Category Archives: Literature

A tale of Old Dubai.

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”Its a fine day to sail!” said Mahmud with a smile on his face. He looked out across the flat waters of the Arabian Gulf. The sun was shining but it was not too hot. He could begin his voyage to India today. It was not long since dawn prayer when Mahmud began to walk quickly and excitedly around to the houses of his friends in Deira and ask if they wanted to sail with him to India.  Mahmud was well known around Dubai. His narrow nose, jutting chin and prominent forehead were all very recognisable.

”We shall be sailing in my dhow to India – selling our pearls and buying their spices. We will make good money” he explained to a few of his friends. They all lived in beige coloured baked mud houses with wooden supports. Many men in Dubai did a bit of this and a bit of that. They dived for pearls, they worked as fishermen, they tended their farms, they looked after their camels and did dabbled in business.  He had to walk around to ask people in person because there were no phones back then. Luckily Dubai was small and he could easily walk to everyone’s house around the Creek. Women tended not to work outside the home because they all had several children to look after.

Just occasionally they heard a loud mechanical sound whine overheard. ”That’s a new invention – it is called a plane” Mahmud told his old mother. ”People say you can even fly all the way to India in it.” His mother looked astonished, ”So many new inventions – the car and now this.”

By mid morning Mahmud had a dozen sailors who had agreed to sail to India with him. The most outspoken was named Rashid, ”You have to take me because  I am the only one of us who can speak English. You cannot speak to the Indians unless you know English. I learnt it from an Indian teacher here.” Mahmud nodded wisely, ”You are right. Not many people over there speak Arabic.” Rashid was very pleased with himself. He has bushy eyebrows and enormous  jaws. His hands were hardened after pulling the ropes on countless voyages. He stroked his silky black beard in satisfaction.

There was plenty of hubub as carried their possessions and food through the busy port. They hastily loaded the wooden dhow. The harbour smelt of the salt sea, the tar that kept water out of the boats and aroma of many spices. The port was full of men loudly loading and unloading dhows as goods came from many countries and other goods were being sent to be sold overseas. There were shouts of ”watch out” and ”out of the way” it was hard for people to keep calm as they strained under heavy burdens. Some hardy fishermen sailed in beaming with nets choc full of silvery fish. A few fish were still alive and thrashing – they had been taken from the sea only minutes earlier.

After noonday prayers Mahmud the sailors boarded their dhow hopefully. Mahmud said to Ali, ”Ok Ali  you guide us out of the harbour.” Ali said, ”Aye, aye captain” and set to work. He was a quiet and efficient type of person. He was short and slight with far away eyes and a wispy black beard.

Some of the sailors looked back to Dubai. The terracotta coloured buildings were soon fading into the distance. No building was more than four storeys high. Before long they could only make of the minarets of a few mosques. They had little time to think about their dear city they were leaving behind. There was much to be done aboard the dhow. Fahd trailed a net behind the dhow to catch fish. They had dry food aboard but it was always good to have some fresh fish. Fahd was recently married and missing his young wife. Ahmed the cook came out of the kitchen and onto the back deck. ”Hey Fahd have you caught anything yet?”

”No yet, sorry” said Fahd.

”By the way how come you have shaved down to a goatee beard. Everyone else has a full beard?”

”I saw a photo of a goatee beard in a magazine – some men have these goatees. It is fashionable.”

”Magazines. You are wasting your time looking at pictures. You should spent more time becoming a better fisherman.”

”It is so fascinating to see how people in other parts of the world live. You know in other countries some men shave down to a moustache and some men shave all the hair off their faces. It is like that in India.”

”That is so strange. I have been to Bahrain and Qatar” said Ahmed ”but not India so far.”

”I met an Indian guy in Dubai – his name is Shahnawaz. He is working for a company they think their is a lot of oil in Dubai and he can get rich if he finds it.”

”Oil in Dubai? He must be crazy. There is only a tiny bit of oil in Dubai. We only use oil to light our oil lamps at home. How could you get rich from finding oil?”

”He says people use it for cars.”

”There are only about ten cars in Dubai. Why would anyone want a car? They are big, dirty noisy things.  Why drive a car when you can ride a camel or horse. Cars cannot go over sand anyway. Next that Shahnawaz will probably say there is oil in Saudi Arabia!”

