Wasted (redux)

Waste has been on my mind a little today. I had to do a lot of driving and so I’ve been having pontification about the Irish bail out thrown at me via the radio. Perhaps it’s my lack of expertise in international finance but I don’t see how lending more money to people who are so far in debt that they can’t pay off the interest is a help. Apparently , we need to restore confidence in the banking system . I’m pretty confident that they can’t possibly get much more greedy and incompetent so if it’s ok, I’ll just keep whatever proportion of my taxation that would be used to help fund that bailout, thanks Dave.

Into the mix has waded footballer, philosopher and part-time kung-fu ponderer Eric Cantona with a suggestion to the good people of his natural and temporarily adopted homelands that we rebel by withdrawing our savings, precipitating a banking crisis. I don’t know if Eric has been checking his statistics – a little research reveals:

“Average household debt in the UK is ~ £8,562 (excluding mortgages). This figure increases to £17,838 if the average is based on the number of households who actually have some form of unsecured loan.” (Nov 2010, Credit Action)

So if we consider savings as negative debt then everyone taking everything that they have from the banks would appear to make them better off. Hmm…

Against this bleak spectre was some wazzock from John Lewis explaining that consumer confidence is still high and that the public (yes, the people with the ever increasing debt) are intending to spend more than ever this Christmas. Well whoopee.

So I know that, presented with a bag of humbug in the weeks leading up to Christmas I’m likely to identify it with a ‘bah’-based prefix but let’s be reasonable here. How much of the stuff that turns up in your Christmas swag bag is needed? It’s not the one-off expenditure that is the problem here, it’s the idea that happiness can be bought. Particularly that it can be ordered on line.

Please, by all means, do some Christmas shopping. If you know that Jeff will really, really like that book, that Christina will wear that scarf every day, that little Polenta really will stick out the saxophone lessons then go for it. A well-intentioned gift, given in love is a wonderful thing. If, on the other hand, you’re trailing round the shops thinking ‘what the hell can I get for Auntie Phyllis?” then don’t. Give her a voucher that tells her you’ll come round and valet her car or clean out her guttering (no, that’s not a euphemism. For heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with you?) or cook her Sunday lunch or take her to Dignitas (delete as appropriate*)

Don’t buy a whimsical piece of kitsch tat that will gather dust on a shelf for months before finding its way to a car boot sale and bring no more pleasure than the unanaesthetised removal of a nasal polyp. Because believe me, the people spending money on twinkling seasonal adverts with snow and smiling children and dogs in faux fleece reindeer antlers aren’t trying to coax you to the shops for the cardio workout and the joy on your families’ faces. They’re doing it to bolster a system for making a few rich men richer by taking a little money from a lot of people who have little enough as it is. You want to get your kids something for Christmas that will stay with them? Start a college fund. If your kids turn out to be thick as shit they can always spend it on six months’ car insurance and a tank of petrol when they’re seventeen. I imagine that the cost will be roughly the same by about 2020.

And the same argument is being used to bail out another set of bankers. What would happen if we wrote off all of that debt? Well, who has invested in debt? People with enough money to buy financial bonds in large numbers. Debt is a commodity to be bought and sold. Essentially, it’s an immaterial crop of pure evil grown in the dark hearts of bankers. A sort of death cap toadstool of the soul. If we wrote it off the rich would get poorer and the poor… well, they’d have their £17,838 debts written off, presumably.

Approaching the point with all the foresight and alacrity of a summer-torpid wasp failing to escape from a partly open window, the reason that I write this is that we’re thinking about getting a recording and perhaps even a video together for ‘Wasted’, one of our favourite songs of late and it’s never been as pointed or topical as it is now.

There’s so much in the world that needs to change. That change can only be brought about by people. People can only start to change things if they can change themselves and that can start by not forcing yourself further into penury by buying pointless seasonal tat because the man in the magic glowing box in the corner of the living room tell you to.

Christmas can be fab. But you can’t buy it. You can make it. Cook, share, sing, play… love.

33 shopping days until Christmas. Find something better to do with them.

Neil out.

*That’s their motto.


There’ll be fireworks…

Another day, another dollar. Serves me right for getting a part time job in a sweatshop, I suppose…

There are days, of course, when we all feel like that. For The Layers, the evidence would be that the last few weeks have been a bit of a slog: you can see the weight of responsibility (Caleb, Paul and Roo) and relentlessly  burning one’s candle at both ends (Neil) taking its toll on the band members. Energy levels are dangerously low and there may well be a small, unconvincingly Scottish gentleman running around somewhere in Rupert’s innards worrying aloud about the state of the dilithium crystals.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining – possibly as a result of serious industrial pollution. In this particular case the reflective precipitate in question has been a relatively fecund period in terms of our song writing. It raises the question about hardship and art. Personally, I’ve often found it difficult to write happy songs – as Fish once remarked, you’ve got better things to be doing than writing songs when you’re happy. Maybe so. There always used to be a cathartic element to the song writing process for me. I’ve heard the theory ventured recently that the same is true of society, that we are more artistically motivated in times of hardship. Perhaps we need a little suffering to wake us up, make us think. Maybe we’re not using our full capacity until we’re threatened somehow.

If that’s the case, then maybe this new ‘age of austerity*’ will trigger an artistic revival. Good grief, perhaps people will even start to remember how to make their own fun? I hope so. I’d like to think that a bit of blitz spirit will be the upshot of some potentially bleak times and that we’ll deal with the bad days by having some great nights: gathered together in one house to save a bit of fuel, singing, laughing, sharing food and songs and good times.

Which reminds me, The Layers are available for acoustic house gigs…

Of course, hard times only last so long. Eventually, discontent leads to revolution. Remember, remember the 5th of November. It’s an expression – there’ll be fireworks –  for a reason.

*The value of austerity may vary depending on social class and prior Bullingdon club membership. If you fail to notice a drop in your standard of living, please consult a member of the underprivileged classes who will be happy to help you out with a richly deserved kicking.