The Truth is out there...but do we choose not to see it? Nov/2008
Many of us seem too busy, too wound up and stressed but we don’t recognize the fact - or we’re in denial. Maybe we don’t like to admit that we suffer from stress. Maybe stress is like a dependency drug and we get withdrawal symptoms if we try to get rid of it. Much of the stress is difficult to overcome by individuals on their own – many feel trapped by circumstances and events beyond their control. Governments and big business employers cause much stress with endless talk of targets. Are there not far too many targets? The achievements of these targets are frequently cosmetic. In the Health Service for example, targets have often been achieved in terms of numbers of operations completed but too often the more serious operations are put on hold while easier but less urgent operations are given priority instead – just to make the figures look good. So though on paper, the targets appear to be met, I’m sure most people would agree that it would be better and more ethical to clear the serious operations first. Surely, quantity isn’t everything – but priorities, quality and efficacy are. Some employers run stress relief courses - as if to shift the blame for all the stress they cause on to the individual members of staff. However, if management talked a little less about targets and first ensured that they had enough staff and resources to achieve their targets (and that the targets were sensible in the first place) then we might be able to avoid a lot of stress. Of course, a certain amount of stress is natural and inevitable – that’s life – but I’m talking about the huge amount of unecessary stress created by the artificiality of much of our our way of life. Undoubtedly, the standard of living in economic terms, for most of us in the West, is better than it was in the earlier decades of the 20th century but surely there is more to life than material wealth and consumerism. Of course we still have poverty - or what is called relative poverty: the gap between rich and poor has widened more than ever. Of course the rich elite tell the rest of us that they must be patient and wait for the 'trickle down' effect. Well, many of the poorer sections of society are still waiting! This is not about envy, as many right-wing critics would say, because I'm personally quite content with what I have. It's more about a fairer distribution of wealth - I mean, we're told repeatedly and ad nauseum, that those at the top who create the wealth need to be constantly incentivised: But what about those at and near the bottom? Do they not need incentives to take them out of the dole queue? Surely, those 'at the top' need to recognise that they would not be where they are without teamwork and support of some kind. So it seems to me that we have become slaves to big business and the media - whether it be related to advertisements or political propaganda. The ‘Credit Crunch’ is biting ever deeper into society, highlighting the weaknesses and lack of regulation of big business and financial institutions as the cracks keep appearing even as I write this in 2008. This should surely be a chastening lesson to a society that gets itself into trillions of pounds of debt - the bigger the boom, the bigger the bust (if you’ll pardon the expression!). Many people complain about the ‘nanny state’ and tell the government not to keep interfering; but clearly, the credit crunch is an instance where maybe the government really should have intervened a long time ago. Before the so-called ‘free market’, we had much tighter controls on how much we could borrow and how much financial institutions could lend. Some might say that in a free and democratic society, we should be free to make as many big credit transactions as we like. But what kind of freedom is this if people are permanently stuck with big debts? Freedom and democracy are pretty meaningless words that have no absolute definition. This makes it convenient for politicians to bandy such words about when trying to justify imposing their domination over other cultures. So at best, freedom and democracy are merely relative values – it’s clearly impossible to have absolute freedom because one man’s liberty is another’s slavery. I suppose the best we can hope for is some degree of consensus as to what is fair and just. Of course, in many ways, our society is more free and democratic than many other societies across the globe, but we are nevertheless controlled or conditioned by the media into a certain blinkered ‘mainstream’ way of thinking – an acceptance of the status quo. The commercial media is constrained in what it is allowed to print by its reliance on advertising and the BBC has to kowtow to the government of the day to ensure it’s licence renewal. The BBC’s board of governers are appointed by the government – and most of them have business interests. We have to ask, do they truly represent the views of the average viewer? I doubt it.