Voice From the Back

A Green And Pleasant Land?

The illusions of nationalist and religious freaks alike that England is something special and is, in the words of William Blake, “a green and pleasant land” are nonsense. “New data has revealed the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by 23 per cent in a year. …. The statistics show that on one night in 2011 there were 2,181 rough sleepers in England, up 413 from 1,768 on the same night the previous year” (Independent, 23 February).  Surely the concept of “pleasant” should at least include a pillow and a blanket or at least a mattress?

Hunger In The USA

When world hunger is mentioned it is usually assumed that the problem is peculiar to Africa or Asia, but this is not the case. “Here in the United States, growing numbers of people can’t afford that most basic of necessities: food. More Americans said they struggled to buy food in 2011 than in any year since the financial crisis, according to a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center, a non-profit research group. About 18.6 percent of people – almost one out of every five – told Gallup pollsters that they couldn’t always afford to feed everyone in their family in 2011” (Huffington Post, 29 February).  The USA may well be the most powerful country in the world but that doesn’t stop sections of its working class suffering hunger.

Conspicuous Consumption

The press have recently made great play of how a rich woman, former beauty queen Kirsty Bertarelli and her husband Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical tycoon Ernesto Bertarelli have purchased a yacht for £100 million. “Britain’s richest woman may have set a new benchmark in floating status symbols with a new boat that costs £250,000 just to fill up with fuel” (Metro, 5 March). The yacht is 315 foot long – an improvement on their old 154 foot one, but it is dwarfed by Roman Abramovich’s 538 foot yacht. Such reports of conspicuous consumption are circulating at a time when millions of people are starving.

An Expensive Round

The owning class are very concerned about the drinking habits of the working class. The government is attempting to put through legislation that would limit cut-rate drink offers at supermarkets and pubs. It would have little effect on the following boozers. “A businessman blew £125,000 on a single bottle of the world’s most expensive champagne while buying a round of drinks for more than £200,000 in a night club. The financier ordered a 30-litre double Nebuchadnezzar-size bottle of Armand de Brignac Midas bubbly along with £60,408 on other beverages for his 10-man entourage” (Daily Mail, 5 March).

Oceanic Pollution

Changing the pH of seawater – a measurement of how acid or alkaline it is – has profound effects. Ocean acidification threatens the corals and every other species. “According to a new research review by paleoceanographers at Columbia University, published in Science, the oceans may be turning acid far faster than at any time in the past 300 million years. …. The authors tried to determine which past acidification events offer the best comparison to what is happening now. The closest analogies are catastrophic events, often associated with intense volcanic activity resulting in major extinctions. The difference is that those events covered thousands of years. We have acidified the oceans in a matter of decades, with no signs that we have the political will to slow, much less halt, the process” (New York Times, 9 March). With its mad drive for profits the capitalist system is destroying the oceans and all its diverse life forms.

Capitalism Is International

The Daily Mail has a history of nationalism but even by its standards it went over the top with this story. “How Qatar bought Britain: They own the Shard. They own the Olympic Village. And they don’t care if their Lamborghinis get clamped when they shop at Harrods (which is theirs, too)” (Daily Mail, 10 March). So how come this backward Gulf state has become so powerful? The answer is simple. In the last two years Qatar has become Britain’s biggest supplier of imported liquefied natural gas. When profits are to be made the owning class are truly international. Only misinformed workers imagine they are British. Do you know the nationality of the people who own the company you work for or do you want to join in a chorus of Rule Britannia with the Daily Mail?

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