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Fahd saw land on the horizon and shouted ”Land ho” joyfully. The others sprang from their hammocks and race onto the deck. Sure enough they saw the greenish tinge on the horizon – it was India. Over the next few hours they drew nearer. They saw some boats and even ships coming out of an enormous harbour. Some tall buildings appeared on the skyline – taller than anything they had ever seen.

”India is amazing” said Mahmud, ”Like nothing you have ever seen.”

The others who had never seem India were silent at first – just taking in the scene. The water was very calm and the sun was blazing.

A police boat came out to them. A moustachioed police captain pulled his police boat up alongside them.

”Where are you from?” said the chubby middle aged policeman.

”We are from Dubai” said  Rashid, ”He is the captain” Rashid indicated Mahmud. The others looked at Rashid gratefully.

” I see. Why are you coming to India?” continued the roly poly police captain.

”We are here for trade.”

”Ok. Welcome to Bombay.” continued the police officer.

”Thank you sir” said Rashid graciously. He then turned to the crew and said, ”This is Bombay – they used to call it Mumbai long ago.”

The police captain did not understand Arabic but he recognised the word Mumbai. ”Nobody calls it Mumbai – that was hundreds of years ago. Some people want to change Bombay back to the old name Mumbai. That will never happen.”

”Very well continue. But if you come next year please bring these new documents they are called passports. There will be a new rule about them.”

”Yes we will” said Rashid.

With that they sailed on into Bombay Harbour. They passed an enormous grey stone arch called the Gateway of India.

Shortly they had moored at the harbour. They unloaded their wares on the quay. They were soon trading with Indian businessmen.

”How many Indian Rupees are there to a Gulf Rupee?” Fahd asked Rashid. ”I am not sure. Let me check. There is a money exchange booth over there.”

”Some people think we should call our money the Dirham” said Fahd.

”No that is a silly idea. We should call it the Gulf Rupee.”

After a brisk day’s trading they had sold all their goods at a handsome price. They had also bought many Indian spices and sacks of rice. They could resell them at home for a healthy profit. Mahmud bought presents for his wife each of his ten children.

The next day they set sail for home as they tide went out.

All was plain sailing for the first day. One the second day a mighty storm brewed up. The winds arose howling and the rain poured down like rivers from the sky. The sea was a riot of wild waves and frothing with fountains of foam. The sailors struggled to keep their little dhow afloat. They feared it might capsize and many of them could not swim. Mahmud kept his nerve. Inwardly he was frightened but he knew he must not show this to his crew or they would panic. He pretended to be brave and that led to real bravery. It was hard to hide his fear at first because he knew how dangerous the situation was. They little boat was thrown around at the mercy of the ocean. Men inside the boat was buffeted around by the power of the storm. The men on deck tied themselves on fearing they would be thrown into the squalling sea. The men on deck felt like they were whipped by the wind and the endless rain soaked them to the skin. All day and all night the fierce storm wailed and bounced. Until at last on the third day the waves grew smaller and the wind grew quieter. The rain slowed to a gentle patter. After a few hours it as calm as a garden pond. Mahmud was delighted that not one of his men had been injured.

They sailed home in triumph to be greeted by their families. They had gifts for them all, plenty of money and India products to sell. They all had fantastic tales to tell. No sooner had Mahmud got back to his house than he began wondering where his next voyage would take him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An evangelical sermon.

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Sisters and brothers, we stand on a precipice between damnation and salvation. The way of righteousness is beset by many snares and pitfalls. We are tempted by red wine and scarlet women. All of us have gone astray. All of us have wandered down paths of iniquity. Every one of us has tasted forbidden fruit. We are constantly in danger from the power of darkness. Yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom and boundless mercy has called us back to him. So we strive to be worthy of his grace.

Why is this absolution even possible? Because the ever living God sent down his only child to pay for our wickedry. We were in the clutches of Satan when the Most High came to the rescue. That is why our faith means the emancipation and liberation of mankind. Everybody from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest, from the youngest to the oldest is offered the chance to be saved. Do not miss that chance. Even the foulest and more degraded sinner is offered a way back by our God of limitless love and mercy if only the sinner will sincerely repent and mend his ways. If we will only humbly bed Our Heavenly Father to forgive our trangression then all will be well.

