EVERYTHING
THEY TOLD YOU IS WRONG
AN ANXIETY CULTURE ANTHOLOGY
How to Build Your Own Personal Media empire

Everything They Told You is Wrong, by Brian Dean, published by Anxiety Culture Publications, October 2002, © Brian Dean. For further information click: www.anxietyculture.com

Everything They Told You is Wrong
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CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ....................................10
HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN PERSONAL MEDIA EMPIRE ...................... 10

PART ONE: DIY MEDIA ...................... 12
ELECTRONIC PAMPHLETEERING ................13
ISOLATION ............................................. 15 WORK AND ORIGINAL SIN ......................... 15 ORIGINAL SIN AND TECHNOPHOBIA .............. 16 I’M NO GOOD ........................................ 16 TWO CLICHÉS ........................................ 17 THE “FREE MARKET” AND THE “NEW AGE” ... 17 THE COST OF LIVING ............................... 18 LAW OF THE JUNGLE ............................... 18 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 1 ............... 19 INDULGE LAZINESS OR SUFFER APATHY ........ 21 INTERNAL RESISTANCE .............................. 21 TEETH GRINDING .................................... 21 INTERNAL DISTRACTION ............................. 22 HIT SQUADS .......................................... 22
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Everything They Told You is Wrong
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INSIDIOUS STRESS ................................... 23 LABOUR SAVING ..................................... 24 SERIOUS BREAKFAST ............................... 25 WORK ETHIC LAZINESS ............................ 25 EVIL EVERYWHERE SYNDROME ................... 26 FEAR OF TECHNOLOGY ............................. 27 ECONOMICS AND PSYCHOLOGY .................... 28 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 2 ............... 30 STARVING ARTISTS .................................. 30 REWARDS OF THE MARKET ........................ 30 DEFINITION OF A GENUINE ARTIST IN A MARKET ECONOMY ......................... 30 CONTRADICTIONS .................................... 31 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. 3 ............... 32 GORE, BUSH AND NADER ......................... 33 ECONOMIC CONTRADICTION ....................... 34 NOBODY IS INTELLECTUALLY IMMUNE ............ 34 YOUR VALUE HIERARCHY .......................... 35 CRAP MANAGERS .................................... 36 HUMAN RIGHTS ...................................... 37 DESTRUCTIVE SELF-PRESERVATION .............. 38 PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE ...................... 39 USURY ................................................. 40 “RECESSION” ......................................... 40 TRICKLE-UP FEAR .................................. 41
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............................ 52 DECONSTRUCTING CRAP TV REPORTING ......................... 44 PITY .............. 41 OBSTACLES TO CHANGE ............. 54 MANAGERS WANT TO WORK LESS ....... 47 DOCTORS ON DRUGS .. 55 A MODEST PROPOSAL ........... 53 VIRTUAL HUMAN CONTACT ....................................... 59 FAMILY SELF-INTEREST .................................. 48 PERENNIAL FEARS ........... 62 TWO TYPES OF SELF-RELIANCE ..................................... 60 ARGUING WITH ILL-INTENTIONED FOOLS ........ 51 NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE ............. 50 GUILT COMPLEX . 56 A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE ................... 57 SPECULATIVE ECONOMICS ..... 42 INVISIBLE POVERTY ...................... 61 ARGUING WITH WELL-INTENTIONED FOOLS .... 63 5 ........................ 43 MORAL ARGUMENTS OF ANTI-CONSUMERISM ....... 50 THE SECRET OF SUCCESS .... 4 ............ 49 CONFUSING “SIMPLICITY” WITH POVERTY .......................................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WORK AND COMPETITION ..................... 48 ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO........... 53 POLITICAL HUMOUR ........................................................................................................ 54 THE WRONG HUMAN RIGHTS? ......................................... 45 THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS ...................

............ 68 FORTEAN TIMES .........................................NET ....................... 65 WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS ............................................................................................... 71 THE INDEPENDENT .........Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WATCH OUT! ... 72 THE SUN .................................................... 82 6 .............................................................................................................. 76 THE IDLER ...... 63 WHO PAYS? ...................................... 69 ................................................ 75 RADIO TIMES (2) ............................................ 79 THE GUARDIAN (3) ................................. 64 PART TWO: PUBLISHED LETTERS .................................................... 73 THE GUARDIAN ..66 NEWS OF THE WORLD .... 73 THE CHRONICLE ............... 68 RADIO TIMES .................. 71 FORTEAN TIMES (2).. 80 THE SUN (2) ....... 77 THE INDEPENDENT (2) ................. 74 THE GUARDIAN (2) ............................... 70 FINANCIAL TIMES .......................................................................... 79 BBC RADIO 4 PM NEWS .

................................95 INTERVIEW WITH THE INDEPENDENT ............................. 82 THE DAILY EXPRESS & THE INDEPENDENT ..... 114 PART FOUR: BL~ISS BULLETIN OF LEISURE .............. 82 THE GUARDIAN (4) ......................................NET (2) .................... 83 BBC RADIO 4 TODAY (ONLINE) ................................... 120 THE END OF WORK ............89 INTERVIEW WITH THE FACE ...... 88 BBC RADIO WALES INTERVIEW ...Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE SUN (3) ..... 121 7 ........ 84 LOCAL NEWSPAPERS .... 83 THE INDEPENDENT .......... 118 FAKE ORGANISATIONS .. 119 BL~ISS ........................... 107 BASIC INCOME FORUM ...................................................................................................................... 109 CHANNEL 4: “FRONTAL” .................................................... 84 ................ 85 PART THREE: INTERVIEWS ........

...... 133 ZERO-INTEREST CURRENCY ......................... 136 STAMP SCRIP ....................................Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FUTURE HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR .. 130 NO SHORTAGE OF ALTERNATIVES ........................................... 124 THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR .................. 126 PLANET-SURFACE UNEMPLOYMENT ....................... 137 THE DIGITAL ECONOMY ..... 138 THE TOBIN TAX ................ 127 PART FIVE: PUBLISHED ARTICLES ..................................... 122 LEISURE IN SPACE ............. 123 THE WORKERLESS SOCIETY .............. 140 8 .. 130 BASIC INCOME ................................................ 130 GUARANTEED INCOME ........................ 133 WILLINGNESS TO WORK? . 129 ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS ................ 139 ECONOMIC “AUTHORITY” ................. 132 NEGATIVE INCOME TAX ....................... 134 ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES ..................................

....... 156 OFFICE RAT MAZE .................. 142 THE COMPROMISED ANTI-CONSUMERIST ................................................................................ 163 RIGHT TO MOAN ............Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SEX ROBOTS ................ 154 SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS ... 171 DEBT CULT ..... 196 THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF WORK ........................................ 184 THE PURITAN WORK ETHIC . 149 CORPORATE WEAKNESSES ...................................... 177 ANXIETY ATTACK .................. 157 NAIVETY TV ............................... 204 9 ............... 191 OBSOLETE FREE-MARKET METAPHORS ..

Setting up your own media empire doesn’t necessarily require launching a magazine or website. I wrote down my 10 . You can now become an “expert” or “authority” just by having a website specialising in a given subject (I’ve been approached by several TV and radio programmes – including BBC2’s Newsnight – just on the strength of the Anxiety Culture website). opening up all sorts of creative avenues for DIY-media enthusiasts like myself. The size of my audience was dependent on advertising expenditure – which. if they were still alive. in each case.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTRODUCTION HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN PERSONAL MEDIA EMPIRE This book records my modest attempts to infiltrate the media with “unusual” material. with some stickers and gimmicky graphics. and since I have no contacts in the media (except for a few acquaintances who produce publications as obscure and unknown as my own) it’s very much an “outsider” project. The ease with which anyone can fake expertise and simulate “popularity” would delight Orson Welles and L. Since I’m not a journalist or media-person. All of the material collected in this book was published through other channels. Basically. Then the Internet happened. meant that the operation grew no bigger than the laser printer in my living room. I started off publishing a low-budget magazine called Anxiety Culture. being a lot less than Amazon’s. Ron Hubbard.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ viewpoints or ideas. letters to newspapers (and magazines and radio/TV). I’ve extracted the best bits from all this stuff. and edited it into this book. all of the material has been published by newspapers or magazines (or broadcast by radio or TV). low-resource individual’s experiments in empire-building. then pressed a button to send them off to whatever destination offered the best prospect of publication – from newsgroups (guaranteed publication) to national newspapers (lower probability of publication). postings to newsgroups and forums. With the exception of the newsgroup postings chapter (DIY Media) and a few other noted cases. 11 . when asked. and. I gave a few interviews. So this is a record of one unimportant. I used written articles. And not even Rupert Murdoch’s world-spanning corporations can compete with the information processing capability of an individual human brain.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART ONE DIY MEDIA 12 .

including. One has complete freedom of expression. to be more detailed. and weird religious heresies and cults such as the Rosicrucians. serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals” 13 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ELECTRONIC PAMPHLETEERING Whenever I read about pamphleteers from earlier times – “eccentrics” who spent a lot of time and money trying to publicise their ideas (eg thinkers like Thomas Paine. I wonder how they would utilise the possibilities of the Internet. despite remaining shrouded in mystery and anonymity). and seditious. if one chooses. on the other hand. Orwell himself described pamphleteering in terms which resonate with the aims of creatively inclined Internet users: “The pamphlet is a one-man show. whose pamphlet-manifestos proved remarkably influential. abusive. Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. or. the freedom to be scurrilous.

so that the ideas presented are self-contained and easy to read. Extraneous content (eg references to ongoing newsgroup discussions. etc) has been edited out.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The material in this section was originally written as a sort of electronic pamphleteering – all of it was published electronically as contributions to web forums. It covers a wide range of subjects and although there are some recurring themes (such as work and anti-consumerism). 14 . the only real link between each piece is an intention to challenge “normal” consensus viewpoints. newsgroups and public access projects.

so. I don’t feel isolated by my home computer and modem. According to Christians. it had to be a “sin”. I feel isolated by having to spend eight hours a day chained to a desk in a sterile corporate office.” The original sin (in the doctrinal sense) was Adam’s sin of pride.he really believed new-born children to be limbs of Satan. Bertrand Russell says this about St Augustine: “.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ISOLATION I’ve heard much talk about the supposed “isolation” of people working from home (usually accompanied by the suggestion that work in a “proper social environment” is much healthier). A great deal of what is most ferocious in the medieval Church is traceable to his gloomy sense of universal guilt. Obviously this belief was seen as a threat to authority. Eastern beliefs (and western heresies) held that every individual manifests the divine. surrounded by people I dislike. 15 .. and that “we shall be as gods”. WORK AND ORIGINAL SIN The dark spectre of “Original Sin” remains one of the main sponsors of the work ethic in our allegedly secular society. of course. Even a superficial analysis of the language we use to talk about work reveals that our minds are still haunted by the idea of sin – the “sin” of laziness.. the Original Sin doctrine originated either with St Paul or St Augustine.

toil and suffering (eg full-time employment). “Man-made” stuff (eg technology) is seen as tainted (by man’s “bad” essence). 16 . which. boil down to the idea: “I’m no good”. We deserve all good and only good. and we can expect nothing but eternal punishment. etc. guilt-free application of our will. ORIGINAL SIN AND TECHNOPHOBIA One of the modern manifestations of Original Sin is the generalisation that “man-made” things are less “good” than “natural” things. I’M NO GOOD Cognitive psychology focuses on “automatic” thoughts which lead to depression. We are evil and depraved by nature. but defensiveness and sensitivity to criticism (and much. when trimmed of theology. The belief in Original Sin led to a complex of automatic thoughts. We can replace pain and suffering with happiness and peace – all it takes is the relatively effortless. guilt.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In other words. We are all divine beings. Many modern people claim to be untroubled by such thoughts. depending on whether you believe (consciously or subconsciously) in Original Sin: 1. much else) indicate otherwise. 2. anger. anxiety. The only escape is to receive God’s grace – but this is about as likely as winning the lottery. You can apply this to individuals or society. there seem to be two basic religious beliefs about the “worth” of human beings.

it’s because he/she hasn’t worked hard enough at it. THE “FREE MARKET” AND THE “NEW AGE” There are structural similarities between Free Market beliefs and New Age beliefs. Both beliefs tend to flourish most in highly prosperous areas of the planet – eg wealthy Californian districts. If we had a “land of opportunity”. and “don’t quit your day job” contradict each other. When the social context is very conducive to individualism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO CLICHÉS The economic clichés: “land of opportunity”. If you don’t achieve success. I probably need to explain this. the individual doesn’t have to worry too much about social context. both fail to recognise social variables. 17 . nobody would’ve dreamt up the phrase “don’t quit your day job” – in fact everyone would be quitting their day jobs to take up all those “opportunities”. Both are highly individualistic viewpoints – they take no account of what is going on outside the individual. For example. If the individual doesn’t succeed. New Agers claim that healing your own psyche will guarantee your success. like lime juice and mineral water. regardless of social context. so here goes: Free-market adherents claim that hard work will guarantee an individual’s success. it’s because you haven’t healed your psyche enough. Free Market entrepreneurial guru-speak and New Age guru-speak blend easily into each other. “Success” is seen as emanating entirely from the individual.

In terms of Darwinian “survival of the fittest”. but would have to earn £80. 18 . rents have increased by 500 times – ie double the increase in wages. whose wages are now only 110 times what they were in 1900. “parasites” and the “idle”.000 a year (1999 figures).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE COST OF LIVING An interesting newspaper story (Guardian 18/12/99) shows that since 1900 average wages have increased by 250 times.500 . Worse. whereas other valid survival strategies – eg parasitical behaviour – are completely demonised. the rodent survival strategy seems to be: idleness. (Note: Since 1999 the cost of rent/housing has shot up again – way above wage increases). LAW OF THE JUNGLE It’s odd how competition is justified in terms of “survival of the fittest”. One example given is teachers. these qualities are inherently no worse than “competition”.£24. Teachers currently earn £15. Judging from the behaviour of the mice in my house. And it’s worse for lowincome occupations. whereas house prices have increased by 375 times.000 a year to match the house purchasing power of teachers in 1900. cowardice and parasitical behaviour. You’d therefore think that those who base their worldview on “survival of the fittest” (quite a lot of people apparently) would actually admire “cowards”.

Studies show that people who have jobs watch more TV (as a proportion of their leisure time) than those who don’t have jobs. In a life of job-induced drudgery. that is). It’s a growing-up ritual. consumer products start to represent the only novelty (the advertisers know this – most products are aimed at bored. 2. But the initial motivation for getting a full-time job is to “grow up”. and we start to see that jobs are soul-destroying. become an adult and leave the “parental nest”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. It’s not about consumer products to start with – we’re happy if the job simply pays the rent. Most people start at the bottom of the job ladder. Eventually the novelty wears off. This is a very common viewpoint in forums on anticonsumerism. the boredom sets in. at a very low income. and in a (doomed) attempt 19 . frustrated workers looking for adventure and excitement). 1 “People are dependent on jobs because of their addiction to expensive consumer products”. But by then we’ve probably started a family and have become dependent on a regular income (if we’re statistically average. My own viewpoint reverses the cause and the effect: People are addicted to expensive consumer products because of the unfulfilling nature of their jobs. After several years the income gradually increases (if they’re lucky). I base this claim on three perceptions: 1. Studies also show that people with little free time tend to buy expensive consumer products in order to “reward” themselves.

you would expect that people wouldn’t have been dependent on jobs. Consumer products function as a distraction from the slavery. but they’re not the cause of the slavery. so they don’t compulsively buy stuff. on the other hand. Employment is just a modern form of slavery. Slavery has been around a lot longer than consumer products. but what good did judgement ever do? The reality is that. They also have more time and energy to do things that take time – like read a classic piece of literature. At the start of the industrial revolution. Not so – the workers were badly exploited precisely because they were dependent on their jobs for a survival income. So. We can be judgemental and say “snap out of it – consumer products are no good”. etc. As if high spending will increase the intensity of the pleasure in the short time they have free. this means they’re subjected to TV adverts in their exhausted state). by anti-consumerist logic. Leisured people. 3. not a cause. Employees are probably too tired in the evening to do anything but collapse in front of a TV (and of course. people in jobs don’t have the time or energy to know how to change themselves. statistically. Consumerism is a symptom of this state.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to pack as much possible enjoyment into the little spare time they have. 20 . feel no need to compress their life’s enjoyment into a few hours a week. there were no “consumer products” in the sense that we understand them today.

boredom. When we’re adults. listlessness). The only effective solution to apathy is planned laziness. etc 21 . There’s so much apathy inside corporations that employees are sent on motivational courses in an unsuccessful (and laughable) attempt to simulate enthusiasm. whereas chronic distraction makes pursuit of any goal impossible. INTERNAL RESISTANCE When we’re children. Advertising aims to turn your resistances into distractions – it’s about weakening your will. We distract ourselves to avoid feeling resistance. but resistance is not the enemy – distraction is. teeth-grinding sounds the most apt: The daily grind Grinding boredom Nose to the grindstone. we tell ourselves what to do (eg to achieve a goal). You can feel resistance yet still pursue a goal. Of all work-related stress symptoms (and there are many). and then run into subconscious resistance (inertia. TEETH GRINDING “Rising stress at work is causing increasing numbers of young professionals to grind their teeth while they sleep” (Guardian 21/1/2000). people tell us what to do all the time – and we covertly build a resistance to being told what to do.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INDULGE LAZINESS OR SUFFER APATHY Apathy occurs when we’re not allowed to be lazy.

) We’re not human beings with individual needs. Possible remedy: buy a cheap electronic kitchen timer.1 UK unemployed into the million-plus job vacancies. Nothing satisfies. undisturbed and quiet. desires and abilities – we’re interchangeable units for fitting into job slots. set a 15-30 minute period to practice some form of brain-calming technique (eg a deep breathing or meditation technique – get a decent book on the subject). According to the government. talk. Impatience. “there is no excuse” for people not to slot straight into a job. Isolate yourself in your room. HIT SQUADS “In a tough crackdown on hardcore unemployment”. is the most popular newspaper amongst UK college students. sadly. “hit squads” will be used to slot each of the 1. then becomes internalised – your mind creates the distraction. The point of the timer is so you don’t have to worry about the time while you’re practising the technique. Then everything seems trivial and futile. 22 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERNAL DISTRACTION Distraction first appears from outside (TV. noise. With the timer. Negative mood. Irritation. food. (Above quotes are taken from the Daily Mail (28/2/00) – a “respectable” conservative tabloid which. etc). Otherwise we’re financial liabilities to be quickly removed.

Quitting the rat race is a very effective way of lightening the load in the short term. The latter is the most important characteristic. of course – you can jump ship.” (It’s a well-supported finding in the social sciences that stress most affects those “low” in social status – contrary to the popular myth of bosses and leaders being the most stressed. but if resolution of the stress-inducing problem never occurs. because it makes resolution of a stressful problem almost impossible. Which explains why stress is less of a problem in high-flying executives than in people on the factory floor. Relaxation helps.” “There is another option. and the longer it goes on the more likely it is to do damage. But it tends to be an option only for the privileged and can cause even worse problems in the long run. and costs British industry around £80 billion a year.” (Source: Radio Times 28/10/2000) 23 . relaxation or no relaxation. long term and beyond the individual’s control. the stress continues.” He continues: “Harmful stressors share a number of characteristics: they tend to be pronounced.) “Those members of society most prone to stress are also those least likely to be in a position to resolve their problem.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INSIDIOUS STRESS A BBC TV celebrity doctor says: “Stress-related illness is responsible for 40 million lost working days.

Or. we can regard it as merely another competitive weapon in an economic battlefield. The economic logic for introducing such a scheme seems very convincing to me. regardless of whether they work or not. But I think the main objection to it will be the belief that people have a moral obligation to work for a living. Negative Income Tax. Or. The idea is that everybody receives a guaranteed survival income. we can reject it completely and live in mud huts with no running water. We could embrace the labour-saving aspect of technology and put it to social good. we can ignore it and keep insisting that everyone works fulltime. Large layoffs (of thousands of workers) already occur on an almost weekly basis. Human labour becomes an increasingly minor part of production (and of many services). Various schemes have been proposed by economists: Basic Income. like the politicians. (See Alternative Economics in the Published Articles section for more details). 24 . like corporations. Distribution of wealth can no longer be based on the idea of “reward for human labour”. or.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ LABOUR SAVING Human labour is an increasingly minor part of many productive processes. Let’s assume that we embrace technological advance. since human labour is no longer a significant factor. National Dividend. this implies the need for a system of wealth distribution which is different from anything we’ve seen before: income not based on work. like the “primitivists”. Obviously. etc. The idea of an income which is not conditional on work isn’t new.

One can hardly imagine the amount of psychological damage this will cause. Whether people go ahead and fulfil the desire to be lazy is another matter. Without a work ethic we’d have no concept of “lazy”. Advantage) in place of fun names. WORK ETHIC LAZINESS I regard the work ethic as the main cause of laziness. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel like taking it easy and resting all the time – it just means they label such inactivity as “laziness” (a “bad” thing for most people). or the gods will punish you”. The work ethic is a man-made moral rule. even while we are being “lazy”. Children will be eating Precise for breakfast. I think most people in our society have internalised the work ethic. “can I justify it?” etc.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SERIOUS BREAKFAST I once mentioned. Just Right. a social commandment – although it may have had practical origins in threats to slaves: eg “do my bidding. I think the work ethic is omnipresent in our culture. I’ve since found that Sainsburys sells a cereal called Precise. These questions wouldn’t exist without a work ethic. “do I care if I’m caught?”. in a magazine article. My dictionary defines “lazy” as “unwilling to work”. 25 . that many UK breakfast cereals have adopted sensible names (eg: Sustain. we conceptualise that state as “not doing any work” – ie we’re still categorising things in terms of the work ethic. weighed by each individual asking themselves: “will I be caught?” (that’s where privacy comes in).

It was news to me that Macromedia was on anyone’s shit list. Like the Christian Devil. It’s like “Satan is everywhere” Christian paranoia. and thereby remain free from accusation yourself (just like in The Crucible). For example. however virtuous you think you are. someone called Steve emailed me to say he was “sickened” by my use of Macromedia Flash (one of the most commonly used graphic/animation formats on the net). Except that it’s a corporate Satan. telling me I shouldn’t use GIF images (GIFs being another representation of Corporate Evil) on my website. so the intensity of his disapproval surprised me. But there’s a problem: whatever good works you do. I have a theory about the type of stridently disapproving attitude displayed by Steve. This type of destructive psychology (which I call ‘Evil Everywhere Syndrome’) is identifiable by its insistence 26 . somebody is going to catch you trafficking with the Corporate Devil. Only recently. although not usually concerned with the content. it’s seen as absolutely evil. and he will deceive you and insinuate himself into your life.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ EVIL EVERYWHERE SYNDROME I occasionally receive disapproving messages about the Anxiety Culture website. tricky Devil. But luckily there’s a solution: you can demonstrate your purity by pointing the finger of accusation at other corrupted souls. Because he’s a very clever. No moral relativism here – you’re either on the side of good or you’re on the side of evil. someone pointed the accusing finger at me.

But malignancy isn’t inherent in technology. That sounds obvious. but many people talk as if technology itself is tainted. 27 . Either you’re pure or you’re corrupted with Corporate Evil. nostalgia. FEAR OF TECHNOLOGY There are many malign uses of technology. Unfortunately. atrocity and suffering than all modern corporations and dictators combined. a preference for “natural” things. etc. Neophobia (fear of the new) is very widespread. suspect. sense of being overwhelmed by change. unnatural. etc. No fuzzy grey areas allowed. the feeling that everything’s going to hell. neophobia often distorts the ‘negative vs positive’ argument concerning technology.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on absolutes. Not one little GIF. No inbetween. because technology itself is neither good nor bad – it just serves the will of those creating and using it. corrupt. but I suspect that this kind of psychology has historically been responsible for more bloodshed. fear of “moral decline”. as a GIF is absolute evil. causing many people to see only the menacing aspects. It manifests in various ways: a dislike of advanced technology. thirsty for blood and toasted human flesh. But there’s not much point in comparing lists of “good” and “bad” technology. It’s a sad irony that many well-intentioned anti-corporate campaigners end up like Grand Inquisitors. Not to over-dramatise. That seems like medieval logic to me.

