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Monday 29 November 2010

The Ruling Classes- still Normans?

The Ruling Classes

It’s a strange uncomfortable feeling that the ruling classes have reappeared, having been driven underground all these years. Who are they? Traditionally, the Marxist definition  of the ruling classes is well known, as being those who control the means of production.  However in Britain, they are a very different group who are based on a narrow class of well born and privately educated people, who have links into the older larger landowning families. They appear to display a traditional contempt  for the majority of people, while claiming affinity and concern for them.

These people are – and are proud to acknowledge – the direct descendents of the Normans

Think of the Norman conquest and what picture do you have?  A quiet invasion, a brief war, a recasting of ownership of land and  a long period of stability?  

In practice it was the grimmest picture of ethnic cleansing and destruction of a proud nation by a gang of ruthless and greedy descendents of the very Vikings that considered Britain theirs to plunder, that Britain has ever or hopefully will ever experience. Of the thousands of land and house owners, magistrates, judges, civil servants, mentioned in the rolls, few remained, rounded up and murdered. The rest, driven from their homes, and forced into mass starvation, particularly in the North of England where the death toll is believed to be over 100,000, with substantial social, cultural, and economic  damage. Because of their scorched earth policy much of the land was laid waste and salted to render it impossible to grow crops, and in places depopulated, a fact that the Domesday Book readily attests. In my home town of Colchester the entire town was leveled to the point where not one stick or stone remained, apart from one Saxon church tower, presumably left as a look out point. The remaining population were driven to the fields to the west where they were forbidden on fear of tongue slitting or worse to grow food or hunt anything bigger than the rabbit until the town was deemed sufficiently pacified to use the slaves for their purpose – to feed and clothe the  Norman Lord. Their imperative were two: work on the land and be grateful for the scraps of your own toil that you are allowed to keep: and to breed to ensure a steady supply of landworkers. To ensure the quality of the brood, the Lords had, naturally, an absolute right of deflowering and using any woman they chose.  The droit du seigneur.

<< The King stopped at nothing to hunt his enemies. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty.  To his shame, William made no effort to control his fury, punishing the innocent with the guilty. He ordered that crops and herds, tools and food be burned to ashes. More than 100,000 people perished of hunger.
I have often praised William in this book, but I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.>>    Orderic Vitalis, 11th century

God of course as we know did nothing of the kind.
 To this day, Britain is riddled with a unique class system based on those very distictions: we all recognize those who do the traditional huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’, wear the green wellies drive the Range Rover, cook with an Aga , living from investments, rents  and in the professions – and on the other hand those who live as best they can by working at things that really matter, engineering, building, factory work, call centre work and the service industries, in other words creating the wealth that other non-contributing investors can live from.  

Undoubtedly, people can rise through merit: but generally only because they are measured by their acquired wealth, or use their wealth to ingratiate themselves from the old families, who duly look down their noses, while accepting their money and privately decrying them as Nouveau Riche  (which is of course unspeakably vulgar). And of course they are graciously permitted to hand their money over in the form of semi worthless B shares which hold five times fewer voting rights than A shares in privatized public utilities, and to put  it into banks owned by the institutions, which can default with no responibility to pay you back, or decide to change to very low interest rates while handing out massive bonuses. And they have no access to the kind of tax avoidance systems that characterise the larger institutions.

 This was taken to extremes at the end of the nineteenth century up until the second world war, when the aristocratic families were on their uppers, and  down to their last few servants and wondering how to pay for the running of the house, they solved the problem in their thousands by marrying rich American heiresses: they were special  matchmaking directories, with those from Burkes peerage on one page and the heiresses on the other,  and  there were brokers who introduced them., Winston Churchill was of course the son of just such an heiress.

The Knickerbockers were one such rich American family who married into the Astors, who in turn produced Samantha Sheffield, now better known as Samantha Cameron.  David Cameron  was educated at Eton where like Boris Johnson and George Osborne, he was a member of the Bullingdon Club, a gang of old family thugs and louts who caused untold physical damage and blithely paid they way out of trouble, which was fondly ignored by the authorities as exuberance and high spirits. Nick Clegg , another scion of old family was educated at Caldicott and Westminster, mybe not Eton, but almost as good. Neither he nor Cameron would have any conception of the way of life of the non-Normans.

Are we therefore surprised when they wish to hark back to the good old days of the Normans? Does not the whole thrust of their legislation tend to this?