The Lord helps us in all things petty as well as great. Only offer up a prayer to him aloud or silently and you will be aided by the divine. Even in the gym I beseech him to help me. I pick a weight that I am much to feeble to lift. I pull at it with every muscle fibre of have and it still will not budge a single inch. Then I call upon the Almighty to strengthen my arm and I lift the massive weight like a feather. I feel the Holy Spirit surging through me. Truly, the Lord can set every heart ablaze.

Every one of us can call upon the Lord to strengthen our arm. Every one of us can receive his help in our hour of need. When you feel fear only trust in the Lord and he shall put steel in your soul. The Omnipotent God who saved Shadrak from the fire, who saved Daniel from the lions, who moved mountains and raised the dead – he shall save you too if only you will allow him.

That is why we come together to sing the praises of the all knowing an every living God. He is the creator of the universe and the master of all and each. We sing of his glory and fame. The joy we feel as we laud his blessed name can never even approach the majesty and magnificence of God. Yet let lift our voices to honour the one true God and let the room re-echo with with Holy Name. We  would be deafened by the  exquisite and ecstatic choirs of heaven and blinded by the resplendence of his shining throne.

 

Was the US intervention in Grenada justified?

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It is 30 years to the day that the US military and six Caribbean countries sent their armed forces into Grenada. Grenada was then ruled by a socialist dictator named Maurice Bishop. Bishop had killed the previous Prime Minister. I am not sure how bad his rule was. He tried to spread literacy and he provided free healthcare. This gives him some moral credit.

Bishop was friendly with the Soviet Bloc. He had hundreds of Cuban troops on the island and they were building an airfield. This was supposedly for peaceful purposes but it could have been used for military purposes. In view of what happened Bishop was sage to beef up his armed forces. His government really was under threat of attack by the United States, Jamaica and other US allies in the region. On the other hand by building up his armed forces he alarmed Washington and that precipitated the invasion. 

Grenada was a sovereign state and she was of course allowed to forge close relations with whichever nation she so desired. The Grenadan Government did not purpose to launch an invasion of any other state. I have never heard it argued that the increase in her military capability was for an aggressive intention. Further, the Grendan Government was entitled to pursue whatever policies that she wished so long as these were not inconsistent with international law.

There were over 1 000 Americans on the island. President Ronald Reagan said that he sent the troops in to protect these people. There was no evidence that they were in danger. One must ask oneself how it would have been had the boot been on the other boot. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Would Reagan have accepted it if Grenada invaded the United States in order to protect Grenadans in the USA? I suspect not. This justification is specious since by making Grenada a war zone Reagan put these Americans in danger. Dozens of civilians were killed in the conflict though so far as I know none of them were American. 

Bishop and some of his acolytes were captured. They were executed by firing squad. I am unsure who slew them. The bodies have not been located which is highly suspicious? If I were behind such an operation I would make sure that Grenadans killed the so the finger could not be pointed at the USA. 

A high majority of states in the United Nations condemned the US action. The United Kingdom abstained on this vote. 

Elizabeth II was and is Queen of Grenada. Maurice Bishop was her Prime Minister. Reagan professed himself to be a Britophile so it was a little off colour to kill the queen’s man! The Commonwealth was aghast at the invasion of a tiny and unoffending Commonwealth country. 

The British Government was not informed of the American intention. Reagan even denied to Margaret Thatcher that he was about to invade.

 It weakened the Western moral position viz a vis the Soviet Union. It was hard to speak out against the Red Army’s presence in Afghanistan when American attacked Grenada. The Afghan Government had invited the Soviets in. The communists of Kabul held the Afghan seat in the United Nations. I know they were undemocratic but so were half the countries in the world and few questioned the legitimacy of the governments of most states such as China. Much though I detest the communists in Afghanistan they were the lawful government of that country. In Grenada’s case the claim for legitimacy for Bishop’s government was feebler since he had ousted a democratic system.

Bishop was swiftly replaced. The US could truthfully say that democratic elements in Grenada had appealed to them for assistance. When these freedom loving people beseeched Ronald Wilson Reagan for succour he could not turn them down.

That was the end of the New Jewel Movement in Grenada. Democracy was restored. Some of Bishops cronies continued in politics and later won office. 