ECONOMICS AND PSYCHOLOGY Conventional economics sees humans as having “wants”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ If I have faith in the positive potential of technology. but that’s the closest it ever gets to forming a psychological model of human beings. In a whole library of economics textbooks it’s unlikely that you’d see a single reference to psychology. Corporations see technology as just another way to gain competitive advantage. and that the psychology behind those decisions is irrelevant 28 .” Economists have a concept called “revealed preference”. The only economist I’ve come across who pays attention to psychology is Professor Paul Ormerod. Which is odd for a subject which “endeavours to explain human behaviour” (a phrase from an authoritative economics manual). which means simply that consumers reveal their true preferences by their actual purchasing decisions. The irony is that psychology has shown the economic assumption of “rationality” to be deeply flawed. and as having the ability to make rational choices. We shouldn’t be defeatist about technology just because corporations have no vision beyond profit. They’re not interested in altruistic uses. So who does that leave to promote the cause of truly beneficial technology? Individuals like ourselves. who quotes a recent psychological study demonstrating that: “People are far more co-operative and less competitive than the postulates of economic theory assert rational individuals should be. that doesn’t mean I have faith in corporations to use technology positively.

To put this in concrete terms: If Person A spends a lot of cash on Product X.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to the functioning of the market mechanism. However. 29 . However. “revealed preference” only works in economic predictions if individuals have internally consistent preferences. might say that Person A has been brainwashed into buying a useless piece of crap by an advertising campaign which exploits his psychological naivety. In other words. A psychologist. on the other hand. if someone prefers Coca-Cola to Pepsi. studies in psychology show many fundamental cases where this consistency in people’s preferences breaks down. So perhaps conventional economics is catching up at last. and Pepsi to lemonade. This effectively undermines economic predictions – the market mechanism fails when preferences are “non-transitive”. October 2002). economic theory says that Person A has made a rational choice in comparing the usefulness of Product X to other products of similar price. Stop press: The 2002 Nobel prize for economics was awarded to Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University for “bridging the gap between psychology and traditional economics” (Nature. then he/she is deemed to prefer Coca-Cola to lemonade. The economic term for this rational consistency is “transitivity”.

2 “Technological progress benefits nobody but the rich” On the contrary. DEFINITION OF A GENUINE ARTIST IN A MARKET ECONOMY A creative unemployed person.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. We can’t have normal. 30 . the best way to keep power concentrated in the hands of the rich is to freeze technology. but I’ve not seen any comment in the media about how Harry Potter wouldn’t have been written if Ms Rowling had been employed in a job. it rewards the successful marketing of artistry/merit. Successful marketing these days requires large-scale corporate marketing budgets. The Rodney King beating was captured on video. REWARDS OF THE MARKET The market doesn’t reward artistry or merit. STARVING ARTISTS I’ve heard the stories about JK Rowling writing Harry Potter inside cafés because she couldn’t afford to heat her home. working-class people recording their perspectives on video – leave that technology to the rich people in Hollywood. Maybe it would have been better for those in power if consumer camera technology was frozen at the still camera stage.

Crime rate: we’re told that crime is increasing. Then we’re told that. Then we’re told that poverty levels have risen drastically since the 1970s. Then we’re reminded of the increasingly “brutal” world and the increasingly “competitive” market (which would seem to indicate a scarcity of opportunities. and that people are required to work much longer hours than in the 1970s. All in the space of one month. Standard of living: we’re told we have a better standard of living than ever before. 31 . Then we’re told that it’s increasing again. Opportunity: we’re told there are great opportunities for everyone – prosperity is there for the taking. creating great prosperity. as a society. and must create subsidised jobs at huge public expense. Then we’re told that welfare expenditure is such a big problem that we can’t afford to be “soft” on unemployed people. Then we’re told that crime is decreasing. we can no longer afford basic social services. as “competition” implies fighting over scarce resources).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CONTRADICTIONS The “mainstream” worldview seems full of contradictions. and that even the most vulnerable individuals must fend for themselves. For example: The economy: we’re told that our economic system is doing well. Unemployment: we’re told we have the lowest unemployment for three decades.

If an individual’s freedom is determined entirely by how greedy that individual is. Many of the anti-consumerist arguments posted on the web make no attempt at intelligently analysing the wider economic system – they simply express distaste and disapproval for individuals who buy lots of stuff – ie “materialistic” people. We have seen many examples of this on web forums. etc – that’s an entirely different focus. why would a corporation have any responsibility towards that individual – eg in terms of working conditions. Surely it’s a matter between the individual and her/ his lust for consumer goods. 32 . The above is one aspect of anti-consumerism. 3 “Anti-consumerism hurts big corporations” Most anti-consumerism doesn’t target corporations – it targets individual consumers. They’re disapprovals of individual lifestyles – recommendations for alternative individual trade-offs between work and possessions. The anticonsumerist ideology tends to place the burden of responsibility on the individual consumer rather than the corporation. or the advertising industry. or political lobbying or corporate welfare. wages. It’s an entirely different thing to criticize corporate practices. etc.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. eg: “If people didn’t buy so many consumer products they could quit their awful jobs” “People shouldn’t be so greedy and materialistic – if they lived simply they’d be happier” These viewpoints may be valid. but they’re not a critique of corporate practices.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ To claim that the solution to wage-slavery lies with the individual’s choice to buy less material goods is not a critique of capitalism – it’s an argument for capitalism. So why should I give you a pay rise”. I’ve heard many white. poor or non-American people may experience more sensitivity to the differences between Bush and Gore. Ironically. BUSH AND NADER (Written shortly after the 2000 US presidential election) Apparently. In fact “individual choice” is exactly the argument capitalists have always used: “if you don’t like your 50hr-aweek minimum wage job. It appears that non-white. GORE. A common perception among white. Of black voters. and therefore the ones most likely to vote for someone like Nader. middle-class Americans – that “there’s no real difference between Bush and Gore” – seems less common among black people. but I’ve not seen many black people so relaxed about the prospect of a Bush victory. 90% voted for Gore. people from “mainstream” white. 33 . middle-class Americans exclaim: “so what if Bush wins – Gore is just the same anyway”. middle-class society seem the ones most disgusted with Gore for inhabiting the mainstream (ie conservative) ground. hardly any black people voted for Nader. then you always have the choice to quit.

” (John Maynard Keynes) 34 .” (From the economist J. are more powerful than is commonly understood.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ECONOMIC CONTRADICTION “It always boils down to the highly improbable case that the rich aren’t working because they have too little income and the poor because they have too much. who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences. Or you can apply Galbraith’s quote to corporate welfare.K. The typical justification for giving huge government handouts to corporations is that it helps those corporations remain competitive in a difficult market. are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. NOBODY IS INTELLECTUALLY IMMUNE “The ideas of economists and political philosophers. both when they are right and when they are wrong. Practical men. But the reverse is apparently true with poor people – if you give them government handouts it makes them “dependent”. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Galbraith) I assume Galbraith is commenting on the conservative rationale for increasing the income to rich people (eg through tax cuts) while decreasing the income to the poor (eg cuts in welfare entitlement). “soft” and less able to compete in a difficult job market.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ YOUR VALUE HIERARCHY Here’s an experiment. List them in the order of their importance to you. don’t kid yourself – if your current lifestyle appears to indicate a preference for security over freedom. but as they currently are. you might list as follows: 1. 35 . 4. then that’s probably because you currently do value security over freedom. 3. when all your actions indicate otherwise. The main point is not to list your values as you would like them to be. Survival Comfort Freedom Service to a cause Love That’s just one possible selection among an infinite number. 2. So for example. for example. 5. That’s no sin. List the five fundamental values that are most important to you. if you spent the whole morning in bed. Next. So. “respectability” or “control” more than you value comfort. In other words. perhaps that was because you value physical comfort and occasional indulgence. The only “sin” here would be deluding yourself that you prefer freedom over security. try to explain your actions (for a typical day) in terms of your hierarchy of values. But perhaps the reason you don’t spend every morning in bed is because you value “security”.

environment.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Our various internal values seem to be undergoing constant negotiation with themselves. I gave him some statistics showing that many people not only enjoy working from home. No mention of working from home. His response was: “I don’t think that would be good for people”. A memo was later issued. CRAP MANAGERS Managers like to think they’re big on “initiative”. I suggested they let people work from home. ingestion of mind-altering substances (including sugar and caffeine). but are more productive. The manager shrugged his shoulders and went off to another meeting. They whine about how it might affect “competitiveness”. advising people to share cars. The last time I suggested something practical to a manager was when his company (a branch of a large corporation) was having car parking-space problems. it’s amazing how quickly they come up with hundreds of excuses for not doing it. I hear they are still having car-parking problems. social conditioning. and they hate “excuses” and “whining”. “challenge”. But when you suggest ways they could improve working conditions (such as introducing shorter or more flexible working hours). etc – but a given hierarchy of values has a certain stability within a person’s life (for a while anyway). otherwise we’d all be extremely unpredictable and inconsistent in our actions. struggling for dominance in our minds. 36 . etc. “proactivity”. depending on our physical and mental states.

as they should.” Somehow I don’t think the UK government’s approach of: “take any lousy job or lose your benefits” quite measures up to these Human Rights ideals. This seems particularly relevant at a time when the UK government is threatening to withdraw benefits as a punishment for “antisocial” behaviour (presumably they think making people homeless is a cure for antisocial tendencies?) 37 . to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Reading between the lines.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ HUMAN RIGHTS From Article 23 of the UN’s universal declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to free choice of employment. Unemployed people do not currently have their welfare claims ultimately decided by an independent organisation.” Apparently the UK is in breach of these laws. taken from a recent newspaper article: “The European Convention on Human Rights says everyone is entitled to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal when decisions are being made about their civil rights (including rights to benefits). the implication is that the government won’t be able to withdraw a jobless person’s benefits without running up against Human Rights legislation. Here’s another interesting Human Rights issue.

This is something that anti-technology groups often tend to ignore or forget. and the consequent social transformation) before ecodisaster or war returns the planet to a state of scarcity? The latest on global warming looks bad. It’s almost as if the current economic system is creating exactly the conditions (pollution/conflict) to ensure we never reach post-scarcity. Given the rising world population level. 38 . for example. that in the next 20 years we have an ecological catastrophe followed by a violent movement against technology (since people will blame technology). that makes sense from the Capitalist point of view. since Capitalism is based on the idea of scarcity – an end to scarcity means an end to Capitalism (check any economics textbook to see the important role of “scarcity” or “limited resources” in supply-and-demand economics). In other words. global warming is a perverse kind of self-preservation for Capitalism. Of course. technology is necessary for us to reach “post-scarcity”. Abandoning technology would return us to scarcity.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DESTRUCTIVE SELF-PRESERVATION Can society reach “post-scarcity” (ie abundance for all. etc. Let’s say. Wars and violent revolutions have the potential to increase scarcity. condemning millions to starvation (ie millions more than are currently starving). So people dismantle factories.

The same businessman who will make a passionate speech about free trade in an after-dinner speech will also go off to Washington and make sure that the subsidies keep flowing. Any increase in scarcity makes the situation worse. It’s fine for afterdinner speeches and editorials. Noam Chomsky: “Although there’s a lot of talk about capitalism. an anti-technology revolution would ultimately serve Capitalism by perpetuating scarcity. It justifies conflict and “competition” (which would otherwise look silly in a world of abundance). but when push comes to shove. the sectors of the economy that work and the industrial economies that are successful are those that have a substantial state coordinating and subsidizing component. So would an ecological disaster. PRETEND FREE ENTERPRISE Here’s a good quote from the famous political dissident. Fighting for scarce resources and for control of those resources is the underlying motivation of the Capitalist system.” 39 . In other words. and another caused by the dismantling of production-increasing technology. free enterprise and free markets. no one who’s actually involved in the business world believes a word of it.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Then you’ve got two increases in scarcity: one caused by the eco-disaster.

from Peter Russell (author of The Global Brain): “It’s called usury in many of the old religions. tighten their belts. Firstly it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. surprise. you do nothing. because the people who lend the money are the rich people. etc. expect no pay rises. Recession? Bullshit. and the people who borrow the money are the poor people. There’s no useful work done by lending money. it’s the idea of getting something for nothing. surprise: no easing up on work. Then. etc. and expect harsher working conditions. work harder. The last big “recession” (roughly a decade ago in the UK) seemed an excuse for: a) The government to tell everyone to lower their expectations. expect less from government. 40 . Secondly. b) Corporations to tell their employees to work harder and longer. no softening of working conditions. expect to pay more to government.” “RECESSION” Ominous talk about “recession” in the news again. The people who pay the interest are the poor and the people who gather the interest are the rich. So those who have money just get wealthier by doing nothing. You lend the money.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ USURY Here’s another good quote. no slackening of our belts. but you get wealthy upon it. no pay rises. when we came out of the “recession”.

abundance for all means the end of the competitive market (which is why the market will probably never provide it). etc.” So the tougher we make it for the poor (harsh welfare regimes. WORK AND COMPETITION The number of hours people have to work probably won’t decrease until “competition” decreases. etc). 41 . This is an openly-admitted economic policy: frighten people in order to keep inflation low.) I call it trickle-up fear. Low inflation benefits rich bankers. I’d better not rock the boat. high earners seem fearful too (notice their paranoid language about how competition is “fierce”. I don’t want to end up like that – I’d better hold onto my job. but is terrible for debt-stricken poor people. They don’t sound happy. by definition. “competition” is an essential part of the “freemarket” religion.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TRICKLE-UP FEAR “Worker insecurity” doesn’t just affect low earners. the more fear trickles upwards. cuts in social services. etc. because their income remains low relative to their debt. But. Professional middle-class people look down on the poor. The antidote to “fierce competition” is abundance for all. bondholders. and think: “Shit. But unfortunately. how the market is “brutal”. because it keeps inflation low (because workers are too insecure to risk asking for better wages/conditions). creditors. Alan Greenspan has said that “worker insecurity” is a good thing.

who might have to survive on a few million rather than a few billion). fear of losing position of relative wealth and power. rather than grudgingly as rushed. Outdated work ethic. Free time would rise. Market Fundamentalism (eg the belief that all income should be generated and distributed solely by the commercial market). stressed wageslaves. health costs would fall. Malthusianism (eg belief in the inevitable scarcity of resources). and. Crime would fall. Social Darwinism (eg “survival of the fittest”). 4.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OBSTACLES TO CHANGE 1. the very rich. “The Conservative Instinct” (resistance to change.) Plus a few other factors. to benefit all sectors of society (except. 3. 42 . environmental destruction would fall. therefore. compulsive (anxietyinduced) consumerism would fall. over time. 2. Although Basic Income seems to be against all conventional “free market” wisdom. actually relate to each other. 5. I argue that it would lead to a true free market – ie one based on true choice rather than financial desperation and survival-anxiety. The best solution to these obstacles that I can see is a phased-in scheme of Basic Income (guaranteed income. pursue their true interests. possibly. people would have more time to inform themselves. not conditional upon work) which proves itself. human-to-human. health & happiness would probably rise.

etc. of course. The vast majority of jobs being created are minimum wage. but they’re still homeless. most of them quickly learn to disguise their poverty. Then they probably think: “Hey. everyone has a colour TV – the economic system must be working”.300. They fail to recognise that owning a TV (which can be bought second-hand for a few dollars. microwave ovens. The minimum wage is a poverty level wage for a family of four. Another factor which hides poverty is debt. (Current average debt per UK household: £5. consider income levels. Homeless people may be wearing digital watches. 43 . According to the latest figures (as of July 2002) more than one in four households live in poverty in the UK. not including home loans). and lasts for years) does not mean that you can afford to pay hundreds of dollars rent every month. By borrowing money you can disguise the fact that you are poor. All they see is the omnipresence of luxurious electronic goods: DVDs. is below the minimum wage.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INVISIBLE POVERTY Affluent people tend not to see the extent of poverty in “developed” nations. Since poor people tend to be treated with pity or contempt. To better appreciate poverty. Welfare.

uses identical language). and influence of governments. etc). to maximise profits whilst ignoring environment consequences.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ MORAL ARGUMENTS OF ANTI-CONSUMERISM Someone called Doug Dowd wrote an article for ZNet magazine. I also hear anti-consumerists talk in terms of “materialistic” versus “spiritual” (or “natural”. unnatural. for example. Again. it’s the language of moral disapproval. It appears obvious that there is a separation between moral and economic arguments. That’s not the language of economic analysis. “CORRUPT”. decadent. “CESSPOOL”. 44 . On the other hand. “DECADENT”. “TOXIC”. “TAINTED”. or “pure”. in which he criticised consumerist society in these terms: “ROTTING”. My position on anti-consumerism is to distance myself from these simplistic morals. dehumanising working conditions. I see this kind of simplistic moral language coming from both the political left and right (the Conservative “Moral Majority”. very much concerns me. the economic/political issue of how corporations use advertising saturation through ownership of media. that’s not a political/ economic argument. since economic/political adversaries (eg left green-anarchists and right Conservative Christians) often use exactly the same moral argument against consumerism (namely that it’s materialistic. It seems important to separate the two arguments (ie moral and economic). etc. etc. “DIRTY”. etc).

In fact. for a tiny ruling elite). It’s often been commented by visitors to poor countries that everyone seems happier than in the “civilised” West – ie there’s more of a sense of “happy community”. Killing civilians is certainly not morally necessary. stress. perhaps. but it’s “necessary” only in terms of Blair’s own politics. just that they should be clearly differentiated from political/ economic arguments. but Blair’s statement is linguistically structured to imply that it’s as morally necessary as it is morally unfortunate. I think the Afghanistan situation (the so-called “war on terrorism”) could have benefited from a clear differentiation between moral and political arguments. but that doesn’t change my argument. Statements like that are a propagandist mix of morals and politics – the killing is “unfortunate” in a moral sense. of course.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ I’m not claiming that moral arguments are invalid. etc) correlate with “relative poverty” more than “absolute poverty” (according to sociology). It’s something that poor and unemployed people have to deal with a lot. but it’s necessary”. To explain what I mean: Everyone in a poor country may suffer from “absolute poverty”. more or less (except. anxiety. but there’s also not much inequality – everyone is at the same income level. Politics/economics has moral consequences. PITY It’s a curious feeling to be “pitied” – it tends to trigger defensiveness. despite 45 . which I think explains why various forms of misery (eg depression. Tony Blair often said: “The killing of civilians is unfortunate.

we evolved from hierarchically social mammals.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ material deprivation. No doubt this is a result of decades of advertising and “education”. In the UK. social status seems correlated with financial status. Of course. 46 . It’s going to push our buttons whether we like it or not. That’s a well-supported finding in the social sciences. Many studies have been conducted into the level of income-inequality (a measure of the steepness of social hierarchy). conditioning us to associate symbols of wealth (“status symbols”) with elevated position in the social hierarchy. much of this behaviour is hard-wired into our nervous systems. The point is that steepness of social hierarchy correlates with unhappiness in a society. Trying to “rationalise” it away seems like a bad strategy. for example. the 1994 Borrie commission reported that the gap between the earnings of the highest paid and the lowest paid were “greater than at any time since records were first kept in 1886.” That’s the “free market” in action – busy creating more and more inequality. some anti-consumerists might see this as supporting their claim that consumer goods don’t make people happy. But that’s missing the point slightly. And the result is high levels of human misery. Social-status comparison is a very strong influence on our behaviour – after all. In “respectable” society. steeper and steeper social hierarchy. as reflected in all those surveys you see on stress levels.

anxiety disorders. One in 4 people are now living in poverty. that seem to be the most damaging element of this social inequality. tranquilliser addictions.5 million people can’t afford adequate housing conditions (according to the biggest. 9. most comprehensive study of UK poverty in the last decade. I have a file of newspaper clippings from a correspondent who lives in America – full of studies which show that the poverty situation in the US is as bad as the UK (if not worse). One UK psychologist even wrote a book (Britain on the Couch by Oliver James) claiming that the steep social hierarchy created by “advanced capitalism” is drastically affecting our brain chemistry. The average level of debt per household is £5. making us unhappy. reducing serotonin levels. success-failure polarities.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ depression epidemics. flu or other bug. with money as the measure of winning/success. It’s the extreme winner-loser. Help prevent terrorism: stay at home and phone in sick. etc.300 (not including home loans). The reaction of pity towards someone perceived as being low(er) on the social/financial ladder seems an automatic reflex in most people. THE REAL BIO-TERRORISTS The real bio-terrorists are those who go to work with a cold. Poverty in Britain rose sharply between 1979 and the late 1990s. reported recently by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation). 47 .

13. 1850) Thoreau’s “anti-consumerist” remark was made 150 years ago. but we’ve all become enslaved to it”. who lived from 467 to 400 BC. (Socrates was himself accused of being “an immoral corrupter of youth”). show contempt for authority. Worries about technological development have been accompanied throughout history by worries about moral decline. 48 .000 practising doctors are dependent on alcohol or drugs. They love luxury. The BMA set up a 24 hour telephone Helpline to deal with the problem. have bad manners.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DOCTORS ON DRUGS One of the most overworked groups is doctors. did people worry: “Sure. show disrespect for their elders.. lowering of standards. These words were written by Socrates. Consider the following quote: “Boys and girls are dressing alike.. one wonders. it helps move things faster. when the wheel was first invented.. Those who voice the same complaints today don’t seem to realise that this “moral decline” has been perceived in all ages. A third of callers claimed problems with anxiety and stress. PERENNIAL FEARS We have become tools of our tools (Henry David Thoreau. they contradict their parents. impoliteness. How much earlier were people making similar remarks. At the “dawn of civilisation”. and tyrannise their teachers”. disrespect for elders.. crime etc. According to a recent British Medical Association statistic.

so the above logic would dictate that we shouldn’t want anything more than living in a cave. etc) with fears about technology. the planet contains enough ecologically sustainable resources to provide a high standard of living for every person on the planet. I see an ages-old recurring tendency for people to project their anxieties in the form of a perception of moral decline. Civilisation is an expression of wants which are beyond mere needs. economics. If you believe that we shouldn’t want more than we need. 4 “People shouldn’t want more than they need” Why not? Contrary to Malthusian economics. I want to watch movies. Why should intelligent creatures be content with only meeting needs – ie mere physical survival? Living in a cave. (That’s not to say there aren’t real. with no running water or electricity satisfies our needs (people survived that way for millennia). ANTI-CONSUMERIST MYTH NO. It seems that anxieties relating to uncertainty and social instability have always been expressed in terms of either “moral decline” or “technology taking over”. then all of civilisation looks like a moral decline. etc). 49 . Anti-consumerism is interesting in that it seems to combine fears about moral decline (“greed”. I think the same can be said for many (but not all) worries about technology. “materialism”. environment. I want books to read. if managed intelligently. dressed in animal skins.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ I don’t see any moral decline. valid issues in anti-consumerism concerning resources.

Poverty implies removal of choice. common sense is not always correct (“the Earth is flat” and “sex is dirty” used to be common sense). you don’t have a choice about receiving electricity. But if that were the case you’d expect guilt to disappear once you get into the habit of conforming morally and socially. But do they know what they are talking about? Voluntary Simplicity is not the same as poverty. All cultures have certain beliefs which are regarded as “common sense”. That seems to be fundamentally different than being in the position of choosing a lifestyle in which you don’t use electricity. Any belief which is held by a society for thousands of years eventually becomes “common sense”. Poverty is nowhere defined as a lifestyle choice. 50 . even if they’ve never behaved particularly immorally.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CONFUSING “SIMPLICITY” WITH POVERTY I have heard followers of Voluntary Simplicity claim that poverty can be a good thing. Often the most socially conformist people continue to be plagued by guilt. GUILT COMPLEX Guilt is commonly believed to arise from the unfavourable comparison of oneself to social expectations (particularly regarding moral codes). not freeing up choice. However. I suspect they don’t understand poverty. If you can’t afford to pay the electricity bill. It’s a lifestyle choice. When people confuse a personal economic choice (eg Voluntary Simplicity) with a social economic outcome (eg poverty).

