Just a matter of trust

Rookwood, Going Postal
dconvertiniLicence CC BY-SA 2.0

We are all currently sliding on a well greased mat, guided by the cavernous walls and twisted pathways of the ponderous helter-skelter of fate, rapidly descending into oblivion. Any reasonable or sane individual will by now, be shaking their head in utter dismay as to what is happening globally, and the caustic and cancerous rot that has overcome the world, since a certain virus decided to make an appearance. Now is not the time to discuss the rights and wrongs concerning the handling of current crisis, inevitably only time will reveal the wisdom or folly of governments and leaders in the Western world. Having been close to the seat of power, I can honestly say such scenarios test the mettle and character of even the most sincere and genuine leadership, and frequently bad decisions are made not so much because an individual is corrupt, inept or incompetent, but on the basis of bad advice or more frequently, an inability or unwillingness of advisors to speak truth to power. While in theory civil servants advise and ministers decide, it is a brave soul who is willing to be the messenger of bad news, step away from accepted dogma, or just rock the boat. Furthermore, you have the truly treacherous rats that have been planted, like a sleeping terrorist cell, waiting for just the right moment to inject their invisible poison and hidden agenda into the mix. I am in no doubt that once this version of SARS emerged, the large and extensive volume marked “Civil and economic contingencies in a pandemic scenario” was pulled out from a rusting filing cabinet in Whitehall somewhere, the dust blown off, and the relevant blanks filled in. Such is the habit and nature of government. You don’t honestly think a bunch of lawyers burnt the midnight oil, composing the Coronavirus 2020 bill, did you?

What is most galling about this situation is like the ghostly spectre of an ailing, distant, elderly and incontinent aunt, we refuse to accept the reflection shone upon our own mortality. In our panic, fear, and personal limitations, we demand that “Something” is done. What that “Something” is varies enormously between cultures, races and individuals. In this service based society, where literally anything is for sale, provided one pays a high enough price, such crisis are frequently placed at the feet of government. It is not until we discover that government is just as scared and incapable as we are, does the penny drop. The abandonment of an entire nursing home to the ravages of the Coronavirus in Spain, being a case in point. Government has an unending supply of certain resources, and I will leave it to the individual to decide for themselves exactly what they are. The one thing they have in abundance, directly or indirectly, is the control over life and death. Depending on the form and type of government, this is either exercised benignly or viciously. Here in the UK, we are blessed with former, and live with a relatively generous welfare system and relatively first class health care. Some would disagree with these observations, but the number of people who genuinely risk their lives to gain entry to these shores, be that legally or illegally, is testament to that provision.

What is becoming clear, is that both systems are urgently in need of reform, as it has been obvious for generations that far too many people are benefiting that cannot, have not, and will not, contribute to the system, while many who have spent many years in loyal service to society, industry and their families, have been left with the crumbs from the table. Some of the inequalities in the system border on the inhumane. Genuinely disabled people, who have no chance of physical improvement – bar a miracle, having to repeatedly confirm their status, as allowances that were once awarded for life are repealed. Individuals close to retirement age being forced onto useless, soul destroying courses, when their chances of employment are zero, living in unemployment black spots. Furthermore, this situation is going to get worse with the further expansion of disruptive technologies and business models, often fuelled by Californian intellectuals, micro-dosing with mind-altering drugs to enhance creativity. Like the bomb, bullet and the barricade, technology in the wrong hands causes untold suffering, and we have some serious ethical and freedom issues to contend with, if indeed this outbreak is not the gateway to a new global paradigm, as some suspect it is. The rout that is about to hit the employment marketplace will be enormous, pandemic or no pandemic. The left wing may spit with venom at the unemployment casualties during the reign of Margaret Thatcher, but it is nothing compared to the corporate gutting that will come off the back of AI and vehicular automation. It is clear that the social credit model adopted by the Chinese is being seriously considered by Western governments as a response, with trial runs of chip implants in Sweden along with a Universal Basic Income. It is no coincidence that the previous benefit reforms ended up with the name Universal Credit, and millions of individuals are going to get a very rude shock if they think this dystopian prison is a benevolent, computerised version of the old dole system. Based on the philosophy you are guilty until proved innocent, the labyrinth of hoops one must jump through to receive a paltry sum, which may be withheld at any time, is a roadmap straight out of a Kafka novel. If you are genuinely incapacitated, the system is designed to humiliate and to wear the individual down to the point they just give up. How people manage to game the system, I really don’t know. There clearly are cases where individuals do so, but swinging local authority cutbacks have had the perverse effect of eliminating local Fraud Prevention teams, and moved the onus from proactive investigation to a Stasi like “Shop your neighbour” model. Immediately, we have a breakdown of trust in the community. A 30 second glance via an HMRC mainframe terminal will quickly ascertain an individual’s financial contribution to society, and an informed reading of their medical history will determine their suitability for work in the majority of cases. The system could be easily streamlined. The only issue is what to do with the redundant public service employees. Problems, of course, start to emerge with edge cases such as those with mental health issues and that old chestnut “Back problems”. Self-certification is clearly an exercise in futility, as anyone using Dr Google will tell you. The hypochondriac will quickly emerge, but this again is fuelled by a lack of consistent medical care delivered via the GP. I know of many individuals who really need proper medical investigation, and indeed intervention, but are just “Grinning and bearing it”, as the system is so broken at the point of entry. It is no surprise A&E departments are so busy. One individual, with a genuine number of ailments, was informed they would have to make separate GP appointments for each issue. I also suspect a lot of doctors appointments are being used as a foil, or to use the common vernacular, “Going on the sick” is being used a device to escape the rigorous demands of Universal Credit, unscrupulous employers or other such problems. While not entirely ethical, I can appreciate why people resort to such desperate actions when faced with a ruthless system that gives not a damn about the individual or the harsh reality of their circumstances. I also know that working for a decent employer has the exact opposite effect. I once worked in a very close knit team, and the business, a risky venture capital startup, was rapidly running out of cash. Every last member of staff, myself included, offered to take huge salary cuts in an effort to help the business survive, such was our faith in the directors. Sadly it was not to be, but the level of esprit de corps was a joy to behold. Many a tear was shed at the company wake, and part of the secret to this was the lack of an HR department, but importantly there was no room for passengers on board. Everybody pulled their weight, and then some. On Sunday night I was genuinely looking forward to Monday morning. Unlike many roles since that time, where I have been close to being physically sick with the stress and thought of another hellish week at the office. There is nothing quite as soul destroying as working for a bad, corrupt or unappreciative employer, particularly if you hard working or hate the job. Welcome to UBI. The state will have a pound of flesh in return, thank you very much.

