I along with millions of others watch television, of course I have my particular likes and dislikes. I think there is in academic circles a view that television is purely for entertainment. I think this is a prejudiced view. In this age of multi-channels and the i-player, TV provides a very wide range of programmes from the broadest comedy show to the challenging science and political programmes, including the Open University. Yesterday I watched a very informative and interesting programme on BBC 4, “How To Be A Good President”. Political programmes can be dull and often shy away from putting ideas in clear and understandable language. This one did not.
A number of British and American commentators spoke about different American Presidents; James Naughtie, Peter Jay, Shirley Williams, Simon Hoggart, Malcolm Rifkind, Bonnie Greer, Robert Tuttle and Peter Jay, Christine Odone. The strengths of a number of twentieth century presidents; Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower Richard Nixon and George Bush. The problems they faced were dealt with in some detail and the degree of success which each one had. I think it would be interesting to see a similar programme about British prime ministers. Of course prime ministers do not have the same degree of power as an American president. In a democracy it is essential that all the voters understand exactly what they are voting for. (I won’t mention Brexit).
The viewers need to know, who made the programme, why and who provided the funding. The same is true of a book; where does the author’s allegiance lie, how truthful is he/she, who provided funding for the exercise. Most factual books are to some extent cooperate enterprises. The alternative of a one party state is too dreadful to contemplate, we have the examples of Germany and the USSR in recent history.
Returning to my early days (yes I can) last week is more of a problem! Two questions bothered me, why were things they way they were and how could they be changed. Let me fill in the details, my parents were both hard working people, my father was a tram conductor and mother managed the money and took care of us and the home. I was the eldest child, then came my sister, my brother and finally another sister. Mother had the difficult job of stretching out the money to cover the daily necessities of life, this was a job requiring planning and control. Fortunately father didn’t drink, his one treat was to go to the football match on a Saturday afternoon. I was at school which I enjoyed, my greatest pleasure was reading. How I learnt to read I don’t remember, the great day came when I could join the library and read new books for free, wonderful!
As the years passed I noticed other families had holidays, trips out, new dresses. I knew my parents were hard working and very careful, why was life such a struggle? I tried novels, “Little Women” by Louisa M. Alcott was a particular favourite. I couldn’t find the answer there. Then one day history lessons appeared, a hundred years ago things were different. Changes happened why? Later sociology was part of my course, this explained more about how society was organised. Also novels, plays and poems do have something to say about how human beings relate to each other. English was my favourite subject. Little by little some answers appeared; politics was another way of coming to grips with why some people are poor and a few people are very rich. For awhile part of the answer seemed to lie in Education, both my parents left school at 14, perhaps that was too young? I continued until I was twenty-one. I am so lucky the system gave me a chance but I hear the old ideas are returning and continuing education is regarded as too expensive. Totally wrong, ignorance is an appalling handicap to the individuals and to the whole of society. Much better to have people changing jobs rather than going to prison.
Happily I’m still reading, although the print does seem to be getting smaller! I will have to dispose of some of my books, the dreaded word downsizing has appeared in our vocabulary. Its sensible, rational, but oh it seems to be such a loss, an emptiness. As well as being part of the furniture of the house, they fill the shelves in the mind, they remind us who we are.
I am not an expert in money matters though I am in control of household income and expenditure,some of the time. The thing I plan to steer clear of is debt. In an effort to understand the craziness of the world I live in I have started to read some books written by economists. One writer I find who expresses complicated ideas simply is Daniel Dorling, he is a professor at Sheffield University. His knowledge not only of the UK and the USA and most of Europe is extensive and full of detailed calculations. He produces a mass of evidence plus the detailed graphs and accounts of many expert economists, in putting forward the changes which have taken place in the ever increasing gap between the 1 per cent and the 99 percent of the population of the UK. The 99 percent have faced an increasing programme of austerity; cut backs in wages, benefits which are no longer paid by the Welfare State and the impoverishment of many children and single parent families. At the same time the CEOs and Bankers have increased their own remuneration and exerted their influence to reduce the top rate of tax to 45 per cent.
