Saturday, May 23, 2009

Stuff ‘em - a beginners guide to fleecing the proles/ the sordid truth behind the recession headlines.


Originally written for Mass Movement zine in October 2008, obviously things have developed a bit since then!

It’s not like me to write knarly fecked off columns but I’m getting increasingly bugged by something that everyone else seems happy to lay back and accept. So it’s either write this column or bottle up my anger until it explodes in some socially unacceptable way involving nakedness and yelling! Well maybe that’s going a bit far, and to tell the truth I’m a bit concerned as to why I keep bringing the threat of my own nakedness into every day conversation and writings! Maybe I’m a streaker in waiting, dunno what I’m waiting for though, it’s not like anything that could do with growing is going to expand, and nothing that is currently a bit too flabby is going to retract. I’m thirty two years old now; old enough to settle into the gradual death that creeps up on us men once we’ve hit our peak at eighteen years old.

I apologise if by the time you’re reading this column all this fuss has gone away, maybe you should treat this column as historical comment or something? I normally try not to write anything for a zine that will date; I like to think of zines as existing in their own timeless world, unaffected by the passing of time in the real world. To a certain extent this is true, if you grab an old copy of Mass Movement, one of the old ‘two parters’ then you’ll find it’s just as enjoyable to read as it was at the time, same goes for any old zine. So if the unbelievable pace of this current recession has long past I can only apologise for the time you’re spending reading this column, but hey, you’ve come this far so why not stick with me till the end!

A few months ago, I was happily telling anyone that would listen that there wouldn’t be a recession in the UK. I vividly remember the last recession, in the bigger scheme of things it really wasn’t that long ago, and it certainly felt very different to current days. The recession of the early 90s was the final nail in the coffin for the majority of small ‘mom and pop’ businesses in the UK. I can remember corner shops just like the one in ‘Open All Hours’ all disappearing, sometimes when the frontage was bricked up it was quite literally like they had dissapeared. The days of being able to go into a small shop run by the owner (and with no employees) were finally dead. Strainsburys and Strescos had shot them in the knees, and the Tory government had kissed them full on the lips then terminated them with a thousand tiny cuts. The media at the time on the most part lamented this loss, others declared the loss of almost independently owned business the price of progress.

Eventually things levelled out and we got on with our lives, the choices we made were irrevocably reduced, the personality of private commerce stifled, suffocated with a large branded pillow until the feet stopped kicking. Progress. Death. So whilst I was in the throws of closing down the punk rock shop I ran with Rikki Flag was I still so insistent that there would be no recession this time? Northern Rock had messed up royally only to be nationalised, so no great threat there. My own mortgage is with Northern Rock, and barring a letter from them telling us to arse off elsewhere nothing bad happened. So another bank or building society will own my soul for the next twenty years, big deal. The reason I was confident that there wouldn’t be another huge downturn is that it just didn’t feel like it did last time. In the early 90s most of the businesses that went under had been struggling for some time. Maybe they hadn’t changed with the times, maybe they were stuck in their ways and reluctant to react to a changing world?

Sooner or later something was going to happen that would wipe out independent commerce. Nobody wanted to see it happen, but as a nation it was almost like we had already said goodbye long before this way of life died. Ignoring the local corner shop or co-op and taking a trip to the new local megamart was like visiting a relative in a hospice, then kicking out the plug to the life support on your way out of the room.

So how could we have a recession, there was no small business left to die!?! I was confident that all this talk of recession was a vehicle for selling newspapers, created by the right wing rags. It’s long been known that putting the frighteners on people is the fastest way to shift papers. Print a headline about aids riddled asylum seekers raping old ladies with the aid of paedophiles and copies will just fly off the shelves.

Why should we care if a bunch of banking executives had managed to sodemise themselves by lending stacks of cash to people that could never afford to pay it back? In fact when these tales of large banks going under first emerged I thought they had a ringing sound of justice about them. Not content with driving people into a situation whereby all their wages are promised to hire purchase/ car loan/ student loans/ buy now pay later/ credit cards these cunts found a way to rape them of even more money, give them a mortgage! This was the real golden goose, give someone that has defaulted on every loan they’ve ever had a mortgage and you’ve got them all sewn up as your bitch. They can’t shop around for the best deal so you don’t even need to be competitive, charge them ten times as much interest as any other mortgage and wow, your bonus this year is gonna be killer! Problem was if you lend money to people who have already proven they can’t repay credit then you can charge what you like, it’s not going to make any difference if they can’t pay you back! Traditionally this was still a win win situation for banks, if you lent someone X amount of cash to buy a house, even if they defaulted after just a year then the value of the house you’ve just repossessed is already far more than the value of the mortgage you’ve given these poor souls.

Let’s get one thing clear; these banks were already making obscene amounts of money. It’s not like they were a failing business that decided to take a make or break risk to stay afloat. They had exhausted all conventional means of making stacks of cash, and then they got greedy. Something went a little wrong that spoilt this orgy of greed, in just a few places in the world, for reasons unclear property values dipped a bit. Suddenly these defaults weren’t making you any cash, and oh, you didn’t have the cash to lend these poor bastards in the first place, and you borrowed if from some bigger boys in exchange for a cut of the profits! Now the bigger boys want the money back because they’d in turn borrowed if from some even bigger boys who now want it back, with profits! So at first I thought stuff em, serves them right. Then things started to get really weird. I don’t think many of us mere members of the public could quite fathom why the newsreaders were talking in such grave tones about banks in Iceland going under. Fewer people live in Iceland than live in Manchester, by quite a large margin. I know beer is about £10 a bottle in Iceland, but surely that was no reason for people to over borrow? I nodded in confident agreement as my mate Dready John declared that he welcomed the recession, as only those with material wealth had something to lose! Then things got even weirder. It turns out that when us drones have been paying our council tax local government and police forces had been investing the money in banks, not just any banks either, banks in Iceland! So as I write this that money appears to have gone. The money we have paid in good faith to public bodies in order to empty our trash, heal our sick and generally protect us has gone. The government has said something along the lines of, “well they’d better get it back!” which is about as useful as drink driver wishing they’d skipped the whisky that night they killed a child.

So by the time you read this hopefully everything will have levelled out, you’ll able to laugh at just how grim a picture I painted. Or maybe we’ll all be bolting shut our front doors and sharpening our kitchen knives, waiting for the inevitable slow knock of doom at our front door. Stuff ‘em.

Thanks to Graham Birks for the lovely photo of me at the top of the page.