The Guardian newspaper has just revealed to its credulous readers that EU-wide no fewer than 11 million dwellings stand empty. This apparent news has been endlessly recycled by various well-funded lobbies and think-tanks to suggest there is no housing crisis in the regions that have recently attracted most inward migration. Meanwhile to accommodate 4 million new UK residents, the government has relaxed planning laws to allow the building of 3 million new homes, many on prime agricultural land.
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.
"But let me be clear - Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to ﬁnd a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience.
So presumably thousands of years of Chinese, Indian or Middle Eastem history, literature, innovations count for little, and Britain's neighbours have little to teach us. Britain may have had its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, but today just builds on its past glory as a marketing tool.
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.
Things might not have panned out quite how George Orwell predicted in his infamous dystopian novel, 1984. In many ways rather than progress towards austere authoritarianism, modelled on Stalin's Soviet Union, penalising expressions of excessive joy, the latest phase of corporate globalisation has seen the spread of mass consumerism and commercialised hedonism as tools of social engineering. I
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.
Many on the left in the UK and elsewhere are celebrating George Galloway's resounding victory in the last Thursday's Bradford West by-election. With a turnout of just over 50%, the former labour stronghold saw a massive swing away from New Labour and the other mainstream parties to the left-leaning Respect coalition. Just ten years ago I would have been over the moon about such a spectacular win for the superficially radical left.
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.