If Reagan had not taken strong action then maybe that land would have become fully communist. There might have been a Red Army base there and nuclear missiles. This is all conjecture.

If in doubt – stay out. So as I am unsure about this military intervention I have to say I think it was wrong. It is no use sitting on the fence. Militarily it was a complete success for the US. All the objectives were achieved for minimal casualties. Cuba was bested. I wonder if the prisoner yielded any useful intelligence or any were turned into spies. But I do not think that this action was morally or legally justified.

May Week was in June – some thoughts

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I read this memoir by Clive James. He is an acclaimed Australian writer and broadcaster who spent most of his adult life in the United Kingdom. As the title indicates this book is about the foibles and the humour of being at Cambridge.  He takes us straight into the action – arriving on a misty October day aged 24. He has a degree from thE University of Sydney already under his belt. He is highly eloquent without ever being verbose. He only used a handful of words that sent me thumbing through the dictionary. In was the manner in which he strung his words together than was innovative. He never tarried with tedious details. He jumped from one arresting scene to the next. It was an engaging and droll book. 

Chavs – by Owen Jones.

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. Chavs – by Owen Jones.

 

Introduction.

 

I knew Owen Jones a few years ago. Owen Jones is a far left polemicist. He is a talented writer of diatribe.  He slaughters and pillages his way through about 40 years of social and economic change. His argument is that the British proletariat has been very shabbily treated since the 1970s. The political and media elite has bestialized the working class so as to excuse stripping benefits from the working class. He claims that class division is now more firmly entrenched in British society than it has been for decades.

He is a homosexual – this makes him neither good nor bad. This is apropos of something. His book is more telling of his psychology than of class and economics. For him being gay may well be a choice. Being a short and baby faced boy he would have no success with the girls. Born undersized and in Stockport perhaps this is why he felt life had been unfair to him.

Jones examines the chav caricature. He is obliged to confess that he has met people who conform to the stereotype and yes it contains an element of truth.

Owen Jones is an anti-Conservative writer. He is an avowed aficionado of Nye Bevan whom he quotes on his facebook page – denouncing Conservatives as ‘vermin’. This is a measure of the man. He slams his opponents for disseminating detestation which precisely what he does himself. To be fair, he criticizes the Labour Party almost as heavily as he criticizes the Conservative and Unionist Party.

 

The Knives are out.

He suggests that bankers are criminals and so are many MPs for misusing the parliamentary expenses. Many MPs used their allowances which is to say there was an amount of money they could claim to pay for certain items but they did not need to itemize the bill exactly. Patently this was abused. In some cases this was criminal and indeed several MPs were prosecuted for fraud. A few ended up in prison. This had been going on for years, was widely practiced and was not secret. This does not excuse it but it is hard to see how in most cases the conduct of the MPs can be viewed as criminous.

As for suggesting that bankers should have found themselves in the dock over their mismanagement of their businesses – this claim is legally illiterate. What law can they have been said to have broken? Perhaps this new found legal expert should launch a private prosecution out of his fortune that he made penning this venomous work.

One of the few laudable opinions of his is his opposition to the partitioning of the United Kingdom. He points out that he once lived in Falkirk. He mentions Wales, Scotland and England but oddly never Northern Ireland. Perhaps he is unaware that it forms part of the UK.

A hole in the middle.

One of the major deficiencies of the book is its failure to even attempt to furnish a definition of social class. He briefly considers other definitions of working class without plumping for one alternative or other. As with race if class cannot be neatly define it is questionable if it exists at all. The boundaries are so blurred and one can change class.

Comically he defends Jade Goody. Jade Goody has a problematic upbringing but this hardly excuses her egregious ignorance of poor manners. Her racist remarks draw no fire from their firebrand anti-racist campaigner. He excuses her – because she is working class.

He goes on safari to a number of working class estates. He treats us to a potted history of Thatcherism. He blames her relaxing exchange controls for the decline of British manufacturing. This probably had an impact in British factories. There was a libertarian case for relaxing these controls. Until then it was difficult to take more than a few pounds on holiday. It was a Second World War emergency regulation that governments had unjustly kept on in peace time.

The decline of manufacturing in the UK was surely inevitable as it occurred in every Western country. It did not need to happen so fast. Mass unemployment in the 1980s was not good. How can Jones disapprove of jobs going to India and China where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty by this?

