Semi-Skimmed Democracy: Stories from the Whitstable Times
I am having to re-write the opening of this story after several people informed me that I was giving out false information. In the original version I suggested that in order to create semi-skimmed milk, all you had to do was to add water to full-cream milk, and thus save yourself money. It was a debating point and an analogy as this story isn’t really about milk. It is about democracy.
So let me start by saying that you cannot make semi-skimmed milk by adding water to full-cream milk. Semi-skimmed milk has as much protein and milk sugars as full-cream milk, it just has less saturated fat.
However it doesn’t taste anywhere near as good, at least to this jaded, old-fashioned palate, and in order to get the right colour in a cup of tea, you have to add more semi-skimmed milk, thus increasing the fat content and costing you more money. Plus the milk-producers, having taken off the heavy cream from the milk, now have two products to sell, and yet they still charge the same for semi-skimmed milk as they do for full-cream milk. They have the milk fats, with which they make butter, and the milk, which they still sell to you at the same price.
This is only one of the many puzzles I find myself wrestling with on a daily basis. Here’s another one. Why does brown rice cost more than white rice? Think about it. Brown rice has gone through one less process than white rice. It is that much less refined. So how come they charge us more for it when it takes less work?
The same goes for brown bread and brown flour, though not for brown sugar, which also contains molasses, a saleable by-product in its own right.
And here’s another puzzle. Whenever you hear a discussion about organic farming on the TV or the radio, people almost invariably refer to the alternative as “traditional farming”.
So what is so traditional about the use of high concentrations of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on our land, or the ripping up of hedgerows to make larger and larger fields? They’ll be telling us that genetic engineering is "traditional medicine" next, or that rule by the wealthy few is "traditional democracy".
The world is full of conundrums. Like: why is it that, despite successive changes of government throughout the years, things seem only to get worse? Isn’t there one politician out there with the vision to change things for the better?
Or: why is it that our Council Tax increases above the rate of inflation every year, while the service gets worse?
I don’t know. I just keep asking the questions, but no one seems to have any answers.
How come, despite all these wars meant to make our world more secure, we are, in fact, less secure?
And here’s the weirdest one of all: how come, despite the fact that we live in a democracy, we are powerless to do anything about it? What else does democracy mean if it’s not that we, the people, have the power? Or is it the case that, actually, this so-called democracy is just a front and that some other system is at work?
Check out the word “oligarchy” in your dictionary if you want a proper definition of the political system under which we actually labour.
It’s from the Greek, and it means rule by the few.
In modern terms, “the few” are a political and economic elite who cream off the wealth for themselves.
In other words, what we are being sold is a form of semi-skimmed democracy.
It’s watered down; but, hey, it’s supposed to be good for us isn’t it?
At the same time that experts have been warning that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting and that climate change is now unstoppable, with possibly devastating implications for the future of mankind, Exxon Mobil profits were reported to be up by 41% to $36 billion, a new world record.
That’s $99 million a day, or $4 million an hour, or $68,493 a minute, or $1,142 a second.
This makes the gas and oil giant the 49th biggest economy on Earth, with profits ahead of the gross national product of some 125 countries.
Bigger than Nigeria or Finland or Peru or New Zealand for instance. Bigger than Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Kuwait or Slovenia. Bigger than Ethiopia, Croatia, Guatemala or Ecuador. Bigger than most countries on the planet.
Just to get this into perspective: Nigeria has a population of nearly 140 million. In other words, a company employing 126,000, with a Board of Directors consisting of twelve people, has more income, more power, more economic clout than the entire population of Nigeria. Add to this the fact that the company directly profits from the continued exploitation of oil and gas resources, one of the main causes of global warming, and we begin to see the source of at least some of our problems.
Exxon Mobil trades in the UK as Esso, by the way, just so we know what we’re talking about.
Actually, when I say that the continued exploitation of oil and gas resources is one of the main causes of global warming, there appears to be some debate on the matter. Does global warming exist? The overwhelming majority of climate scientists are firmly convinced that it does exist. All the evidence points to this conclusion.
Exxon Mobil, on the other hand, spent $8 million in one year funding various groups whose main aim was to prove that it doesn’t exist.
In other words, there is no real debate. The consensus is that climate change is upon us, whether we like it or not. Exxon Mobil just spent $8 million muddying the waters a bit.
I wonder why?
Friends of the Earth have estimated that this single company is directly responsible for 5% of global, man-made, climate changing carbon dioxide emissions since the mid-19th century.
It is also one of the companies lobbying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil exploration.
Meanwhile, the head of an intergovernmental panel on climate change, Dr. Ragendra Pachauri, said recently that the world has about a ten-year window to make very deep cuts in our carbon fuel use, if, as he put it, “humanity is to survive.” Scientists have already documented that the deep oceans are warming, the glaciers are melting, the icecaps are falling apart. We're seeing freak weather and an increase in violent storms. We’re seeing a change in the timing of the seasons.
All of this is from one degree of warming. Predictions are that by the next century warming will be in the region of three to ten degrees.
You’d think that such facts as these would worry even the executives at Exxon Mobil.
And yet, when asked why his company fails to invest in renewable energy resources, the ex-Exxon Mobil CEO, Lee R. Raymond, said:
“We don’t invest to make social statements at the expense of shareholders returns.”