The answer may be that we continue to be emotionally triggered. An example would be the belief that we should have “respect for authority”. which many people regard as “common sense”. but a sin against the gods. And the remedy is not to conform.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ What happens when emotion-triggering beliefs – such as the belief in “sin” – become common sense? (eg when we automatically regard a certain behaviour as “sinful”). but we don’t understand why – because we don’t make the full connection between the belief (which being common sense. Did they go from rags to riches? Apparently not. we take for granted) and the emotion (eg guilt). THE SECRET OF SUCCESS Management Today magazine recently looked at the backgrounds of the people behind Britain’s 25 top business startups. 51 . but to continually question and unravel “common sense”. The one thing they had in common was that they came from wealthy families. trendy areas of London. without realising the history of why disrespect for authority was not only “bad”. and probably fatal for the person showing the disrespect. and most of them lived in expensive. Guilt arises from living unquestioningly (“on automatic”) in a certain type of dysfunctional society with irrational beliefs.

the actual figure for the cost of welfare to unemployed people is only £5 billion per year. 19/3/98). disability allowances and income support for lowpaid working people (as opposed to “workshy” people). 52 .” Strangely enough. just one week before the above headlines.383.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEWSPAPERS ATTACK THE IDLE Here are some headlines from March 27. 1998 (following government’s announcement of welfare reforms): “WELFARE WAR ON WORKSHY” (Daily Mail) “THOU SHALT NOT SHIRK” (The Express) “BLAIR IN WELFARE WAR ON THE IDLE” (Daily Telegraph) “SHAKE-UP IN WELFARE HITS THE WORKSHY” (The Times) The stories accompanying these headlines mentioned “spiralling” welfare costs – eg the Daily Mail said the government’s welfare reform was “a bid to smash the dependency culture that has seen benefit spending rocket to £96 billion a year. not £96 billion as the Daily Mail claims. Welfare for unemployed people accounts for only 5% of the total welfare budget. More strangely still. which suggests (if you believe official figures) that the so-called “dependency culture” isn’t such a big problem after all.800 in The Daily Telegraph. That £96 billion figure is the total welfare budget. including old-age pensions. the official number of unemployed was the lowest for 18 years (given as 1.

For example. how does one generation have “faith” in another generation? And. physical space-time) is implicitly superior to the “virtual” (ie via electronic interface). I heard a BBC reporter say the following about Russian young people:“The young no longer have any faith in Yeltsin or his generation”. it implies that “the young” of a country are a homogeneous lump with only one opinion. when Boris Yeltsin was in power in Russia. millions of differing opinions. but look more closely and you can see some quite stupid generalisations (which seem common in TV reporting). which were very “real” in the sense of people being together in close physical proximity. fulfilling experience. But it wasn’t a rich. And what about “Yeltsin’s generation” – presumably they’re a homogeneous lump too. faith in them to do what exactly? VIRTUAL HUMAN CONTACT I don’t see any sense in which the “real” (ie local. We’re talking about millions of individual human beings here.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DECONSTRUCTING CRAP TV REPORTING Once. anyway. I used to participate in little communities called “weekly progress meetings” (at work). 53 . That seems a fairly innocuous statement at first. And.

it can be – but so can trees. But you don’t blame the tree (unless you’re very superstitious). it’s not going to help your relationships.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ For as long as I can remember. The government then said that current economic weaknesses in the UK are due to the fact that UK workers are less productive than in Europe or the USA. More than a fifth of those questioned said that the long hours were not justifiable (or were only partly so) in terms of productivity. and that people are paid too much – those are the reasons for the economic problems of the country. Yes. the UK government blamed the interest rate rises on the fact that people are demanding too much in wage increases. POLITICAL HUMOUR A few years ago. 54 . people have been telling me that computer technology is a danger to “real” human relations. one in four managers would accept a pay cut in order to reduce the amount of time they work. These government statements were widely announced in the media – with straight faces all around and not a trace of irony. basically they are saying that people aren’t working hard enough. So. MANAGERS WANT TO WORK LESS According to a survey quoted in The Times (1st June 1998). If you sit up in a tree all day.

a basic human right should be: “The right to REFUSE work”. sweatshops. 55 . etc. from this. Isn’t the real situation the exact opposite of this? I thought the real human-rights abuses were in forcing people to do jobs that are unsuitable or dangerous or appallingly low-paid? Slave-labour. and you mustn’t lift a finger – or we’ll throw you in prison”. And perhaps another basic human right should be: “The right to a basic survival income. You can just imagine some Third World storm-troopers kicking down someone’s door as he/she prepares to go to work. In which case. forced labour factories. regardless of work status” But maybe that’s a little bit too close to home.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE WRONG HUMAN RIGHTS? The following phrases kept coming up in media coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration: “The right to work” “The right to a job” You would think. Then they say: “You must stay in bed all day. that human-rights abusing nations were stopping people from working.

Anyway. because they know that anyone who argues with them. Dictators flourish in climates of fear. he said. The idea is as follows: A universal Citizen’s Income can be used to get rid of evil dictators. since it allows only soundbites of 15 seconds or so – it’s difficult to communicate a new idea in 15 seconds. And to explain why “soft” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” would also take more than 15 seconds to explain. mass economic nervousness. politicians use the word “tough” a lot – eg “tough on drugs”. is going to look merely “soft”. this is the fertilizer for raising dictators – fear. survival anxiety.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A MODEST PROPOSAL The famous political dissident. 56 . whereas new ideas take a lot of explaining. has remarked that old ideas – conventional pieties – need only a few sentences to communicate. reinforces the status quo. “tough on crime”. “tough on the workshy” etc. TV. in 15 seconds or less. Noam Chomsky. For example. here’s a proposal of mine that will definitely take more than 15 seconds to explain to people. This usually begins as economic fear – people are scared that if they don’t do as they’re told they’ll be living in poverty or worse. Historically.

Somehow I don’t think a dictator would last long in a nation of millionaires. the rest of the world should send so much wealth into that country immediately. why not instead drop bananas into the mouths of the hungry. over and over: “You “You “You “You “You “You “You are a son/daughter of Adam who betrayed God” betrayed God by being born” are evil in essence” are no good” are lower than low” are totally depraved” are damned” 57 .000 years old. the hypnotist gave you the following hypnotic suggestions. to bring all the citizens upto the living standard of millionaires. For most of your life you’ve been in a semi-conscious state. with a hypnotist sitting close to your left ear. The comedian Bill Hicks was onto something when he suggested that if we have the technology to drop bombs with pinpoint precision down air vents. A “CHRISTIAN” PARABLE Imagine you’re 2. The United Nations inspectors could be used to check that nobody falls below millionaire level.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Economic sanctions and bombs just increase fear – they obviously solve nothing. I’d take this a step further by suggesting that whenever an evil dictatorship arises. Every day for the first 1800 years or so.

Despite a weekend of buying nice new furniture. Now you’re 2.000 years old and have woken up a bit. according to the views of Protestantism: “You may earn redemption if you work hard. But once you get to your desk and have a few cups of coffee. you may. for centuries. It’s 8.m. There’s no sign of the hypnotist any more.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ These are followed by a series of instructions: “If you cleanse yourself with a life of suffering (denying pleasure) and obedience to the priests. and you feel a sudden. with God’s grace. a loyal. so you can do your job. the instructions changed a little. There’s still no guarantee of redemption. when you were about 1700 years old. you still feel vaguely depressed and unsatisfied. expensive consumer products. obedient corporate teamplayer.” (See sociologist Max Weber’s writings for the link between Protestantism and Capitalism).” This goes on every day. these vague uneasy feelings disappear. Laziness and a lack of property are sure signs that you are damned eternally to hell. intense anger towards this lazy “good-for-nothing. and you’re driving to work. On your way to work. you pass a vagrant. but an outward sign of your virtue and redemption would be possession of capital..” Then a little later you have a vague feeling of guilt. 58 . You don’t understand why – after all. you’re everything you’re supposed to be: a hard worker. there is no absolute guarantee of this. However. receive redemption.15 a. And you’ve got a lot of nice. Then.

spent on cheap home produce. after work. they want them to keep the habit of “consuming”. Welfare recipients take welfare money and then give it all away in spending. and to prevent the economy from collapsing – ie it results from self-interest as much as from altruism. SPECULATIVE ECONOMICS Welfare was probably invented by the rich to keep money circulating. how can they buy things? Welfare is how you keep the economy functioning under conditions of recession or depression. ready for another early morning start.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Later. Companies don’t want their customers to starve. 59 . (Usually they give it to companies which pay the salaries of taxpayers). In monetary terms this is a false argument. a few glasses of whisky numb those troubling feelings. Apart from saved/invested money. we all give money to the same extent that we take it. Welfare is often described (by those who oppose it) as “taking without giving”. “Original sin” means absolutely nothing to you. welfare recipients probably “give” a greater proportion of their income than taxpayers (since they rarely save or invest). the vague feelings of depression and futility return – but happily. In purely monetary terms. Most welfare money isn’t “lost” – it goes straight back into the economy. utilities and rent. Because. if unemployed people don’t have money. so that when you go to bed you can sink into oblivion.

If you wish to avoid the hocus-pocus and talk in terms of “real wealth” (rather than money). The other components of price – profit. Therefore. the argument for removing welfare because it’s unearned must logically extend to removing all components of profit. How many anti-welfare advocates are committed to such a revolutionary economic upheaval? FAMILY SELF-INTEREST By definition.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ This is obviously a hocus-pocus argument. interest and land rent – are not made through earning but through forms of usury. Competition means applied selfishness. and of making such reward conditional upon earning (eg abolishing welfare). 60 . As Adam Smith pointed out. and of earning the rewards of real wealth. but then our economic system is based on hocus-pocus. interest and land rent from the economy also. And these parents wonder why children become rebellious and resentful in their teens. then you have to be consistent in your argument. Career-striving to earn money for luxury status symbols is supposedly “selfless” when you’re a parent – because it’s all for “the family”. And “selfless” parents think they’re justified in lecturing their kids about the inappropriateness of selfishness. “decent” people aren’t supposed to be selfish. labour (“earning”) is the true measure of the price of real wealth. But we live in a competitive society which favours the free-market doctrine of self-interest.

Mission accomplished for the fool. As Kennedy said. It’s not my fault they were born thick or had bad parents. 61 . If someone is unable to fend for themselves then that is just too bad. and was presumably intended to provoke hostility: “There shouldn’t be any welfare handouts – period. you could ask:“How many welfare recipients do you know personally?” “What percentage of welfare recipients are people who lost their jobs due to downsizing?” “Are you equally opposed to corporate welfare?”. leave the room). The best strategy for dealing with fools is to ignore them (in physical terms. but think what you can do for your country!” And provoke hostility it did – the usual descent into personal abuse. For example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ARGUING WITH ILL-INTENTIONED FOOLS The following rant was posted to an Internet forum set up to discuss themes from the TV show of UK comedian and activist Mark Thomas. I have got my own family to look after without supporting feckless people. in the above example. Think not what your country can do for you. etc. Why should I pay for them. The next best strategy is to question their beliefs (rather than stating your own beliefs). who are more interested in stone cladding and lottery cards than raising worthwhile citizens. Why should I work hard and better myself so that I can give money indirectly to a load of scroungers and lazy bastards. Old folk should make provisions for their retirement.

“Bad” language is not necessarily an indication of “personal abuse”. To criticise a viewpoint as “stupid” is therefore not to imply that the person who said it is stupid. That might be harsh criticism. creations. If people could just identify the dividing line between criticism and abuse. The problem is that most people can’t distinguish between criticism and personal insult. whereas criticism is directed against the views. As a rule of thumb.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ARGUING WITH WELL-INTENTIONED FOOLS It’s amazing how often Internet debates descend into personal abuse. but it’s not “personal abuse”. it might even be bad criticism. “personal abuse” is directed against the person. then that would be personal abuse. the quality of debate would be much higher across the whole damned Internet. etc – the output from a person. That makes sense – after all. arguments. That might be bad criticism. I’ve seen well-known critics use “bad” language to intensify criticism. an intelligent person is obviously capable of saying something stupid. 62 . but it’s not personal abuse. But if the film critic said that the director was “a piece of garbage”. even among well-intentioned people who basically share the same viewpoints. Imagine a film critic describing a film as “a piece of garbage”.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ TWO TYPES OF SELF-RELIANCE Many rightwingers oppose welfare on the basis that it diminishes self-reliance... exploiting anxieties.” 63 . It’s true that welfare diminishes the kind of “self-reliance” which results from a life of desperation and struggle (for the obvious reason that welfare reduces desperation and struggle). the crack dealer – or the respectable self-reliance of the comfortably affluent? WATCH OUT! What you put in your head is bound to affect how you feel. the fraudster. the con-man. but it has a depressing effect. Do rich people feel that their self-reliance is diminished by having access to trust funds and inheritances? Do corporations feel that their self-reliance is inhibited by receiving government subsidies? What type of “self-reliance” do conservatives wish to encourage by removing welfare? The desperate selfreliance of the criminal. Much of what goes into our heads looks harmless. Watch out for the adverts! A 1980 UNESCO report stated that advertising is guilty of “simplifying real human situations into stereotypes. But does welfare diminish the type of self-reliance which results from a supportive and nurturing environment? It seems unlikely.

including so-called laziness). Let’s rephrase the question: “Who creates the life-support wealth?” That distinguishes “real wealth” from “money wealth”. The next logical question would be: “how is that encouraged and supported?” We can answer in the negative by saying it’s definitely not supported by letting people starve or get sick. building on the staggering amount of real wealth (intellectual and material) already created”. It’s not supported by valuing only one type of wealth creation – “hard work”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WHO PAYS? Who pays if everyone takes? That’s a common question in debates on welfare or Basic Income. My answer to the question would be: “people following their natural abilities/enthusiasms. “job” or “quick return on the investment”. 64 . I think the question “who pays?” shows a misunderstanding of the problem. It’s not supported by society withholding a basic income from those struggling financially (for whatever reason.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART TWO PUBLISHED LETTERS 65 .

mindnumbing and soul-destroying. But then The Guardian published no less than five reader’s letters. with little criticism or scrutiny. security firms and the new sweatshops. some unusual and subversive letters are often printed. and every word rang true – unlike the PR syrup from the government and the pathetic journalists’ acquiescence. Most newspapers covered this in exactly the same language as used by the government’s press release.” All of the letters were eloquent and forceful. demoralising. whereas journalists and editors are conscious of how their own published viewpoints will affect their careers – which results in a sort of respectable cautiousness. unrewarding graft in fast food joints. attacking the government’s claims in remarkably scathing terms. Readers say what they think.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS Letters pages in newspapers seem the most interesting sections of the mainstream media. A few years ago. with descriptions of appallingly awful low-paid jobs and vivid portrayals of Britain as a sort of deeply unpleasant forced-labour camp. 66 . the UK’s Labour government gave a press conference in which they boasted of their record on employment – of “getting people into jobs”. As a result. all on the same day. call centres. One of them said: “The situations vacant are low-paid. The reason for this is probably that editors feel less responsibility for the views of readers than for the main editorial/journalistic content.

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Writing letters to newspapers can be very therapeutic when media coverage angers you. Distil your anger into a few concise paragraphs, then send to all the newspapers (newspaper email addresses are given on the Anxiety Culture website’s Letters to Newspapers page). Even if your letter isn’t printed, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the letters editors on all these newspapers have read your views (which might influence their future choice of letters for publication). You can also recycle the material you’ve written – eg post it to Internet newsgroups. I sometimes use a pseudonym when writing letters to newspapers, but it’s a good idea to give a real contact address and telephone number (they’re usually required as a condition of publication). Of all the letters I’ve had published, there were only two occasions when they checked my contact details (the Financial Times and The Times phoned me), so you can probably get away with giving bogus details. Surprisingly (given what I write), I’ve had several letters published by The Sun. Since I don’t usually bother checking this newspaper, I only find out when they send me a prize (of £15) a few weeks later. It amused me to see that the usual paranoid and sensationalist style of The Sun (forever exposing “cheats” and “love rats”, etc) extended to their letter, which said: “... Our payment system allows two weeks after publication of letters so that any ‘doubles’ can be spotted and payments cancelled. We know that our honest contributors will approve, but we apologise for the delay.”
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NEWS

OF THE

WORLD

In order to get letters published in tabloid newspapers, it pays to fake your identity. Claiming to be “young and unemployed” probably helped getting this printed (on 10 December 2000). It refers to two subjects which were heavily discussed by politicians in the media at the time. Dear Editor, The way politicians talk, you’d think welfare fraud and juvenile delinquency were the two greatest threats to civilisation. Being young and unemployed, I feel more threatened by politicians.

RADIO TIMES
The Radio Times is the BBC’s official TV listings magazine, with a mass audience in Britain. My letter was printed as “Letter of the week” in the 17-23 July 1993 issue. It refers to a scaremongering BBC programme on crime called Crimewatch UK. Back in the dark days of 1993, most people really did believe that crime was “spiralling out of control”, although in the decade since many people have become sceptical about media crime hype. Dear Editor, The coverage of crime on Crimewatch UK contributes to a climate of fear out of all proportion to the real threat of crime for most people. We keep hearing about the “rising tide of crime”, but why can’t the crime rate figures be explained in detail (perhaps with graphics such as those used by the BBC on election nights)? This would take into account factors like the vastly improved crime detection technology and the creation of new laws, both of which increase the official crime rate, without any increased threat to the public.

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FORTEAN TIMES
Fortean Times is a popular magazine covering unexplained/anomalous phenomena and weird popular culture. The letter I wrote addressed a columnist’s critical remarks about a group of optimistic futurists calling themselves “Extropians”. It was printed in the December 1996 issue. Dear Editor, Toby Howard’s article on the Extropians was the third example I’ve seen recently of people with ‘alternative’ optimistic beliefs being accused of selfishness. Timothy Leary was described as ‘an optimist’ and ‘selfish’ in his Times obituary (1 June), and on a recent BBC2 Newsnight some ‘joyful’ hermits were criticised for ignoring ‘social responsibilities’ (which is a polite way of calling them selfish). There’s probably nothing new in this, but it should come as a reminder to Forteans that anyone made happy by entertaining beliefs which aren’t consensually approved as normal runs the risk of being labelled self-centred. There are two ways of avoiding this accusation: either don’t talk about anything odd, or don’t look too happy while you do. Ironically, the epitome of normality these days seems to be the world of business, which in the UK and the US (following classical economic theory) puts the individual’s self-interest above any notions of community or selflessness. The rationale for this is expressed by Adam Smith’s paranormal-sounding metaphor of the ‘invisible hand’ which apparently ensures that unhindered self-interest ultimately benefits everybody.

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.NET
.NET is the UK’s best-selling Internet magazine. My letter
was printed as “Letter of the month” in January 2000. Dear Editor, I’m concerned by reports of a trend towards search engines which retrieve only “official” or “popular” websites. Although, on the surface, this may sound like a good idea, I’d like to start some alarm bells ringing. The rationale for such search engines is, of course, that people dislike wading through website dross – the facility to filter out rubbish is seen as desirable and marketable. Separating quality from dross is, however, a highly subjective process. I fear that by listing only official and statistically popular sites, the search engines will be favouring large corporations and institutions – which is no guarantee of quality content. I assume that the “popularity” of a website will be measured by the number of links to it. Unfortunately, the biggest factor in attracting links is advertising, not merit. This means that “popularity” will be largely a measure of advertising expenditure. Until now, search engines have given us a level playing field – you don’t need to be a newspaper tycoon to put your message out. This is what raises the Internet above the other mass media. If the new generation of official/popular search engines becomes the standard, the playing field will definitely be tilted in favour of the big players. Currently, web searches occasionally dredge up garbage, but that’s a small price to pay for the odd gems that appear. The big corporate sites will never give us diversity, eccentricity, satire, integrity – content which isn’t about selling something.
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Of that. they can be employed in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding. refers to comments made about unemployment by the UK government (and. These pointless jobs (many in financial services) have no effect except to move money around in databases. Problem is. by the Chancellor. (They would’ve printed it on 2 August 2000). benefiting the rich. 71 . If they can use a phone or walk a dog. Gordon Brown says full employment is achievable. no resources or services useful to human life. In an uncharacteristic moment of honesty. Dear Editor. The total cost of welfare is £99 billion per year. half of UK jobs produce no “real wealth”. It used to be called usury. People actually burn up fossil fuels travelling to these pointless jobs. Why should only the young benefit from pointless. £44 billion goes to the elderly. I admitted that I’d sent the same letter to ten other newspapers. Next time I’ll be prepared to lie. So it’s the only letter here that wasn’t published – but it came close. That’s ten times the amount spent on Jobseekers Allowance. in particular. printed on 16 March 2001. Let’s put them to work. Many of the elderly are able-bodied. Yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FINANCIAL TIMES The Financial Times wanted to print this letter. but unfortunately they followed a policy of phoning me to ensure that I’d written it exclusively to them. There’s no excuse for laziness and dependence. Gordon Brown). Dear Editor. low-paid jobs? THE INDEPENDENT This letter.

It begins by commenting on a previous article in the magazine. According to Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution. and see their work as pointless. Wesleyans and other nonconformist religious cults were greatly over-represented among the early industrialists. haste and urgency – can be traced to the Puritans’ perception of there being a perilously short time in which to build God’s Kingdom on Earth. as employees. Les Prince made a very interesting comparison of religious cult members and corporate employees. we spend most of our waking hours performing tasks that bore and frustrate us. gullible types. The beliefs which underlie our work ethic are thought to originate with Protestant sects such as the Calvinists and Puritans. Instead of mass suicides. A recent 72 . respectable society could be viewed as a crazy work cult which persecutes anyone not sharing its unhealthy obsession with toil. on the other hand. feel stressed and underpaid. We tend to see cult members as weak. According to a recent BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey. are in control of our lives. Our modern obsession at work – with deadlines. manipulated into performing actions which aren’t in their best interest. 60 per cent of employees dislike their jobs. we have the slow torture of boredom and bureaucracy. Presbyterians. In fact. Our normal. That’s why. We.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ FORTEAN TIMES (2) Here’s another letter I had published by Fortean Times (in their March 1998 issue). working as an employee can be as dangerous as joining a cult. I think there’s more to this than meets the eye. Dear Editor. Quakers.

most of whom find difficulty in stringing more than two sentences together). Road accidents. Last year’s Government clamp-down on “sick-note culture” was regrettable. with the result that everyone in the office catches flu. less than ten children are killed each year by strangers in England and Wales. needs to provide a financial incentive to its readers. And I received a £15 prize (I guess that The Sun. Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace. kill or seriously injure several thousand children every year. so call in sick before you get ill.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Department of Health report. Dear Editor. On average. My advice: prevention is better than cure. 73 . The media obsession with paedophiles distorts perceptions of risks to children. THE GUARDIAN This letter (published on 12 January 2000) commented on the flu epidemic sweeping through Britain at the time. unlike most other newspapers. THE SUN I feel very proud to have letters printed by The Sun (this one on 26 July 2000). however. according to government figures. revealed that people who work more than 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. Dear Editor. work-orientated employee-slaves. Personality assessment techniques have long been used in industry to ensnare a stable supply of obedient. Taking time off sick is seen as a bad career move. I sent it in the midst of yet another overblown media scare over paedophiles.

They print virtually anything – in fact most letters. only six children are killed each year by strangers.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE CHRONICLE This was one of several letters I had published in my local weekly newspaper in the late nineties. yet another burglar alarm is wailing in the background. My advice is: disconnect the alarm. as it was printed at the top of the letters page. the local burglary rate has decreased each year by about 30%. Dear Editor As I write. yet people continue to install burglar alarms. on average – more are killed by parents. I think the editor liked my letter. 74 . there is strong evidence that crime is less common now than 100 or 200 years ago (those who doubt this should spend a few years researching the historic data on crime). with a big headline. The murder rate is the same now as it was in 1857. The risk to children has actually fallen by a third since 1988. from most people. When did we all decide it was necessary to install these demonic devices? For the last five years. Despite what the scaremongers say. Even if you’re sceptical about short-term crime statistics. According to government statistics. stop watching Crimewatch UK and get a life. It only seems that there are more of these “stranger-danger” murders because the newspapers wallow in every single case. seem to complain about dog turds on the pavement and rude taxi drivers. saying: “Stop the Alarms”. hurting my eardrums. crime is definitely not escalating.

