A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times


It doesn’t matter how much food costs increase, doesn’t matter if you can only afford fast food, we will always be able to buy steak. And we will invest heavily in fast food stocks to ensure we make money off this. Doesn't matter how much gas costs, we will always be able to afford it.

In addition to poor food choices and health coverage, your kids will grow up without proper nutrition which will cause them problems on every level, from physical to educational difficulties. Our kids will grow up straight and true and healthy.

It doesn’t matter how much an education costs, doesn’t matter if your kids can’t afford to go to college or come out with massive debt, we will always be able to send our kids to university. And because a lot of our income is derived from tax incentives and taxpayer-financed bailouts your taxes are sending our kids to school. But you do not have the right to any of our money to send your kid to school.

If you or your kids want to start a business, you will find that because we’ve sucked all the money out of the economy, there is simply no available cash around to help you finance your startup. (Unless you want to go to your friends online at sites like Indiegogo, and isn’t that just cute?) We just cut our kids a check and tell them to go have fun.

Your kids are born with a glass ceiling above which they will almost certainly never have the opportunity to rise. Our kids are born with a marble floor beneath which they will never be allowed to fall.

If you accidentally provide incorrect information on your tax return, you could lose your house, your possessions, and your livelihood. We lie all the time on our tax information and none of us ever have to deal with this. We squirrel away trillions of dollars in overseas accounts and do all we can to ensure that your money never leaves our control because we'll doubtless need to scoop out more of it soon.

You live in a Company Town; we pay you to work for us, while making sure that we own all the stores in town that sell our goods, the doctors offices where you go in town, the restaurants where you eat, and that we charge you just enough to make sure that at the end of the week you don’t have any leftover money to squirrel away, so you can never leave the company town, can never get ahead, and can never risk criticizing the company town. You work for us. We own the town where you live. We own you.

If one of you takes a hundred dollar bill from the cash register, you will go to jail. If we take billions out of the savings of ordinary people then crash the economy, costing thousands of jobs, not one of us will ever be prosecuted. Because the New Aristocracy is above such things. So we’ll just keep on doing it. Enjoy the ride.

Your local police belong to us now. We have militarized them into soldiers who treat you like terrorists. If you speak against us, we will ensure that you are tear gassed and beaten and handcuffed and caged into “free speech zones” designed to make you forget that the whole country was supposed to be a free speech zone. But now you have free speech only when and where we say you can have it. Meanwhile, we can say and do pretty much anything we want, to you or anyone else, and get away with it.

If you happen to figure out our game and talk about it, we will accuse you of Class Warfare, in order to distract anyone from realizing that yes, there was a class war, that it was against you, that the war is over, and we won.

Yes, you get a chance to vote for congresspeople and senators and presidents. But only after we’ve decided, long before the first ballot is ever cast, which candidate we will finance. Those we like, those who will give us what we want first and foremost, we will finance and you will get to vote on one of the two pre-screened candidates we have given you. If we don’t like them, if we think they will challenge us, we will not finance them and you will never have the chance to vote on them. Because you don’t get a real vote in the New Aristocracy.

We own the White House. We own Congress. They pass the bills we write for them. They make the laws we want them to make, and make sure that they only limit you, never us. We own the courts. We own the lawyers. They are the club we use to beat you into submission.

There are no Democratic or Republican Senators, or Congresspeople or Presidents. Those parties have not existed for decades. There is only the Party of the New Aristocracy. The rest is Kabuki theater. It is Mexican Wrestling. It is the illusion of choice, of difference, of democracy. This is not a democracy. It is a monarchy of money. In that monarchy, we are the Aristocracy, the royalty, and what we say, goes.

If you dump trash illegally, you will be fined and potentially arrested. If we dump hundreds of tons of toxic waste into rivers and streams, none of us will ever be arrested and if we are fined, we will simply raise our prices so that you are the one to actually pay for what we did.

We are the New Aristocracy, and we do not pay fines.

We are the New Aristocracy, and we are immune from prosecution.

We are the New Aristocracy, and we find your poverty and your powerlessness and your struggles disgusting. You are beneath us.

Understand something: we don’t want you to succeed. We don’t want someone coming along to slice the pie into smaller pieces. We want to own all of it. If we really wanted more of you where we are, do you think we would have spent the last thirty years consolidating every major company into smaller and smaller groups owned by fewer and fewer people?

We are the New Aristocracy because we were born into it. We got our money the old fashioned, Medieval way: our parents gave it to us. We were born into the wealth that we stole from you and your family over the last fifty years. You were not born into anything other than poverty and struggle. You will never be us. You will never have our advantages. And we like it that way.

We like that you peer through the bars of your cage to all that we have. We like that you think you can have it yourself one day. Because that illusion keeps you on our side. But you will never have those things. We’ve made sure of that. Because what you’re looking at is ours, and we do not share.

