A short time ago, I posted an article inspired by what Richard Mabey had written in a very old copy of the BBC Wildlife Magazine. He spoke of Darwin’s law of “The Survival of the Fittest” and explained how it had been misinterpreted by those in the financial world whose only thought was to make vast sums of money for themselves and if possible, to exterminate the opposition. I extended this idea into our everyday world of shopping, and posited the idea that one day we may finish up with only four or five gigantic supermarket chains and no more interesting small shops.
At the time, I wrote a sequel to the original article which I did not post because I thought it would be considered not just too political but too extreme. However, events today have changed my mind and I realise that unfortunately and sadly, I was not in the slightest bit mistaken.
Here in Great Britain many people trundle slowly onwards through their lives, grumbling a little, but for the most part not doing too badly. Our government tells us that inflation is progressing at the wonderfully low rate of between 1% and 2%, although most people are not stupid enough to believe this. Their own experience when they go to buy things is absolutely the contrary of what the government says is happening. We are not helped either by the cartel of various brands of petrol, all of whom fail miserably to pass on to the customer any diminution in the price that they pay for crude oil.
Indeed, our society is now moving slowly into the world of zero hours contracts, where people sit at home with no real job and wait to be summoned into work just for an afternoon, or for a couple of hours in the morning. Such employees have few rights and no sick pay. The use of food banks is increasing and a growing number of people are being given the necessary accreditation by charitable organisations to receive free food donated by well-wishers. House prices are, of course, absolutely ridiculous. Hardly anybody can afford a house, because they are so unbelievably expensive. Certainly no young person starting off in an ordinary job could possibly buy their own house. An increasing number of especially young people cannot afford to rent a house either, and live at home with their parents. Starting salaries are often so poor that a very large number of graduates are leaving university, struggling to get their first job, and then staying with their parents who will have to support them just as if they were still away studying.
The most incredible icing on this catastrophic cake was the announcement today on BBC One Teletext of a statement by the Incomes Data Services.
It is politically so provocative that as far as I can see, it was only displayed prominently on our screens for three or four hours.
Apparently, the directors of Britain’s top 100 companies, listed in the FTSE 100 Index, now earn 120 times the average salary of their employees. Despite the appalling recession which we are continually told about, this marks a huge escalation in executive pay. In the year 2000, directors’ salaries were a mere 47 times those of their employees but since then the median total earnings for FTSE 100 bosses has risen by 278%, while the corresponding rise in total earnings for ordinary full-time employees was a mere 48%. The typical director of one of these hundred companies earns an average of £2.43 million per year while the average wage of their employees is £27,000. This year alone, directors’ pay rose by a minimum of 20%.
Ordinary people have seen their wages continually eroded by inflation of only 2% or 3% because the majority of wage increases are less than that. This week, for example, NHS employees staged a four hour strike because they had been refused a 1% pay increase as this would be too expensive.
With all this in mind, I do not feel that my sequel article is quite as extreme as I first feared.
So here goes. It began with a swipe at M.P.s and the scandal of their expenses…
Will people always care as little as they seem to now about who benefits from the way the country is run? Will they always accept the situation, and just go on watching “Strictly Come Dancing”?
Will the eight million people whose families are only one monthly pay cheque away from severe monetary problems always be happy to walk along the cliff edge of finncial catastrophe ?
And as the poor get poorer, will they all stand idly by and watch as the tiny minority ensure that they will always get richer and richer?
What will happen to the people who work for the minimum wage, but dream of one day earning a living one? And when a job is advertised and two hundred people apply to work in an ordinary café, what will the other 199 do?
Will poor people who cannot feed their families, and who are reduced to visiting food banks accept that situation for ever?
Will the people who cannot afford heating costs in the winter, always shiver idly by and accept their inevitable fate?
Will they always be happy just to hold open the doors of luxury cars, like modern day servants in “Downton Abbey”?
What is so very bad about sharing things? Why must the world be organised so that a significant minority remain so rich and so greedy? And why should the vast majority spend all their time struggling to live pleasantly?
What is so unacceptable about their being warm and living in a house that they own, with children who receive a decent education and stand a realistic chance of real progress in their life?
Are the very rich too stupid to see what may happen?
This film shows the power of the crowd. Together, people can achieve anything. In this case, it is for good.