Sunday Reading

Written By: - Date published: 9:24 am, July 15th, 2012 - 5 comments
Categories: blogs, capitalism, education, equality, interweb, poverty - Tags: , , , ,

I’m going to try and put up a piece each Sunday of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring).  This week: the bread & butter line, bankers, racism and the corporate speak of John Key.

In Britain the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has come up with the Minimum Income Standard – the level of income required to live a socially acceptable life.  Not a flash one, but instead of the bread line, it’s more the bread, butter and occasional dollop of jam line.

It come to about $73000 / year for a 2 parent, 2 child family, although only $180 of that is for takeaways, and you only get a couple of cans of beer and a bottle of wine each week.  But you do get to maintain a 5-10 year old Ford Focus, and a PC with broadband for the kids to do their homework, and a 1 week holiday away – though not abroad.

Our political and media class – who wouldn’t know the price of toilet paper – often complain that the quarter of the population who fail to reach that standard are profligate.  Those who say they should grow their own herbs aren’t living in fear of the hot water cylinder breaking down and blowing the budget.  They’re not experiencing the heaviness of child poverty:

All of this recasting of inequality as being to do with lack of ambition or aspiration is to hide the truth: the political will to tackle this has dissipated. These families who live modestly but go crazy and buy “sliced ham” and pay their water bills are “the hardworking families” for whom it is not working. They are not “poor” but are starting to feel it. The squeezed middle – always an unpleasant image – is sliding downwards. The stomach for inequality distends.

But benefiting from this inequality are of course the bankers.  The Guardian looks at the Quantiative Easing that’s meant to be pumping money into the British economy – and concludes that it is only the bankers benefiting.  Why not have the Bank of England just directly give each person £1,000 to get the economy going?

Opposition to doing this seems to be not practical but moral. It is basically about class. To bankers and politicians, giving cash to ordinary people is vulgar and indulgent. So they pretend. They pretend to pump money into the economy through lending, but do not even do that. They pretend to give money to banks, but in fact nothing is injected anywhere.

Meanwhile on the BBC, Robert Peston concludes that the reason Barclays had to lie for years and cause themselves the scandal over the Libor rate was because, well, they were known as liars.  And in the world of banking where everything’s about trust, people would only lend to them at a higher rate…

Interestingly Pew Research’s survey out this week shows a declining faith in the free market across the western world.

To say that I find the relentlessly hostile coverage of Islam, coupled with the personal abuse that I receive online, depressing is an understatement. There have been times – for instance, when I found my wife curled up on our couch, in tears, after having discovered some of the more monstrous and threatening comments on my New Statesman blog – when I’ve wondered whether it’s all worth it. Perhaps, a voice at the back of my head suggests, I should throw in the towel and go find a less threatening, more civilised line of work. But that’s what the trolls want. To silence Muslims; to deny a voice to a voiceless community. I shouldn’t have to put up with this abuse. But I will. I have no plans to let the Islamophobes win. So, dare I ask: who’s with me?

On a different tangent, the Guardian has been covering racism and Islamophobia online.  The hatred even in the comments of articles highlighting the problem is quite astounding.  The BBC had earlier looked at sexist abuse in the world of video games.  Behind anonymity can lurk nastiness, and it really requires those in charge of forums to be strong.

And finally – a great blog piece on the semiotics of the corporation – if that’s not too pretentious.  Basically it’s the language John Key uses.  Always referring to his government in a passive tense, like it’s some force outside his (or anyone’s) control, that we have to learn to adapt to – not it to us.  It’s a soft language of incentives instead of cuts, aspiration instead of greed and rebalancing instead of layoffs.

In the quick links section:

– How the Finns spend money on co-operation and teacher development in the world’s top education system, rather than on testing.

– Should everyone have had a ‘real’ job before entering the white collar world?

– and where are you on the global scale of fat?  (I’m most like a Malian apparently, and the world would shed 19 million tonnes of human if people were my size…  ick!)

5 comments on “Sunday Reading”

  1. Ad 1

    Crikey that weight calculator is depressing.

  2. captain hook 2

    I like the point about the semiotics of the corporation.
    the idiotes (good word that) on the right try to pretend that governments cant run a business as if it is a cosmic law when all it really means is that if the government can run a business then they want it for themselves.

  3. Uturn 3


    Below average
    You have a lower BMI than 100% of males aged 30-44 in your country


    Below average
    You have a lower BMI than 100% of males aged 30-44 in the world

    It’s all good fun, but I find the results to be exactly representative of the data punched into their measuring device. I mean, am I really the only person in the world to have a BMI lower than every other man aged 30 – 44 years old?

    Apparently, I am the average sized man from Eritrea. If the earth lost as much weight as they say it would, or conversely, gained Xmillion trillion tonnes of human body weight, what happens? Does Earth “sink” out of orbit? Or float off into the moon? I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that. And isn’t the BMI viewed, in some circles, as the height of offensiveness?

    It’s breaking my mind just thinking about it.

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    Another from the Guardian on poverty:

    Meanwhile, the rich, dealing themselves out of society’s institutions into ever stronger and sealed ghettoes of their own, become ever more ignorant of the world around them even while they ensure their off-spring scoop life’s prizes.

    Which is exactly what this government is doing with their tax cuts for the rich, increased subsidies for private schools while cutting funding to public schools and selling off of state assets.

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