The reason I raise that specific time in my life, probably one of the happiest and most creative if I’m honest, is that it was, like my marriage, built on a foundation of trust. Everyone trusted one another in the organisation, there was no office politics, no backbiting, no clambering over one another for promotion. No fights over who used what milk or butter from the fridge. No clock watching. No buck passing. Everyone knew their responsibilities and roles, but at the same time, we knew our limitations and were secure. As there was no hiding place, if you didn’t consider yourself competent on a project, you had better admit this at the start. Rather than disappointment from the directors, more often than not this was met with genuine encouragement and support, rather than censure. Everyone was in the same boat on the sea of unknown territory. The spectre we faced was bringing a revolutionary product to market, but being ahead of our time, we gambled and lost. The world wasn’t ready for the message, and that was that. Twenty years later, millions were being made on a similar business model, and the concept of reputation management is now a foundational principle in every MBA course, PR seminar and legal team imaginable. The current employment environment, except for a fortunate small minority, is far from that golden reality. The metrics of individual accountability, timekeeping, resources used and required are now micromanaged to a perverse degree. We have PFI buildings where the budget is so constrained that it takes 6 months to fix a broken hand dryer, as they have to wait for more than one to break down to be sufficiently cost effective in order just to hire an electrician. Employees are traced not just by time, but by movement, social contacts and politics as well. The walls of measurement are closing in to such a degree when it comes to staff autonomy that customer service is suffering. If it isn’t in the script, your customer services representative can’t help you, that is if they can speak the language from their foreign call centre. Much has been said about the demise of the high street, but even with free parking, your local shop has a hard time competing with the range provided by online giants and distorted supply chain. So we are left not being trusted as employees, and yet ironically rely on internet portals such as Trustpilot to determine the quality of a vendor or a supplier. Few realise that like Amazon ratings, this too can be gamed. Building face to face relationships is old hat, it is all about market dominance, convergence and cost. The only trust we can get now is in the form of an electronic certificate.

So we can’t trust our doctor, our employers don’t trust us, and it is looking highly unlikely we can trust the state to provide in our time of need, especially when one looks to future pension provision. It is beginning to look like we will not even be able to trust what is written on our own death certificates, as this seems to be a movable feast of post-modern proportions. The church? Many Christians in the UK have been forced underground, as finding a church that actually believes in God is a rare occurrence. The ravages of American Christendom have destroyed and divided the evangelical community, and frequently the primary pastoral concern is the amount of tithes gathered and size of congregation, rather than the spiritual or moral welfare of the flock. Concerning each other, as this pandemic has shown, trust has now been eroded to the point that we cannot even sit alone on a public bench in case we catch something. The last time I witnessed such hysteria was when teenage girls were taught not to sit on toilet seats in case they got pregnant. We have got to the state that everyone is a potential harbinger of death, and all that does is inflame paranoia, which is the soulmate of fear. We are so disconnected from reality, we honestly believe our government can raise our withered and dying bodies, forgetting that they only have the merest pretence of such authority.

Do not despair. Our lords and masters have the solution. On the back of social distancing, we will have social credit. Those 5G towers don’t transmit death rays, but they might as well. Once the Internet of Things is in place, everything will be connected. The locks on the doors to the GP’s surgery, the A&E department, and even the Jobcentre will require sufficient social credit before they click open with an electromechanical thunk. It might be an exaggeration to suggest that we will end up with implants any time soon, but this is clearly the next natural progression. The transhumanism agenda is alive and well. Like the counterfeiting of money, passports or credit cards, the criminal fraternity will quickly ensure even our mobile phones will not be a viable instrument for personal identification. Once that state is reached, either in or out of concert with the abolition of cash, we all know where this all inevitably ends. Unless we get a grip, start trusting one another again, maybe even start trusting God, this is the final exit from the current carnival ride. While we continue to sacrifice our trust, humanity, prospects for our children, but most profoundly our personal fears about our mortality, at the golden, bejewelled feet of the system, that is our fate.

© Rookwood 2020

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