Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are We so Dangerous? Why, Thank You, Revered Powers-that-Be!

Some bits of reading make my day. They’re like an unexpected splash of sunshine, where you previously thought only dark charcoal clouds ruled. Mr. Timothy Egan’s piece on today’s NYT afforded me with such a moment a few minutes earlier. He was writing about the plight of the Roma in our backwater, uncivilised Old Europe, and lording it over us in general — it’s true that the US has so many worthy lessons to give us, the latest of them concerning their oh, so fair and gentle and humane treatment of the Mexican illegal immigrants, but let’s not be nasty. However, that wasn’t what drew my attention and made me laugh. No, it was this nice, informed and balanced little barbered jab:

“And how can you not laugh at the recent mass marches in France by people being asked to push their retirement age back to — gasp! — 62?”

I read that, and thought to myself, w-o-w. I guess I should be ashamed, and start writing letters of profound apology, all directed to Mr. Egan for my, and all those like me, outrageous refusal of the dictates of the Powers-that-Be. We should be ashamed for refusing to cut on our welfare so that the high and mighty can keep on hoarding profit, can keep on devouring resources and riches, and deny us of our hard-earned rights! Yes, we should!

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Nope,Mr. Egan, bad journalist, bad His Master’s Voice. No cigar.

Here is a man writing about the plight of the poor Roma – conveniently forgetting about the poor Mexicans, the poor Americans, and the poor all over the world in the process – and who takes advantage of his column to deliver this oh, my god, so painful blow to the protests in France. Yes, that’s what make me laugh.

I mean, what else can you do but laugh, when you see a man stupid enough to mock people who fight to keep their RIGHTS, the RIGHTS they fought for and gained.

What else can you do, but laugh when you see a man blind and prejudiced enough, brainwashed enough by the Powers-that-Be’s propaganda, so that he’ll actually think kthat people should be in favour of working longer, in worse conditions, and be happy to give up what is their right to ensure the continued existence of a system – hello, capitalism! – that has done nothing but hurt, destroy and tear apart every single being (and thing) it touched!

What else can you do, but laugh when you see ignorant courtesans like that do the Powers-that-Be’s bidding, attempt to ridicule us, hence giving us a voice and an existence in places which would otherwise shun us? The only thing such a piece by such a servant of the establishment means, is that even the worst attack will do.

Anything will do, if it tells readers we’re a bunch of retarded, privileged fools who refuse to bow down to the inevitable! Which means, that up there, the Powers-that-Be are frowning at what’s happening. Contrary to what Mr. Egan implies, it’s not inconsequential. It’s not worthless. It’s threatening. And that’s good.

That’s very good.

And it makes me smile, to know that people can yet rise in this world to defend their rights, to fight for what is theirs. People who refuse to bow down and who rise to fight what Powers-that-Be would impose upon them are no fools. They’re brave. They’re alive, contrary to all those like Mr. Egan, who’re nothing more than blind cattle quietly walking down toward the slaughterhouse at the rhythm demanded by their masters.

So, thank you, Mr. Egan, for making me laugh today.

Thank you, for showing everyone that we make the Powers-that-Be nervous, that we’re a threat.

Good night, and good luck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Trouble with Retirement? What Trouble?

It’s the furious, impassioned debate of the moment, well, of the decade.

People live longer. They grow older. They don’t have as many children as they used to in times past—and yet the population keeps growing, how’s that for an amusing paradox? Still, it’s all horrible. We can’t go on the way we’ve been going: we can’t allow people to retire at 60 any longer (or 65 in many countries). It’s not a question of ideology, it’s a simple question of mathematics, of arithmetic: since the pension of the people who retired is paid for by the social contribution taken on the wages of working people, the growing number of old people and the dwindling number of people at work simply makes it impossible to keep the system alive as it is, financially speaking. It’s obvious to all, regardless of their political opinions. Obvious, I tell you! You cannot, you may not gainsay the Powers-that-Be! So say we all! (yeah, right)

Really, who do those, oh so wise Powers-that-Be think they’re kidding?


We live longer. Hey, newsflash: it’s a good thing, it’s a happy thing. We should be rejoicing, not gloomily spreading around predictions of doom! When someone we know retires, we congratulate him/her, we don’t start commiserating and nodding in empathy with the unhappiness the lucky person is about to experience!

Let’s go back on our beautiful, so-called unarguable mathematics: the more time passes, the less people under 60, and the more people over that age, yeah. So, what? How does that portend the doom of our pensions? Say I apply this kind of “mathematical argument” to farmers in the beginning of the 20th century: imagine, we’re in the 1900s, and I go around foretelling general famine in the country by the year 1930, since the farmers’ numbers will dwindle so much that there won’t be enough people to farm the land and feed us all anymore. Yeah, it's ridiculous, I know. But the argument is exactly the same as the ones used to foretell the death of our pensions. And it’s as invalid for farmers and general famine as it’s for the ageing population and pensions.


Simple: farmers’ numbers dwindled, but techniques improved, productivity grew dramatically, and so we compensated for the reduced numbers. We didn’t starve, did we? It’s the same here: the funding for our pensions comes from the social contribution taken out of our wages. If you take a good look at the system, it doesn’t exactly depend on an ever-growing number of people who contribute. What it does depend upon is the total amount of money coming from the social contributions. There, you have it. Of course, to completely understand, you need to know some pieces of history nobody ever cared to put in the school programs—I reaaaaaally wonder why, by the way.

As we progressed in time, as productivity rose, and industry profits along with them, social contributions were raised (them and our net incomes along the way). This resulted from a very simple, a fair equation: more profit means more money to distribute, to share between workers, CEOs, and shareholders. As Gross Domestic Products (GDP) rose in our countries, so did the social contributions, and so did the funding for our pensions, our social security system, and so on. However, that movement stopped at some point.

It happened in the end of the 1970s. That’s when the neo-liberal reform started.

That’s when Powers-that-Be, frustrated that their profits were not skyrocketing quickly enough, decided to take on what was slowing them down: sharing a fair portion of the profit with the people who do the actual work. From that moment on, they started working at unravelling our welfare system, they bought media, they bought politicians. They brainwashed us, they manipulated us into believing that all the things we have to live through, all the hardships, all the economic and social crises—all that is inevitable. Mathematical. Inescapable. Unarguable.

Don’t trust me? Well, by all means, don’t. Simply go check the numbers on the growth of the GDP in our countries over the years, and of course the numbers on wages growth, and shareholder dividends’ growth. You won’t be disappointed.

GDP has kept rising over the years.

Wages have kept rising lower and lower over the years.

Shareholder dividends have skyrocketed over the years.

So, you see, there is no problem with our pensions. None. The only problem there is, is in making the Powers-that-Be give up their ever-growing greed and thirst for more and more profit, more and more money. We need only re-distribute the profits fairly. If we do, our welfare system, our pensions will never even blink, no matter how old we grow as populations.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not at all impossible.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a political decision.

And, remember, you’re the ones who vote.

You’re the ones who choose, and who put politicians in power.

So, that’s it from me for now.

I could go on, of course. I could also explain how people who’ve retired more and more remain active members of the community, and as such that their activities should be given an economical value, same as ours. I could then explain that, with this in mind, the so-called problem of the retired versus active people ratio simply ceases to exist at all…but enough with my ceaseless babblings!

Good night, and good luck (and read Bernard Friot if you can!)