He risibly says that football is a working class sport and it has been taken away from the working class. His ignorance is truly staggering. Football has obscure origins in the Middle Ages. When it was formalized in the 19th century it was by public schools. The Old Etonian Association won the FA Cup thrice. He seems to be genuinely unaware of this.

He alludes to working class values. This nebulous concept is nowhere spelt out.

He hails the trades unions. The bullying and conformism of the trades unions is written out by him. There is nary a mention of the three day week and the penury caused by communist trades union barons.

There are many moist pages on the virtues of the miners. The fortitude of the stikers is praised to high heaven. The police are vilified as thugs. He would rather that poor people subsidise miners digging up mud than the miners find a new job.

The number of miners fell from about 1 000 000 in 1945 to about 300 000 in 1984. New technology and sources of energy caused this. Besides coal is inefficient and pollutes a lot.

There are solutions for the working poor. Do not spend on unnecessary things such as drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and tattoos.

Jones only mentions the negative side of things. For the working class things are so much better than in the 70s. They are no longer afflicted by strikes and power cuts. Many were able to buy their council houses. Consumer goods are much more affordable. Healthcare is much better. There are more university places and more working class people join the professions.

He fails to say how the middle class have done well. Working class people are often overpaid. Builders, oil workers and policemen are overpaid. Lap dancers and prostitutes gets  too much money.

Jones is an out and out class warrior. His favourite statesmen include Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. McDonnell has gone on record praising IRA terrorists. This man openly heaps praise on the IRA’s crimes. Not just murder but kidnapping, drug dealing, theft and mutilations. Jones may be judged by the company he keeps. Republican terrorists did their best to reduce working class communities to poverty and keep them there. Jones excoriates the BNP who despite their repulsive views do not advocate violence. When faced with real fascism Jones and those of his ilk embrace it. The IRA were engaged in a vicious fight against democracy. They committed something like 200 sectarian murders. Of course the loyalist terrorists were just as bad.

Owen Jones does not practice what he preaches. He rails against capitalism and yet publishes a book where he trousers 10% of the proceeds. Should I use that dirty word – profit? He makes a name for himself by grandstanding his compassion for those on low incomes. After denouncing the affluent does he hand over his lucre to the needy? No he spends it on buying drinks for himself or on his PhD. He castigates politicians and journalists for class prejudice and yet his tome is littered with the word ‘toff’. He goes into depth about Cameron’s upbringing and quaffing champagne. This irrelevant piffle can only be there to generate a sense of envy and spite. Is toff any better than the word ‘chav’? Toff is only used to describe oneself in the sense of eco toff. He misses no opportunity to mention that a politician attended Eton. He mentions that politicians attended public school – always as something to hold against them. What is his problem? This is highly personal. Did someone slight him? What is the chip on his shoulder? I would like Jones to make it explicit – no one who attended public school should vote for the same party as him. No one who makes over a certain amount of cash should vote the same way as him. He alludes to the Bullingdon Club. This is an upper class drinking club in Oxford. He claims they are vandals but this is probably a myth.

His loathing for people who have been to public school is based on class and ignorance. It is not true to say that everyone who attends public school is wealthy. Many are there on scholarships or have their fees paid by the government due to their parents being in the armed forces or diplomatic service. Not all such schools are expensive. Many rich people have their children at state school. Sir Paul McCartney had his daughter go to state school – by chauffeur driven limousine. Many rich people living in expensive areas can do go good state schools. Ed Mililband grew up in an exclusive part of London. His father was a Marxist scholar. His communist father saw no hypocrisy in damning inequality yet benefiting from it himself and owning house. The Milibands went to the same primary school as Boris Johnson. Jones slams Boris for being well-educated but never mentions the Miliband’s privilege.

He speaks about the Cabinet of millionaires – As though this disqualifies them from government. This makes them less likely to be tempted by bribes. It makes them see things in the longer term. For them there is something outside politics – they are more likely do to the right thing even if this means losing office because they do not need the money. Most of these fortunes are self-made. Success is not to be held against someone. Of course success does not have to be of a financial sort but when running the country some financial understanding is undoubtedly a plus point.

Jones uses a scholastic register vocabulary but lets himself down with the constant repetition of the word ‘kids’.