Politicians point to crime more than other risks simply because it’s politically advantageous to do so – it offends nobody. vehicle recovery services. however. etc. health problems. And turn off that alarm which is hurting my ears. There are far greater risks in life than crime: car crashes. Advertisers love scaremongering TV programmes because they boost sales of insurance policies. they’d make powerful enemies in the corporate sector. If. The New Deal has created 50. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. which is often criticised for being unreliable.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Only one in 4. There are many groups with vested commercial/political interests in making you afraid of crime.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. Statistics like these tend to be reliable. alarms.000. etc. But it cost over £5 billion to set up. So I ask you: don’t succumb to their fearful propaganda. 75 . yet more than a third fear going outside their own homes. My letter (published on 15 July 2000) was an attempt to expose the public cost of this “success”. they pointed to more common risks. workplace accidents. Dear Editor.000 elderly women will be attacked. unlike the overall crime rate. mobile phones. eg workplace accidents and stress-related illness. The risk of a car crash is 50 times greater than the risk of serious crime. THE GUARDIAN (2) A government press release about the “success” of the New Deal welfare-to-work scheme boasted about all the jobs it had created. security devices.

25 September) on Eyes of a Child. This wasn’t about poverty. but also attacked me personally (in a polite way of course – this is a BBC magazine): Dear Editor I am writing in protest to Brian Dean’s letter (RT. Dear Editor. which was billed as a documentary on child poverty in Britain. since it contained the main point of my letter). Gullible viewers will have been led to think the issue is moral (this is the usual reaction when people are shown images of delinquency). The Eyes of a Child was supposed to be about poverty but it seemed merely an excuse to show children confessing shockhorror “antisocial behaviour. which not only misrepresented my views.” In one interview. right. 76 . Yeah.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RADIO TIMES (2) My second letter published in Radio Times (25 September 1999 issue) was in response to a BBC programme called The Eyes of a Child. The following week. a boy who looked about four years old gleefully described how he “hotwires” cars. (Note: Radio Times edited out the last sentence. it was about programme-makers getting young children to utter TV-appropriate soundbites. in which he expressed contempt for the depiction of “TV-appropriate soundbites” and “shockhorror antisocial behaviour”. I’ve included it. and will consequently have no insight into the causes/effects of poverty. and his mother sprinkles heroin on his cornflakes. Radio Times published a reader’s letter responding to mine.

but neither can you trust them to not to print responses to something you didn’t actually say. is that not only can you not trust editors to print your letter intact (in a way that doesn’t distort your views). but I feel compelled to ask: which suburb of Chester is Mr Dean from? Laura Webster Funny – I thought I’d criticised a TV programme. and that apparently includes benefit fraud. The moral. THE IDLER The whole of this letter. According to the DSS’s own figures. was published in the August-September 1998 edition of the Idler. I have been taught not to make assumptions about people. Did anyone notice the weird contradiction between those newspaper headlines blaming “spiralling” welfare costs on the “workshy”. Dear Idler. I suppose. From her experience. but I find myself accused of being a suburb-dweller who denies the existence of extremes of social deprivation. Also.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ My mother has taught at an inner-city Bradford school since before I was born and her pupils in the past have ranged from heroin babies to 13-year-old pimps. 77 . only 9 percent* of welfare expenditure goes on the unemployed. I know that children like those shown in the documentary do exist. including the postscript. and the official unemployed count showing the lowest figure for 18 years.

given an ageing population. only Portugal.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In fact. 78 . welfare spending rose. But maybe it also serves to distract us from the real “scandals” such as the billions lost through the gaping loopholes in the tax system which make tax virtually optional for the super-rich. two recessions and the falling wages of the low-paid. as at 2002: approximately 5 percent (about £5 billion) of the total welfare budget (approximately £100 billion) goes on the unemployed. The total cost of the scheme is £5. relative to GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. PS. at least we can see that the economic justifications for these attacks are completely without foundation.2 billion. The total annual welfare expenditure on the unemployed is a mere £8. Whatever the reasons for the increasing attacks on the idle.7 billion* (according to DSS figures). Did you know that the government’s advertising budget for their New Deal welfare-to-slavery scheme is £18 million (of taxpayers’ money). Ireland and Greece spend less on welfare. * The current figures. it sounds like the imposition of an outdated and unhealthy Puritan morality. “DSS” refers to the Department of Social Security. which has since been renamed the Department for Work and Pensions. welfare spending isn’t spiralling out of control. from a total annual welfare budget of £96. So why this frenzied media attack on people without jobs? To me. Britain is near the bottom of the league table of developed nations in terms of welfare spending. Keep up the great stuff in the Idler.5 percent – a small amount. by only 2.2 billion*. In the EU. During the four terms of Tory government.

Hitler provided full employment. When newspapers interpret an increase in cell phone theft as “crime spiralling out of control”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT (2) This letter was written just after the 2002 election success of the (basically fascist) Jean-Marie Le Pen in France. 79 . they play a dangerous game of scaremongering. and the government’s intention to create a “work first” culture. BBC RADIO 4 PM NEWS The BBC read out part of the following letter on their main evening radio news programme (on 4 July 2001). In this interview. Dear Editor. One reason for the popularity of the Far Right in France is public fear about crime. It was published on 26 April 2002. Dear Editor. The way this government talks about work reminds me of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes One free”) Nazi concentration camp entrance sign. I wrote it in response to an interview with a government minister (Alistair Darling) from their programme the previous night. The British media should learn from this that exaggerating the crime problem doesn’t merely sell newspapers – it can have damaging repercussions for society too. Coercion can always create full employment. the minister talked patronisingly (like a schoolteacher lecturing kids) about the social benefits of work. Prison workshops have full employment.

yet working hours have risen during this period. Dear Editor. he said that he felt uneasy about it. I found this unbelievable. Celebrities cite “financial security” as a reason for doing ads. I’m not surprised Alan Davies feels uneasy about doing bank commercials.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ What happened to leisure? We’ve seen incredible advances in labour-saving technology over the last 30 years. but I made an exception for TV celebrity/comedian Alan Davies. My letter was printed in the Guardian’s Weekend supplement the following Saturday (8 September 2001). And now government ministers want to promote a “work first” culture. Given that he’d already successfully crossed over into mainstream TV and was appearing as the star of a high-ratings prime-time BBC TV series. you’re a corporate whore. every word you say is suspect. Davies should take the advice of Bill Hicks: “If you do a commercial you’re off the artistic roll call. THE GUARDIAN (3) I generally avoid personal criticism. but that he did them for financial security and that he needed the money. and when asked about the highly lucrative TV advertisements he was doing for Abbey National. He was interviewed in the Guardian’s Weekend magazine supplement. end of story”. Are they insane? You can probably guess which paragraph they read out. 80 . but the whole point of celebrity endorsements is that the celebs are flush to begin with – they don’t need the extra cash. and which paragraph they cut.

It always helps if someone else writes a letter with a similar perspective to your own.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Letters published in The Independent (16/3/01) on the theme of pointless jobs. 81 .

none for publicsector wage increases or students. That should generate around £85 billion (according to previous press reports) – more than enough to fund generous public sector pay rises. I assume that their letters editor forgot that Rupert Murdoch (who owns the newspaper) is one of the worst offenders when it comes to tax avoidance in the UK. and precious little for improving public transport. Dear Editor.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE SUN (2) I was surprised that The Sun printed this letter (on 28 November 2002 – during the national firefighters’ strike). THE SUN (3) Another one printed in the sleazy tabloid (on 28 January 2003). If Tony Blair thinks we can’t afford the firefighters’ 16% pay rise. The context was a media debate about charging college students for their education. Dear Editor. THE GUARDIAN (4) Printed by the Guardian on 19 December 2002. no public money to improve pensions. Dear Editor. But didn’t productivity rise 82 . when most students paid nothing for their education. This country is much wealthier than in the 1970s. So. The “funding crisis” in higher education is created not by lack of funds. but by a dubious political ideology. maybe it’s time to close the tax loopholes exploited by the super-rich.

83 . The context is the Bush/Blair war on Iraq. I hear Bush and Blair are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Given their selfless sacrifice of thousands of Iraqi lives and $100 billion of taxpayers’ money – plus their miraculous ability to speak truth when lying – surely nothing less than sainthood is acceptable. Until it does. you should remain impartial and use the phrase “alleged Iraqi atrocities”. If only 10% of office staff worked one day a week at home. we’d notice a significant reduction in road traffic (and pollution). Dear Editor. Dear Editor. and what happened to the dream of increased leisure? THE DAILY EXPRESS & THE INDEPENDENT Both of these newspapers printed my letter on the same day (13 December 2002). BBC RADIO 4 TODAY (ONLINE) The following two letters were published by BBC Radio 4 online (7 April 2003 and 13 May 2003. Dear Editor.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ dramatically during the technological revolution? Didn’t national wealth soar? So where is all the money going. Why do you label certain incidents as “friendly fire”? The Iraqi regime hasn’t yet proved its innocence with regard to these incidents. respectively). The government has overlooked an obvious way to tackle road congestion: give employers financial incentives to allow staff to work from home.

This is usually based upon technological capability rather than quality of imagination. No wonder so many corporate sites look identical. etc). Britain bombs Iraq without UN legitimacy. no groovy textures or tiled backgrounds. In 84 . They confirmed my suspicion that “success” in web design is currently more about conforming to corporate respectability than true creativity. I also notice a sort of design snobbery which draws a bogus line between “professional” and “amateur” sites. of course. I was unimpressed by the “world’s top designers”.NET (2) This well-known UK internet magazine printed recommendations by the “world’s top designers” on how websites should look. upon a set of anal design rules (no large text. They spoke the usual banalities (“Design is about communication”). 2. The British government warns France and Germany not to undermine the UN over the rebuilding of Iraq. I was unimpressed by the corporate mentality behind their views. Dear Editor. Let me see if I've got this right: 1. And.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE INDEPENDENT Printed on 18 April 2003 (in the context of the 2003 Iraq war). Where is the line drawn between news and satire? . clichés (“The user rules”) and gobbledegook (“Push the boundaries as far as possible while maintaining a commonality in design”). Dear Paul.

In the past. Many or most are on minimum wage or benefits. LOCAL NEWSPAPERS I sent this letter (on BBC TV licensing) to over 80 regional newspapers in the UK. Perhaps the only way for web design to progress is by going through a sort of “postmodernist” phase (don’t laugh) in which anything goes – even large text. Dear Editor. (You are not allowed to receive other channels that are not funded by the licence without first having a licence to watch the BBC. The BBC thus needlessly criminalises poverty. There is now a growing campaign against the heavy-handed practices of the TV licensing brigade. Local newspapers will print anything. Opinion polls consistently show 65–81 percent of the public opposed to the licence fee as a method of funding. The licence interferes with your right to receive information. I’d also encourage web designers to check out the “Lowbrow” art movement for visual inspiration. Anything to get away from the corporate designer-elite mentality.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ many ways I prefer the old “amateurish” look – it had a naive charm which I find preferable to corporate-conformity slickness. inappropriate bitmaps and gaudy backgrounds.000 people a year for watching TV without a licence.) 85 . From what I can gather most (if not all) printed it. the TV licensing operation has targeted local newspapers with press releases intended to frighten “licence dodgers”. The BBC prosecutes 130.

I think the majority of your readers would thank you for not publishing their threateningly worded material. etc. Greg Dyke says there is “no alternative“ to the licence fee. I would ask you please to bear in mind the above points. “public service” nature of the BBC. Director General. Going by the polls. including at least 10 television stations. Many of those prosecuted for not having a licence cannot afford the services which the BBC would spend their licence money on. In fact. Please visit http:// www.bbcresistance. And it has suppressed debate on the future of the licence fee.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The BBC is not accountable to those who pay its bills – they must pay without choice. but he told the Media Society in 1993 that it was possible to finance the BBC through subscription. A senior adviser to the government recently accused the BBC of being a “cultural tyranny”. A further concern is the claimed “neutral".biz or http://www. For example. a study quoted by the Guardian (22/4/2003) accuses the BBC of broadcasting government propaganda and failing to reflect the high level of public dissent over the Iraq issue. All with money extracted under threat of criminal prosecution. It is also launching many new radio stations and internet/digital services.com 86 . for most of which there is no demonstrated demand. Should the TV licensing people come to you with press releases. For further details on the campaign. the licence fee does not make the BBC independent but completely dependent on government. The BBC produces a large range of services. which renews the fee and appoints the Chairman. “independent”.tvlicensing.

87 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A letter of mine published in a local newspaper called The Standard (written under a pseudonym).

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART THREE Interviews 88 .

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BBC RADIO WALES INTERVIEW The first media interview I ever gave (not long after publishing issue one of Anxiety Culture in 1995) was for a BBC Radio Wales show called Borderlines. Female voice (reading quote from Anxiety Culture): “There is more than enough to go around – you don’t have to fight or suffer for it. One of the journalists from the show had seen my cartoon ads for Anxiety Culture in Fortean Times magazine. From the transcript of the Borderlines shoe: Borderlines Host: I have the first edition of a new magazine in front of me now. Borderlines regular Richard Holland has been to investigate further.” Richard Holland: Some of the philosophy to be found in the Anxiety Culture magazine produced by Brian Dean. and tracked me down to do an interview. which has on the cover the earth from space. God knows what the respectable BBC radio listeners of suburban Wales made of the broadcast. Now Brian. What exactly do you mean by that? 89 . It’s Anxiety Culture. and is aimed at what’s called ‘the anxiously inclined’. it’s clearly your belief that we are living in an anxiety culture. a satellite and a supermarket trolley – and across the inside back cover the message “Your home is at risk if you do not keep up payments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it”. just find an enjoyable way to receive it.

in your opinion? BD: There are lots of interesting facts and figures. RH: You use the phrase “anxiety junkies” which you accuse us all of being.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Brian Dean: Well.. At the very least. rather than doing something which is going to give you a beneficial effect.. The way we put it is that we’re looking at the anxieties encoded in the building blocks of mainstream culture – anxieties about work. anxieties about whether your life is as exciting as people tell you it should be – that kind of thing. and they see their work as not being of any service to society. which we quoted.. BD: To give you an example. concerning anxiety in the workplace. Forty million working days are lost every year through stress. people would rather watch hours of shock-horror news stories which are going to leave you anxious and depressed. Anxiety Culture is a magazine which focuses on the way mainstream society tends to overdose on anxiety. And the most amazing one that I came across was a major survey commissioned by the 90 . anxieties about money. RH: What sort of negative influences are there then.. (recording garbled) . for instance. There’s a major BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey.. two percent of the gross national product is lost through stress-related diseases. anxieties about crime. we shows that six out of ten people in the country are profoundly unhappy with their jobs – they feel stressed and insecure..

per year were murdered by strangers. I think it’s obvious that the corporate culture really is an anxiety culture. However you have other examples to suggest we really do seem to want to be looking for these negative things to stress us out – like crime.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ government which shows that one in seven people suffer from neurotic disorders – mainly anxiety or depressive disorders. there are some interesting statistics about crime which I think say a great deal about how our fears about crime are somewhat misplaced. And that’s also reflected in the statistics for the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills and antidepressants – the figure I saw was eighty million prescriptions issued per year. is that out of those eighty-six murders. the number of children under sixteen that were murdered each year averaged eighty-six. we all need to work. 6th August this year [1995]. 91 . But the more interesting statistic. only five. The figures that I quote are official figures from the Sunday Times. on average. BD: Yes. to me. the child murder rate has fallen by almost a half. Secondly. from 1983 to 1993. I think. RH: Right. Of course. most people would argue that though we might be stressed. if you look at the real crime statistics rather than focusing on television and newspaper hysteria. was one example you gave. I think it becomes more and more apparent that the phrase “rising tide of crime” is absurdly inappropriate in some cases. Now. since 1973. Firstly. which is amazing really.

From that you can see that advertisements work best on anxious people. That’s a fact when you look at the figures. for example.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RH: A lot of people. that that’s something we’ve increased in anxiety over. And research has shown that people who are anxious are also more suggestible. Do you think that reflects a general increase of anxiety in society? BD: Yes. It’s not the actuality. which is the belief. But people will always say: “Ah yes. But it doesn’t matter if anxiety makes people more suggestible or not. but in my young day there wasn’t all this crime”. You can go a step further and say that it’s in the interests of advertisers to have an anxious public. If you look back at the statistics there’s nothing to suggest that people were any safer going out after dark in the thirties or in the fifties. in those days you could go out after dark and feel safe”. what techniques do they use to grab the anxious and make people more anxious? 92 . They might say to you: “Oh yes. since it’s obvious that it makes people compulsive consumers. though. RH: So it does sound that as far as crime or fear of crime is concerned. So there are a lot of people who benefit from widespread public anxiety. you can say that. But that’s the point – they felt safe. RH: How do they make use of this anxiety? In advertising. tend to look back to a golden age. Is that true? BD: But I think it’s a question of belief rather than a question of actuality.

there’s too much to do.” RH: Now that was a negative thought loop which we’ve just heard. I think most people would deny being influenced by advertisements.. is if we’re all anxiety-driven and propelled by negative thoughts in this way. but obviously people are influenced on a massive scale when you look at the amounts of money involved in advertising. mainly. It’s become a bit of a cliché these days that people in advertisements are all suntanned and perfect and beautiful – so nobody gives it all that much thought. there’s too much to do – because – life is tough – because – the universe isn’t safe – because – that’s what I believe – because – that’s what I am taught to believe – because – I have to be taught rather than just believe what I want – because – I can’t have what I want – because – I don’t deserve to have what I want – because – I’m not good enough – because – I haven’t earned it yet – because – I can’t – because – It’s too hard. which you quote in your magazine. because nobody is thinking about the effect on themselves. Female voice (reading the ‘negative thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s too hard. I think. The question. which makes the adverts all that more effective. it’s exploiting people’s feeling of inadequacy. of course. how do we get out of it? BD: One of the main things we’re trying to get across is that your level of anxiety doesn’t depend upon what’s happening out there so much as what you believe about what’s happening..Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: In advertising. To give an example – if you believe that the universe is fundamentally unsafe. then you’re 93 . and you’re suggesting that a lot of us – perhaps most of us – are caught up in this.

my response is that nobody has yet invented a way to objectively measure how safe the universe is. Female voice (reading the ‘positive thought loop’ from Anxiety Culture issue 1): “It’s unnecessary for anyone to have less than they desire – because – there is an unlimited supply of all the desired things – because – the universe is abundant enough to support the prosperity of all – because – the universe is safe and infinitely supportive – because – that’s what I have decided to believe – because – I can believe what I want to believe – because – I can do all the things I want – because – I deserve to do all the things I want – because – everyone deserves all that they desire – because – It’s unnecessary for anyone to have less than they desire.” 94 . And if people say “well. on the other hand. thanks Brian very much.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ going to be constantly experiencing a state of panic and anxiety. then for the most part. But for now. because with a lack of safety on that scale. So it’s a question of belief. you believe in a universe that is fundamentally safe. you’re going to feel comfortable.. what about objectivity?”. So in case we’ve left everybody feeling terribly depressed and anxious. you obviously feel helpless. If. RH: Right. so people are free to interpret their safety in a way that advantages them rather than disadvantages them. fine.. we’ll leave people with the positive thought loop. which is the way you feel we all ought to be thinking.

But it’s the concluding section from The Face’s article that I like most. the activities of the pranksters continue to be hugely influential. I gave them a long. ‘That’s really worrying. ‘The bourgeoisie has picked up on these humorous activities’ frets George Mckay. author of DIY Protest: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain. whose spokesperson says: “Groups like Anxiety Culture do farcical things with heavy political issues which make us laugh and sit with our need to be entertained – it’s not about dogma and you don’t need a Guardian-reading mentality to appreciate it”. I played up the idea that “we” are an “organisation”.” 95 . anger and an endlessly swelling band of acolytes with innovative. rather than printed in interview format. marginal or self-indulgent they may sound... since I thought that was probably what they wanted to hear. as it seems to portray Anxiety Culture as one of the leading prankster-anarchist organisations in the country: “However weird.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERVIEW WITH THE FACE The Face (a popular glossy trend magazine) printed a long article called Pranking is Anarchy in their October 2000 edition. Among other things. Anxiety Culture and all the other groups have huge resources of creativity. Anxiety Culture was one of the “organisations” they covered. disruptive ideas of their own. their techniques often adopted by the very forces they oppose.’ Yet Luther Blissett. in-depth interview (which is printed below) – this was used to provide material for the article. their article quotes a youth marketing consultancy firm called Informer.

Pranksterism is an important element – but not in the sense of throwing eggs at rich people. It’s about gentle subversion of bureaucratic authority and work-obsessed corporate craziness. here is the interview conducted by Christian Koch for The Face: CK: Can you give a brief summary of what Anxiety Culture is about. what your aims and manifestos are? BD: Anxiety Culture is about the fear and paranoia behind the smiling mask of “normal” society. We want to see basic survival anxieties alleviated by the introduction of something like a “Basic Income” or “National Dividend”. The aim is to stop people in their tracks through irony. We’d like to see “maximum leisure” replace “full employment” as an achievable political goal. “for those who live to loaf” was ripped off by the advertisers of a popular brand of cider). CK: What does Anxiety Culture hope to achieve? BD: There are some specific things. laziness. survival anxieties. Anyway. For example. etc). politicians see “jobs” as a cure-all for social ills. poverty. satire etc – using as much intelligence as we can muster. it’s about psychological gimmicks and economic taboos (welfare.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A lot of marketing agencies and fashion gurus read The Face in order to keep up with youth trends – so I’m waiting to have some of my material ripped off by marketers (in the same way that the Idler’s slogan. We’d appreciate it if the 96 . We’d like to see this notion discredited.

Plus frustration with my job. statistics. creativity. The reason. that we’d like to bring into public awareness. dissatisfaction with the media. perspectives. many facts. I’ve not seen any reports like that for a long time. plenty of ideas. And there are many. Newspapers used to report scientific studies claiming that cannabis was highly toxic and addictive. 97 . is a better informed. We wish business people had a better grasp of the history of so-called “free market” economics – instead of ignorantly regurgitating simplistic “market” slogans. etc. CK: What motivated you to found AC? And why do you preside over the organisation now? BD: Idealism. as it seems to have tapped into a rich vein of ideas. It also seems to strike a chord with people. viewpoints.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ mainstream media would begin to question a dominant economic worldview which is two centuries out of date. CK: What is the likelihood of Anxiety Culture achieving it? BD: If you look at public attitudes towards. I think a similar thing could happen with the kinds of issues Anxiety Culture is concerned with – in fact I think it’s already happening. cannabis. dislike of the paranoid-competitive nature of the business world. say. causing brain damage etc. I’ve continued with the Anxiety Culture theme. figures. I think. less gullible public. you can see how things have shifted over the last decade.

or hard-line agit-prop? BD: To be honest. I ended up doing computer and business consultancy work for large financial services companies. I got a good view of how large companies operate. but occasionally went back to do consultancy work (if I could get it) whenever my money ran out. The closest thing we’ve got to the other end of the axis is the Inter98 . CK: Where does Anxiety Culture fit in on the political spectrum? Would you claim that you are anarchist or neo-Situationist. I quit full-time work in the early nineties. The reason I’m not sure what’s at the other end is because for thousands of years we’ve only ever experienced authority hierarchies. Still. I don’t identify myself with any of those categories. CK: A lot of AC’s ideas share similarities with the ethos of Decadent Action (especially Phone In Sick Day).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What is your own background? (I’m familiar with your work in the Idler – are you a journalist/academic?) BD: I trained as an architect. Have you ever been associated with that flamboyant clique? BD: I’ve corresponded with them a few times. Highly paid. I think there’s an axis which runs perpendicular to the right-wing/left-wing axis. and I like their ideas – but I haven’t met them or collaborated with them. then I worked for several years in the computing industry. and a big taste of the soul-destroying nature of office jobs. but boring. It’s “authority hierarchies” at one end of this axis and I’m not sure what is at the other end.