The world we have carefully constructed for you is like one of those boardwalk games of chance where if you knock down the big pins with a baseball, you win a huge prize. But the pins are weighted and positioned so that you will never, ever knock them down. Yet you’ll keep paying anyway, and keep throwing, until you exhaust yourself and your wallet. And we like it that way.

We don’t want you to have opportunities, we don’t want you to have an education, we don’t want you to have a voice in what happens to you, we don’t want you healthy, we don’t want you to do anything but be frightened, helpless, docile consumers who will eat and watch and buy what we tell you to eat and watch and buy while we keep all the good stuff to ourselves.

Because you’re not in our club.

Because we are the New Aristocracy.

And you are the New Peasants.

And we very, very, very much like it that way.

ARISTOCRACYSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

For quite some time now, I’ve been silently harbouring a theory about the role of modern film and literature in aiding in the suppression of today’s ambition, and it now seems I may just have been right.

And that’s because a recent piece of research by ‘proper’ academics (rather than a Handyman/blogger in Springwood making it all up in his head) arrived at a very similar conclusion, albeit with a somewhat very different intention.

It appears that researchers from Duke University in North Carolina looked into 32 children’s films, many of them from our old friend Disney. They put the characters into different classes based on their jobs. At the top are the upper class characters – royalty, chief executives and celebrities, and then there’s the working class who have jobs like soldiers, sailors, miners and chimney sweeps. The lowest category was that of the jobless poor.

Anyway, the report writers argued that the movie depictions of working-class people are quite unrealistic where nearly all “perceive their jobs as invigorating, fun”. In Mary Poppins for example, Bert sings that “as a sweep you’re as lucky as can be”.  The study says: “Bert, like other characters, frame working-class jobs as devoid of any difficulties.”

It’s argued too that many children’s films “suggest that social class inequality is somewhat benign, as those at the bottom of the class ladder suffer little, lead relatively stable lives, and experience many advantages”. Meanwhile the upper-class and wealthy lifestyles are more often the ones depicted as more unsatisfactory and under greater threat.

“Working-class lives in children’s films are also often portrayed as so much fun that rich people will voluntarily descend the class ladder to come and join them”, the researchers say. Poor people are also portrayed as happier too – Like in The Sound Of Music for example, where humble former nun Maria has to teach her upper class employer how to even love his children.

The study concludes that, overall, children’s films make poverty and class distinctions seem “legitimate by erasing, downplaying, and even sanitising their effects – by portraying poverty and inequality as benign”.

It adds that this “erases, downplays or sanitises poverty and class inequality, implying that poverty and inequality are not particularly problematic as few people actually suffer from them”.

Now while I suspect the report writers were coming at this from a purely societal angle – that film, is making it more likely that the poor will continue to suffer because it glosses over any of the problems they experience. I also prefer to look at it from the individual’s viewpoint.

For example, if, as a child, you’re being fed the impression that the poor are the happy ones, the wise ones and the virtuous ones, then why on earth would you ever make any form of effort to rise out of your poverty to aspire to something which is apparently worse on all these measures?

And that’s not just happiness, wisdom and virtue.

If you think about all film, theatre and literature – not just that aimed at children - the poor are invariably presented as the nice ones in contrast to the nasty or evil rich. Can you think of a single example where the reverse is the case? 

I can’t, and I don’t expect that this is going to change anytime soon, (who the heck wants to see rich people enjoying themselves and the poor living in misery… where’s the drama in that?) but once you become conscious of it, it does cause you to question how you might have been influenced throughout your lifetime, albeit if only on a subliminal level.

The truth I’m afraid, is that the poor are not the happy or wise or virtuous or compassionate or nice… and neither are the rich. All these characteristics (and their polar opposites) are to be found across all socio-economic groups to varying degrees.

Certainly ‘niceness’ seems to be something that’s pretty evenly spread, irrespective of any income or wealth. And you don’t necessarily have to be poor to display wisdom, virtue or compassion for others either.

But what about happiness?

Well while it’s true that money doesn’t buy you happiness, it doesn’t buy you misery either. The notion that wealthy people are miserable is an attractive one to the people who don’t want to make the effort to rise above the crowd... But it’s a myth – and a myth often supported and perpetuated by film and literature.

If you’re happy without money, you will be at least as happy with it – but what if you’re poor and miserable?

Well as the great Spike Milligan once famously said…

“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.”

What price misery?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably not the best at using modern technology. A couple of months ago I subscribed to Google's Music service (mainly because I refuse to use anything Apple and their iVirus app store thing setup), but even now, I have so far only bothered to upload a couple of albums. The first was an exercise album called ‘Pump It Up Until You Have a Stroke’ or something like that, which I only got to make my cardio sessions a bit more bearable (yes it doesn’t work – nothing does. And that's why I don't even consider cardio sessions) and the second was a compilation of David Bowie’s greatest hits, for obvious reasons.