He repeatedly accuses his enemies of populism. His hatred for the Conservative Party is so visceral that enemy is probably a fairer word to use than opponent. What does he define as populism? It seems to be a popular policy that he disagrees with. His constant attacks on his enemies for being well-off, for attending public school and so on is surely an example of demagoguery.

He libels the Conservative Party by claiming that is has used anti-Irish and anti-Jewish sentiment to grub for votes. He offers not an iota of evidence in support of his deeply offensive claim. The Conservative Party has always has plenty of Irish members and was keen to keep Ireland and Great Britain united. The Conservative Party has had Irish or partly Irish leaders such as John Wilson Croker, Andrew Bonar Law, John Major and Iain Duncan Smith. Jones claims that a law restricting immigration in 1904 was anti-Jewish which is completely false since it did not mention Jews at all. There were other immigrant groups at the time. The Conservative Party has long has Jewish members especially very high ranking ones. Disraeli was a Hebrew and it is absolutely impossible that an anti-Jewish party could have had such a man as leader. The British Conservative Party was almost alone among right wing parties in permitting practicing Jews to be members let alone politicians at the time.

Only middle class and upper class politicians have their class used against them. Cameron cannot do anything without the fact that he went to Eton being brought up.

Comrade Jones comes from a comfortable middle class household in Stockport. He went to an undistinguished comprehensive. He notes that people from a bourgeois background such as his own benefit from cultural capital – that is to say that they have books in the house and intellectual development is valued. His mother worked at Salford University as an ‘academic’ if that is the right word to use in relation to such a ‘uni’. Owen Jones applied to Oxford from his school and because he was at a state school this worked very much in his favour. Oxford as many universities openly discriminates against public school applicants. As an ardent egalitarian surely the noble thing for Mr Jones to do would to have been to decline his place at Oxford or better still not to apply in the first instance. In that case this would have given a greater chance for someone from a group whom Jones wishes to help to take that place – a working class person, ideally female and from an ethnic minority.

Jones’ work is engaging. His prose is pacey and he comes up with many examples.

He quotes various public figures such as Rachel Johnson, David Davis, Frank Field, Stephen Pound and Kevin Maguire. In fairness to Jones he gives space to his opponents to air their views.

Frank Field is the Labour MP for Birkenhead. He is noteworthy for having been a welfare minister in the early Blair years. His brief was to think the unthinkable. He reached the conclusion that the Conservative narrative on benefits was accurate and that the dependency culture needed to be tackled vigorously. This was too much for many Labour MPs. In many Labour constituencies a large minority of people are long term unemployed or on the sick.

Even Owen Jones is forced to admit that many people on disability benefit are not in fact disabled. He notes that in the 1960s there were about 500 000 people on this benefit in the UK whereas now there are around 2 500 000 on this said benefit. The population has risen in this space of time but only from about 50 000 000 to 63 000 000. In an era of excellent healthcare and prosthetic limbs the expansion of the disabled segment of the population is astonishing.

He repeats the same information quite often. He likes using the word ‘rampantly’. He also says his opponents do things, ‘shamelessly’. He is insinuating that people ought to be ashamed of what they are doing.

Even if one agrees with his summation that the situation for the British working class is bleak he offers little by way of a solution. He talks about a new class politics. Bear in mind that the working class is no more than 50% of the population. There will never be a situation in which all working class people vote for the same party. Furthermore, the poorer and less educated people are the less likely they are to vote at all.

He savagely criticizes cuts to public spending. There is no allusion to the fact that these reductions in spending are necessitated by the extremely short termist and irresponsible overspending of Jones’ beloved Labour Party. Public debt is growing at a frightening rate. Jones’s presumable prescription would have public debt ballooning out of all control. The economic consequences of such a wrongheaded approach are total meltdown.

One of the blatant things for Jones to do would to have been to have looked to the Swedish model. The Swedish model – not of the two legged kind – is a paradigm established by the Social Democrats in Sweden in the 1930s. This response to the Great Depression was more or less a permanent New Deal. A tax and spend economy with very extensive regulation. This assured good public services, very low unemployment, slow but steady economic growth and near permanent office for the Social Democrats. Freedom in the personal sphere was severely circumscribed by intrusive laws and confiscatory taxation. Sweden was a British Labourite’s dream. Some private enterprise was allowed. The Swedish model was copied to some degree in neighbouring Scandinavian lands such as Denmark, Finland and Norway. The Netherlands, Belgium and even Switzerland can be said to have followed this path at least partly. It has been somewhat successful in these lands. In France and Spain is seems to have led to economic stagnation and welfare dependency.

