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 Not much use trying that these days…not enough parish clergy for one thing and sermons superseded by ‘messy church’.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 Price of a Haircut

minnewyork.com

As a young man, my husband was in the sort of way of business where a good suit, polished shoes and neat hair were regarded as essential (by his employers, at any rate).

He thus made frequent visits to a local barber’s shop, where more often than not he would be attended to by an even younger Greek Cypriot chap, not long over and working in his uncle’s business.
They chatted in the desultory way you do when someone else has clippers and scissors near vital parts of your head and when the chap started his own shop my husband followed him there.

The business prospered until, still a young man, he could fulfill his dream.
He sold the shop and returned to Cyprus to build a house for himself and his family, investing the proceeds to ensure he would never have to work again.
He sent a letter with photographs from time to time….he was living a happy life in the sun while my husband, having returned to the ministrations of uncle, was still elbowing his way on and off the Tube to the City.

Then a few years later the chap was back in the uncle’s shop, plying his sharp implements.

The Turks had invaded northern Cyprus…he had lost his property…lost his dream… and had been forced to come back to London to start all over again, living in a little flat on a busy road.
His children had to learn English, start new schools…his wife worked as a cleaner part time, and him?
He worked for uncle.

But only for a couple of years.
He saved his money, took a loan from uncle and started his own business again, building it up into a chain of shops.

My husband did not see him so frequently then as, having started his own business, he could avoid haircuts unless about to go fifteen rounds with the bank manager, whose complete ignorance of the field of business involved did not hold him back from telling my husband how to run it.
My husband’s uncles did not have the same philanthropic streak as that of the barber, unfortunately.
However, when he called at the main shop this man would always cut his hair…as an old client…and they chatted as they used to do years before, keeping in touch off and on when my husband moved away from London.

Then he did it again.
It took him longer as he wanted to be sure he would have enough to retire properly, but he once again sold his business and returned to Cyprus.

He built his house, he invested his money, his wife and children had a good life and he could relax.

The odd letter with photographs would arrive over the years showing the happy picture of a well deserved early retirement, though none since we moved to Costa Rica.

But today we had an e mail from an old friend of my husband….with news of the barber.

His money is, of course, in a Cypriot bank.
Almost sixty per cent of it has in effect been confiscated….thirty seven and half percent under one legal scam and another twenty two percent under another.
And the remaining forty percent?
He can have a few Euros at a time….can’t transfer it abroad….his dream of security for his family shattered yet again.

He’s no longer a young man yet if he has retained anything of his indomitable character he will be be trying once again to pick up the pieces….

But why the blazes should he have to?