Adam Smith’s “classical free-market economics” is 200 years out of date. 99 . On the other hand I can see how the “prankster” element – and the Situationist take on the media – appeals to people. Luther Blissett. you’d think that the only economic choice available was between Adam Smith and Karl Marx. from watching TV. Marxism is 100 years out of date. Young people want novelty and relevance. Perhaps this explains why some of the Situationist stuff seems unoriginal and a bit dreary.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ net. Another comment I’d make about politics is that sometimes. I think there’s much more creativity at large than stuffy politicians could imagine. its appeal to youth and the politicisation or otherwise of young people? BD: I think this is covered by what I said before about traditional politics having obsolete categories (right v left) and limitations (Capitalism/Socialism). Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit)? BD: A cynical answer would be that people are jumping on bandwagons. So I think it’s a good thing that there are these newer alternatives like Situationism – at least it forces people to think outside of the Capitalism/Communism polar mentality. CK: Why are there so many neo-Situationist groups at the moment (eg guerrilla gardening. CK: What does the fact that there are organisations such as Anxiety Culture tell us about ‘traditional’ politics.

a BBC Radio 4 journalist wanted my input on a programme he was creating. I think the mainstream media will increasingly make use of material from sources like Anxiety Culture.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What effect do you think Anxiety Culture has had on mainstream culture? Where do you think your influence is most evident? BD: Good question. someone from Carlton TV wanted me to go on a discussion programme about stress and the rat-race. The Guardian website links to Anxiety Culture on several pages – and I noticed that the other links which the Guardian lists on these pages have been lifted straight off my own links page. etc. The article seemed to have struck a chord. So to answer your question. The Irish Independent and the Big Issue in Scotland reprinted it. I’d have to look at the times when Anxiety Culture has appeared in the mass media. I was also interviewed by the Independent newspaper – but that didn’t get as much response as the Guardian article (probably because the Independent forgot to print my contact details or web address). as in “Blair Witch [the popular film] owes its success to word-of-mouth”. 100 . So yes. A BBC2 Newsnight editor phoned me about appearing in a Newsnight debate. The best response I had was when the Guardian printed a long article of mine – I received literally hundreds of enthusiastic letters and emails. Success at that scale results only from “word-of-mass-media”. I also found that media people began to contact me. I don’t believe in “word-of mouth”.

and was promptly forgotten. CK: Have you ever managed to gauge public reaction to Anxiety Culture’s stunts? BD: I’ve had a lot of people telling me the amusing places they’ve applied my stickers. The plan is to create an online database containing news items that contradict consensus beliefs. “Crap Job Watch” stickers in Job Centres. according to an independent report. A fairly important story. The report was suppressed – it made a few column inches at most. To give you an example – a few years ago BBC Radio 4 had a story about government fraud. 101 . Another example: A 1996 government report found that people working over 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. This was deeply embarrassing given the Conservative government’s position on the EU ruling on working hours. Fiddles in Whitehall were costing the taxpayer £5 billion a year. “Avoid Meetings – Stupidity is Contagious” stickers in boardrooms etc. but the media pretty much ignores it – even though it has important implications. Except that the story was buried. It happens often: I see a news item that raises my eyebrows.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: What has Anxiety Culture been up to recently? Where have you done this and why? BD: I’m working on an ambitious project called “Memory Lapse”. you’d think.

but I don’t have any associations with them. But it cost over £5 billion to set up. But if you look at the Internet. CK: Is Anxiety Culture associated with any other factions such as Luther Blissett. etc – I don’t see progress towards these things as “destabilising”. there’ll be more leisure time.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: Are things genuinely being destabilised? Have you got any examples? BD: If you look at TV and newspaper headlines.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. young people won’t have 40 years of low-paid wage-slavery ahead of them. The changes I’m interested in will alleviate survival anxieties – people will know they can always rely on a survival income. Stewart Home. it looks like nothing is changing. The Guardian published another letter of mine a few days ago. It read: Dear Editor – The New Deal has created 50. I’m not too keen on the word “destabilise”. Santarchy et al? BD: I’m aware of their existence. 102 . and have had a surprising amount of success. it looks like everything is changing. CK: Has targeting local newspapers had any success (I saw the examples on the website)? BD: I’ve been concentrating on national newspapers. I occasionally correspond with some of the “Neoist” people. less bureaucratic interference in your private life. unemployed people won’t be stigmatised.000.

CK: Do you seriously advocate that people should not read newspapers. I’d never pull a stunt which would hurt or disadvantage anyone. I wouldn’t advise people to put turf on a statue of a national hero. as the cynical mindset of hacks infects the content? How are people supposed to keep abreast of current events? 103 . BD: I like that kind of thing – but it has to be well done. His pranks include sending spoof letters to local newspapers about the virtues of having a pet lobster or covert leftist propaganda.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: Ever thought about sending bogus press releases to newspapers? Stewart Home once deceived the Big Issue into running a story about Salman Rushdie burning copies of the Koran on the fifth anniversary of the fatwa and has submitted spoof obituaries to broadsheets. informing them of his own death. For example. BD: I have toyed with the idea of producing bogus stuff. That kind of thing is for would-be media celebrities. otherwise it backfires. The problem is I don’t really like to deceive people. CK: There is an NHS library assistant in Leicester who operates under the pseudonym of Henri Beauchamp. Gentle irony and satire is what I prefer – where everyone can be in on the joke. It has to be intelligenceraising. There are some pranks which approach “performance art” and which have a kind of poetic resonance in their own right – but they are quite rare. not just puerile self-aggrandisement or selfpublicity.

writing some articles and expanding the website. say for a few weeks. 104 . I’ll also be progressing the “Memory Lapse” database. There are a number of psychological tricks which will relieve this – but they’re just temporary practices. CK: What has Anxiety Culture got planned for the next six months? BD: There’s a book in the works – sort of Anxiety Culture: The Book. due to constant performance pressures or deadlines. Language doesn’t just affect us consciously – it also has a hypnotic effect. harassed state at work.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BD: My viewpoint on this probably needs a bit of explaining. It would be absurd for me to tell people they “should not” read newspapers or watch TV – firstly because I read newspapers and watch TV myself. and secondly because I’m not in the habit (I hope) of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do. For example. I think that’s a good metaphor. as a temporary psychological experiment. William Burroughs talked about “the word” acting as a virus. Anxiety Culture advocates the use of psychological tools (gimmicks) – little experiments that can bring shifts in consciousness in environments which are otherwise fairly “controlling” – such as the workplace. employees often seem to be in a rushed. etc. not a set of “Thou Shalts”. But I think it’s a good idea to take a break from “media noise” occasionally – to completely avoid it.

It’s this state of affairs which led to my “The corporate image gets a little too trendy” postcard design. I think) said satirists and pranksters don’t contribute anything to society. Where does this leave groups like Anxiety Culture? BD: A Conservative politician (Norman Tebbit. There are some interesting stories of advertising agencies “pushing the envelope” in order to communicate with cynical youth – and then running up against opposition from the companies whose products they’re advertising. conservative companies are not always too happy about the images used by the advertisers. you have opportunities for satire and pranksterism. so it’s a difficult balancing act for them. 105 . but they wish to reach the youth market. I can see what they mean. but I don’t agree. those people from Scanner (CHK) who stood outside Virgin with placards saying ‘Overpriced CDs sold here’. as the “real world” has gone beyond satire. Obviously. Wherever you have bureaucracy. Some people say there’s nothing to satirise any more. the street teams in New York who run into the street to disrupt the traffic. waving placards publicising the latest record. Sometimes they axe the advertising campaign for “going too far”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CK: It seems that a lot of marketing techniques are becoming increasingly influenced by anarchist pranks – for instance. So it’s amusing to see corporations copy pranksters in order to appeal to the youth market. authority and stupidity.

St Lukes (they did the adverts for the government’s New Deal) has a “Work Sucks” page on their website – and they even have a link to Anxiety Culture! One of the adverts they made for the New Deal effectively says: “since the New Deal cost billions. the government killed that particular advert. I noticed recently that the ultra-trendy advertising agency. Not surprisingly.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another argument is that the corporate world is simply “co-opting” everything the satirists and pranksters do. we’d better make sure it works”. 106 . This was supposed to attract employers into the New Deal scheme.

regardless of actual work demands). as printed. I argued against presenteeism. As long as you’re sincere in what you do. Actually. In the 20th March 1999 edition. Our arguments. I made several points against presen- 107 . You have to stay one step ahead of the others”. Firoz Kassan argued in favour of hard work rather than “presenteeism”. in which two people gave opposing views on a particular issue. With free movement of labour in Europe now it’s going to get worse. The world is becoming increasingly competitive. and he said: “I work from seven in the morning until nine in the evening every day and most weekends. the issue was “presenteeism” (the opposite of “absenteeism” – eg spending all your time at the office. My guess is that The Independent couldn’t find anyone to argue in favour of presenteeism. In fact they asked me if I knew anyone who would be prepared to take a propresenteeism position. and a self-made millionaire called Firoz Kassan argued in favour of it. with people coming in who are prepared to work harder. There’s no point in sitting around: life’s too short. I work for myself. I suggested the PR spokesperson from the Institute of Directors (but then I’ve got a warped sense of humour). Life is about working hard and playing hard. I enjoy work. were compiled (and edited) from interviews. that’s what matters.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ INTERVIEW WITH THE INDEPENDENT ON “PRESENTEEISM” The Independent newspaper had a weekly section called Cross Words. He owns a hotel business.

If people started admitting they didn’t enjoy their jobs we’d have a much healthier situation.” Technology is a big part of the issue: we’re constantly getting more from less. During the Edward Heath government we had a three-day week. The old ideas are carrying on and nobody’s questioning them. but productivity was the same. The concept was created at the beginning of the industrial revolution in an attempt to get people to work in factories. they say no. But if you ask them if they’d still do it if they didn’t have to. so why are we working more? Production output has trebled in the last decade. and the factory owners found it difficult to make them come in and work consistently. We live by an idea that is out of date: the Protestant work ethic. the idea that to be virtuous you must work. work. About five years after joining the rat race I started feeling extremely frustrated. 108 . A study by Proctor & Gamble showed that people working reduced hours are significantly more productive. Now I work as a contractor. work. I had 20 days’ paid leave a year but I needed more. but the edited version of my comments which they printed is more of a general argument against the Protestant work ethic. I left and took a year off. six months on and six off. People were accustomed to taking a day off every holy day. In fact productivity increases among people who work less hours.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ teeism. People should spend as little time as possible at work. I asked my boss for some unpaid leave and he looked at me as if I was mad. Here is what they printed: Presenteeism is not natural. “You have to work to be virtuous. but no one’s benefiting. By definition an enjoyable thing is something you’d do whether you were paid or not. If you ask most people whether they enjoy their work they say yes. The idea that you had to suffer to be virtuous was translated into.

But obviously all this has changed over the last 25 years. relative to the “cost of living”. In those days. He says all he had to do was “sign on” each week – there were no other conditions for receiving the dole. Questioner: You presumably recognize that we can’t all pay ourselves a Basic Income. was much higher then than now. without any work requirement). Or are you counting on people to continue working after a Basic Income is implemented? BD: Firstly. and a well-paid computer programmer) who lived for ten years on the dole in his youth. but in Britain it was possible to live on the dole for long periods without getting any hassle from the government. Certainly I don’t think there was the intensity of hostility towards welfare recipients that you see now. 109 . I was asked to defend the concept of a Basic Income (a universal guaranteed income paid to everyone.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ BASIC INCOME FORUM This electronic debate took place on a special Internet forum discussing work issues (Why Work?. college students could spend all their holiday periods on the dole. He is proud of his “drop-out” years. Nobody but a few rightwing spoilsports questioned any of this at the time. I don’t know what the exact situation was in the US. The amount of the dole. and refuse to do any work. 12 April 2001). I know someone (who’s over 50 now. let’s go back to when welfare (called the “dole” in Britain) was more generous and virtually an unconditional entitlement (ie prior to the reign of Mrs Thatcher).

Whatever you think of “Britpop” (I always found it dreary and banal myself). and claimed they spent this time developing their musical skills. a survey in a popular music magazine (NME). That’s a bit before my time. society didn’t fall apart. Most people stayed in their jobs. A recent BSA (British Social Attitudes) survey revealed that 60% of employees find their work “of no use to society”. probably never considered quitting their jobs even for a moment. was a good investment in human creativity). having families and work ethics. but I’m told that despite all work being cut by 40%. but most people. we had a “three-day week” during the time when Edward Heath was Prime Minister.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Somebody told me recently that the successful horrorfiction author. going back to those pre-Thatcher years: despite the easy availability of dole. More recently. Even if all these people voluntarily quit their jobs (which they probably 110 . But. revealed that virtually all of the musicians involved in the “Britpop” scene (Oasis. Clive Barker. spent nine years on the dole in his youth. Pulp etc) spent years on the dole. Having worked in pointless Financial Services jobs myself. Society didn’t fall apart. Also. as I mentioned above. Some people took advantage of the situation. productivity remained virtually the same. in this case. there’s no doubt that it brought in a lot of tax revenue (it seems the dole. I can easily believe that figure.

the people most likely to quit their jobs under a Basic Income scheme would be those who currently hate their jobs most. we might finally have a true “labour market” rather than a corporate-employment dictatorship. So. b) they pay people such low wages that they can sometimes make a spurious costjustification case for keeping them on. taking all the above factors into account. 111 . I don’t think Basic Income would create any big problems. And remember.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ wouldn’t). and remain functioning as normal. rather than desperate choices based on fear and stress. even in worst-case scenarios. For me. that more approximates a true “free market” (ie people choosing the work/activity they want) than the system we have now. I doubt there’d be any noticeable social effects in terms of lack of services or lower quality of life. of course) is because: a) it’s very bad PR (although it’s usually good news for the shareholders). Such is the impact of automation. and c) it would mean a big change in internal organisational/political structure – something that’s resisted within companies (unless someone fresh is brought in at a high level – this often does result in huge job losses). If people can make rational choices based on their wants and needs. where people feel obliged/coerced into taking a job they dislike due to basic survival anxiety. The only reason they don’t sack thousands of employees (sometimes they do. Financial Services companies could lose 70% of their human workers.

while closely monitoring the results. But we wouldn’t know this if they hadn’t been tried out for real. as is the French 35-hour week experiment. Or is that just timidity? BD: I think it’s timidity if we don’t even get to the stage where we try things on a small scale or gradually-implemented basis. If you found that everyone in the area took advantage of it by simply quitting their jobs. they’ve so far been successful. The same can be done with Basic Income – at minimum expense. depending on the practical details of how you work it. as a society. we should have a fairly good idea about whether something will work. conservative economists swore these schemes would end in disaster. then obviously you’d have 112 . In both cases. it was possible to test these things with minimum risk. have a much better idea of how it will work in practice.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Questioner: But before a scheme like Basic Income is implemented shouldn’t we. They didn’t – on the contrary. The administrative apparatus already exists to implement it – eg the tax system or the welfare system. and by introducing the French scheme on a gradual basis (it didn’t apply to small firms at first). It could be tested in a small area for a year or two. but the only way to do this is by trying it out in some way – to test it. Yes. By introducing the minimum wage at a very modest level. rather than merely in the theory of economists (who usually get things wrong anyway). experiment with it in the laboratory of social reality. The minimum wage is a case in point.

also. in which the worse jobs are also the lowest paid is surely an economic perversion which only torturers and sadists would approve of. The current system. Remember. bureaucratic mess). which you stop receiving once you get a job). obviously. If nobody comes forward to do the job. 113 . Questioner: How do you get people to do the “dirty” jobs if they can support themselves on a Basic Income? BD: The answer is simple: the marketplace – ie supply and demand. that you get to keep your Basic Income payments after you get a job (unlike welfare. I personally like the idea of “negative income tax” as a way of gradually introducing Basic Income. That’s how the “labour market” should always have worked. So the purely financial incentive to take a job – even a low-paid job – is greater under a Basic Income scheme than under current welfare systems. There are different options to choose from.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to rethink – perhaps build in a few conditions (although the point. the income is raised until people do come forward to take the job. would be that it avoids all the complicated conditions that make the welfare system such a costly.

Here’s the transcript (the review was featured in the show broadcast on 1st September 2000): James Hyman: I think we all work too hard – do you not agree? (Backdrop changes to the hypno-spiral TV animation from the intro page of the Anxiety Culture website).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ CHANNEL 4: “FRONTAL” Channel 4 described their late-night TV show. technology and the Internet. Judging from the chaotic nature of the show (presenters talking over each other. Natasha Bell: I think we do. but I think the transcript of the review is worth including here for amusement value. drawing a large national (UK) audience. Channel 4 advertised the show heavily. as “a combination of cutting-edge music. The review format was three presenters – James Hyman. I wasn’t interviewed (I sent them a copy of my interview with The Face magazine to answer their questions about my background). etc) it was broadcast live. film. The Frontal producers contacted me about featuring Anxiety Culture in their review section. They asked for a copy of my “Propaganda Kit” to use in the review. Natasha Bell and Lisa Rogers (who later became one of those glamorous female celebrities who adorn men’s magazine covers) – discussing the reviewed material against a giant projected backdrop. dealing with fringe popular culture”. videos. 114 . Frontal. Lisa Rogers: I work totally hard.

115 ... NB: If you’re unhappy with your job.. LR: Yeah! (Backdrop changes to “Crap Job Watch” graphic from Propaganda Kit). JH: Listen to this – “working more than forty eight hours doubles the risk of coronary heart disease”. Enjoy your life. resign”. LR: Noooooo! JH: Enjoy your life. They produce lots of stills [I think he meant stickers] – a Propaganda Kit. NB: You’ve got a kit here – what do you do with it? JH: You’ve got a kit – you get a lot of stickers.. NB: I like that “Crap Job Watch” (pointing to backdrop). (Backdrop changes to the Propaganda Kit page from the Anxiety Culture website). for under ten pounds.. Enjoy your life more. We should enjoy life more. (holds up another postcard) and “Turn on.. blame James first.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ JH: Anxiety Culture dot com – this is targeting corporate culture. tune in. JH: “Don’t be a slave to someone else’s purpose” – have your own purpose. JH: Look at that (holds up postcard from Propaganda Kit) – “Team spirit means mob mentality”. LR: (indecipherable interruption). You can put this.

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One of the postcard designs from the Propaganda Kit referred to in the review NB: I never thought about you as a hippy, James. JH: I like to enjoy life – you don’t have to be a hippy to enjoy your life... Just be aware of corporate culture. NB: So you put these stickers all over your computer? JH: Put them in job centres, boardrooms, whatever. NB: Do you think this sticker campaign will knock down global corporations? JH: No, but it’ll help... it’ll help. LR: (indecipherable interruption).

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JH: Can I just say a couple of their manifestos (reads from print-out) – “the more we dwell on responsibilities, the more responsibilities we get”. “Postpone worrying”. Why wake up in the morning thinking “I’m going to get the sack”? LR: So do you have to pay... do you actually have to pay for this? JH: You can pay for the kit... but read their manifestos. LR: You pay for the kit... so their manifesto means they get ten quid when you join... JH: Read. Read. Knowledge is power.

POSTSCRIPT
The implication from one of the Frontal presenters that Anxiety Culture is a grubby money-making exercise was particularly ironic, under the circumstances. I sold, in total, less than ten Propaganda Kits (including after the publicity I received from this TV show). My original intention was that if I sold enough kits, I could save money on printing costs per kit. As it turned out, I printed out each kit individually (home colour inkjet printers are great quality, but the inks and the special inkjet cards, etc, are very expensive), making only £2 profit on each kit sold. Considering the amount of time I put into creating the content of the Propaganda Kit (and into physically assembling each kit) – weeks of effort – the amount of money I made (less than £20 in total) doesn’t really put me in the exploitative money-grabbing bracket. But I’m working on it...
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PART FOUR

BL~ISS: BULLETIN OF LEISURE

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FAKE ORGANISATIONS
Creating fake organisations to serve as the ostensible “authors” of your work attracts more attention and provokes more thought than presenting your material simply as “a bunch of ideas by Joe Smith”. I recommend creating at least two fake organisations and appointing yourself Director or CEO of each. In a sense they are no more “fake” than a high proportion of legitimate businesses (which often use “trading as” names to hide the real name) or “front organisations” for political or corporate interests (which are far more common than most people suspect). Having a website address for your “organisation” adds authenticity (and can be set up for around £10), but otherwise you can just sign-off your emails, letters, newsgroup postings, etc, with the name of your “organisation”. Media people, in particular, are suckers for “organisations”. It adds credibility to their work when they can quote organisations rather than lone individuals. Lone individuals tend to be seen as cranks and crackpots, whereas “organisations”, at the very worst, are seen as cool jokes (eg group-created spoof and satire). Brian Dean Assistant Director, CANPP Campaign to Abolish the Nobel Peace Prize Osmo, Stockholm

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Some people might think that all this obscure. etc). 120 ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ . BL~ISS is short for “Bulletin of Leisure ~ Independent Space Sector”. The End of Work at the same time that I read the flyers of a weird group called the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA for short). corporation. It came about because I read Jeremy Rifkin’s book. if drafted. who actually enjoy most of what’s on TV.Everything They Told You is Wrong BL~ISS BL~ISS was an “organisation” I created to distribute a leaflet in the late nineties. The remainder of this section contains the full text of the BL~ISS leaflet. will kill whomever they are told to kill. who believe what they are told by those above them in the power structure (family. I combined the ideas of Rifkin and the AAA (probably without doing justice to either) into a weird mix. who. and then sent a batch of the finished leaflets to small press distributors (who generally like to include free flyers and other odd stuff in their parcels to customers). who obey orders. although the leaflet itself was carefully designed and convincing in appearance – and it contained some valid information and ideas. smallscale creativity is entirely pointless. It was basically a put-on. But they are probably the same people (to paraphrase Robert Anton Wilson’s description of “Pinks” in Everything is Under Control) who never have an original or rebellious thought. school.

121 . Technology is already shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. Economists have calculated that an annual market growth of 5-10% is necessary to replace the jobs lost through technology. The new technologies are bringing us into an era of near workerless production at the very moment in world history when population is surging to unprecedented levels. The clash between rising population pressures and falling job opportunities will shape the geopolitics of the emerging high-tech global economy well into the next century. Global corporations are now capable of producing an unprecedented volume of goods and services with an ever smaller workforce. The End of Work: We are rapidly approaching a historic crossroads in human history. To quote Jeremy Rifkin. from his book. No developed Earth nation can sustain this kind of growth.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE END OF WORK It seems likely that most work will soon cease to exist on the planet surface.

FUTURE HISTORY OF THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR As corporations and states attempted to exploit the commercial possibilities of space. space corporations quickly gave up on human labour and instead invested heavily in laboursaving space technology. they were sharply awakened to a neurological fact: the parameters of human psychological functioning alter drastically in zero gravity – obedience and conformity are difficult behaviours to maintain in space. 122 . More and more people are choosing to live in the Independent Space Sector – in preference to the earthbound. This has evolved and grown from what used to be called the non-profit sector.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The most important aspect of this cultural transformation is the emergence of the Independent Space Sector. gravity-depressed government and market sectors. Frustrated by the misbehaviour of their employees.

so it could absorb the displaced workers. law. In contrast. space habitats had leisure. however: whilst Earth had unemployment. Earth-dwellers still had the archaic. Inevitably. Between the mid-fifties and the early eighties. The service sector (banking. In the first stage.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One effect of this was the high availability and low cost of such technology. the cost of living in space became cheaper than on crowded Earth. The second stage occurred when technology became advanced enough to replace most of the functions of human labour in the manufacturing sector. technology became advanced enough to replace human labour in the agricultural sector. puritanical mentality which linked the concept of self-worth to work (despite the fact that human labour had no commodity value – for years cheap technology had outperformed human labour in every mundane task). there was a continuous migration of workers from manufacturing to the service sector. Independent space colonies flourished. etc) was growing and could absorb the 123 . the space colony inhabitants fully realised that outmoded notions of work had no place in the future of human evolution. LEISURE IN SPACE Work ended in three stages. Cost was not the only thing in their favour. airlines. accounting. There followed a vast migration of human workers from agriculture to manufacturing. Manufacturing was a growth sector. insurance.

clerical. Speech recognition software was already in widespread use in the mid-nineties. and a mode of existence incompatible with the traditional culture. error-ridden and slow. The early space corporation workers were rebellious and non-conformist compared to their more domesticated earthbound colleagues. nine out of ten jobs in a typical modern city were in the service sector. THE WORKERLESS SOCIETY “Automation threatens to render possible the reversal of the relation between free time and working time: the possibility of working time becoming marginal and free time becoming full time. The third stage occurred when computer technology advanced sufficiently to accomplish most of the functions of the service sector.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ displacement from manufacturing. By the time the space sector appeared. The result would be a radical transvaluation of values. Artificial intelligence soon followed. and secretarial labour look inefficient. making human management. in Eros and Civilization – our emphasis) 124 . By the late eighties. Space corporations thus had more incentive to invest in labour-saving technology. Advanced industrial society is in permanent mobilization against this possibility” (Herbert Marcuse. technology had overtaken the human migration from sector to sector. Technology replaced human labour in the space sector before human labour had even really begun to migrate there.