Owen Jones is against the free schools which are on a Swedish model. He claims they did not work in Sweden. He clearly knows little about schooling.

Not everything that Owen writes is guff. He makes so reasonable points that even I as a right winger cannot dissent from. The shortage of affordable housing is acute. In London, South-East England in general and other major cities this problem is worsening at a dramatic speed.

Tax avoidance and tax evasion are major issues that need to be dealt with. This would reduce the deficit as well as being fairer.

Jones admits that benefit fraud goes on but claims that it is slight.

The nostrum that public spending is the panacea to all society’s ills has been tested to destruction since 1945. If this fiscal policy could solve all the United Kingdom’s problems then they would have been solved several times over.

Jones writes a little about immigration. He does not take issue with huge scale immigration. Surely this is the major explanation for unemployment in the last 20 years. Even Jones is compelled to acknowledge that much of the disability benefit figure is really disguised unemployment. He deprecates the BNP and UKIP for taking aim at this issue. To be sure immigrating legally does not reflect poorly on the immigrant.

Of course economies can grow and thereby create more jobs. But in the short term there is only a finite number of job vacancies. The phrase ‘taking our jobs’ is ugly and exudes a distasteful sense of entitlement. The logic behind it – that excessive immigration aggravates unemployment – is hard to refute. As Jones noted even Gordon Brown used the phrase – British jobs for British workers. This slogan could have been found in a BNP manifesto. Dr Brown is no fool and knew that because the European Union there was absolutely no way he could turn this slogan into a policy.

It is as well to offer a counterpoint to Jones’ thesis. Arguably what the UK has suffered from is rather than too much capitalism is has been a paucity of real capitalism. If a business is dying – let it die. Bailing out the banks has saddled ordinary taxpayers with astronomical debts. This money could have been better spent on other things if indeed it were to be spend in any wise. Letting badly run banks go out of business would have taught a healthy lesson to other banks would have learnt that they are too big to fail. Many businesses are too small to succeed. Business must be exposed to marketplace disciplines. Saving these banks does not encourage caution. Bankers may conclude that a high risk strategy is in fact the surest way to profit. If the gamble succeeds then all well and good. If they lose on a gamble then no matter because they will just be saved by Mr and Mrs Taxpayer.

A bonfire of regulations could bring down the stratospherically high cost of housing particularly in the British capital. The green zone has some ecological merit to it but it artificially inflates the cost of accommodation. Eco toffs defend it because it keeps the prices of their houses very high. They can cash in any time – sell their houses. They can downsize or move to the countryside or even abroad. They can also rent out rooms.

The cost of public transport – above all rail transport – is shockingly expensive. There are inflation busting fare rises despite state subsidies to the private companies that run the railways. The state subsidy should be taken away. The board members award themselves pay rises and bonuses almost annually. Admittedly railways in the UK are now excellent for standard of service. They are clean, reliable and very safe. The market system does not work in an unalloyed form in the railways where often it is only practical for one company to serve a certain station. The government could sell the right to operate a line for a set period of years to the company that agrees to do it for the lowest fares. There must be a big penalty clause if the company welshes on this.

A fully capitalist solution is unlikely to address all the problems. The Government could perhaps offer a minimum wage job to all unemployed people who cannot otherwise be slotted into a job. What could people usefully do? Litter picking and being security guards come to mind. This could make places tidier and reduce crime drastically. Vandalism and graffiti are signs of urban decay and lead to more serious crime as well as driving away investment.

It would be revealing to learn Jones’ views on recent developments. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken away child benefit from the richest 15% of families and reduced it for those just below that level. In a time when sacrifices have to be made this curtailment of welfare is surely apposite and fair.

The transformation that Jones wants to see is unlikely. Even he does not dare predict it. He would like to see an overtly working class party declare war on the middle class. He would like full blooded socialist policies to be introduced – except where they impact on him. As he observes trades union memebership is close to an all time low in the UK. The chance of them holding the UK hostage is slim.

