Recently, I picked up this book:
I then read said book. It was great – really interesting and informative. But, it was also infuriating. Essentially, it does what it says and tells you all about how our government in the UK gets away with the shit that it does. It discusses how bankers, big corporations, the police, media and politicians are basically all in it together. They all have similar interests which they work towards and say ‘fuck you’ to the rest of society, particularly the non-white poor people.
When I read books about politics or philosophy, I always fold the corners down on pages which say stuff that seems extra important or in this case, makes me extra angry. Approx half the pages in this book have folded corners…
The only real issue I had with this book is its lack of accessibility. While Owen Jones does explain things really clearly, there is still a lot of political language thrown around. From previous blog posts, you probably know how much this annoys me. I believe that text should be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible because educating the whole world is super important. Obviously, some things are just complex and people won’t understand them (I come across things like this very regularly and whine about how smart people should really stop being so selfish and give their smarts to me.) Anyway, if you do not have time to read this book or find it really difficult to get through all the political jargon then here is a run down of the main topics covered:
First off, there’s a lot of mention of the ‘Overton Window.‘ This is something I had never heard of and didn’t really get my head around until near the end of the book. It is the idea that there are always things which are possible to bring into politics at any one time depending on the context of that time while still remaining mainstream. Politicians shift this window through policies. Sayyyy what? So for example, Thatcher would never have tried to privatise the NHS. Yet, Cameron is doing exactly that right now. It would have been too extreme in the 80s but now, for some ridiculous reason, it is seen as more acceptable. This is partly due to ideas from academics and others involved in politics who are always chatting away about how things could change for the better.
This idea provides some hope! It means that the window could shift if we keep talking and pushing our ideas of a more free, fair and equal society. Then one day, maybe whoever is in charge will finally act on this.
Let’s talk about MP’s now. They get paid, on average, around £67000 per year. Yes, that much. Yet, they are making decisions as if they have any idea what it is like to live in poverty. A key thing that Jones covers is that politicians and bankers and the media all hang out together. They see being paid a hell of a lot as the norm. They have friends who are paid way more and they want more. Basically, they are greedy bastards.
We keep hearing about cuts on housing benefit. But did you know that some of those people in our government are landlords who get money from housing benefit? They put through policies of selling off council housing so they could buy them and get more money.
Looking back at the expenses scandal… remember the duck house claim? Well, MPs go on and on about how people should not get money from the tax payer when they are doing nothing for it. I’d say that MPs shouldn’t get money for housing their ducks and claiming other expenses from tax payers money. I’d much rather my taxes kept a family in poverty alive than kept your ducks protected from foxes.
If you look for the information, you can find out all about who donates money to the Conservatives (who Jones describes as the ‘natural leaders’ of the modern Establishment.) As you might expect, big businesses and the filthy rich give the Tories a lot of money. So who will the Tories push policies for? Those people who give them money, of course.
The rich donate to the Conservative campaign. The Conservatives slash their taxes and refuse to address their tax avoidance, vote against mansion tax. The rich continue donating. It is all working very well if you have a stupid amount of money. However, most of us do not.
“And so here is the reality of modern British politics. The views of millions of Britons are simply not represented.”
How do they get away with this particular bullshit? Well, they claim that their policies must be favourable to large corporations. What happens if they are not? Of course, all the corporations will run away to other countries which will destroy the economy and loads of jobs will be lost. So even though the public is mostly in favour of higher taxes for the rich and higher wages for people, the government ignores this.
Jones goes on to look at various examples of former MPs who are now earning millions by taking ‘advisory’ roles for big businesses. They go in and help them find loopholes in new policies etc. Take former PM Tony Blair, he reportedly got paid £1 million to help out the Kuwaiti dictatorship with writing a report on the country. Politicians do not care about you. They care about how much money they earn now and how many contacts they can make to ensure they continue earning more after parliament.
“The political and wealthy elites are not separate entities…”
The British media is a joke. Everyone eats up the crap they publish. And this crap is what the government wants people to believe. In 2013, a poll showed that people thought around 27% of benefits were fraudulently claimed. The real statistic? Around 0.7%. Anyone can see that the reason for this belief is probably because the media is constantly publishing stories of benefit fraud without explaining that it is not that common. This leads to the widespread disgust at those who claim benefits. Then, it is easier for the government to take those benefits away and get support for it.
