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Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

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Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

Post by Katy Layton-Jones on Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:19 pm

There’s a long list of talking points scrawled on a notepad on my desk. A very long list. Every day it gets longer as I flick on BBC breakfast ‘news’ (it still likes to call itself that – I think the powers that be believe it lends gravitas to 2 minute items on novelty swimwear and shameless adverts for Auntie’s latest ITV-style Saturday-night shame fest) and I hear headlines informing me that ex-hack Mr. Gove is dismantling a world-famous and prestigious university system in order to make it ‘fit for purpose’, that schools are being shut and reopened as academies that exclude kids whose only hope is an education, or that a baby care unit in Devon is being flogged to a company that charges £200 for a one-way rail fare from Manchester to London. In line with anger-management strategies familiar to irritated individuals the world over, I write my gripes down. I ‘let it out’ on a notepad, in the hope that it will dissipate my annoyance and the sheer tedium of living through this age of the ignorant. It doesn’t work. I’m still annoyed.
Worse than that, I’m BORED. So damn bored of having to listen to the pitiful management-speak that is spurting in increasing volumes, not only from the present government, but from almost the entire political spectrum, and – even worse – the British public, who would rather believe them than face significant questions about their own lifestyles, prejudices and frailties. We jealously guard our own savings, house prices and salaries like a million bourgeois Golums, coveting our little piece of the pie as it gnaws away at us, leaving us bald, twisted and alone. Living in Britain has become like the world’s longest staff meetings, in which we all are forced to listen to middle management blame their department’s underperformance on the sales staff, rather than admit the shoddy quality of the product they’re flogging. So much bile and so little time… However, I will not be undone. I will not be downtrodden. I will upgrade my gripes from notepad to blog and in so doing, pose a few questions that perhaps you lot out there can help me answer…just don’t shoot the messenger.


So, question 1: Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

Do you earn £20k or more? It’s a simple question (or would be if we weren’t all on temporary contracts that leave us unable to plan expenditure for more than a fortnight in advance). The reason I pose this question is that today, the Conservative’s token kitten-heeled cabinet minister has announced that immigrants must have salaries of 20k or more in order to bring a spouse into the UK. The blogosphere has subsequently been alight with both sides of the debate slinging around such expressions as ‘fiscal necessity’, ‘lack of compassion’, ‘soft touch’, ‘benefits culture’, and wavering vaguely between xenophobia and naivety in equal measure. I can see both sides of the argument (I’m an academic – I’m highly skilled in fence sitting). However, it seems to me to be a sideshow against the real implications of this £20k figure. At its root, this proposal is a clear statement that the present government believes that a £20k salary is the lowest income necessary to ensure that you and your family can exist independent of state welfare. Any less and you might need benefits. £20k. Interesting as the average British salary is only around £25k per annum (less if you’re a woman). That means that nearly half of the British working public earns a wage that this government believes renders them economically vulnerable. Listening to Dominic Holland this morning on ‘The Wright Stuff’ – yes, I know, I’ve only myself to blame – I heard the well-rehearsed argument that ‘we can’t afford’ to provide help to people who have not paid a significant sum into National Insurance. I’m relatively sympathetic to this argument. At least, I would be if we weren’t the 7th richest nation on the planet…Yet, if we saying that a person’s value to the nation is based upon their income, rather than the job they do, then we’re accepting a serious game change in the nature of humanity. If we need more in the pot to ensure that people are able to care for themselves then we must then pay carers, labourers, call centre operatives, nurses, teachers, lecturers, road sweepers, administrators, cashiers, gardeners, librarians enough to enable them to contribute. It’s not just immigrants who aren’t earning enough. Clearly significant pay rises are not an option while there’s no political will to challenge the upward trickle of wealth away from these workers. So, perhaps we need to ask a bigger question: are we a species or a spreadsheet? Many people earning below £20k are doing jobs that answer the biological, educational, nutritional, and emotional needs of our species – they are humanitarian. Many of those earning over £20k are answering the needs of the economy. For sure, you’ll need a pension when you’re old and so the ‘state of the market’ is not unimportant. But there’s a simple truth that when you’re sitting in a pool of your own urine, or lying cold at the foot of the stairs after suffering a stroke, or piecing yourself together after the tragedy of a miscarriage, the economy can’t help you. You can save all you like, protect those house prices, defend your wealth, but if people can’t afford to live on the salary the market awards to bottom wiping, floor scrubbing or food delivering, you’ll still be soiled, hungry and alone. The spreadsheet won’t be there for you, only members of your species can do that.
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Don't shoot the messenger

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:53 pm

The levels of dis-satisfaction enumerated may be generated internally, in which case any remedy would have to employ a similar process.

Many people are either satisfied with their Lot, or may not be sufficiently intelligent to feel unhappy. I happen to believe that the advertising industry has much to answer for in creating high levels of envy and lack of fulfilment in the individual.

Or it may just be that things are tough all over these days.
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Re: Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

Post by Katy Layton-Jones on Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:22 pm

'Happiness' is one thing, but surely beneath all such relative conditions as 'happiness' and 'sadness', lie basic human needs. If we can't afford to serve those needs for free AND we can't afford to pay for those needs to be met, we're ever so slightly screwed.
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Re: Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:33 pm

Quite right - and when are they going to do something about the weather?
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Re: Are we a species or a spreadsheet?

Post by astra on Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:50 pm

I happen to believe that the advertising industry has much to answer for in creating high levels of envy and lack of fulfilment in the individual.


We hardly heard of them till Saatchi and Saatchi did their number for Maggie.

Yes before that we had "The SR Tingle and OMO or LUX soap flakes but all pretty much in the background.


Now, from 6 months to 80 years of age we are bombed out by a continual bombardment of useless tripe via telly, post or advertising boards. It is sodding everywhere! Crying or Very sad
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