The Labour Party is capitalizing on public anguish over spending cuts. It does not offer a radically different program. Even its leader Ed Mililand says that there would have been cut backs under a Labour Government.

Jones’ book is hard hitting. He has a journalist’s knack of emotionalising everything. His sentences are not too long and therefore are never opaque. He makes naked appeals to jealously and spite. He writes with mordancy but his writing is devoid of humour which would have made it more readable.

He trenchantly criticises the tabloid press for inventing things or for finding extremely unusual examples and misrepresenting these as typifying a situation. In fairness the red tops often do this. The thing is that Red Owen does the same. For instance, he claims a chum of his at Univ wanted a gold watch for Harrod’s. The boy’s father refused to purchase it for him on the grounds that it was ”too Jewish”. This anecdote is taken as proof positive of bourgeois racism. He does cite some empirical data to butress his arguments though.

 

Does he want state owned industries to be re-established? Are coal mines to be re-opened? He does not say. His prescription for a socialist Britain would have been useful.

In his column in the Independent Comrade Jones slams the Labour Party for agreeing with the Liberal Democrat and Conservative version of events on benefits. So Jones agrees that only the extreme left like himself want to make benefits a way of life.

He has to admit that many jobs now are less physically demanding than before. Surely this is easier on workers. He goes in for statistical sleight of hand on the number of job vacancies.

I know Romanians who came here with no English and still managed to find jobs. There is no excuse for Britishers failing to do so. Many Britons refuse to do fruit picking for example. These people should be offered such roles and have all benefits axed if they refuse. Some people are too choosy about their work.

Jones says that the future is likely to be depressing for people who share his viewpoint. Indeed it is probable that they will be dispirited. Capitalism will not fail. It has brought undreamt of prosperity to billions. Even a Labour Government will likely not more than tinker with it. His wish to divide the country will probably not be fulfilled

”The Accursed Mountains” – a review.

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This tome was penned by an intrepid Briton. The middle aged had had a peripatetic childhood and with a smattering of languages braved the wilds of urban Albania as well as its lawless mountains. The year was 1996. I ventured into that country in the year of grace some two thousands and six. I considered this a deed of derring do even a decade hence from his journey. When he went there only an imbecile or a travel writer would risk life and anal virginity travelling into the wild, wild not-so-east.

He seems to have mastered some Albanian. His spare prose conveyed the desolation of the place. He enlivens the drab scene from an impressive palet of lexis. Albania is a land unknown to technicolor. Grey, beige, off-white, a sickly pale green, yellow and mawkish blue are the best one can hope for in buildings. The country is liberal only in its piles of street litter.

When this man went gangsterism was rife. Male chauvinist attitudes were openly proclaimed. The bloke does not seem to have entertained a percipitiously high impression of Albanians. Almost every one of them was on the make and on the take. Begging was the benevolent alternative to outright thievery. There was a dependency culture building up on Western aid. Brutality was the order of the day. Savage punishments were casually meted out for even the most trifling misdemeanour as the only means to prevent utter turmoil.

The code of family honour was observed with a ferocious zeal. The slightest slight to a family’s esteem was met with swift and condign punishment.

The country was dysfunctional. It came across as an exceedingly depressing place. Honesty was considered a stupid vice. Any Albanian who could run, jump or swim was desperate to be shot of their native land. A bearded homosexualist I know told me that Albanians often went to Greece to be rent boys.

It seemed odd that such a lettered man would wish to spend such a long time in a country that had little to offer by way of culture. He could do without creature comforts with the single exception of cigarettes. These were in no short supply. Indeed they were about the only thing of which this damnable land had a superabundance. He met only one man who did not partake of tobacco. He remained in this scarred land owing to his wish to gather material for his most evocative travelogue. The dramatis personae of his riveting tale is made of mountebanks, corner boys, aid workers, missionaries, probable American spies, mousy women, contemptible bullying fathers and many peeople in piteous circumstances. Occasionally he met a desirable and cultured young lady but the majority of the people he came across were bullies and crooks with a surpassingly bad taste in clothes.  It was hard to say anything positive about the country beyond its scenery.

Peruse this intriguing book and you will bless the Almighty that you did not have your nativity in such a ghastly country.