I woke up this morning to a headline shouting ‘Britain on the Brink’. My radio then went on to tell me that the Eurozone was in meltdown, the banks were freefalling and life as we know it was in danger of imminent implosion.
My first reaction to all of this was to hope that no one got to the last bagel before I could.
I know, probably not the response they had been expecting, but honestly, what else can you do? Despite the fact that I have studied economics at both university and graduate school, I have absolutely no idea what is going on. Nor, I suspect, does anyone else.
And so, everyone appears to be acting as if nothing is happening. Bankers are expecting their bonuses, public sector workers are expecting their pensions and the rest of us are expecting some presents under the Christmas tree.
You can see why this is happening, or not happening. Iceland, after all, went under but last time I checked, it was still on the map. The Icelanders are still living in their strangely painted houses, eating cod, listening to Bjork. The same with the Irish, Greeks, Italians and whoever else I forgot. Except for the paint, the cod and Bjork, of course, but you get what I mean.
So, does it matter if Britain is on the brink?
I guess the answer is: yes, it does. It matters to the young people who can’t get jobs, and to their parents who don’t know how to help them. It matters to the people who are worried about their futures and their financial security. It matters to anyone who lives without the safety net of friends, family or funds. And it matters to the people who care about the above. It is, after all, hard to live with worry.
But, should we be worried?
The answer to that depends on what we are on the brink of. And what’s on the other side. How do we know that what’s over there won’t be better? I don’t know about where you live, but here in Britain, it seems to me as if people have lost their way a bit. Everyone seems to have, or want, a bigger car, a better plasma screen, a more exotic holiday. You see old movies and newsreels when plucky Brits were climbing over piles of rubble to get to work after each German air raid because that’s what was expected of them, and what they expected of themselves. They ate sandwiches that ‘would be better if they put something in them’ with ironic smiles and without complaint. They got on with things.
So, what happened? Why do we all expect life to be constantly getting better? When did peace and prosperity and plasma screens become a right? Where did all of those stiff upper lips go?
When the first rumblings of an economic crisis started a few years ago, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief that we could all stop chasing material things and get back to basics. Neighbours started asking each other if they were alright, commuters got out of cars and back on bikes. There were even a few street parties, now that most people were staying home more.
And then, nothing happened. Not around here, anyway. Everyone kept going to work, and to school, and to Thailand for their holidays. We all kept upgrading our cars, and improving our houses, and eating out. We gradually stopped worrying about the headlines and got back to life as usual.
But, you know what? I suspect that most people were happier when they thought that they could lay down the burden of financing such expensive lifestyles, when they thought that a return to simpler days was not a personal failure because we were all doing it together. When they thought that young people would be happy to stay in the neighbourhood a bit longer, rather than racing off to live on their own as soon as possible. I know I was.
So, based entirely on my own feelings, I propose a solution to our current economic crisis. I think we should call a global ‘doosy over’. You remember those from when you were little. If you made a mistake, moved the game piece the wrong way, missed a step in skipping, you could just call doosy over, and start again at the beginning.
That’s what we need to do now. So, let’s just draw a line under everything and start afresh on Monday morning. I will forgive the bank the interest it owes me on my savings, and they will forgive me my mortgage. I will live within my means, and so will everyone else, including the government. Perhaps one or two of us will start making things again instead of all providing ‘services’. I may even plant a vegetable or two, although there is no way I am letting pigs roam around in the herbaceous border.
I think this can work. No, I know this can work.
The only, minor, problem is that I promised the children a ski trip this winter. Well….I’m sure the rest of you won’t mind. You all start on Monday and I’ll join you after we get back from France. Honest.
Not Leo Tolstoy (aka Eileen Riley)