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News from the madhouse

Tony Blair and God
Tony Blair is expecting an interview – in due course – with God: he told a journalist (as the Times, of 3 May, phrased it) that “I'm ready to meet my Maker and answer for those who have died or who have been horribly maimed as a result of my decisions”. This, of course, is the get-out of rulers down the ages. Rulers have always told the ruled, we will judge you here and now, and execute sentence upon you; if you ask who will judge us, it will be an old boy with a long beard in the sky after we've died. But if you've been charged with failing to pay your council tax, or parking on a double yellow line, don't tell the judge you will answer for your actions in a few years' time, when you have popped your clogs: he won't wear it. Only rulers get away with that line.

Line of least resistance
People criticise Blair for his new slogan inforeign affairs: “find what George Bush wants, and do the same”.But Blair has his reasons. To start with, it simplifies matters; but also, since Blair has to do his best for the British ruling class, it may work out best for them as things stand in the year 2003. Kids at school sometimes do the same: find the biggest bully in the playground, and suck up to him.

Mortgages
“Mortgages should come with a public health warning because the struggle to keep up with payments is making millions of people sick, said the British Medical Association yesterday” (Times, 7 May). “Many who fall behind with their mortgage payments become so fearful of losing their home that they drink and smoke too much, their relationships break down and they even have more car crashes because they are so preoccupied, one contributor to the BMA report, Housing and Health, said.” While repossession is at its lowest level for years – “only” about a hundred people a week are still losing their homes – any slump in the housing market could trigger “a return to the traumas of the 1990s, when more than a million people had their homes repossessed”.

A sad commentary on what was sold to us as a “home-owning democracy”. But in every way, the present organization of society inevitably involves money worries for millions. Capitalism means the wages system, and that means that those who have to work for their living are dependent on their next pay-packet to buy in the necessary supplies – or sometimes, just to pay the interest on their credit cards, overdrafts, mortgages and all the other borrowings that capitalism imposes on its workers. The “struggle to keep up with payments”, which makes “millions of people sick”, will continue until capitalism makes enough of us sick to bring about a different system. It isn't only mortgages that need a public health warning: it's capitalism.

Property is death
People aren't only made sick by capitalism, they die from it, as you can see in all the many conflicts going on at this moment round the world. But private property kills on a small scale, as well as a large. At a pawnbroker's shop in north London, a Securitas cash box was being delivered recently. To keep this instalment of private property sacrosanct, the box was fitted with “a small explosive device”, which “released smoke and dye” if anyone tampered with the box (Times, 7 May). As a further protection, the box was handed over through an airlock. Two women assistants were in the staff-only part of the shop, where the valuables were protected “by barred windows and a locked fire exit which needed four keys to open it”. The explosive device malfunctioned, setting fire to the premises, but the women could not get through the locks and bars which surrounded them, and they both died. Firefighters couldn't get in soon enough. The brother of one of the women called her on his mobile phone, andhad to listen helplessly as she choked to death. The inquest jury were told how one of the women put her hand through the bars of the customer's window, and a fireman held her hand until she died.

Why do people go on supporting capitalism?