?

Mrs Angry said...

don't you do French, Mr Duff? And no, I'm not talking about the language darling ...

David Duff said...

Do I do French?!!!

Certainly not, madam, I follow the fine traditions of Her Majesty's Royal Navy - 'Rum, Bum and Baccy' for me!

Mrs Angry said...

I see. Well: that puts a whole new complexion on things. Goodness me. Mrs Duff must be awfully open minded. I do realise you have to make your own entertainment out there in the countryside. Are you near Portsmouth?

David Duff said...

Alas, no, but a man may dream, may he not?!

Actually, to tell truth and shame the devil, I hate rum, never tried bum and I gave up on baccy 25 years ago!

By the way, I see your blog posts are still at 'War 'n' Peace' length. You are admirably brief and to the point here, why can't you do the same at your place? I might visit more often adn thus give poor Vicki a break!

Mrs Angry said...