Look at some of the  laws they propose ( many of which will never be scrutinized by the second chamber because of the Money Bill Regulations, see next blog): Return of foxhunting, removal of all animal protection laws, including domestic,  farm and zoo animals, badgers and stags, Removal of rights to possession of Council and social housing,  dismantling of controls in education: the list is endless. More later.

Friday 26 November 2010

Why conservative? Why liberal?

NOV 26th 2010

Why conservative? Why liberal? A general examination:

On the one hand, conservatives do tend to be conservative because the hierarchy of society based on achievement as measured by material success seems right and reasonable, and makes sense. After all, hard work surely equals reward, no?. And as they feel that the world does not owe them a living, why not maximize what they have by increasing their wealth by careful investment and husbandry, which might allow some of what they create to cascade downwards in the form of employment and largesse? They see the people who contribute little to society reaping rewards and benefits that they have not earned, and look upon their wastefulness and fecklessness with disdain. They see the balance of the society that they have worked so hard to create being eroded by those who seem to have little concept of fair play and balance.

On the other hand liberals (which include any form of left thinking people) prefer arguments from emotion, relativism, and pragmatism. They see hard working people striving to keep the wheels of family, social and cultural life turning and get nothing in return, and feel little valued. They see huge amounts of money changing hands among the super rich and then see them walk away unscathed when problems arise, while being certain that the entire weight of law will fall viciously on them if they tried anything similar. They fear that the little they have will be looked upon with disapproving eyes and removed from them as wasteful and somehow undeserved. And they know without doubt, that the path to survival as an individual, as a family and as a community or the chance of an education relies on ever higher indebtedness from which there is – can be- no escape.

Conservatives see things on a long time scale, both looking back and looking forward, knowing that things cant be done overnight and that plans made now can come into fruition later. They tend to be much more interested in history, sometimes seeing periods through rose tinted spectacles. Liberals see things in a much shorter time frame, expecting short-term fixes for solutions to immediate problems. Liberals accept history as an example, but usually for the purpose of not making mistakes again.

This is not to say that the political strategies either side use reflects these paradigms. In fact it tends to be the opposite, where conservatives largely use smear campaigns, exaggerations, evocative language, and outright lies or at best misleading arguments, with no compunction about doing the opposite of whatever they promise in a belief that the end justifies the means: whereas liberals use logical arguments, bald statements of fact, statistics and evidential truth as they see it, but base it on a set of sometimes spurious assumptions, from which they do not like to diverge.

The government has just the one job: to make the all people whom they represent as comfortable and happy as possible. Everything else that they do, be it defence, education, policing, managing the economy and wealth creation, for example, is a just subset of this, not an end in itself.

Wealth creation was controlled originally by those who owned land and who could demand support from the toiling masses in the form of tithes and taxes. The alternative being mass starvation and the fear of eviction. Later the industrialists would rely on an endless pool of surplus and desperate labour to mine for the resources thy needed, occupy and plunder other peoples countries where necessary, and operate the machines that are owned by others in order to create wealth they would never have a share in, set against the fear of those identical sanctions of starvation and homelessness, together with violent enforcement by police and army.

The conservatives and the liberals, were largely in agreement over the things they thought mattered, and there was no legitimate opposition.

The coming of the Welfare state and the trade unions stopped that cosy arrangement dead in its tracks, and removed at a stroke those two terrible weapons. Never again would any British person be allowed to starve, be ill of a curable disease, work for starvation wages or live in the streets if it could be avoided. Perfect it wasn’t, and people fell through the cracks, and others took ruthless advantage of the fact that the economy required a pool of available otherwise unemployed people that kept the wages of the rest high enough.

Stung by the drastic curtailment of their lavish lifestyle and their loss of power, how should the conservatives, who still felt that they had a natural right to govern react? Well just how you might expect. They used the power of their media to divide the nation until they could smash the unions, remove and price out of peoples reach the Council houses, limit the service provided in healthcare to the most basic, excluding dentistry and , and ultimately to dismantle most of the social safety net. If that were not enough they invent a form of wealth creation which not only does not require the participation of the population as a whole, by such things as the creation of invisible financial products and selling them to each other at a profit. Sometimes when they have no option but to require, grudgingly, some labour, it is sourced elsewhere, usually far away in a society where the original weapons of starvation and eviction and the use of child labour can be employed, albeit deniably and at arms length, to keep the prices low.

Without the safety net of hardship payments, and with homelessness, TB and hunger about to reappear, these measures will go a long way to restoring the status quo ante, and the conservatives can sleep snug in their beds a bit longer.