We all know who Murdoch is. We all know how much influence editors have over the general consensus of what gets published. This is rarely questioned because most of the journalists being hired are from privileged backgrounds. Those who can afford to start in the industry by working for free. The whole media is full of people from backgrounds similar to those of politicians. So of course, the government stays friendly with the media to help gain more public support.
If the media turns on someone, you can bet that the public would follow. Why wouldn’t they? We should be able to trust the media to educate and inform without bias. Unfortunately, this just is not the case. The media are just another machine used for political lobbying and to push the views of the editors.
Everyone is quick to come to the defense of the police when discussions come up about them. I’m sure you know police who do wonderfully in their job, who work hard. No one is denying that. However, as an institution, again thanks to the government, they have become corrupt.
Linked in with the media, it seems there is widespread ignorance about what happens at political protests. We always here about outbreaks of violence. We are always fed information to make us look at protestors in horror and disgust. Do not take the media stories as the whole picture. The great thing about social media is that you can easily access eye-witness accounts. Read them. They often serve as a reminder that police brutality does happen, whether we want to admit it or not. Kettling, mass arrests… the police claim to be aiming to facilitate peaceful protests but this does not seem like the right actions.
A study by drug charity Release found that a black person is 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs than a white person. This should make you even more horrified when you learn that a black person is nearly half as likely to use drugs than a white person. We look at the US and are horrified by the racism by their police (e.g. Ferguson) but racism is also ingrained into the British police force.
Jones looks at Hillsborough as a prime example of police corruption. So when did the police develop this close link to politics? Under Thatcher, of course. All the strikes were met with police and ultimately put down. This then allowed the government to do what they wanted without anyone fighting against them in an organised movement.
“They enforce a form of law that cracks down on the misdemeanours of the poor but which…defends the powerful.”
Next up, we get a look at the privatisation of care, railways and the NHS. Putting these vital services into the hands of huge corporations. By now, you can probably see why this is beneficial to the government. But, it is not beneficial to the public.
I work in care and know for a fact that the state of services is horrendous. We can all see that the privatisation of railways has been a mess. However, the NHS is the one that is making people most angry. It’s the one thing we have had that has made the British proud – free healthcare. It might be happening slowly but the government is allowing the NHS to be put into the hands of private companies. These companies often have no idea how to run hospitals or GP surgeries.
“The needs for profit, rather than of people, are being catered for.”
Jones dedicates an entire chapter of his book to ‘Tycoons and Tax Dodgers.’ Reading this, if you can/do, will make you so angry. We’ve been led to put the banking crisis to the back of our minds. Remember when the bankers destroyed our economy a few years ago and the government used billions of tax payers money to bail them out?
Generally, people have stopped talking about this. But, it is an important event that shows the absolute hypocrisy of the Establishment. The banks thought they were untouchable. They go on thinking that because we were left to foot the bill of their fuck up.
Looking at the amount of money that corporations avoid paying in taxes is staggering. Britain’s elite avoids paying £25 billion every year by using tax avoidance shemes. Yet, the government is taking away tax credits, is pushing for those on disability benefits to be reassessed to try and make back the money lost. They are responsible for deaths of those whose benefits they have taken away unfairly. All of this to save their fucked up relationship with the wealthy. If that doesn’t make you angry, you’re probably a tax dodger or just a twat.
More and more people are having to use food banks. Homelessness is rising. Meanwhile, the wealthy are in their mansions swimming in spare money that they do not even know what to do with. The government is letting this happen. They are watching the public suffer because their mates in mansions make promises to them of future careers where they will earn lots of money too.
How do these people sleep at night, you might ask? They give money to some charities and think that it is enough. That is their contribution to society. Sadly, they truly believe that this is acceptable.
Jones goes through lots of case studies which illustrate the revolving doors in the elite. People move from politics to the media to big corporations and round and round, always earning more money than anyone could possibly need.
What can we do?
Do not, under any circumstances, give up on trying to improve the society we live in. There was a time when the policies currently in would have been seen as ludicrous. If they managed to get this passed, then we can get genuinely fair policies through.
“Change is not won through the goodwill and genorosity of those above, but through the struggle and sacrifice of those below”
“Those with shared common interests…use their collective power to win social justice.”