75% of the work force in most earthbound industrial nations engage in work that is little more than simple repetitive tasks. however. In the Independent Space Sector. The vast majority of these tasks can be automated. many communities 125 . people were either workless. human beings sold their labour as a commodity in the ‘open’ marketplace. New approaches to providing wealth to individuals. In 1979. growing inequality. This is part of the reason why wages have become lower and lower at the bottom end of the earth market. not low-paid!) In traditional planet-surface economic thinking. When human labour became increasingly worthless compared to high-speed. high-efficiency electronic automation. the average weekly wage in the US was $387 – by 1989 it was $335 (and that is average. The failure of earthbound institutions to take account of these trends led to economic stagnation. not based on their labour. The value of human labour is diminishing rapidly. With the exception of a small group of “knowledge professionals”. the traditional link between work and adequate income no longer applied. poverty and epidemic anxiety. Human labour was no longer an important part of the production cycle. or had work which provided insufficient income.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Marcuse made this prophetic observation five decades ago – he couldn’t have predicted the rapid advances in space technology which gave birth to the Independent Space Sector and its non-formal economy of leisure and pleasure. became necessary.

it isn’t working” became raw material for many of the jokes told in space. but no work to be done (most mundane tasks were automated). creatures of the industrial era” (Jeremy Rifkin. voluntary. wealth-hording personalities stayed on earth – without gravity. the power-obsessed. libraries. non-profit sector – communities of people pursuing common goals. became much more fairly distributed than on the planet surface. The non-profit sector is vast. theatres) were originally created by the independent. and “if it isn’t hurting. hospitals. Conventional earth-scarcity ‘wisdom’ such as “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Meanwhile. in The End of Work) Many of the benefits of civilisation now credited to the government or market sector (eg schools. yet it goes 126 . in space. These two institutional forces have come to so dominate every aspect of our lives that we forget how limited their role was in the life of society just one hundred years ago. THE INDEPENDENT SPACE SECTOR “Most people would find it difficult to imagine a society in which the market sector and the government play less of a role in day-to-day affairs. after all. The result of this was that the wealth. Corporations and nation-states are. The reason for this was simple: there was a lot of material abundance (resulting from decades of production-increasing. labour-saving technology). they found it difficult to function as territorially dominant animals. without ulterior motives of quick profit.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ experimented with providing material abundance to individuals in ways not based on hours worked.

Unlike slavery. ie 4% of the gross national product. we heard that Electrolux announced they are cutting 12. EARTHBOUND GRAPPLING WITH THE PAINFUL ISSUE OF PLANET-SURFACE UNEMPLOYMENT “Technological advances are now so rapid that companies can shed far more workers than they need to hire to implement the technology or support expanding sales” (Wall Street Journal. Sears. At the time of writing this BL~ISS bulletin.000 jobs from its merchandising division. The independent non-profit sector came into full flower when territorial-dominance imperatives started to atrophy in the humans who ventured into space. with a total income in excess of £17 billion. This was in a year when sales revenue rose by more than 10%. serfdom and wage employment. 1994) In 1993 the US retail giant. February 24th. But those who had tasted space were inevitably drawn back to the BLISS cultures of the independent space communities. In hindsight we can see that it required the neurological shift induced by zero gravity to bring about this transformation of human culture.000 jobs over the next 127 . activity in this sector is not coerced or reduced to financial motives of fear or greed. shed 50.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ unrepresented in the mass media. There are more than 350. The vast majority of planet-tied people remained addicted to territorial security-anxiety and continued to perpetuate the earthbound culture of fear.000 voluntary organisations in the UK.

Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Large layoffs such as these are becoming increasingly common as the technological revolution restructures corporate culture.. Meanwhile. this figure is widely mistrusted – by the Labour Party. “Hitler provided full employment. Coercion can always provide full employment” (Henry Hazlitt. The official figure uses the benefit claimant count. in Economics in One Lesson) 128 . The claim that unemployment can be conquered by sustained economic growth has little supporting evidence.. Unemployment has more than doubled in the UK since 1979. Europe’s economy grew by 70% in the last 25 years but only 10% new jobs were created.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ two years. and is thus distorted every time the conditions for receiving benefits are tightened – the true unemployed figure is estimated to be four times higher). the official unemployment figure has come down to below one million – claimed as the lowest figure for three decades. nine out of ten jobs created since 1992 have been temporary or part-time. back in the UK. (2002 note: Since writing the BL~ISS leaflet. before they came into government. and even by the Royal Statistical Society. However.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ PART FIVE PUBLISHED Articles 129 .

without work requirement or means test. BASIC INCOME A Basic Income is an income paid to all individuals. I’ve selected a handful of my own favourites. Social Credit and National Dividend – usually with the aim of remedying social problems such as poverty and unemployment. Winter 2002/3). Over the last two centuries this idea has been independently proposed under a variety of names – Citizen’s Income. Some economists think that funding should 130 . State Bonus. which is funded from royalties on Alaska’s vast oil fields. eg self-employment or jobs. An existing example of a Basic Income funded this way is Alaska’s dividend scheme. As a starting point for people new to alternative economics. Nobel prize-winning economist James Meade proposed a social dividend funded from the return on publicly owned productive assets.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ALTERNATIVE ECONOMICS This is a shorter. and concentrated more on the art of bluffing than this version. Several ways have been suggested to fund a Basic Income. The main difficulty is sifting through them all to find the best ones. The Idler article was titled: A Bluffer’s Guide to Revolutionary Economics. amended version of an article I wrote for the Idler (issue 31. Universal Benefit. NO SHORTAGE OF ALTERNATIVES There are hundreds of economic ideas which fall outside conventional capitalist and socialist theories. People are free (but not obliged) to top it up with income from other sources.

compared to the existing welfare system. parttime or self-employed work – increase your disposable income under a Basic Income scheme.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ come from redistributive income taxation or a tax on land. With Basic Income it’s more financially rewarding to move from unemployment into a job – because you keep your Basic Income payments. Thomas Paine favoured a state-provided universal income to compensate for the inequitable division of land. Basic Income provides a strong financial incentive for creative and productive activity. which he saw as belonging to everyone. making the idea of a universal income seem all the more affordable. Of course. because they interfere with the condition of “continuous availability for work. whereas the income from such work is subtracted from your dole under the current system. whereas the welfare system aborts it. technology has led to vast increases in national wealth since Paine’s era. starting a business. Many worthwhile activities – adult education. These ideas aren’t new – as far back as 1796.” Most wealth-creating activity begins modestly. etc – are penalised or even criminalised under the current welfare system. Basic Income nurtures such activity. Many common types of work – eg low-paid casual. 131 . In fact. whereas you would lose your dole. perhaps not generating enough for a person to survive on at first. voluntary work. Many people argue that a Basic Income would remove the incentive to work and nurture an idle underclass.

Several variations of Guaranteed Income have been proposed. Every individual is guaranteed a minimum income (set above the poverty level) – if your income falls below this level. you automatically get a top-up from the government. but the important difference is that it uses a means test. but as your personal income increases. the amount of top-up decreases. Guaranteed Income. 132 . the most well known being Robert Theobald’s 1964 scheme for “Basic Economic Security”. like Basic Income. In fact. is not conditional upon work. Theobald was concerned about the effect of technology and increasing automation – he thought it was time to dissolve the traditional link between income and work. Theobald’s proposal’s were taken quite seriously by the US administrations under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ GUARANTEED INCOME Guaranteed Income is sometimes confused with Basic Income. Nixon adopted Guaranteed Income proposals as part of his “Family Assistance Plan” bill (which was unfortunately defeated in the Senate). since most work would eventually be automated.

but which avoids the degrading nature of welfare. Employers can currently exploit the willingness-to-work condition by providing what Van Parijs calls “lousy jobs”. This is a different approach from most conventional economists. which would provide government top-ups. via the tax system. who tend to see all market-created jobs as “good” and “worthwhile”. how. fulfilling or “stepping stone” jobs – and that the best people to make this distinction are the ones doing the jobs. that Negative Income Tax was proposed by Milton Friedman. Friedman’s intention was to create a system that costs less than the current welfare system. do you get people to take jobs which are essentially 133 . which people are forced to accept. whom many regard as being on the right of the economic spectrum.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ NEGATIVE INCOME TAX One variation of Guaranteed Income is the Negative Income Tax. On the other hand. to those below a certain income level. The Belgian political theorist Philippe Van Parijs argues that when we assess willingness-towork. It should be pointed out to those who see this as a “soft” leftist idea. WILLINGNESS TO WORK? Many so-called “guaranteed minimum income” schemes restrict entitlement. we should make the distinction between pointless. to those “willing to work” – a condition similar to that of current welfare systems. among the unemployed. dead-end jobs and useful. without the willingness-to-work condition.

since even the lowest paid jobs significantly increase one’s disposable income under a Basic Income scheme. the cost of credit could in theory fall to a rate well below 1% (the cost of administering the credit. Van Parijs concludes that the best solution would be a Basic Income scheme with no willingness-to-work condition. true interest would be zero).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ decent but low-paid? Under a Guaranteed Income scheme there is little financial incentive to take low-paid work. Free trade is supposed to drive down prices through open competition. but according to Proudhon. but retain the incentive to take decent low-paid jobs. Warren and Tucker there is a fundamental flaw in the existing system: a lack of competition in the issuance of currency. As Benjamin Tucker explains: 134 . This would remove the coercion of taking “lousy” jobs. ZERO-INTEREST CURRENCY A different type of non-coercive redistribution of wealth comes from the old Individualist (as opposed to Collectivist) Anarchist approach of allowing free trade to drive down the cost of “borrowing” money. This idea originated with early anarchists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. The current legally enforced money-issuing monopoly (eg the Bank of England or the Federal Reserve) keeps interest at an artificially high level – if free competition was allowed in the creation and distribution of alternative currencies. hence the willingness-to-work condition. Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ “If a thousand men engaged in different lines of business unite to form a bank of issue. without any monopoly. would be a more than sufficient motivation. is the economic recipe for an Individualist Anarchist utopia. he assures us. It’s a good argument to use on “leave it to the market” types. the business people would establish a collective credit with circulating power. Tucker responds that in forming a network of such banks. then point out that a genuinely free market. the anarchists claim that zero-interest currency would 135 . losses by depreciation of securities. With zero-interest credit. housing rent would effectively disappear. The irony of this idea is that it follows conventional “free market” theory to logical conclusions. and if said bank lends its naturally well-known circulating credit… do these loans of the bank’s credit cost the bank anything beyond the salaries of manager and assistants. rent of building. In fact. expenditure for paper and printing. and if this bank of issue unites with other similar banks for clearing purposes. and sundry incidentals? Do not statisticians and economists agree that a discount of one-half of one percent covers the expenses referred to?” When asked why business people would be motivated to issue their own currency at a cost not exceeding running expenses and incidental losses. enabling them to borrow money at less than one per cent – which. because nobody would give money away to landlords if purchasing was cheaper. Get them to acknowledge that a currency monopoly is at odds with free market philosophy.

Workers would be fully compensated for their work at last. and of course there are experiments that we don’t know about because of their secrecy. Adam Smith’s principle of “labour being the true measure of price” would thus come into effect through free competition driving out all usurious components of price. It will be interesting to see how governments react to alternative electronic currencies springing up in cyberspace. hundreds of alternative local currencies were issued. The British government suppressed an attempt to distribute lowinterest currency in the American colonies (prior to the revolution) and quashed a similar attempt by Scottish banks – in order to preserve the monopoly of the Bank of England.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ eventually remove all forms of usury. and not a Marxist or Collectivist in sight. During the 1930s depression in America. There are published records of experiments in issuing private currencies by the American Individualist Anarchists (eg True Civilization by Josiah Warren and Mutual Banking by William Greene). 136 . including “profit”. LTERNATIVE ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES Although it’s normally illegal. in which case they put a stop to it. The government mostly turned a blind eye unless currencies threatened to cross state lines. from economic transactions. there have been hundreds of attempts to issue alternative currencies.

Gesell proposed “rusting bank notes” (a metaphor for negative-interest money). This. but that it tends to be used as an instrument of power. or in the cost of storage. can’t be hoarded without significant costs – either in the natural deterioration of the goods. to bring about an “organic reform” of the monetary system. to revalidate it. which required a stamp to be affixed to the back of a money note each month. Gesell believed that money is fine as a medium of exchange. on the other hand. would result in people receiving the full proceeds of their own labour. In order to encourage the natural circulation of wealth instead of speculative hoarding. the distortions in the system caused by hoarding and other forms of usury would be removed. he argued. With money behaving more like real material wealth. money can be hoarded – temporarily withheld from the market for speculative purposes – without exposing its holder to losses. capable of dominating and distorting the market.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ STAMP SCRIP In 1891 an Argentinian businessman and economist named Silvio Gesell went one step further than the Individualist Anarchists by proposing a system of negative interest currency. The most well-known form of this currency was “stamp scrip”. and would enable large sections of the population to quit wage slavery and work in an autonomous manner in private and co-operative enterprises. Real material goods. 137 . For example.

138 . ie trade and investment. Wörgl effectively ran out of money. the central bank panicked because of the threat to its monopoly. Wörgl stamp scrip. so people spent the money as fast as possible. THE DIGITAL ECONOMY Apart from the possibility of alternative electronic currencies. so the mayor of the town printed his own. 90% of capital transactions had involved the “real economy”. during the depression. shortly after the dismantling of the gold standard and the Bretton Woods system (which regulated international currencies). By 1995 a staggering reversal had taken place – trade and investment accounted for only 5% of capital transfers. This resulted in a huge increase in “real wealth” – new houses. was designed to automatically earn negative interest. repaved streets. a ski jump. The first electronic money-trading system was opened by Reuters in 1973. etc. The resulting currency. a new water system. with only 10% being speculation.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ A successful experiment with Gesell’s theories took place in the Austrian town of Wörgl in 1932. Each month its holders had to pay a stamp fee of 1% of the value of the note. In fact. But when hundreds of other Austrian towns came up with plans to copy the successful Wörgl scheme. with 95% being short-term speculation. the “digital economy” hasn’t delivered much of revolutionary economic impact. most “digital economy” propaganda looks like standard Reaganite or Thatcherite economics disguised by techno-gibberish. and it soon became illegal to issue alternative currency in Austria. a new bridge. From earliest records up until then.

Short-term financial speculation tends to create economies of high profit. huge profits can be made from a rumour about an indirect effect of a future transaction – but the future transaction doesn’t necessarily have to happen for the profits to be made. without producing anything of value. they’re labelled as “spongers”. but through transacting in a sort of abstract wealth. low growth and low wages – in other words. conjured up by supercomputers which transact fast enough to exploit microfluctuations in exchange rates. it’s detrimental to the lives of most ordinary people. We have some strange notions about the respectability of certain types of income. low investment. foresaw the detrimental effects of escalating currency speculation during the 1970s. and thus help to prevent instability in the global financial system. a Nobel laureate economist. He proposed a small tax on foreign currency transactions that would put “sand in the wheels” of international speculative finance. 139 .Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Electronic trading networks have developed a virtual economy in which most of the money is made not through actual investment. For example. Very little of this virtual-economy profiteering produces anything of value in the sense of “real wealth” – ie things of real value to human lives. By far the biggest profits come from currency speculation. but when speculators bleed vast sums from the digital economy. we congratulate them on their skill. When poor people receive modest welfare payments without producing anything of value. THE TOBIN TAX James Tobin.

Only the endorsement by a conventional authority will convince them. ECONOMIC “AUTHORITY” Most alternative economic ideas – even those as benign and sensible as the Tobin Tax – have been floating around for decades without being implemented.1 to 0.25 percent. is to quote foreign authorities – European countries in particular seem more open to new economic ideas. therefore. With the tax set at the very low proposed rate of 0. advocates of such alternative schemes are likely to be exposed to arguments such as: “if it’s such a great idea. an estimated $100 – $300 billion per year would be generated. Currency speculators trade over $1. For example. Silvio Gesell’s concept of negative-interest money was supported by John Maynard Keynes. why hasn’t it already happened?” It’s important to realise that the people making these objections are never convinced by logical reasoning. Belgian and Canadian parliaments have already voted in favour of a Tobin Tax. For example. the French. A good ploy. And it’s interesting to note that the UN and World Bank estimated in 1997 that the cost of removing the worst forms of poverty and providing basic environmental protection would be about $225 billion per year. you can quote intellectual authorities. Or. As a result. depending on the formula used. etc. Supporters of the Tobin Tax say this revenue should be used to tackle world social and environmental problems.8 trillion dollars each day across borders.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One big advantage of the Tobin Tax is the amount of revenue it would generate. the Irish government has seriously considered a Basic Income scheme. who said: “I believe that the future will 140 .

why not seriously think about it? If the Tobin Tax can. With a little ingenuity it’s possible to link a Nobel economist to any economic theory. quite literally. if a Guaranteed Income costs less than welfare and humiliates recipients less than welfare. who would be so inhuman as to complain about the minor impracticality of the idea? Written in Autumn 2002. you can always base your argument on compassion. who.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ learn more from the spirit of Gesell than from that of Marx”. 141 . If you have no authorities to quote. save millions of lives. would not want to consider such a scheme? If zero-interest currency provides higher wages for workers. other than a total sadist. for the Idler. For example.

the media lurches. grey. The mainstream intellectual coverage of sex isn’t much better – most of it seems backward-looking. it’s exploiting explicit sexual imagery to boast audience figures. At any rate. or perhaps society wasn’t ready. Perhaps they were blocked by the authorities. Work-related stress and road rage don’t seem conducive to sensual pleasure. robotic routine. Meanwhile. we continue with our tired. as if everything of importance has already happened. that something important has occurred. from puritanical censorship to overblown sex-obsession. If we ever reach a state in which everyone can enjoy oceans of sensual bliss without the worry of a ticking clock. fully believing in the mass delusion that we’re sexually liberated. then maybe we can claim. Perhaps nothing important has happened yet. There have been attempts to start a sexual revolution – to release us from our humdrum lives of work and worry – but they apparently failed. When it isn’t issuing prim warnings about TV shows which contain “scenes of a sexual nature”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ SEX ROBOTS Most people think a sexual revolution occurred in the late 20th century. but if it did occur why does no-one have time to enjoy the erotic side of life? Average working hours increased over the last three decades – which means we have less time than ever to enjoy our bodies. 142 . finally. in schizophrenic fashion.

Timothy Leary and Wilhelm Reich. Centuries ago. Reich was the one who had his books and scientific papers incinerated). anyone who mentioned eroticism in public risked imprisonment or torture by the Inquisition. Three significant examples come to mind: Osho Rajneesh. It’s worth taking a look at the ideas of state-persecuted sex-revolutionaries. but state authorities have always regarded Eros as a threat to “national security”. sexual heretics hid their ideas in occult symbolism and poetry. Even in recent decades there have been cases of sexual heretics being treated as “enemies of the state” – including imprisonment. Perhaps they held the keys to the sexual revolution that never happened. 143 . For that reason. harassment by government agencies and.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ It’s certainly long overdue. Recently released MI5 files express the sheer horror felt by the British establishment towards the “depravity” of James Joyce and the “open sexuality” of certain Hollywood actresses. in one case. book-burning (by order of the US authorities). One wonders why certain individuals should be singled out for official wrath at a time of ostensible sexual liberalisation. but they are of particular interest here because of their revolutionary socio-sexual theories and the remarkably harsh treatment they received from governments (they were each sent to prison and expelled from countries. The more overt forms of the Inquisition have since died out. These three figures were controversial in many ways.

Here Rajneesh echoes neurological “imprint” theory – the idea that one’s early sexual experiences “imprint” the nervous system with a “sex-role” which is acted out automatically and repetitively throughout one’s life. This would reduce the dependency on sex and make the emerging adult sex-role less compulsive. They wanted to create deep. we must pay a high social price. morality. etc – turns us into socially-controlled sexrobots. but he also produced some innovative work on imprinting. and that we become too dependent on sex as a route to bliss. and they saw the transformation of sex as a way to trigger social evolution. Timothy Leary was famous for psychedelic research. In order to get bliss through sex. His meditation techniques are intended to immunise against an imprint of heavy dependence. Rajneesh claimed that sex is usually a person’s first experience of “bliss”. festering resentments and wider social problems such as violence all stem from our unhealthy dependence on sex as the only means of blissful release. so to speak). Dysfunctional families. repression. adult domestication and 144 . This over-dependence. the imprinting of sex-roles occurs in three stages: adolescence. His solution was for children to learn meditation as a form of pre-sexual self-induced bliss (transcendental masturbation. Leary and Reich each approached sex from the viewpoint of radical sociology. combined with the social control of sex – through domestication. according to Rajneesh. one way or another. sex-role convention. lasting changes in society.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Rajneesh. economics. According to Leary.

herd-like behaviour. which he says portrays a figure who “rejects or postpones hive-parental responsibility and searches for a new way. the key to evolution”. including the careful use of psychedelic enhancement. a higher role”. He mentions. Leary. He also stressed the “evolutionary” importance of extended adolescence. for example. Edgar Hoover and Pope Paul are the staunchest supporters of family life”. teachers. Adolescent sex-roles range from wild promiscuity to puritanical renunciation. but the role selected is not necessarily parental. noticed that most adult sex-roles tend to be robotic. someone who spends 40 hours a week in a tedious job. J. leading to conformist.. He adds that this represents the “genetic blossom of the successful species. 145 . Consider.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ menopause. Sex-role has wider social implications than erotic preference. for example. That’s an example of a sex-role of “responsibility” and “commitment” within a nuclear family. year after year. like Rajneesh. It should also be noted that a domesticated adult sex-role doesn’t necessarily imply a “straight” erotic preference – as press reports of the private lives of politicians often demonstrate. The domesticated adult sex-role is usually imprinted at the start of parenthood. the medieval tarot card The Hermit.. in order to provide “security” for their family. Leary’s remedy for domesticated sex-roles was experimentation with various forms of self-induced bliss. To quote Leary: “Many non-parental roles are harnessed together in the domesticated society – nurses.

