Monday, 26 March 2018


No, this isn’t a satirical piece about hysterical-fake-news or data-devouring-media – that comes next. It’s an observation that compressed expression whether through tweeting or  newspaper headlines has led to a very short litany of power-words and cogent thoughts.

So if this is the death of anything it’s death to the end of nuance. It’s why we love actors more than politicians. Actors agonise in their silence, anguish and economy of words. I saw a review of “McMafia”  which observed the series lacked sex, drama and violence. Sorry love, that’s life. What made it so good was it alluded to rather than was overt and it understated… like academics conversing with gangsters which is why I loved it.

Saturday’s Times headline was “crackdown on rip-off airline fees” …”rip-off” and “crackdown” are mindless, knockout words. May the airlines quake, protest and rebut – for them it’s game-over as it is in the face-off with Facebook.  Death of, end of,  collapse of, doom and murky worlds (yes, that one;’ about Cambridge Analytica).

Whilst battling through this and the icy winds it’s been hard not to think about those sleeping rough. Ambulances prowl the streets of Brighton in the morning struggling to revive frozen sleepers and today I saw an ultimate misery: a sleeping body breathing shallowly with  poor, bare feet sticking out from under a grubby blanket. There is a word to describe this and our failure to deal with it.


Recently I started reading “Utopia for Realists” by Rutger Bregman who’s described as “the Dutch wunderkind of new ideas” . Well actually they’re so new because many of his ideas go back to Plato.

He quotes economist Charles Kenny:

“The big reason poor people are poor is they don’t have enough money, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem”

That sounds so simplistic as to be stupid yet when you unravel it, it becomes more subtle.

In various experiments in London with the homeless, in Africa with the starving and in Canada with everyone in the town of Dauphin research shows when cash is given to the poor without condition and enough of it to be meaningful some strange things happen.

(And not this!)

They buy what they need not what someone thinks they need. They buy practical aids like spectacles, hearing aids and education. They even, in Africa, create entrepreneurial little businesses…if you have money you can buy vegetable seeds and food so you are strong enough to plant, water and tend them. The principal beneficiaries of reducing poverty by giving out money are always education and practicality, not alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

In general the left wing dislike the idea of giving out no-strings-attached cash as it’s deemed patronising and reduces their control over poverty as a political argument. And the right wing are fixated on the “don’t work don’t eat” mantra.

Both arguments are as abject as the other.

Have a great week.

No comments: