Archives for posts with tag: economic war

Get your fighting pants on. This is it.

In seven weeks the UK will vote for its next Government. In 2015 there was almost nothing to choose between the  three “main” parties. None of them offered anything exciting. Well, maybe in hindsight the EU ref promise was interesting to a few people…

Things are very different now.

I’m going to dig in to the promises and statements made by the parties in their campaigns, because two are still waging an economic war against you, but one, now, is actually fighting for you.

Yeah, they will all say they’re fighting for “hard-working Britain”. Trouble is they’ll say that while finding ways to take your economic power away and redistribute it to the people who already hold an insanely disproportionate amount of wealth, income and power. Well, The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will. But not Labour. Not this time.

Yes, in the past, under Blair and Brown they were as guilty as the others of these economic war crimes. They helped plant economic time bombs in the services you rely on – the NHS, schools, libraries, social services. Privatising them and loading them up with absurd PFI debts was direct economic warfare – nothing else. You and me, collectively, we used to own these assets and use them daily. Not now. B&B literally gave them away and at the same time used them as a way to siphon future wealth out of our collective pockets and into the grotesque sweaty palms of the bankster elite. Because over the period of these PFI deals we will pay at least 7 times more than the cost of building the new buildings and providing the services would have if we did it ourselves, and not only that, at the end of these deals we don’t own the bricks-and-mortar assets. Nope. The contractor does. How was this even allowed???

So here is the first example of the real difference between the Cons and Labour.

Cons will continue to destroy the nation’s collective assets and the services we have collectively built, paid for and provided. Billions of NHS budget will be handed to tax dodging carpet baggers under their rule. Costs will rise. Staffing levels will fall. Your NHS will provide less and less of the care you need. They’ve already been doing this since 2010, and in the last couple of years the results have started to show.

Labour will first end and then reverse this economic war crime. The sale of your NHS will be halted. PFI contracts cancelled. Services will be brought back into public hands. Costs will fall. Staffing levels will increase. Collectively we become wealthier.

84% of people asked thought the NHS should be publicly run, not for private profit.

Are you one of these 84% of UK public? Then who are you going to vote for?

For all intents and purposes, this is where the economic war is fought. All soft wars are wars of information, misinformation, and disinformation. They aim to control thought formation. And fuck me it’s effective.

If your thoughts are shaped for you before you’ve had them, your actions are not your own.

This should scare the bejeezus out of you, because you already know most of your actions aren’t your own, don’t you? You keep spending that money you need to save, putting off that task, smoking those fags, drinking that beer, watching that shit on TV, playing those ridiculous games. And nothing gets better.

We all do it. To some extent, our actions keep us locked into the economic system that funnels our energy, resources, wealth and time away from what we want to achieve and instead to those who already have more than they can ever use.

Don’t beat yourself up. It isn’t your fault.

This war has been fought for a very long time, and very few of us realise it’s happening. That’s all because of the media. The messages conveyed through images, TV, newspapers, magazines and music are powerful and they’ve been weaponised.

Look at the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. He’s a terrorist sympathiser, but our own Government  is a noble defender of democracy despite aiding, funding and training actual terrorists in Syria. (It’s OK though, these are “moderate rebels” acting to depose an elected head of state through armed insurrection. The millions who’s lives have been destroyed? acceptable collateral losses.) He’s a threat to our financial security with dangerous notions of reducing inequality and redressing the imbalances in our economy, while our Government is keeping us secure by imposing measures that directly impoverish most of us and transfer that wealth to those already at the upper echelons of income and wealth distribution. More and more are pushed toward poverty while the safety net is being withdrawn.

It doesn’t have to be like this though. “Media” isn’t just something that authorities produce and we consume. Any of us can create our own message. Our own commentary. Our own thoughts. Our own images. And now we have the ability to share this instantly with anyone. For a brief period we have the power to reclaim the narrative and occupy the media. This will be curtailed, probably soon. Because this is power.

It might seem silly, childish and purile, but in 2009 I saw how powerful a tool we have in the social media platforms available to us. In 2009 we took back the music charts from Simon Cowell. I know, you’re laughing because it’s so unimportant right?, but a completely organic campaign beat the entire corporate machine and odds of 500-1 to put an old, niche rap/metal single at no1 in the UK pop music charts for Christmas.

So what you ask? Fast forward to sept 2015.

Despite overwhelmingly negative media coverage, public speeches by some of (previously) the most influential people in UK public life, and dire warnings of eternal doom, Jeremy Corbyn was elected the leader of the Labour Party with the biggest vote share ever by any leader of any party in the UK.

Plenty of others have analysed and commented. I just want to highlight one thing: A completely organic campaign sprang up around him. Social media was utilised by ordinary people who for the first time in decades had a chance to have a person in a position of power who represented their voice. They took it upon themselves to spread the message. They even organised their own telephone banks and canvassing teams. They beat odds of 100-1. #JezWeCan became #JezWeDid

The establishment don’t like it. Even those media outlets and commentators you thought were on your side are attacking him, exposing their real agenda and actually, more frighteningly for them, their irrelevance and lack of power to influence.

It’s becoming clear how powerful we are when we act in unison behind a shared idea. We can create our own narrative, our own message, our own vision, our own reality.

The stakes are high – this might be the last chance for a long time to give the world the alternative Thatcher thought she’d killed with the lie of TINA.

The extreme actions of the current Government could easily be their own undoing. A case in point: BBC TV’s Question Time, Thurs 15 Oct 2015. Audience member Michelle Dorrell could not contain her rage when Tory MP Amber Rudd once more espoused the disingenuous party line that they are building a strong economy that will help everyone. Michelle voted for them, and she’s about to suffer significant financial loss because the party is going to break a solemn promise they made before the election not to cut Tax Credits. She chastised them and called out their lie, and it will have resonated with many watching.

Here’s an interview with her, follwed by 2 clips I urge you to watch: Click here to watch the BBC clips

This could be such an important moment in the war for the media. A moment of unspun truth. A heartfelt exposition of the reality of the economic war. But some are still unconsciously fighting for those powerful wealthy elites. “Stupid Tory voter put them in power. She deserves all she gets” was a common comment. Unbelievable. Chunky Mark said it as well as any other:

Chunky Mark, The Artist Taxi Driver is an example of my point here. It doesn’t matter what you think about him. He’s doing it. He’s making media that puts his alternative view out there. He’s made his own documentaries and interview series. He even does political watercolours. 1,000s of others are doing it too. Now you’ve seen how skewed and controlled the media is, and you’ve seen how much power we can have if we speak our truth and voice our vision, what are you going to do?

The fight is on. Your duty calls.
With Art and Media as our weapons we can kill our televisions. We can create the reality.

I haven’t written in a while. There’s been a lot of reasons. But this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24553611 has reignited my indignation. We all know it, because whether you’re in work or looking for work the wages the vast majority of us are being offered are worth less and less month-on-month, year-on-year. This has been going on for a decade, but the decline in the value of our wages has accelerated quite palpably since 2008 and the Great Bankster Robbery of bail-outs and forced austerity.

There are three key points that must remain in our minds, precisely because they are being glossed over and our attention diverted by the majority of mainstream media – that means awareness of them is a fundamental aspect of the Economic War waged against us. Remember soft war is one fought through control and corruption of information, aimed at transforming the fundamental cultural values and identities of a society. Two quotes from Thatcher sum this up to me : “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul” (see http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=104475), and the famous “There is no alternative”. The first quote chills me to the bone when I look at the world created by the adherents to anti-human Washington Consensus policies that she fought for. The second has been such a powerful psychological weapon against ideas of better socio-economic models. It is also plainly wrong – there are always a myriad of alternatives in any choice or system, even if you wanted to keep a capitalist model it doesn’t have to be the corrupt crony-capitalist (some say bordering on fascist according to Mussolini’s definition) system we have today.

Key point 1: The Bankers caused the crash, the economic crash caused the huge deficits that have been the excuse for needless and recession-prolonging “austerity” – but Bankers and CEOs haven’t suffered AT ALL.

Key Point 2: Inequality is rising rapidly – and it is very highly skewed to the benefit of the highest-earning and wealthiest 1% (and when you break their incomes down you see the same distribution pattern, with the richest 0.1% far out-earning the other top 0.9%). We are very close to Victorian levels. If you’ve read any Dickens (I did under sufferance at school) that should scare the bejesus out of you.

Key Point 3: There is more than enough money, resources, food for all of us – Sitting in the off-shore tax-haven accounts of the wealthiest US citizens is more than 7 times the amount needed to eradicate all poverty across the globe. Mass poverty is a deliberate policy of these ultra-rich. They could end it with a one-off 15% tax and allowing restructuring of economies and the laws which regulate them.

The cumulative effect of the policies driven by the ultra-rich through funding and influence of politicians has been a rapid degrading of the value of our work, a rapid degrading of the rights we have as employees, and a rapid solidification of class divides. Social mobility is lower in the UK than most other developed countries – documented by the OECD in 2012 and this year. What does this mean for you and me? NO WAY OUT. Whatever lies the three main political parties will tell you, working hard is no guarantee of success. The system is designed to prevent it, and the ultra-rich are fighting hard to keep you down.

It’s time for the alternative.

It’s time to fight back.

This piece is going to be a bit like Maths exams in the old GCSE’s (Before Michael Gove turned the education clock back to the 1950’s): It’s more about the working out than the answer itself.

In all honesty I don’t expect to find an answer as such. But I know how my brain works. If I don’t work this through, and I don’t put it in writing, I’ll never get to sleep. It’s only 11pm now, so I’m hoping I’ve got the jump on this one.

Here’s the basic outline of my brain’s initial and demanding thought process:

  • If someone is violent towards you, you can defend yourself. Using reasonable force. You can defend others too.
  • We’re on the receiving end of an economic war. War is pretty violent, ergo we are victims of economic violence.
  • If we are victims of economic violence then there MUST be steps we can take to defend ourselves.
  • What can we do to protect ourselves? What can we do to protect others?

I half expect this line of reasoning to fall apart as I dig into it further. But I’m not going to get any peace until i do, and I’m hoping you, reader, will help me through the process.

I better state now, in terms as clear as I can, I am against violence of any form. One of my roles at work is training our staff in non-violent ways to support people with “challenging behaviour”, and the cornerstone of my course is promoting the well-being of everyone even in episodes of violence and aggression. My starting premise is this: If we are going to live in a world and a society that is defined by peace, a world that shares the spirit of 1945 that Ken Loach wants to rekindle – cooperation, equality, health and prosperity for all, we need to start out in a peaceful way.

Now don’t misunderstand me, sometimes an intervention needs to be firm, direct, and even temporarily overpowering. But if you are going to overpower another person, to protect them from themselves or others (including you) from them, you need to do that in a way that doesn’t harm, is the least restrictive, and for the shortest possible time. It’s a basic tenet of the work I do. Overstep these guidelines, use an intervention that is more restrictive, inflicts harm, or is disproportionate to the risk presented and you become the problem. You become a violent abuser. That destroys trust, relationships, and can lead to a spiral of violent conflict that has terrible repercussions for everyone. You also need to work longer-term on the causes of destructive behaviour for the benefit of everyone.

This work that I do is more of a vocation for me, and it defines everything I do. Well, maybe except those times I let off steam on a game. But you need to have an outlet for tension!

So let’s look at this. Is there a genuine legal basis for this idea of “self defence”? and what about defending others? Well, yes. It turns out there is. This Wikipedia page discusses Self-Defence In English Law. I have no legal training. I’m relying on the sources I can find and you, dear reader, to help me sift through this. So if you have anything to add, please do. From this wiki page, here are the points that jump out at me:

  • One can act in ways that otherwise would be illegal to prevent injury to oneself or others, or to prevent crime more generally“. This means “one has the same right to act to protect others as to protect oneself“.
  • Self-defence in English law is using reasonable force against an unjust threat.
  • A person may use such force as is [objectively] reasonable in the circumstances as he [subjectively] believes them to be.
  • “A man about to be attacked does not have to wait for his assailant to strike the first blow or fire the first shot; circumstances may justify a pre-emptive strike.”  BLIMEY!

Wow. Well, applied to physical attacks, it seems there is a pretty solid case for some very forceful action to defend yourself and others if you believe the threat to be serious. These defenses also stretch to property. Now, can personal wealth, nationally (communally) owned property and assets, or property taken illegally or unjustly be included in these provisions? If they can, then there might be a whole lot more we can do to protect our national assets, and maybe our own (and each other’s) wealth (I’m thinking about wages, savings, future earnings, rights to shared ownership of the organisations we are part of and work for. That kind of thing) and economic well-being. This is something I may need some pointers on.

What about this notion of economic violence? I remember a poster about it in the Quaker meeting house in Plymouth where my Mum would take my sister and I occasionally. We would play in the playroom while she did the whole silence thing with the other grown-ups. I think the poster was from Amnesty International. It showed a cake, with a tiny slice and loads of people standing on it, and a huge slice with hardly anyone standing on it. The message was pretty clear, and I was maybe 9 or 10. How well accepted is this notion? Hmmm, not very. Good old internet suggests economic violence is a subsection of Structural Violence and points me to the work of  Johan Galtung and James Gilligan. I’m not familiar with their ideas yet, well, not consciously, but I’ve got to say they seem to have somehow influenced my perceptions of the world. I’m just going to cut-and-paste from the wikipedia page on this and then head over to a bookshop (Sadly my library has been closed to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and to keep bankers in extravagant salaries and obscene bonuses despite their criminal frauds and phenomenal incompetence) to get myself an education.

“Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” in 1969.[1] It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution purportedly harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are some examples of structural violence as proposed by Galtung. According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs”. As it is avoidable, structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. Since structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice. [2] Structural violence and direct violence are said to be highly interdependent, including family violence, racial violence, hate crimes, terrorism, genocide, and war.[citation needed]

In his book Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic, James Gilligan defines structural violence as “the increased rates of death and disability suffered by those who occupy the bottom rungs of society, as contrasted with the relatively lower death rates experienced by those who are above them.” Gilligan largely describes these “excess deaths” as “non-natural” and attributes them to the stress, shame, discrimination and denigration that results from lower status. He draws on Sennett and Cobb, who examine the “contest for dignity” in a context of dramatic inequality.”

They are giving some weight to what we know: a very few people have great wealth, that they continue to accumulate this wealth, and that the vast majority of others are locked into poverty, denied access to health care, education, sufficient food of a good enough quality to maintain health, sufficient water clean enough to sustain themselves, the legal and civil protections of their human rights and so on.

This can be seen at a regional level as well as a global one – indeed that marmite-like politician Nick Clegg highlighted the disparity in life expectancy in his constituency in Sheffield, which according to the NHS in Sheffield is 17.9 years. That is tacit acknowledgement that lives are needlessly lost due to economic inequality. That is economic violence, here in the UK, killing people on a measurable scale. Now consider the case globally… Think about the situation in India, China, Africa… The case for acting in defence of others is pretty pressing.

Now consider that inequality is rising rapidly, that the richest 0.1% are taking an ever-larger share of national income (last measured at 10% of the entire income of UK citizens), and the incomes of the lowest-earning 50% of the population are shrinking, that the richest 1% of the UK population hold more wealth than the other 99% ADDED TOGETHER, and that right now our Coalition government is giving tax breaks to millionaires and the biggest banks while simultaneously cutting public spending (despite historically low national debt) and welfare payments, and considering cutting or freezing the legal minimum wage. Nick Clegg (as part of the coalition) is actively enforcing policies that will INCREASE the deaths due to economic violence in his own country, in his own constituency. So are all the other Coalition MPs. But they don’t have any mandate for these appalling policies. Few were in their manifestos, many aren’t even part of the Coalition Agreement (and that was never even given to the public for a referendum). The case for self-defence is surely overwhelming.

But what can we do? English Law suggests that even interventions that harm others, that result in the death of our attacker may be justified. But I can’t accept that very easily. If we start trying to appropriate others’ wealth by force we become the aggressor. If we kill, where does that end? Everything life has taught me so far suggests this only brings further violence and avoidable harm.

What about more peaceful and longer lasting measures, similar to the way I work with potentially aggressive adults (it’s very effective, and demonstrably safe)? what about reforming our economic system? What about reforming our democracy? What about peaceful occupation, employee take-overs of failing businesses? India managed a revolution without violent resistance. One of the strengths of the Occupy movement was its non-violent nature. Many of the evictions have been ruled unlawful, and the state clearly didn’t know how to respond when demonstrations are persistent but peaceful.

I think I need to explore this another time. It’s 1 am now, I think I’ve satisfied my brain.

I hope I’ve stimulated yours.

Whatever you do, do it to promote the well-being of everyone, even those who are causing harm. In the long run our world will be a better place for it.

 

So I’ve wondered if the money-and-power-grab we are witnessing by the richest 0.1% is part of a bigger plan, or if it is an end in itself. Like I’ve said before I’m not sure if that really matters, right now there’s millions dying unnecessarily, billions having their potential crushed so a tiny minority can have it all. If we stop that we’d stop any further plan if it existed.

Americans are unique in the way they depict their own government and corporations in their popular culture. Almost always its with suspicion and fear. Just look at films such as The Manchurian Candidate.

The youtube clip I’ve linked to is a concept trailer for a film, “Gray State”, which gives a visceral hardening to the soft war people are waking up to. Whenever you delve into topics like the economic inequalities of our society, you always bump up against “conspiracy theorists”. It always makes me wonder if I’m making links between events, people, policies and consequences that aren’t actually there. I don’t think I am. The data speaks for itself. The corruption is barely hidden. The suffering is everywhere I look.

I doubt very much that the current financial crisis is a stage toward a fascist one-nation world government. I might be wrong about that. But doing whatever I can (and to be fair it ain’t gonna be much more than blogging, reading, discussing and joining demos) to slow the rise in inequality isn’t wasted either way

Is this a carefully constructed “PsyOps” strategy used in the Economic War? Or simple human delusion/dishonesty by individuals creating great suffering and trying to justify their actions? Maybe its a simple clash of Myers-Briggs personality types. Whatever it is, I’m staggered and disturbed by the fact that there exists a group who argue that inequality benefits everyone. It seems they want as much of your money as they can get, and they actually want you to love them for it.

The most ardent of these seems to be Edward Conrad. He’s a retired Bain Capital partner, and he’s not apologising for the astonishing wealth-and-power-grab he and his pals have aggressively pursued since the 80’s. You might have heard of this company before – Mitt Romney, the failed presidential candidate in last years US election was founder of Bain Capital. They made billions buying ailing US companies, “fixing them” (by sacking the US staff, outsourcing operations abroad and employing aggressive tax avoidance measures – see here for a wikipedia entry on them, here for Washington Posts critique of Bain “offshoring” jobs from US to China, India and other countries, here for a blogger’s investigation into the scale of “offshoring” jobs in the US and here for the perspective of soon-to-be sacked workers for Bain), then profiting from the share dividends and selling them on. Proper Capitalist dream stuff.

Now, It’s Mr Conrad I really want to concentrate on. Not his personal life, not his Character, but the economic argument he’s putting forward. It seems like “Soft War” stuff to me. He states in an interview given before the release of his book “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong” that he wants to change the perceptions of economists, politicians, thought-leaders. He wants MORE inequality.

His argument: That “investors” only spend a small portion of their capital on their own lifestyles. The vast majority is used to fund further development of businesses that will go on to employ people and improve the quality of life of everyone. Using the examples of computing and software innovators, the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Google etc, he estimates that for every $1 an “Investor” takes, the general populace experience $20 of “value”. He says the public don’t understand this because they are “consumers” and have no insight into the economy or the role of “Investors”. He sees the job of the “Investor” as facilitator of innovation and growth, and that the more cash they have at their disposal, the more growth there will be and the more everyone will benefit. Here’s the interview: [Click here]

This is clearly at odds with the vast majority of economists, as the interviewer points out. It’s also at odds with reality.

The IMF in 2011 released a study that showed income inequality was the most important factor in deciding how long a period of economic growth will last (under our current “capitalist” economic structure (I note that many argue what we have is anything but a free capitalist system, but it’s a convenient term for the time being)), with lower inequality providing longer periods of growth. They estimate a 10% drop in inequality produces 50% longer periods of growth. They highlight the “dangers” of extreme income inequality: Political and social instability, which discourage investment and business activities, weakening of a state’s ability to respond to external shocks, increasing debt burden on the part of the poorer members of the society as they attempt to keep pace with the cost of living while their wages stagnate. Sounds a bit like our world right now doesn’t it? Here’s the info I’m using: [Click here]

Let’s just see again what the trends are regarding income equality:Image

This is for the UK. Yeah, bad isn’t it? Well, if you’re not part of the richest 0.1% that is.

A very recent report suggests the richest 0.1% in the UK have increased their share of the UK’s wealth to 10%. Wow. That’s actually at a faster rate than the chart above, produced in 2009 by the High Pay Commission, predicted. The bottom 50% of the UK population have 18% of the wealth. That’s a smaller proportion of than before. So, Mr Conrad is getting his wish. The super rich are now even superer richer, and getting more so every day. The rest of us are measurably poorer. Middle-class included. Are we experiencing the benefits he espouses? Is there now even greater investment in business, are new start-ups exploding into being? Are we all experiencing 20 times more value in our lives than the super-rich are hoarding? No. Clearly not. The economy is stagnating, even shrinking. Businesses are constantly crying over the lack of funding streams available. Ordinary people, working families are having to rely on foodbanks to survive.

A 2005 Ohio State University study of the 50 US states found that actually the inverse of Mr C’s ideas was the case. Quelle suprise. A “more vibrant middle-class” meant long-term stable growth i.e if the super-rich don’t hoard all the money the economy grows. Here’s where I sourced this info: [Click here].

So, we can safely say the numbers don’t agree with the pro-inequality lobbyists. It’s interesting to note who makes the pro-inequality arguments: The super-rich. The people who directly benefit from the inequality they want to increase. Is it self-delusion, borne out of cognitive dissonance when the super-rich see the chaos and poverty they are producing? Is it because I’m an idealistic INFP from the Myers-Briggs way of looking at people, and these “Investors” are ISTJ? just a misunderstanding? Or is it that they fully know what they are doing, but they like it, and you know what? they’ll have more if they can persuade you to give it to them. As Nye Bevan said: “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political freedom to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.” Seems to me it’s even more the case in the 21st Century, and they’re trying a multi-pronged soft war to do it. Advancing an absurd argument that making poor people poorer will “add value” to their lives, or stimulate growth by reducing demand and supply simultaneously (sacking workers, shutting firms and paying less for those left in work) is probably part of such an economic war effort. Orwellian doublethink is clearly a useful weapon in the soft-war arsenal.

Remember: just last year the richest 100 earned FOUR TIMES what would be required to eradicate extreme poverty ACROSS THE WHOLE GLOBE PERMANENTLY. Mass poverty is a deliberate policy of the very richest to increase the money and power they have, at everyone else’s cost.

There’s a couple of points I want to explore another time:

1 Is “class” really the issue? Mr C talks about a single distinction between people: “Investors” and “Consumers”. Is the “Class War” a distraction from the real economic war?
2 How these sneaky “Investors” have the majority of us fighting their battle for them without even noticing.

A few months ago the cold hard reality of our current situation hit me.

It’s something I’ve always kind of known, but never fully appreciated. Probably because the implications are very difficult to stomach.

It went like this: There’s a war going on. It’s a secret, silent, “soft” war. It’s being waged against us, without us realising.

And we’re losing.

This might sound a little OTT to many, a little fantastical. Hear me out. It’ll only take a few minutes. If you don’t agree, well fine. What have you lost? at the very least you’ll feel smug that you know better. Perhaps, if it’s not too bold, you might just start seeing your world a little differently. If you do there’s a chance you’ll start to see how you can make your world a little better.

These aren’t ground-breaking, never-before-espoused ideas. I don’t have top-secret leaked documents. I’ve just been watching what’s been happening to our society since the 2007/08 financial crash. The one you and me are paying for. The one we didn’t cause.

The first sign: Banks collapsed. They’d gambled, they’d lost. But we paid. And we’ll carry on paying for years, if not decades. And the worst part – we had to borrow money to bail them out, and we had to print more money meaning we have to deal with inflation on top of pay freezes and budget cuts. Then I realised they gambled with our money, not theirs. Debt is socialised, profit is privatised. And they did this not just in the UK, or US, but across the western world. It’s not a small scale local conflict we’re caught up in. This is global. It might well be Globalization, but I’m not sure about that yet.

The second sign: “Austerity” – Huge, swingeing cuts on public spending. Touted throughout Europe as the only solution to the financial crisis. The narrative quickly changed from “Failed banks going bust” to “Huge deficits caused by out of control spending”. I watched this open-jawed. Only months before this narrative change we were giving gigantic sums of money to keep failed banks afloat. £1.5 trillion as of 2009, probably over £2 trillion now. And the bankers kept their jobs, their salaries and their bonuses, while we lost our jobs, had our salaries cut or frozen, and our public services are starting to disappear. It wasn’t spending that bankrupted us, it was bailouts. A recent fine to the now publicly owned RBS highlighted this to me: When you rob a Bank, you go to jail. But when a Bank robs you, they get a golden handshake and a new job or even a seat in the House of Lords like the ex-Northern Rock banker Viscout Ridley. I’ll come back to the lie that the deficit is caused by out-of-control spending another time. They are deliberately overlooking the reasons spending rose, and the role of loss of tax receipts in creating deficit. The frontline in a “soft war” is the media.

The Third Sign: The staggering and increasing levels of inequality throughout the “free” world. It was the Occupy movement that opened my eyes to this. I almost wished they hadn’t because it sickens, depresses, angers and scares me all at once. But you need to know the reality of your situation if you are to have any chance of doing anything about it, right? A few interesting figures: In 2012 the income (just that year’s earnings) of the richest 100 people was enough to end extreme poverty across the globe 4 times over. To put that another way, a one-off 25% tax on the income of these 100 people would mean no more extreme poverty. For millions of people. I pay around 23% on my below-average wage. In the UK, the income of the top 0.1% rose 64% from 1996/7-2007/8, while the income of the bottom 50% rose only 7%. Inflation was averaging around 2% EACH YEAR. The wages they were paid probably just kept pace with price rises.

The fourth sign: It was all a con. They had the money all along. While we were bailing out banks who failed, and consigning ourselves to “austerity” and recession through reckless and unnecessary cutbacks, those very banks we bailed out were holding £13-21 Trillion in off-shore tax havens on behalf of their richest customers. So why did we all pay? How much did the banks themselves have stashed off-shore? This gigantic figure represents hundreds of billions of lost tax revenue each year.

The fith sign: The one that crystallised the suspicion into a chilling realisation this was probably all deliberate: big business has bought our politicians. Our own Prime Minister could be bought for £50,000 – £250,000 depending on what you wanted him to do. MPs and Lords who voted to privatise the NHS despite widespread public protest and no electoral mandate stand to benefit financially, and the companies that will benefit the most have been changing UK policy for years to one that will divert billions in taxpayers money into their tax-dodging profit-maximising companies. This is the tip of the iceberg. Right now our government is bragging about how much influence it wants businesses to have over UK policy, expanding the “Buddy Scheme” to 80 privaleged companies. I thought they represented us?

The sixth sign: The demonisation of the poorest, most vulnerable, least able to fight. And the use of racism. All designed to deflect attention from the people really taking your money and your rights. You’ve seen above some of the shocking inequalities in incomes. You’ve seen the scale of the debt we’ve taken on from bankers who are still earning millions while hiding unimaginable ammounts of money from our tax collectors, thereby increasing our deficits. the “tax gap” (ammount avoided and evaded) is estimated at £120 billion each year. EACH YEAR. But you’d be forgiven for thinking that the reason your wage has been frozen for 4 years and your hospital has been sold is because people pretend to be disabled, they refuse work, or they live in mansions and claim Housing Benefit. So here’s some figures: The UK spends £48.2 Billion on Debt Interest each year – remember the money we borrowed to give the bankers? yeah, that’s right. We pay interest on that. We pay £12.57 Billion on Disability Living Allowance, which has a fraud rate of 0.5% according to the government. That’s not even £1billion. We pay £4.91 billion on Jobseekers Allowance. Remember the tax gap? £120billion. Remember the bailouts for Bankers in Need? £1.5 trillion. So why the policies cutting public spending? cutting welfare payments? cutting services and facilities? Why do all 3 main political parties still talk about the need for “cuts”, “austerity” and “tough choices”? It’s a soft war remember, and the frontline is the media. That’s why you’ll see sensationalised stories about benefit fraud, but only a brief mention of the cost of banking fraud, tax fraud or even MP’s expense fraud. Who’s waging the war? probably those who are reaping the benefits, don’t you think? That’s right the richest 1%, and probably more accurately the richest 0.1%

What else can this be? A very small, very rich section of society is using its wealth and power to increase its own wealth and power, while the rest of us are being made poorer, having our rights removed, having less influence on our politicians or the policies they enact. Economic war is the only term I can think of to describe it. The Oxfam report I linked above about the richest 100 having an annual income four times the ammount needed to eradicate extreme poverty tells you everything about our world: Mass poverty is a deliberate policy, a deliberate choice, made by a tiny number of unimaginably wealthy people so they can hoard a few hundred billion more. JUST 25% OF THEIR INCOME FOR ONE YEAR ENDS EXTREME POVERTY FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. Think about that next time you see a campaign advert asking you to relieve poverty in a third-world country, or even child poverty here in the UK. By all means do everything you can to help – but until we fight for a more equal distribution of wealth and power, what real difference can you make?