Jan 272012

It’s been announced tonight in a sweeping programme of privatisations – leaked in exclusive to this blog for some utterly unknown reason – that Andrew Lansley, the man irresponsible for health services in England, has drawn up a blueprint to privatise 99 percent of all known viruses and bacteria.

The rationale behind such a move is unclear at the moment but it is believed that five extra layers of viral and bacterial management may serve to slow down the capacity of such organisms to attack English citizens – especially the still gainfully employed who may yet serve the nation well. 

Meanwhile, in a separate announcement, Iain Duncan Smith (or IDS as we prefer to call him), the man irresponsible for generating a more inclusive level of poverty in the realm, has publicly admitted for the first time in polite society that the government is working closely together with the famously philanthropic Close The Stable Door After The Horse Has Bolted Foundation to develop a brand new type of anti-serum designed to target those poisoned individuals who don’t agree wholeheartedly with all Coalition policies. 

It would appear – at the same time – that IDS is also working hand-in-glove with Theresa May, the woman irresponsible for emptying the streets of hard-working police officers, as they attempt to rid the country of all abnormal people classified by the DWP as officially workshy.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, are said – as I write these very lines – to be preparing their barricades and defences.

And that’s the way it is.

Good night.

Jan 272012

I posted about redemption – and a rather partial forgiveness too – in my previous post “Redemption”.  A couple of tweets on the back of that post have made me think again; at least, in relation to the second half of the post on the subject of the erstwhile software businessman, and now – perhaps – self-redeeming philanthropist, Bill Gates.

Deborah, from the excellent World Development Movement, has these two points to make.  Firstly, that:

@eiohel it’s not just a matter of how Gates acquired his fortune but that 1 man has the power to decide how to solve the world’s problems

To continue with:

@eiohel and his version is top down technocratic favouring his cronies in pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies

It does, therefore, lead one to wonder – maybe a little uncharitably – that Gates the philanthropist, wrapped up in that mindset of excluding copyright and IP laws and legislation – a mindset which has served to make him so much money in the software publishing and development businesses – is now quite naturally setting up the ground rules for branded medicine and crops the world over.

It is only human to favour those who think as one also thinks.  That he may believe in massive technological solutions – implemented by pyramidal organisations where one or two men (or very occasionally women) are paid enormous amounts of money to take relatively dictatorial decisions – is hardly surprising in the circumstances.  But as I pointed out in reply to the first of Deborah’s tweets above:

@DeborahDoaneWDM Yes. That’s absolutely the problem. Excellent point. For where one man can decide for better, one man can decide for worse.

And so it is we come back to the paradox of devolved governance and democracy in general: one highly driven man can do so much more and so very much more quickly.  But once the tools and structures are in place for this to happen for the wider good, those who would wish to abuse for their own advancement may do so far more easily.

And in a sense, as the BBC did indicate on Wednesday, Gates hasn’t changed from his Microsoft days:

His foundation’s work is carried out with a “hard-nosed mathematical” approach, he says, calculating the impact in terms of “dollars per year of life saved”.

He is applying the same attention to detail that made him such a business success into the business of saving lives.

Substitute “dollars per year of life saved” with “dollars per year of sales bonus achieved at the expense of sustainable, safe, cost-effective and user-controllable software” and you might get a flavour of what I’m getting at. 

All those shady agreements to load only Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player on new computers or the decisions which made it impossible to open new Word documents with older versions of the same software are simply a few reminders of how empires are built.

So Deborah is right to take me to task.  And I’m glad she did.  I’m glad she did.

Dec 092010

The observation has been made before, but it’s worth making again.  As both this picture and this tweet reminded me this evening, the Big Society works both ways:

RT @dnsnow the Big Society are at the front door of the Treasury…I hope Gideon’s in.

For those of us who are less than entirely convinced by the intentions of the individuals behind the Big Society rhetoric, it may come as a pleasurable irony that an idea which has been interpreted as a sociocultural cloak to hide the savaging of the welfare state may actually – in the end – serve to support and sustain the right of a wider and rather more energised public to actively pursue the defence of its rights.  

And it is rights we are talking about here.  It was suggested the other day that philanthropy by the very rich should play a bigger role in British society.  Whilst I understand the need to involve all kinds of people in the running of society, I’m not sure that philanthropy of this kind is the way forward:

A US-style plan to increase philanthropic donations by the rich, with new incentives to encourage millionaires to leave 10% of their estates to charities and the arts, will be at the heart of a government review to be launched tomorrow.

Nor this kind:

[Jeremy Hunt] will outline a government review that is likely to examine tax incentives to create a legacy version of the medieval tithe in which parishioners gave 10% of their income to the church.

Even if the avowed objective is, quite laudably, this:

The ministers say the reforms will require a “massive change in culture” that will take time. “We are not just going to exhort people to volunteer more of their time or money – we are going to take practical steps to make it easier too,” they write. “At the moment, we are reviewing philanthropic giving and volunteering, looking at the ways we can encourage people to give more money and time.”

The ministers say the changes are at the heart of the government’s plans to create a “big society”. They say the new approach is a major departure from Labour’s “transactional” way of running Britain in which people pay their taxes and expect the state to run everything.

They write: “This is a new approach. Of course, in one way it’s easier for those in government to say: ‘Just pay your taxes and leave the problem-solving up to us; don’t worry about what’s going on outside your front door because we’ll sort everything out.’ But we think this is a very drab, pessimistic, transactional way of running a country. And it doesn’t work … This approach underestimates people’s ability and desire to get involved.”

So why I am so against the idea in practice – even as, in theory, I can see its emotional virtues?  I come back to the people’s rights – and their defence – that I spoke of earlier on.  As I tweeted yesterday on this very subject:

Problem with philanthropy is it’s a favour, not a right. Modern equivalent of serfdom perhaps?

Thus I would hope you might agree with my conclusion: let us involve as many people in the day-to-day running of the state as possible (let us, indeed, take a leaf out of WikiLeaks and make the public domain the receptacle of all governance) – but, please, let us not create out of the given to an underclass of the grateful dying.

Doing favours for others ennobles no one.  It turns the act of caring into the very transaction that the Coalition government claims it wants to avoid.

For neither those who give nor those who find themselves in receipt of any such honour so bestowed will find their lives improved by generating a relationship and hierarchy of the unequal.

This is simply repeating in a different context the errors of the alleged nanny state.  It would serve only to dismantle something that manifestly worked after its own fashion and replace it with something that is – as yet – clearly unproven.

And if the Coalition government really wants to create a more involved nation of British people, it could start by giving the English the same rights to rule themselves as the Scottish and Welsh have so productively achieved.  At least, then, we might have a productive debate centred on other worlds that are not London and its navel.

And at least, then, we might have a proper and considered debate on issues that so clearly split the nation.