I’m not generally one for having musical heroes, but David Bowie would be about as close as you’d get for me. Both his music and his presence permeated and punctuated my awkward adolescent years. I remember watching him on ‘Top of the Pops’ for the first time, and being highly excited while at the same time, somewhat confused by what I was seeing.

I remember once, sitting in a music lesson listening to a song called Time from his Aladdin Sane album (his sixth album) and wondering why when last week I was listening to Mozart and this week I was listening to the words ‘Flexing like a whore, he fell wanking to the floor’ (and how this was even allowed in school). And even today, I can’t listen to the song Changes without being transported to a time, a place and an emotional state that has long since gone.

When David Bowie died this week, it soon became pretty clear that I was far from alone in my feelings. I can’t really recall the level of media coverage and public grief and shock over the death of someone from the music world since Freddie Mercury, John Lennon or Elvis passed away. But even then, not everyone was feeling shock, grief or indeed anything at all...

When I met up with friends the morning Bowie died, it became apparent that at least one of the younger members of the group had never even heard of him or his music.

I should have been amazed, but really, I wasn’t. In my old age, I’ve become more and more accustomed to talking about someone or something to young people that I thought was all a part of our shared knowledge or cultural experience, only to find that it isn’t. And the excuse given is always the same…”It was before my time”.

This is of course, nonsense.

Most of the world’s history is ‘before my time’, as it is yours. People like Charlie Chaplin, Stanley Matthews, Mario Lanza, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson, Adolf Hitler, William Shakespeare… I could go on forever… made their impact on the world even before my time. But that doesn’t mean I have no knowledge of who they were or what they did. In fact we live in an age where it has never been easier to find out what happened ‘before my time’. Details of the lives and achievements of anyone of note are all online at the click of a mouse. And yet paradoxically, I think that’s precisely the reason why people seem to know less and less.

Modern technology and communications have the potential to open up the world for us along with everything in it, but quite often it has the opposite effect of shutting it all out.

When I was growing up there was no internet, just three TV channels and a handful of radio stations that anyone ever listened to. Add to that the fact there were pretty much the same number of newspapers as there are today and as a result, our ‘common experience’ was pretty substantial. We all watched the same TV programmes, listened to the same radio shows and read the same newspapers. And because these media outlets were few in numbers, their output had to be both varied and wide ranging. So we were all exposed to a wide variety of material, and the same material. The result was a breadth (rather than depth) of knowledge which most people shared to some degree.

Contrast that situation with today. It’s possible to squeeze our viewing, browsing and listening down very narrow personalised channels. That can be a positive thing, in that it enables us to investigate or immerse ourselves in an interest or passion as deeply as we like, but there’s a strong negative potential too. It makes building a breadth of knowledge something we need to do consciously, rather than something that happens in the normal order of things. And if you’re not pre-disposed to build that knowledge, it’s never going to happen for you. It’s perfectly possible to live in your own highly personalised informational and cultural world, and side-step ‘common knowledge’ altogether. This is how some young whippersnapper can possibly reach the age of 22 having never even encountered the likes of David Bowie.

Now in the grand old scheme of things, it might not matter much that you don’t know who David Bowie is, but it doesn’t just stop there. It’s possible for us to block out anything that doesn’t appear of immediate interest or personal concern to us. And if we reach a point where everyone is living inside their own ultra-narrow informational and cultural bubble, that can’t be a good thing, can it? It’s ironic that something like the internet, that carries so much potential to educate, is, in reality, delivering a completely new type of ignorance for us.

But that’s enough of that nostalgic negativity... Let’s look at a couple of things that David Bowie can teach us that might help in our own quest for personal success and fulfilment?

The first has to be that it’s okay to be different. More than that, being different brings with it huge advantages and disproportionate rewards. Do what everyone else does and you get what everyone else gets – which isn’t usually very much! There are thousands of highly talented singers and musicians in the world who are barely scraping a living. Bowie dared to be different, and as a result, stood out from the crowd. Combine talent with a unique twist and you have a winning combination.

The second ‘secret’ he tapped into was the benefits of adapting, evolving and changing. Some success can be had by finding a winning approach and sticking to it, but to really hit the heights you need to keep improving yourself, changing and adapting what you offer in line with how the world is changing. Bowie, of course, went one better than this by bringing about the changes which others would adopt and follow in an attempt to keep up. For most of us though, just keeping up will yield sufficient rewards.

Standing still is impossible. If you stand still, you go backwards as the world moves forward under your feet.

I’ll leave you with a line from the aforementioned Changes’ from Bowie’s Hunky Dory album...

“And every time I thought I’d got it made it seemed the taste was not so sweet.”

Maybe there’s a clue there to what drove him to keep developing, evolving and pressing on. It carries some resonance with me, and perhaps it should with you too.

RIP DAVIDSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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