Those who wish to preserve the status quo fear a perceived “breakdown” in morals. These 146 . prejudices. Character armour is an inhibiting psychological defense mechanism which manifests as chronic “uptight” muscular tension – it affects. everyone brought up in a sexually repressive society. Reich’s therapy. worked directly on the body to dissolve deep-seated muscular and respiratory tensions.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Wilhelm Reich is less well-known than Leary or Rajneesh. etc. more liberal drug laws. so prevalent in supposedly “civilised” society. but he had a big influence on the New Age movement. Reich’s method for transforming sex was a form of therapy designed to dissolve “character armour”. violence. Dissolving character armour would free people from rigid socio-sexual imprints. in varying degrees. Reich argued that society would remain authoritarian until character armour (ie dysfunctional sexual imprinting) could be reduced in most of the population. etc. fascist tendencies. sense of duty. Statistics show that increasingly large numbers of people want fundamental social changes: shorter working hours. Reich believed that the social effect of character armour was “emotional plague” – a term he invented for the all irrational bigotries. unlike psychoanalysis. etc. and often this would have a completely transforming effect on the personality. and his writings about “patriarchal capitalism” seem to foreshadow aspects of radical feminism. But an equally large group resists such changes. family values. The hostility of the authorities towards these revolutionary approaches makes sense from a sociological perspective.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ moral anxieties come from individuals with relatively conservative sex-roles. the more predictable the morals. etc – would tend to “loosen” morals. the result is as predictable as pressing the buttons on a mechanical device. The only kind of “love” and “respect” under threat from a sexual revolution is the kind based on fearful conformity. Children and adolescents don’t create morals. who tend to monopolise the notion of “morality”. Morality seems to be a function of the domesticated adult sex-role. but the more robotic the sex-role. It follows that releasing people from sex-role robotry – with the help of therapy. Unfortunately. people would think for themselves. They simply equate “moral relativity” with an attack on love. the conservative media can easily use this concept to stir up hysteria. Only a total robot could fail to be sceptical about the sentimental notions surrounding so-called “family values”. The only kind of “decency” under threat is the kind that’s rigidly defined by paranoid authoritarian types. meditation. respect. In other words. decency. drugs. family life. rather than be psychologically terrorised by a set of absolute “rights” and “wrongs” imposed by a group of people with a “moral guardian” sex-role. etc. Once you press the “moral outrage” buttons of the domesticated readership. The only kind of “family life” under threat is the 147 . Morality differs with various types of adult sexrole. De-robotised individuals will question this media hysteria. Or at least that seems to be the hope of certain tabloids.

sensual pleasures of life. Whatever the reason for its postponement. we’re sure to notice when the sexual revolution finally arrives – not because of a sudden flood of porn or a “breakdown” in family life. “honour”. but because we’ll finally have enough time to enjoy the simple. etc – sound hollow from outside a domesticated sex-role.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ kind that raises children to be too stupid or neurotic to see through the domesticated adults’ hypocritical bullshit. If a sexual revolution succeeded in diminishing the social value placed on domesticated sex-roles. issue 30. An alternative version of this article was published in The Idler. How do you control people if they don’t respond to these values in a pre-programmed. domesticated way? The understandable reluctance of the authorities to lose robotic control of the domesticated herd perhaps explains why the sexual revolution has been postponed. many people in authority would get nervous. “duty”. Or perhaps the explanation is simply that most people aren’t ready to lose their domesticated values. 148 . Summer 2002. The values used to motivate people to work like slaves or support bogus wars – “responsibility”.

but it’s another thing to regard everybody within ten miles of a 149 . the cooler they seem.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE COMPROMISED ANTI-CONSUMERIST This article was commissioned by a magazine (which will remain nameless) with a high circulation among the London club scene. it was never published – the magazine backed out at the last moment and never paid me. magazines and websites. like Douglas Rushkoff. ad agencies have churned out a sort of watered-down anti-consumerism aimed at the youth market. Some. It’s one thing to feel dismayed at seeing a talented comedian doing a beer commercial. thirst is everything” TV commercial. According to advertising critic Leslie Savan. Unlike the other articles in this anthology. These “anti-advertising” ad campaigns have proven popular with many corporations. but most echo Negativland’s Mark Hosler. who says (in an interview with Savan): “I just don’t know where we can go with our art because they’re just absorbing it. The corporate absorption of counterculture ideas is the subject of an increasingly large number of books. Ever since Sprite’s “image is nothing. They’re amoebae. regard it as healthy. they can constantly take in anything and come off seeming hip” (quoted in Stay Free! magazine). “some of them are savvy enough to know that the more they sponsor messages that attack [mindless consumerism]. author of Children of Chaos.” There’s a fine line between concern and paranoia when it comes to the belief in an all-consuming corporate monster.

so as to become less dependent on a regular salary. the anti-consumerist approach seems reasonably sound: individuals can choose not to buy into a lifestyle which perpetuates the capitalist system and destroys the environment. bottom-up thinking: anti-consumerists believe it’s naive to expect governments or corporations to improve in a top-down way. So. Are there any weaknesses in this approach which can be exploited by corporate advertising? Probably – at least at a superficial level. a person suspects all liberals and mainstream journalists of working for the Corporate Devil. 150 . Perhaps there are weaknesses in the anti-consumerist message which allow it to be appropriated so easily by corporations. It hardly matters that the lifestyle in question is one of simplicity. if an individual hates working at a particular job. This is individualistic. Instead of obsessing over corporate strengths. Like a kung fu master. for example. frugality and environmentalism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ corporate logo as suspicious. Advertisers have plenty of experience selling those things. Any approach which advocates an individual lifestyle is obviously fodder for advertisers. On the surface. we can use the opponent’s weaknesses to unbalance him. Identifying all the ways in which corporations co-opt and corrupt does nothing but reinforce the idea of corporate invincibility. It might seem reasonable to diagnose paranoia when. the solution is for that individual to adopt a cheaper. But first we must recognise our own weaknesses. Paranoia is not a good strategy. simpler lifestyle. it might be more effective to tune into their weaknesses.

consider the opposite: a top-down “social” approach. bottom-up approach in perspective. say. which supposedly underlies capitalism. though not impossible: “Social concern. Faced with a poverty-stricken employee. a European socialist government which implements a generous welfare system. and the great taste of Pepsi!” Maybe not. By contrast. it’s much easier to imagine anti-consumerist ideas being co-opted because they fall into the American ethos of rugged individualism – of responsible. a capitalist employer would say “your financial situation is your own individual responsibility. is about individuals doing their own thing and taking personal responsibility for their financial situation. etc. France. is similar to what an anti-consumerist might say. Now try to imagine an American ad agency co-opting the ideas behind these top-down social policies in order to sell consumer products. heroic individuals taking a stand and proudly refusing social charity. In that sense. state welfare. oddly. anti-consumerists are part of a broad libertarian tradition which has always been an easy target for advertisers. where a maximum 35 hour working week has been introduced. 151 . bottom-up approach underlies not just anticonsumerism but also free-market economic thinking. To put the individualistic. If you feel underpaid then maybe you should adopt a less expensive lifestyle or find another job” – which. “free-enterprise” entrepreneurs have no faith in governments or top-down solutions. For example. The free-market philosophy. Or.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ At a deeper level it should be recognised that an individualistic. Like the anti-consumerists. It’s quite difficult to imagine.

the foundations of the capitalist edifice were built by Protestant industrialists who had a similar disliking of decadence and instant gratification. social and economic – from arbitrary encrustations of moral and spiritual correctness. corrupt. much of the language used by anti-consumerists when disapproving of “materialism” and approving of “simplicity” reminds me of Protestant ethics. an article called Rotting Away: The Political Economy of Corruption and Decadence. decadent. Another potential weakness of anti-consumerists is their moralistic attitude towards the “instant gratification” of consumerism. author of No Logo. She repeated the term “self-determination” a few times as being the best strategy against corporate dominance.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One further example will hopefully make this point clear: Naomi Klein. tainted. For example. described modern consumer society as a rotting. was recently asked in a newspaper interview how the anti-consumerist movement could best fight the corporate system. This kind of language sounds very similar to rightwing Protestant Christians condemning “immoral” society. The problem is that “self-determination” is also part of the ethos of capitalism. Her answer was: “I believe that the most fundamental core belief of this movement is self-determination”. In fact. It helps to distinguish valid anti-consumerist arguments – eg environmental. and is a fetish of entrepreneurs. dirty. one person’s “purity” is another person’s “corrup152 . Ironically. After all. from the popular anti-capitalist magazine ZNet. toxic cesspool. So it’s difficult to see how preaching “self-determination” is a solution to a capitalist system which has been preaching “self-determination” for years.

co-opting works so well as a tactic for corporations. The fact that ad agencies have already started to exploit the popularity of “simplicity” and “purity” should be sufficient evidence of this. and therefore rejected. Grey areas are not allowed. Spiritual judgements are highly subjective and therefore easily appropriated by advertisers. then mightn’t it also work for anticonsumerists? “Co-opt” doesn’t mean Adbusters-style parody – it means bringing something onto your own side. by 153 .” If. they’ve incorporated the critique so they can go beyond that. Anti-consumerists have a problem with this because bringing on board anything remotely “capitalist” is regarded as “compromising” and “corrupting” rather than co-opting. People who inhabit the grey areas – woolly liberals. as that would pollute the purity of the anti-corporate ideals. Corporations. This is the result of thinking strictly in black-and-white. us-and-them terms. mainstream TV producers. etc – are automatically seen as the enemy. as Savan claims. They’ve surmounted it. The critique has to rise to another level and then they’ll incorporate that. They just become bigger and bigger and more powerful. describing how corporations co-opt everything (taken from Stay Free! magazine): “We can throw anti-commercial messages at them and they incorporate it and become immune to it. There is no attempt made to co-opt them. Here’s another quote from the advertising critic Leslie Savan.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ tion”.

and thus appear to be fundamentally hypocritical. This strand of anti-consumerism can easily be attacked. anti-wage slavery movement is a bush fire waiting to ignite.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ contrast.” And. CORPORATE WEAKNESSES Now let’s expose the soft underbelly of the corporate empire. especially when activists themselves make frequent use of computer technology. so they own the grey areas by default. but collections of thousands of individual human beings trapped in bureaucratic monotony. the main vulnerability of corporations is that they are not vast dunghills of evil. 154 . This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. by having sufficient leisure time to experience that enjoyment. whereas it now appears finite and corrupt. The pro-leisure. importantly. when taken to a logical conclusion. are not pursuing ideological purity. Millions of bored. which gives them a big advantage. Many anti-consumerist arguments. Ironically. express an anti-technology viewpoint – some even advocate a return to a pre-industrial society. pro-pleasure. stressedout corporate employees want escape. Most of these individuals dislike being wage slaves and see their work as drudgery. There is one other potential flaw in anti-consumerism: lack of consensus over technology. To quote William Blake: “the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy.

art. They have human weaknesses such as vanity. So when a couple of marketing consultants (Janine Lopiano-Misdom and Joanne De Luca) publish a book called: “Street Trends: How Today’s Alternative Youth Cultures are Creating Tomorrow’s Mainstream Markets”. popular music. It’s no longer just political dissidents who sneer at market economics – everybody is starting to sneer. and this trend is seeping into popular culture – especially youth culture. there’s no reason to be paranoid about “co-opting”. literature. sociology and philosophy are opposed to market fundamentalism. Even billionaire capitalists like George Soros criticise the logic of the corporate economic worldview (which Soros calls “market fundamentalism”).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ But what about the corporate chiefs? The tiny minority of humans who head corporations are rich and powerful. And in order to be respected. But what if these convenient intellectual theories were widely discredited? What if a popular philosophical revolution kicked away all the respectable intellectual justifications for greed? The corporate world’s biggest weakness is its phony intellectual self-justification. its increasingly hollowsounding “free-market” rhetoric. they justify their greed and ruthlessness in intellectual terms – usually by a combination of neo-classical economics and Social Darwinism. religion. psychology. Many contemporary movements in science. which means they want to be liked and respected. If youth culture reflects artistic and intellec- 155 . but they’re probably not James Bond-type megalomaniac villians.

but they’re also stupid. anti-consumerism. has flaws that can easily be exploited by advertisers and corporate PR agencies. If anything. co-opted youth culture can undermine corporate fundamentalism in unpredictable ways. then even watered-down. 156 . Meanwhile. it functions as a Trojan Horse when corporations try to “absorb” it. SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS Paranoia is not a good strategy – it turns you into an eternal victim. Written in January 2001. Morbid obsession with corporate power is self-defeating and depressing. in its current forms. Their own stupidity will ultimately undermine them.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ tual innovation. Corporations may be huge and wealthy. Valid intellectual dissent is never really “co-opted”.

because there’s no way that intelligent people would tolerate 40 hours of tedious monotony every week. etc. High intelligence is seen as a hindrance. The majority of jobs being created seem to be low-paid and soul-destroying: telesales. The idea behind the Wonderlic Personnel Test is that people can be too stupid or too bright for a job.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OFFICE RAT MAZE Intelligence tests are often used by employers to weed out brainless job candidates. otherwise their employers won’t profit. office administration. many US police force job applicants have been rejected for scoring too highly in the test (one applicant sued in federal court for unfair disqualification). The corporate world seems fully aware that most jobs require relatively low intelligence. Employers who use the Wonderlic test take the threat of over-intelligent workers very seriously. If large numbers of intelligent people are forced into tedious jobs. It follows that full employment – the holy grail of conservative politicians – would require low intelligence in most of the population. they might become bored and leave. the frustration they feel must be managed and contained. But the only guaranteed way to achieve this is mass lobotomy. security guards. but an increasing number of UK companies use a test designed to identify candidates who are too smart. If too bright. For example. or they might spread a mood of frustration and disenchantment throughout the workplace. The extensive use of the Wonderlic test (it’s the world’s most widely used employee intelligence test) has a sinister implication. After herding people into office 157 .

Subjective mental states like happiness or boredom were dismissed as irrelevant to the scientific process. To an extent. mechanistic view of people. and it wasn’t too long before Gestalt psychologists challenged this reductionist. Modern psychology. One branch of psychology in particular has provided important advances in management control. Captains of industry have forever been on the lookout for ways to increase management control of worker productivity. measurable worker behaviour. industry has always had this problem. Behaviourism treated humans like rats in a maze. in activities which insult their intelligence? It seems like a huge management problem. 158 . behaviourism revolutionised psychology by focusing entirely on objectively measurable human responses to stimuli. At the same time. Scientific management was also criticised: studies conducted in the 1930s showed that worker productivity was not determined entirely by the workplace. week after week. has been a happy hunting ground for company bosses wanting to maximise performance and discipline. how do you keep them productive.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ buildings. time and motion studies emphasised observable. In the early 1900s. a scientific management approach was taking hold in industry – for example. in particular. but had as much to do with the feelings and perceptions of workers. The job of both the psychologist and the manager was to manipulate the human environment to produce the desired results.

There’s nowhere to hide anymore. For example. Skinner. some job roles require us to behave in an “out of character” way. And we shouldn’t be fooled by company PR about sensitivity to the feelings of employees. In spite of occasional management trends towards a warmer. self-loathing ennui. more humanistic approach (consideration of the needs and goals of individuals. embarrassing and stressful. behaviourism became popular again. Skinner made some important advances on classical Pavlovian conditioning (he developed the concept of “operant conditioning”). Modern office technology provides managers with the ultimate behaviourist tool: continuous remote monitoring of employee activity. 159 . etc). we experience a kind of restless. Another relevant area of psychology is cognitive dissonance.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ During the 1950s. behaviourism remains the favourite approach of those who like to be in control. which sheds light on the peculiar psychological torture experienced by many office workers. Skinner’s advanced conditioning techniques found their way into industry by way of organisational behaviour modification and contingency management. After a lot of experimenting on rats and pigeons. This can be uncomfortable. read a newspaper. We normally escape the discomfort of cognitive dissonance by distracting ourselves (get a coffee. etc). but with no distractions available.F. Cognitive dissonance is a term for what happens when we think or act in ways which contradict our self-image. largely due to the work of B.

making dubious excuses. This diabolical combination is probably the biggest source of psychological suffering on the planet. Dissonance is the mysterious factor which turns boredom into a major health hazard. Individualistic westerners are particularly prone to cognitive dissonance because of our need to see ourselves as stable. Consequently. employees often do irrational things. telling lies. Due to the nature of modern workplaces (authority hierarchies. leading to vast amounts of stress. is going to have a hard time coming to terms with their own behaviour in that environment. reporting that everything is fine when it isn’t. 160 . politics. We regard personal identity as something unchangeable and absolute – a view which ignores the whole of modern psychology. then you’re in for a nasty shock. it’s eventually going to get to you. acting evasively. boredom). decent.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Office jobs supply the two main ingredients of mental agony: cognitive dissonance and prolonged monotony. self-contained beings. tangled communication. etc. feeling intense resentment over trivial matters. we underestimate the role of social setting in influencing our behaviour. For example: concealing what they’re doing from their boss. Anyone starting an office job. If you spend a lot of time in the same social setting. employee pettiness and chronic boredom. corporate-speak. Obviously this kind of behaviour doesn’t fit the beliefs we have about ourselves as essentially good. expecting to escape office politics. rational and professional. subtly redirecting blame. If you join the army with an expectation of remaining aloof from the military mentality.

A smart person with a boring. Then there’d be no confusion about our slave-identities. Most people would want to see slavery reduced rather than extended. more dissonance arises: “I am a free person – I cannot escape this situation”. Most companies promote the idea of freedom with endless corporate jargon about “choice” and “opportunity”. which is even more undignified. At most. If there is no choice but to continue the job (due to money needs and a harsh labour market). Cognitive dissonance describes the inner state of mind: confusion. discomfort and impotence. This is a crude attempt to hide the fact that employees have no free choice. Full “employment” would be recognised as full slavery. Behaviourism describes the external control: the supply or withdrawal of money and social status. they contain the potentially vast social discontent resulting from compulsory full employment. We’re rats in a behaviourist maze. But that means making excuses.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ How can you come to terms with your pathetic employee-persona if you see yourself as basically honest and dignified? The only way to deal with your “out of character” behaviour is to justify and rationalise it. they have an economic dilemma: continue the job or suffer the humiliation of welfare. Together. At 161 . The only real escape from this torture is to quit your job. Cognitive dissonance could be dispersed if we replaced the word “employee” with “slave”. pointless job (ie a fairly typical job) suffers the crippling cognitive dissonance of: “I am intelligent – most of my days are spent in meaningless stupidity”.

Winter 2001/2. This article was first published in The Idler. 162 . issue 29.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that point there would probably be a social consensus to dismantle the behaviourist mechanisms that keep us enslaved.

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NAIVETY TV
A few years ago there was a minor public outcry when the BBC admitted to spending millions on the evening news’ opening graphics. These 10 second bursts of visual expensiveness were apparently intended to convey a sense of importance, authority and restrained urgency, so the viewers at home would sit up and pay attention. Judging from this ultra-high spending, TV bosses are anxious to have their news programmes taken seriously. This has led to a presentation of the news which, in its fanfare and gloss, is similar to professionally staged business seminars and political conferences. Unlike those events, however, TV news isn’t meant to be about persuading, hypnotising or dazzling an audience – so why spend millions on its presentation? Well, for one thing it costs money to create a convincing illusion. The news presents one of the most impressive magic tricks since the Emperor’s New Clothes. The illusion is of a serious, businesslike, adult world – economics, politics, stock market indexes and inflation rates – full of “experts” and presided over by “The Authorities”. Naturally we feel powerless as individuals to influence this world since it can be accessed only on TV. The slick presentation of the illusion – immaculate suits, gleaming studios, intimidating presenters and those costly visuals – has the effect of reducing most (relatively shabby) viewers to a state of infantile awe and low self-esteem. This news world is built on “conventional wisdom” – ie “adult” assumptions and clichés which can’t be questioned, because to do so would be an admission of foolishness or childlike innocence. Presenters and pundits
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obviously like to be seen as authoritative, so they tend to fall back on safe assumptions rather than explore unknown areas and risk looking naive. Unfortunately, it’s precisely this lack of naivety and innocence which leads to the stagnation of media debate. These childlike qualities are valuable – they have the potential to embarrass the “experts” and expose the banality behind the adult gloss. For example, a child might ask: “why is Daddy always so tired and sad when he comes home from work?”. As far as I know, no economics pundit has ever provided a satisfactory answer to that question. Taking such “childish” questions as an inspiring starting point, I’ve compiled my own list of “naive” questions and “foolish” answers which I’d like to see featured on a serious news or current affairs show: Naive Question: Is school education a good thing? Foolish Answer: Yes. It’s producing exactly what society needs: economically frightened clones ready to slot straight into low-paid menial jobs. Naive Question: Do we have to be tough on crime? Foolish Answer: Without crime there’d be no need for police, lawyers, courts or prisons. That would mean mass unemployment and the end of society as we know it. The “tough on crime” policy is okay as long as it doesn’t reduce crime. Naive Question: Does advertising make any sense? Foolish Answer: The huge number of car commercials on TV makes no sense at all. How can the UK market for new cars be big enough to justify that amount of adver164

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tising? It’s not as if everyone can afford a new car – most people have trouble paying their electricity bills. The saturation advertising for Amoy noodles is similarly puzzling. Naive Question: Is the “free market” a good thing? Foolish Answer: Many people claim the existing system is not a “free market” but “Monopoly Capitalism” based on protection rackets (eg land ownership) and usury (eg banking). This apparently goes back to the Bronze Age, when spear-wielding thugs extracted rent from peaceful settlements. These thugs were the first land “owners” (and the first land “lords”, barons and kings). The people they exploited and turned into slaves were the true wealth creators – they grew the food, raised the livestock, made the tools and built the dwellings. Naive Question: Why do adherents of the “free market” support the BBC? Foolish Answer: The market can be trusted to provide our water, food, transport, electricity, gas, communications and refuse disposal, but it can’t be trusted to provide our television programmes. We need the BBC for that.

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Naive Question: Why does the BBC compete for viewers? Foolish Answer: It seems that the BBC is pretending to be part of the competitive market, possibly to disguise the fact that, with its public hand-out funding, it’s essentially the country’s largest welfare recipient. Naive Question: The BBC allegedly employs 2000 journalists. What do they all do? Foolish Answer: That will probably remain a mystery. Naive Question: Is crime the biggest concern people have? Foolish Answer: Statistically, people are more concerned about their dentist appointments than about crime. Naive Question: If TV reflects real-life concerns, why do crime shows outnumber dentistry shows by a thousand to one? Foolish Answer: Exactly! And why do TV shows never feature landlords or bankers? Naive Question: Nobody seems to care when neighbours’ burglar alarms go off. Would it help to restore our sense of civic duty if the alarms had a louder, more piercing sound? Foolish Answer: Research indicates there would be an increase in violent incidents due to noise-related stress. Naive Question: Is food safe? Foolish Answer: If manufacturers can’t prevent traces of nuts getting into food, then what other contaminants can get in? To restore public faith in the honesty of the food producers, warning labels should be extended to say: “may contain traces of nuts, rat faeces, rat urine,
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etc). dead insects. Naive Question: Are money makers the real heroes of society? Foolish Answer: “Making money” shouldn’t be confused with “creating wealth”. But they tell us not to go overdrawn or pay late. Then we should teach them the importance of behavioural consistency. and many money makers are useless bloodsuckers. bionic limbs. It’s not considered cheating to enhance performance with anything worn or surgically implanted (muscle grafts. fingernails and assorted dormant and active bacteria of known and unknown origin. Naive Question: Is it really cheating if athletes use performance-enhancing substances? Foolish Answer: Only if the substances are ingested. etc) are penniless. 167 . organ transplants. human hair. So they’re fucking with our heads while they rob us blind. human effluvia. toenails. Real wealth is what supports and enhances human life.” Naive Question: Should we teach children to be competitive (putting self first). But otherwise they’re friendly. artists. live insects. like in the adverts? Foolish Answer: Banks make large profits from “unauthorised overdraft” charges. Naive Question: Are banks friendly.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ rat parts. human skin. Credit card companies make large profits from “late payment” fees. Many wealth creators (inventors. whereas money is just numbers in a database. mothers. or to be considerate (putting others first)? Foolish Answer: Both.

