The Geese and the Common

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Until they go and steal it back.

Written in respect of the enclosures which from the sixteenth century onward, but most prominently in the eighteenth cenury, deprived villagers of their grazing rights in favour of the local landowner.

“Laws! We know what they are, and what they are worth! Spider webs for the rich and powerful, steel chains for the weak and poor, fishing nets in the hands of the government.”

Thus Proudhon in the nineteenth century.

Let us now turn to the contemporary.

Since the banking debacle of 2008 when those who had played wily beguiled were bailed out with public money the people in general have suffered ‘austerity’…cuts to those public services that made a civilised life possible.

Further, thanks to the draconian governmental response to Covid, we have seen national economies tanked, national debt inflated beyond belief and basic liberties abrogated, without a dissenting voice either in politics or on the mass media.

Now we have war in the Ukraine, with governments damaging the interests of their own industries and people by their sanctions on Russian oil and gas, while inflation, born of policies aimed at boosting the stock markets at all costs, roars ahead.

And their solution to their own incompetence and cupidity? Work more years, tighten your belts and keep your traps shut.

WheGood Queen Bess wanted to get her point across, she would ‘tune the pulpits’…..have sermons delivered to the faithful, which in that era meant everyone who did not want to be regarded as a closet Catholic or Anabaptist. Not much use trying that these days…not enough parish clergy for one thing and sermons superseded by ‘messy church’.

These days governments have ‘nudge’ units at their disposal, to push people into the desired behaviour – desired, that is, by governments – and given the long term dumbing down of education and the monopoly ownership of the press this has been a very successful process resulting in people accepting restrictions which pervert family and social life for fear of social pressure – and of the police, who have hardly covered themselves in glory.

In H.G. Wells ‘Time Machine’ we meet the Eloi, gentle beings who swan along on the surface of life, and the Morlocks, who capture and eat them. Do the Eloi gather together to repel the Morlocks? No…they are totally inapable of defending themselves and accept the situation as ‘how things are’, just as the majority of people now see their stability, their ability to plan for the future of themselves and their children, their access to health services, decent housing and education going down the tubes….and do nothing.

But what can one do against the power of the state? It has the ability to bankrupt you, make you homeless, imprison you, take away your children….and if you poke your head over the barricade it can and will do all it can to chop it off ‘pour encourager les autres’. And don’t count on your friends and neighbours to support you either – you risk being a pariah.

Two things are possible….but they are long term.

We need to get away from the established political parties who have become nothing more than enablers for wealthy lobbyists. We all know, at our local level, people who are both honest and competent. We might not agree with them on everything, but we can trust them not to sell us down the river on party orders. We need to enourage them to stand for office, to work to get them elected and to crowd fund to make it possible to meet the financial hurdles imposed by legislation.

The other possibility has been demonstrated to me here.

A road subject to subsidence has been ‘repaired’ year after year by corrupt contractors. The council could not give a toss about the problems of those affected. Finally a local man, Don Kiki, took measures into his own hands and and gathered a group of supporters who with their own labour remodelled the road completely so that even after two years of exceptionally heavy rainfall the road is passable so that kids can get to school and farmers to market.

This year, a bridge on the main road to the capital was declared dangerous and was replaced by a Bailey bridge. But somehow the making good of the access on both sides was not included in the contract by the roadworks department. A local gentleman took the initiative and with the help of neighbours and money collected via local internet media has not only made good the access, but has a team of volunteers repairing any problems that arise day by day.

Local action not only gets things done, it makes for local solidarity too, which in turn throws up people able to truly represent the ordinary person’s concerns.

As I say…long term measures. I just hope we have the time, otherwise life will become nasty, brutish and short for the Eloi while the Morlocks feed.

Start hissing and flapping your wings. You have more power than you realise.

The Road Trip

Perhaps the old ways were best….

Our Japanese tin box, our mode of transport for many years, has been showing increasing signs of wishing to give up the ghost just lately thus incurring hefty repair bills.