Since 2014 food banks have been reintroduced since many young families can no longer afford to feed their children. The OECD in 2013 published a Report, “Crisis Squeezes Income and Puts Pressure on Inequality and Poverty” in 2013. In the same year an article by Z. Williams appeared called, ” Achieving a Social State: What Can We Learn from Beveridge’s ” Five Giant Evils.”? Many economists have growing concerns about the increase in poverty in the USA and the UK, since the beginning of the twenty-first century. The same is not happening in Europe, in Germany, France and the Netherlands, government support is still provided for the poorest citizens. Dorling himself has written on How Austerity Affects Mortality Rates.
Thomas Piketty who wrote, ” Capital In the Twenty-first Century” has written, ” Taxing the 1%: Why the Top Tax Rate Could be Over 80 Per Cent. ” K. E. Pickett and R. Wilkinson and others have drawn attention to ” Income Inequality and Crime “. The UK has more young men in prison than any other country in Europe. In egalitarian countries the cultural activity is high, in highly stratified countries it is low. There are benefits for every section of society in a fair, more equitable and peaceful society.
YESTERDAY I had a birthday, many thanks to those kind friends who wished me well. There are some words which can be used to describe me at this time in my life; mature is one of them. I am without a doubt MATURE , WHETHER I am wise and sensible is another matter entirely. I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror, a courageous act in its way, and three letters came to mind, O.L. D. I am at a loss to understand how this happened!!! The years have passed amazingly quickly, yet my body tells me with aches and pains and a certain forgetfulness that it is true. I have a number of aids which help me get through the day, (perhaps you have your own list!) My eyes require prescription aids, (they have done since I was a teenager), my ears also need additional help, (more recent), my walking is very limited even with a walking frame. Thankfully my mind is still intact and a flow of words quickly comes to mind.
I describe the differences lying between the internal and the external. Externally signs of ageing are very visible, you might say the years are written on the body. Internally my feelings are exactly the same as they were several decades ago, a handsome young man still arouses that same feeling of interest that happened when I was twenty-five. Sadly the interest is limited to me there is not a two way interest. Beautiful landscapes, powerful poetic words and familiar songs still speak to me with the thrilling power that they always did. In other words I am still alive!
I was born in 1938, events which boded ill were taking place, a dictator called Hitler wanted to remake Europe in his own peculiar vision of a powerful Germany. Soon millions were to die and millions more to suffer. In the grand scheme of things my family was fortunate, my father returned to us at the end of the war. A few years later we were moved to a new house, after the end of the war in 1945, the government decided to create a fairer, more equal society. This was when I grew up. I was lucky things were getting better.
Mature, a flattering word, much better than the alternative. I am without a doubt mature, whether I am wise and sensible is another matter. I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror, a courageous act in its way and one three letter word O. L. D. came to mind. I am at a loss to understand how this happened. The years seem to have passed amazingly quickly, yet my body tells me with aches and pains and a certain forgetfulness that it is true. I have a number of aids which help me get through the day, (perhaps you have your own list).
I am incredibly fortunate, my partner and I agree about most things, certain sports programmes excluded. We look after each other, the day when we need extra help have not yet arrived, yet the thought occurs to me now and then. We talk about the dreadful mess Britain is getting into, children with not enough to eat, families living in appalling conditions. Years ago we had the answers, council houses and the welfare state, now the word austerity has come to the fore. The 1% have decided that what happens to the 99% is of no importance to them. Prisons packed beyond any sane limit, hospitals trying to cope with not enough staff and poor conditions. Schools excluding children most in need of help and families living in very expensive and deteriorating conditions. It doesn’t have to be this way.
After the Second World War, the fabric of the country was in a dreadful state, many homes had been destroyed, many lives had been lost, many children were without fathers. The government decided that action had to be taken, everyone wanted a better life than in the 1930s. Sir William Beveridge produced a report in 1942 setting out to deal with the ‘five giants; squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. These problems could be dealt with the introduction of social insurance and allied services. There were three recommendations in the report:
It would not be limited to sectional interests, some called it, ‘ a revolutionary moment’.
Social insurance would be an important part of it.
There would be cooperation between the state and the individual.
These suggestions were put to the public, there was huge support.
When the war began in 1939 it was quickly discovered that one third of the population were undernourished, diseases and infant mortality stood at very high levels. The coalition government decided that little could be done until the war ended.
A Labour government was elected in 1945 on the promise of dealing with these five giants.