In other words: it’s profits first.
Yes, we know what he means.
He means that using the phrase “conspiracy theory” in a disparaging tone suggests that it can be ignored. It is like David Icke saying that the world is ruled by shape-shifting aliens. He means that we should immediately dismiss reports that indicate there might be a conspiracy going on.
Some of you will remember David Icke. He was the man who wore a turquoise track suit and said that he was the Son of God. Except that he never did say that. He said we are all sons and daughters of God, which is an entirely different concept altogether.
Personally I think that David Icke is part of a conspiracy to undermine conspiracy theory.
He’s the perfect patsy. Any time there is a TV programme about conspiracy they reel out David Icke, Britain’s favourite nutter.
The implication is clear. If David Icke supports a notion of a particular conspiracy then it is obviously untrue. He’s a kind of cipher. We all remember him on Wogan. We remember Wogan laughing at him. We remember the whole audience laughing and falling about, him with that dumb, stunned look on his face, not really knowing what was going on.
Icke: "Do you know the best way to remove negativity is to laugh and be joyous? So I'm delighted there is so much laughter in the audience."
Wogan: "No, they're all laughing at you."
Cheers and claps.
Maybe we shouldn’t have laughed. It wasn’t really very funny. He was a man having a very public nervous breakdown, right there, on the TV screen in front of us, in front of several million people, all gawping and screeching like monkeys. I guess most of the laughter was of the uncomfortable variety: there but for the grace of God.
Actually, thinking about that reference to his turquoise suit reminds me of something.
I interviewed him some years back.
We were talking about mind-control. At the time I found this a little hard to swallow, but he insisted that there are behind-the-scenes manipulators, incredibly adept at planting ideas, and that the human mind is highly susceptible to suggestion.
All of a sudden something popped into my head, and I knew that he was right.
I remembered the first time I'd gone to see him. It was with a person I fancied at the time. She mentioned that she was going to see David Icke and I immediately responded: "Is he still mad and does he still wear turquoise?" She said turquoise was the high-vibrational colour of light and love and I answered, "Yes, but it shows a naff dress-sense." I was pleased at the joke as if I'd just said something incisive and new. Later that evening we went to see him and I discovered that he was a great public performer and an entertaining speaker with a definite, urgent message. Not a trace of turquoise.
Every time I've mentioned him to anyone since, the joke is always the same: "Does he still wear turquoise?" followed by a little self-congratulatory laugh, as if they've just scored a point. What none of us realise in making the joke - the same one, over and over - is that it was planted in our minds on Wogan all those years ago, and that it has stayed there ever since. A whole nation. One joke.
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Follow the money
Someone once said just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. In the same way, just because David Icke says there's a conspiracy doesn’t mean there is no conspiracy.
There are different levels of conspiracy, of course. There may not be any aliens in control of our planet - who knows? - but it is a fair bet that there are all sorts of reptilian characters up to no good. Sometimes they meet in rooms. This is, by definition, a conspiracy.
If I told you that the American government, through the CIA, has been actively involved in drug running since the end of the second world war, you would probably not believe me. And yet there is very strong evidence that this is, in fact, the case.
Check out The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred McCoy if you don’t believe me. This is not “conspiracy theory” in that conventional sense, meaning that it probably never happened. This is a case of simple, verifiable conspiracy fact.
You may wonder why there are so many drugs on our street: why, after over 70 years or more of the so-called “War on Drugs”, there are more drugs.
And then you look at where some of the wars are taking place. If it’s not the “War on Terror” around the oilfields of the world, then it’s the “War on Drugs” taking place around the drug producing areas. And then, strange to say, no matter how long the war continues, the quantity of drugs just keeps increasing.
Adam Smith, the great eighteenth century economic thinker, referred to the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people,” adding that whenever two industrialists meet there is a conspiracy to defraud the public.
Some things never change.
Adam Smith is so beloved of the free-marketeers, by the way, that they even named an institute after him. They just forgot to tell us what he actually said.
Is there a conspiracy? Of course there is a conspiracy. It is the age-old conspiracy of the very rich to stay very rich. The only question is, how far will they go to achieve their aims?
One of the ways is by bribing people in high office. The irony is that we watch it going on before our eyes without even recognising it. As the saying goes: it is hidden in plain view.
Why did Tony Blair go to Los Angeles just before he left office? He went there at the invitation of Rupert Murdoch to meet the world’s wealthy elite.
He was touting for work in the lucrative after-dinner speech market. Tony Blair, already a wealthy man, was setting himself up to become the richest ex-prime minister ever.
Tony Blair is Godfather to Rupert Murdoch's daughter.
There’s a line in the film about the Watergate conspiracy. The undercover informer Deep Throat advises one of the reporters on how to work out who is in on the conspiracy.
“Follow the money,” he says.
That is very good advice.
No wonder Tony Blair doesn't want us to believe in conspiracy theory.
Closure of the Whitstable Times
- Whitstable News: Closure of the Whitstable Times; Whitstable Views
Money was sucked from the real economy in order to shore up the banks. Many businesses went under and the austerity narrative began to drive the political agenda. The paper was forced to sell off its assets, becoming ever more distant from the town
© 2011 Christopher James Stone