We had been hoping to wait to replace it once Leo had obtained his certificate of disability, which gives rise to tax relief on the purchase and maintenance of a car, but his application has stalled in the works thanks to

A. Covid

B. Working from home due to Covid.

C. Not working at home thanks to Covid.

D. Government institutions’ websites being hacked for ransome.

E. Government unable, even if willing, to cough up.

F. Government institutions more bothered about starting a witch hunt among their IT personnel than sorting out the problems of the end user.

Had we had the disability certificate we might just have been able to afford a second hand hybrid …as it was, we could only afford second hand diesel or petrol.

Accordingly, the internet sales sites were consulted. The car had to be relatively economical – given the recent price hikes at the pumps – not too high off the ground to allow Leo to access it without gymnastics, while the boot had to be large enough to take the electric wheelchair.

That cut the candidates down to a very few options….and then the fun began.

There were two cars in a town on the other side of the Central Valley…one owned by an elderly lady, the other by a garage.

Telephoned the elderly lady to arrange to view.

All was organised and the team set up for the morrow….Leo, Danilo – to drive – and Alvarado, the local mechanic and car nut, to deal with the inspection and to obtain directions by Whatsapp.

For what follows I have the testimony of Leo and Danilo……Alvarado wisely stayed mum.

They set off at 7.00 am, heading for the lady’s town – a two hour drive away – but did not ‘phone for exact directions until 8.00 am, as she had requested. She replied, and then told them that the car was actually in a suburb of the capital….a suburb on the far side of it, and gave directions via Whatsapp.

Fine, except that by now they were en route for her original rendez-vous and much swearing ensued while they changed direction.

Guided by Alvarado at the Whatsapp they entered the capital and then Danilo baulked at driving through a notorious no go area….one where the population hook their property to the electrical supply system without the aid of official technicians who are too frightened to go in there and without the need to pay as no one is prepared to go in to cut off the supply.

Danilo….They’ll have the wheels off the car!

Alvarado…..Well, don’t stop!

Danilo…..Not even at the lights? That’s where they lurk….and we’re carrying money!

Leo………I have the cosh. Just drive.

They emerged safely, though, as Alvarado remarked, that was probably because the inhabitants were sleeping off their lucubrations of the night and did not emerge from their lairs until the pavements were aired.

They arrived at the destination in a respectable suburb to find a locked garage and no elderly lady.

More swearing.

One hour later she arrived, complaining at having to drive from her home to show the car, but unlocked the garage and let Alvarado loose.

Apparently there were a few dents in the bodywork, but all looked sound enough, so he prepared to take it for a drive.

Elderly lady……….How do I know you won’t just drive off in it?

Alvarado….Hop in,Senora!

The ill assorted pair drove off, to return some fifteen minutes later with the elderly lady white as a sheet. He had driven her through the no go area to pay her out for the delays.

He thought the car was a bargain at the price and Leo asked the lady…now fanning herself….to call her lawyer to arrange the transfer.

Nothing so simple in Costa Rica as to simply note change of ownership at the National Registry…no fear. As with all transactions a lawyer has to have his sticky palm crossed with silver.

Her lawyer’s office was in a suburb to the south of the city but he would not be available for another hour as he had to drive there from his home out in the country.

More swearing.

The lawyer’s secretary was in the office, however, and provided the group with coffee and cakes while they waited. And waited.

Half an hour late, the lawyer arrived and got down to business.

Had they the funds to pay?

Leo showed him the envelopes conatining the money. The lawyer gathered them toward him and Danilo gathered them back.

The appropriate document was drawn up, but there was, it appeared, a slight problem.

The elderly lady had taken out a bank loan and given the car as security, but, not to worry, she could sort it out with the bank once she had the purchase price in her hand and then the car would probably be available at the end of the month.

Alvarado….How do we know, Senora, that you won’t just run off with the money?

Danilo………Why did you not tell us about the loan?

Leo………We are leaving.

The which they did, to the sound of the elderly lady complaining that they had been wasting her time.

This beng somewhere near mid day they stopped at a caff for lunch and decided that, as they were out, they might as well see the other car, and so it was that they finally arrived home in the late afternoon with Alvarado driving it. The garage had been organised, even to having their tame lawyer come to their own offices, the car was fine and the price had been haggled down.

Just another transaction in Costa Rica, where surprises abound and everything takes at least twice as long as you expect. But you do get coffee and cake.