Apparently, if we believe many opinion leaders, we fought most recent wars to spread freedom and democracy. Allegedly people across the world admire us because of our deep-rooted civic political culture. Never mind any inconvenient conflicts between personal freedom and true democracy, but what do the international ruling elites and their faithful cheerleaders actually mean by this Hellenic word for people power ?
If you love planet earth and the human race, may I humbly suggest corporate globalisation leading to a grotesque misappropriation of resources may not be such a good idea after all. However, some self-proclaimed progressives disagree. They somehow associate the onward march of transnational organisations, the proliferation of branded retail outlets and the relentless expansion of the non-productive hedonism business with a concept they like to call progress.
All of sudden the world's media turns its attention to the transition of power in one of Europe’s most mysterious regions extending from Eastern Poland, Slovakia,Moldova and Romania in the West, Belarus to the north and the Russian Federation to the East.
Imagine you had a choice of three political parties. The welfare party promised better public services, but admitted it may need to increase taxes. The small business party promised lower taxes, but admitted it will need to cut public services. However the magic bullet party promised to slash taxes and boost investment in healthcare, education and transport infrastructure as well as increasing pensions and disability benefits, a sure vote-winner for the economically illiterate. The extra funds would be raised by taxing billionaire bankers and printing money.
Do you like to indulge in drugs and booze ? Surely only boring losers would abstain from the exciting social life facilitated by binge drinking, cocaine parties and ecstasy-enhanced all-night raves. Maybe you like to gamble or play first-person shooters online with your virtual friends and imaginary foes. And what self-respecting young adult would not watch hardcore horror movies and gory action thrillers? You might even enjoy rapid-fire techno music and gangster rap.
When political analysts first chose to classify opinions on a
left-right spectrum during the French Revolution over 210 years ago,
the left stood up for the underprivileged working classes, while the
right defended the interests of the aristocracy and the emerging
class of entrepreneurs. That was long before the emergence of the
welfare state, mass consumerism and the globalisation of labour
markets. During the latter half of the 19th century the
left became identified with socialism and the transfer of ownership
Just before Christmas the British media revealed some large up and coming multinational outfits had taken advantage of tax loopholes and the wonders of early 21st century globalised trade to evade taxes. Suddenly Labour supporters had a cause they could all rally behind and win support from hardworking voters rightly fed up with high taxes and shoddy services. Let's force evil Amazon and Starbucks to pay their taxes in the UK. For a fleeting second I thought we had returned to the early 1970s when the Trade Unions and Labour activists advocated import controls and high tax rates for the rich.
The title is ironic and may be partly true of course as many oft-repeated statements are. The most obvious riposte in defence of small-time Italian and Greek entrepreneurs is neither do large multinationals and awareness-raising charities, pay very much tax, more on that later. The accusation serves a simple purpose, to justify the huge cutbacks in public expenditure enforced by the newly appointed governments of Italy, Greece and, to a lesser extent, Spain, while the UK continues to bankroll one of the world's most generous, intrusive and life-altering welfare bureaucracies.
I sometimes enjoy Peter Hitchens’ antidote to mainstream trendy Neo-Liberal thinking, but fear he is on some subjects in bad company and a tad ill-informed. No rational person could deny volumes of hard evidence showing the exponential rise in humanity’s collective impact on our planet’s delicate ecosystem, both in terms of our numbers (rising from just 750 million at the start of the industrial revolution to 7 billion now) and our per capita consumption.
If you want to get away from the adverse effects of mass consumerism, extreme concentration of wealth, social unease and poverty, Cuba is an intriguing destination. Like in many countries your experiences can be filtered both by your cultural prejudices and expectations and by your tour operator. Many tourists just head for the beach resorts of Varadero, Cayo Coco, Guardalavaca, Cayo Largo del Sur or Baconao near Santiago.