That means each job created cost the taxpayer £100. flushing creative potential down the economic toilet. why are corporate employees working longer hours? Foolish Answer: Because they’re slaves. so a politician can tell the country how prudent he is. Or to quote Henry Hazlitt: “Hitler provided full employment.” Naive Question: How much does it cost to create a job? Foolish Answer: The New Deal cost over £5bn.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Why have breakfast cereals adopted sensible names (eg “Sustain”.000 jobs which otherwise wouldn’t exist. Watch out for forthcoming name changes: Bran Flakes to “Nice ’n’ Regular” and Frosties to “Blood-Glucose Boost”.000. Naive Question: Is there anything bad about full employment? Foolish Answer: Not if you’re happy to condemn half the population to minimum-wage slavery. and humiliates less. Naive Question: Why are there so many beggars in a booming economy like Britain? Foolish Answer: It pays more. “Perfect Balance”. Prisons and chain gangs have full employment. Naive Question: If labour-saving technology is getting better and cheaper. Coercion can always provide full employment. and has created 50. than work in telesales. “Just Right” and “Advantage”)? Foolish Answer: Because marketing consultants determined that 51% of cereal consumers have anal fixations about diet. health and fitness. 168 .

working over 48hrs per week doubles the risk of coronary heart disease. unemployment is “high”. Naive Question: Is unemployment high or low at the moment? Foolish Answer: When governments talk about their performance in managing the economy. Roughly half of that goes on pensions. big business depends on a complex legal framework and a powerful state apparatus (to enforce the laws under which businesses and lawyers prosper). captive labour. They’re quite happy to see everybody else (particularly the less well off) be regulated and controlled.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Naive Question: Is it true that hard work never hurt anybody? Foolish Answer: According to a government report (Mental Health & Stress in the Workplace). Naive Question: Why do successful business people want less regulation and smaller government? Foolish Answer: Ironically. But when they talk of “cracking down on dependency culture” or “getting tough on the workshy”. unemployment is “low”. Naive Question: Why is welfare spending so high? Foolish Answer: The total yearly UK welfare budget is £99bn. where the government is powerful enough to fill the prisons with millions of relatively harmless people who are then available to corporations as cheap. Many business people love the US system. Business people don’t really want less regulation and smaller government – they just want less state interference in their own activities. The amount spent on pensions is increasing because the population is getting older. Only £5bn is spent annually 169 .

170 . The amount spent on unemployment decreased by £1bn over the last year. so let’s put them to work. yet there is widespread poverty amongst old people. As a cost comparison. Naive Question: Why should people get pensions? Foolish Answer: The cost of state pensions is huge.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on unemployment benefits. issue 27. This article was first published in The Idler. There’s no excuse for laziness and dependence – if they can use a phone or walk a dog. Winter 2000/1. bear in mind that a new British-US fighter plane has a development price-tag of £250bn. they can take jobs in telesales or supermarket trolley shepherding. Many elderly people are able-bodied. Naive Question: Who really wants strong leaders? Foolish Answer: Only sexually repressed people want strong leaders (according to psychologists).

and being grateful. Most company managers. This is the medieval logic of “lower expectations”: no complaint is valid. as expressed in 171 . communicates utopian “higher expectations”. is conspicuously absent from corporate PR. The reflex management response to staff disgruntlement is: “you should be glad you have a job”. it’s automatically dismissed or frowned upon. in fact. Employee discontent should be treated as a valuable resource. The complainers. Complaining is taboo in backward societies. The PR imagery. The pointless meetings. Company executives are fond of talk about “vision”. since things can always be worse than they are. whereas those favoured by management – the grateful and obedient – belong to a sinking past. etc – though encouraged in every corporate slave galley. the team-bonding horseshit. the managers know this – that’s why they’re afraid. and we should always be grateful. the unrealistic deadlines. authoritarian regimes and modern corporations. for less pay. Instead. Their prejudice is due to a fear of what we represent: the inevitable collapse of the corporate management worldview. the long hours and lack of time off – all fuel for my endless carping and growing resentment. represent the future. you see. and that dissent should not be buried.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ RIGHT TO MOAN Office work brings out the complainer in me. Deep down. The “lower expectations” culture – working longer. are prejudiced against complainers – they think we should be more grateful. but the real vision is in employee disgruntlement. Most well-informed people understand that complaints have a positive social function. unfortunately.

traffic-jam work culture looks more like hell than utopia. high-tech perspectives and futuristic management buzzwords. Protesters were particularly unhappy with the threat of disciplinary action against workers failing to complete calls within 285 seconds. Desks are still lined up in rows. relentlessly answering 172 . stress and overwork”. but “business leaders” and politicians have no plans to change the situation. The Guardian quoted a London School of Economics researcher as saying. “now even better”. 1999. TV commercials give a false picture of call centres – they show relaxed employees taking customer calls in pleasant surroundings. centralised production hives. In November. “the possibilities for monitoring behaviour and measuring output in call centres is amazing to behold – the tyranny of the assembly line is but a Sunday school picnic compared with the control that management can exercise in computer telephony”. Workplaces are still bleak. impossible targets. industrial-age hierarchical bureaucracies and Fordist production-line methods continue to operate. Their boardrooms are cheerful places – full of optimistic talk. and ignore rumours of discontent. The reality is thousands of workers packed together in giant sheds. and workers are still treated as insectoid units of productivity. But behind the executive vanity and PR cosmetics. etc.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ slogans such as “we’re aiming higher”. The high-pressure. The Company directors believe their own PR. “the future is bright”. call centre workers held a nationwide strike in protest against “a 19th century management style.

Buckminster Fuller. devised by leading government thinkers. In 1798. poverty was inevitable for the majority of humanity. Malthus’s forecast of ongoing scarcity. less pollution. and: “must we always work?” A nationwide survey revealed that 60 percent of workers see their work as being of no use to society – so why not pay people to stay at home enjoying themselves? Think of all the public benefits – less traffic.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ telephone calls to predetermined scripts. As we zoom into a bright new future. hardship and starvation had an enormous impact on economists and 173 . less stress. as a society. Thomas Malthus predicted that since world population was growing faster than known resources. The term “sweatshop” comes to mind. we can’t afford it. due to being based on outdated inventories of world resources. This lets the government off the hook. One of the software packages commonly used by call centre managers is marketed as “Total Control Made Easy”. Fuller argued that the dominant economic worldview – that of “not enough to go around for everyone” – is seriously flawed. One far-sighted solution. is to advise employees to give each other lifts to work. claimed that this economic argument is just a convenient excuse for government and corporate apathy. The usual argument against utopian social policy is economic rectitude – that. Visits to the lavatory are rationed and monitored. lower medical costs and more people enjoying life. the famous utopian polymath. traffic congestion and parking space are becoming difficult problems. and dodges important questions such as: “must we always travel to work?”.

Fuller spent much of his life challenging the Malthusian notion of “not enough to go around”. Over the last few decades. For example. with the 75. Politicians continue to remind us that we must “make sacrifices”. Of course. Understandably. Fuller claimed that the Malthusian ideology of “lower expectations” still pervades mainstream politics and economics. Malthusianism shames the poor into accepting their situation with stoic resignation. rather than raising their expectations. not politicians or the well-off. his prediction was cited as a reason not to give welfare to the poor – all attempts to remove poverty were seen as futile. He documented the technological trend of extracting more and more lifesupporting wealth from less and less raw material. etc. weighing a fraction of a ton. Fuller’s claims have been scientifically vindicated. is accelerating faster than population growth and is removing scarcity from the planet. This process of “more from less”.000 tons of transatlantic cable that it replaces and outperforms. If there isn’t enough to go around. For many years.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ politicians. he compared a modern communications satellite. Current inventories of world resources show overwhelming abundance of sustainable life-enhancing wealth – enough to maintain a high living 174 . it’s always the poor people who make the sacrifices. then you should be grateful for what you already have. Malthus was later discredited – his forecast was incorrect – but his gloomy influence left economics with a nickname: “the dismal science”. he said. “tighten our belts”. Malthus was very popular with the ruling classes. “cut back”.

but. Fuller asserted his confidence in the practical realisation of this utopian vision: “For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Corporations see technology as just another way to gain competitive advantage. “to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” Meanwhile. Our reflexes have been conditioned to dismiss ‘utopia’ as synonymous with the ‘unrealistic’ or ‘impossible’.” In 1980. Most people suspect as much when they hear that. Humanity’s real mission. Fuller regarded the “us versus them” paranoid-competitive business world as a highly destructive combination of Malthus and Social Darwinism. Scarcity now has to be artificially induced to preserve an obsolete system of “haves” and “have-nots”. back in bureaucratsville. for decades. And the function of advertising and PR is to put a warm. was not to fight competitors. friendly gloss on all this.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ standard for every person on the planet. governments have been paying farmers not to grow food. so the consumers don’t die of fright before they get a chance to buy the products. as he saw it. 175 . Only ten years ago the more-with-less technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful. Fuller’s message is yet to be heard. Business people think they have the “bottom line” in hard-nosed realism: it’s a brutal world and we must all compete for survival by pecking each other to death like ducks.

Those who plan to accelerate this process – the complainers. Unfortunately. Perhaps. in The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. Summer 2000.” Hampden-Turner then suggests that we redefine capitalism as “a function of evolving co-operation. pushing competition to its own boundaries” – a notion very much in tune with what Fuller was saying half a century ago. notes that “we. which spreads outward. as they may be our best hope.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Fortunately. in the English-speaking economies. humans have a habit of trying all the stupid approaches before hitting on the intelligent ones. Charles HampdenTurner. 176 . fighting for scraps of wealth in a scarcity contrived by our own beliefs. issue 26. This article was first published in The Idler. a minority of economic commentators are starting to echo Fuller’s arguments. as Fuller claimed. with a time-lag of decades or centuries before stupidity is acknowledged. are still at war with each other. this seems to be a slow process. the dissenters – should be honoured.

The government doesn’t want you to think about this. one in five credit card ads breaks the law – usually involving misleading information on interest charges. some people do use credit to fund greedy lifestyles.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ DEBT CULT A shortened. In other words.3 Part of this increase is due to highly seductive.4 While banks and credit companies make record profits from criminally misleading promotions. The average debt per UK household is around £7. but according to recent research at least one in five people in Britain resorts to debt to cover basic living costs.000. with politically sensitive issues such as student loans in the news. 177 . but overall spiralling debt has more to do with Britain’s low-wage culture and high poverty level. excluding mortgages. Britons spend nearly three times more on their credit cards than the rest of the EU put together. edited version of this article was published in Sleaze magazine (formerly Sleaze Nation).2 Of course. painting a picture of an economy compromised only by feckless consumers who exploit and abuse the system. According to the Office of Fair Trading. they’re quick to lecture us on responsibility. the problem is you. credit card advertising. but often misleading. Their PR dovetails with that of lying politicians.1 Politicians want us to believe this is due to irresponsible spendthrifts abusing easy credit. The nation’s credit card bill has increased by 76 percent since 1998. not them. June 2004.

but if you can get away with it.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The first thing to remember if you’re in debt is don’t swallow their lies. leaving them with a “clean slate”. their best option is to declare themselves bankrupt. since after six years the record of your bankruptcy is removed from your credit file. then you would have a lot of trouble getting a mortgage or any other sort of credit”. you’re free to consider all options. expect to receive threatening letters. The Guardian recently quoted an independent financial adviser as saying: “If you want to bum around for the rest of your life. only a small proportion of bad credit card debt is recovered by creditors. personal bankruptcy and fleeing the country are valid options for escaping debt. Once that’s clear. it may not be cost-effective for them to pursue you.5 But that might be overstating things. including walking away from your debts. If you default on a debt. 178 . Extreme though it sounds. especially if you’ve left the country. the threats are relatively toothless. Depending on the amount of debt. then bankruptcy might not be such a bad idea. They will screw you without a second thought – you owe them nothing ethically. you might get away with offering a lump sum settlement of much less than the total amount you owe. Don’t let them dictate your “moral” or “responsible” options. With unsecured debts. Since. Don’t allow them to lay a guilt trip on you. Several UK students have already decided that. on average. Ask not if it’s “responsible”. But if you ever want to settle down and buy a house. with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

According to the National Consumer Council. Avoid companies selling “debt management services”. To avoid being scared. etc. Despite what they might tell you. Find out from internet newsgroups what people in similar circumstances have done to escape debt. Don’t let them frighten you. it already knows the truth: that one in five UK households lives on a poverty-level income. bailiffs aren’t allowed to force their way into your home. research CCJs. Creditors rely on scare tactics. bailiffs.6 It seems doubtful these people are sacrificing basic necessities to fund spending sprees.7 Wages at the lower end of the market are less now. walking possession orders. this will need explaining. Unless the government fails to read its own reports. provided they haven’t been inside before. than in the 179 . bailiffs. one in five households are in debt to water companies. individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) and anything else that might affect you. and one in twenty have had their phone cut off. The only worthwhile advice applicable to all cases of personal debt is: lose your naivety concerning the role of debt in the economic system.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ You may be threatened with a county court judgement (CCJ). Consider yourself naive if you think you live in a free market economy. Remember the main reason for spiralling debt – Britain’s low-wage culture. in real terms. Given the entrenched corporate propaganda on the “success” of the so-called free market. one in seven can’t afford their energy bills. You’ll then be less likely to succumb to the stigma and humiliation of financial “failure” – you’ll be less easily pushed around.

we’re told. As usual.9 The low-paid and unemployed are worst hit. then they blame consumers’ financial illiteracy. the authorities blame anything but the system. 48 percent of people earning £60. The existing capitalist system does not – the legally enforced money-issuing monopoly (Bank of England) keeps interest at an artificially high level.000 or more fail to clear their credit card debts each month or have other unsecured debts. A real “free market” would allow alternative currencies. Debt is disguised poverty. This is central to the personal debt problem. The identification of capitalism with “free enterprise” is about as accurate as identifying a sweatshop with a stroll in the park. because if competition were allowed in the distribution of alternative currencies. with ominous social problems.8 But the percentage of people in debt gets higher as you move down the income scale. the cost of credit would fall to the level needed only to administer it (well below 1 percent). while putting everyone else in debt. The truly affluent get into debt. of course – for example. too. But this simply diverts us from the real problem: a financecapital system masquerading as a “free market”. This seems to contradict the media image of contemporary Britain as full of affluent yuppies – until you realise the media image reflects how credit enables us to appear affluent even in hardship. The solution. whose primary function is to benefit the rich. 180 . often falling prey to loan sharks or “debt consolidation” firms. is educating people to handle their finances more responsibly.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ 1970s. First they blame consumer irresponsibility.

PFIs are the ultimate in irresponsible “pay later” funding – Private Eye magazine recently compared them to “taking out a mortgage on a credit card”. It’s often targeted at children. etc. So people choose the “responsible” option of going further into debt. Yet we’re supposed to believe there’s not enough money to fund the level of education 181 . etc. The people who run the economy see this as a good thing. roads.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ The high level of interest we pay is a monopoly-charge – a forced “tribute” to usurers – it has nothing to do with a free market. Debt functions in this system as a social control mechanism. prisons. Then the government lectures us on the irresponsibility of “buy now. due to advancing technology. US Federal Reserve chair. so parents feel like failures if they don’t conform. You can’t afford to be choosy about jobs if you’re in debt.11 Politicians are the last people to tell us how we should run our finances. Alan Greenspan. pay later”. Student loans are another example of the gross mismanagement of the country’s finances. This is the same government that embraced the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) as a way to fund hospitals. Debt makes us financially insecure. was reported as saying that insecure workers are good for the economy. Britain’s overall wealth continues to grow. rises in productivity. as they keep inflation low (by being too scared to risk asking for wage increases). making us anything but “free”.10 Saturation advertising increases our insecurities by exerting enormous psychological pressure. The message is that depriving your children is more irresponsible than buying on credit.

It’s no coincidence that record bank profits are announced at the same time as record household debt. It also warned that monopolies distort the market so that it’s no longer free. Britain could afford to vastly expand higher education without burdening students with debt. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. 182 . But such is the insidious power of corporate propaganda. Don’t swallow this lie.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ that corporate Britain requires. Proportional to growth in national wealth. Most of the country’s wealth is sucked up by big business and never returns as tax revenue. not Marx – worth remembering whenever defenders of the existing system try to pigeonhole its critics as communists. Given this structural role of debt. The problem isn’t lack of money.12 Do you ever get the feeling you’re being ripped off? You’re not paranoid – you really are being ripped off. it maintains the status quo. it’s remarkable that anyone would feel like a failure for going into debt – or feel irresponsible for walking away from a debt. This is Adam Smith. warned that whenever merchants meet they tend to conspire against the general public. Personal debt isn’t just big business – it’s central to the system. The free-market bible. This is partly due to the remarkable ability of large corporations to utilise offshore tax havens and tax loopholes. the monopolisation of wealth by a small minority. The Guardian estimated that Britain loses £85 billion per year in corporate tax avoidance – more than enough to pay the country’s higher education costs without a single student going into debt.

(6) National Consumer Council report. September 2003. Autumn 2003.org.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ References: (1) Bank of England. (8) creditaction. (7) Joseph Rowntree Foundation report. 17/3/04. (2) KPMG survey. quoted by Press Association. (9) Ibid.uk. 19/3/04. (12) The Guardian. 2/9/03. 12/4/02. 26/2/1997. 30/3/04. December 2003 (2001/2002 figures). (5) Guardian Money. 11/8/03. (11) Private Eye. (4) Ibid. Edinburgh. (3) Evening News. Quarterly Bulletin. 183 . (10) US Congressional testimony.

affecting 7 percent of people. This involved hiding all my real motivations and feelings. and over-using words like “opportunity” and “challenge. a term used by the intelligence community. If that sounds like an exaggeration. while still believing in their own freedom and autonomy. useful idiots can be identified by their claim to like their jobs. Financial anxiety turns most of us into “useful idiots”. more than 10 percent of the population suffer from a neurotic anxiety disorder1.” The interviewer seemed convinced that I was there out of free choice and enthusiasm. When so many people seem to enjoy being economic slaves. The prospect of going back into the corporate world filled me with dread. According to a recent major survey commissioned by the government. In the everyday world of tedious wage-slavery. or at least pretend to. but my money had run out so it looked like I had no choice. take a look at some figures. Vast quantities of tranquillisers and anti-depressants are prescribed in the UK – eighty million prescriptions in 184 . We’re living in an anxiety culture and we’re driven by fear. one begins to suspect something beyond deluded sentimentality – something sinister and pathological. meaning those who unwittingly end up serving the purposes of others. I got the job after a successful act of deception at the job interview. rather than financial dilemma and survival anxiety. The most common problem is a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ANXIETY ATTACK Recently. after resting for a year. I prepared myself to return to work for a large bureaucratic company.

through repetition. is to emotionally sensitise social comparison. Forty three percent have problems sleeping because of work worries. private health care. Insurance companies and the whole financial services industry make billions from our financial insecurities. for example. The use of sex in advertising may seem crude and obvious. chewing gum. not even the marketers themselves – a recent survey shows advertising executives to be “plagued by self-doubt and insecurity”4. Employers benefit if the workers fear losing their jobs – fearful people are less likely to complain or rebel. etc) and more external buttressing of their fragile self-image through lifestyle products and status symbols. The unsubtle targeting of our fears is evident in adverts for vehicle recovery services. and rapidly rising since2. The message is: good sex-bonding is available only to those who live like this. Fifty four percent fret over inadequate income3. TV. deodorant. Studies show that people are more suggestible and compliant when anxious. This statistical picture seems at odds with the grinning. The advertisers portray a world where all normal people drive expensive new cars and smile perpetually. Politicians quote “public fears” as justifi185 . Anxious people make good consumers – they tend to eat and drink compulsively.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ 1994. security systems. No one is really immune from these social-comparison anxieties.. need more distractions (newspapers. but the effect. cars. and so on. so people feel humiliated driving old cars. mobile phones. self-assured yuppie reality beamed into our living rooms during commercial breaks. There are strong vested interests in keeping public anxiety at a high level. alarms. Sixty percent of employees suffer from feelings of insecurity and anxiety.

The news headlines often give the impression of paedophiles or killers on every street corner. Without necessarily implying any large conspiracy.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ cation for more freedom-eroding legislation. The official statistics present a much different picture. governments and corporations gladly reap the harvests of high public anxiety. Today. it’s true to say that anxiety can be induced in a population by constantly focusing on the threat of crime in an exaggerated way. that wasn’t a misprint – five – check it out. In 1995. Daily Mirror. Between 1983 and 1993. 186 . This has the ‘advantage’ of directing fear towards ‘bad’ individuals who break the law. Over the last 25 years there has been no increase in child murder by strangers. half of those questioned believed that tabloid newspapers have a vested interest in making people more afraid of crime. You can probably think of many more examples. on average only five children were murdered by strangers each year in England and Wales. according to Home Office figures6. rather than the institutions which make the laws. murdering every passing child. In a word. requested interviews with the editors of the Daily Mail. In a recent MORI poll. Daily and Sunday Express. the makers of Frontline. They all refused to be interviewed5. Most child homicides are in fact committed by the parents. to ask how they justified their sensationalised crime coverage. People and Star. Sun. The overall murder rate (all ages) is the same now as it was in 1857 (roughly 13 per million of the population per year)7. No. a Channel 4 documentary on crime. Insecure populations show a tendency to elect authoritarian governments.

which is our real childhood education. Schools are factories for turning carefree souls into obedient. do I assist or mind my own business? Some school teachers were recently reported to be in difficulty deciding whether to apply sun-protection lotion to young children. A third of elderly women fear going outside. Most anxiety results from what we’ve been thinking. and on the other the risk of child sex-abuse accusation. economically frightened clones. One effect of our over-stimulated fear of crime is increased paranoia and suspicion. Children are also exposed daily to the anxious thoughts of their parents – generally known as “parental concern”. Welcome to anxiety society. like water to fish. Meanwhile. the climate of fear being created is out of all proportion to the real threat of crime for most people. although the less sentimentally inclined may prefer to call it neurosis. they seem common. exposure to these fearful beliefs starts in early childhood. We’re immersed in fearinducing belief systems. If I take a stroll through the park. will the woman ahead think I’m stalking her? If I see a child in distress. We receive a thorough ‘anxiety conditioning’.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Unfortunately. Statistically. On one hand there was the risk of skin cancer. but it’s invisible to us. the elderly and young children are the groups least at risk from attack — but because the newspapers cover all violent crimes involving the young and the very old. many people believe the crime hype. but only one in 4000 will be assaulted8. before we can develop any intellectual defences. rather than external events. 187 . Unfortunately.

Its poisonous tentacles reach into your mind. or that something is wrong with you – a tendency exploited to the maximum by big business. be subverted with psychological gimmicks. The original sin worldview can. rather than as a fantastic adventure.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Parents demonstrate how loving and responsible they are by worrying all the time. Go to extremes of laziness and indulge yourself deluxe-style every day. or whatever gets you relaxed and high – then take it easier next day. or call in sick as often as possible. Spend the day in bed watching videos. This belief is the enemy of idlers. You earned your life by being born – now you deserve to relax. It surfaces as the feeling that you’re not good enough. and must redeem ourselves through hard work and suffering. For example. So what are the main anxiety-inducing beliefs? Perhaps the most insidious is “original sin” – the notion that. Remove all forms of guilt from your mind. eating Belgian chocolates and drinking Green Chartreuse. we’re morally ‘bad’. in essence. ie happiness. 188 . causing you to see life as a burden to endure. Dismiss the notion that you have to ‘earn’ anything. This is regarded as perfectly normal in our society. It also makes you feel guilty. try believing that you deserve to be paid for doing nothing. It manifests as the idea that you’re infinitely undeserving – that reward. however. will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity such as work. Quit your job and go on holiday.

all-knowing divine power – it’s not something for fallible individuals to attempt. This puts people under tremendous strain. It’s part of a conspiracy of stupidity undermining claims that we can work less and take it easy. Responsibility sees everything as a problem needing a solution – usually involving endless work and expenditure. This sense of responsibility is obviously false – you can’t even be responsible for your next thought.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Another insidious anxiety-inducer to watch out for is the belief that you should be responsible. You don’t choose your genetic make-up or the conditions in which you grow up. The attraction of responsibility (all con-tricks have an attraction) is that it allows people total conformity without removing the facade of individuality – it’s the kind of concept that advertising agencies dream about. It’s a big social con-trick – with the “responsible individual” as dupe. Society holds you accountable if you don’t comply with its definition of your responsibilities. the real function of “individual responsibility” is social conformity. yet all the unfortunate things that happen are your fault. It never occurs to them that their idea of responsibility might not be universal. Any intelligent attempt to drastically cut working hours is resisted on the basis that it’s irresponsible. True responsibility would require all-seeing. Politicians – the experts on responsibility – see joblessness as the ultimate irresponsible lifestyle. As a result we continue to work for a responsible (but arbitrary) 40 hours a week instead of a more sensible 40 minutes. Many people feel a “responsibility” to quit work in order to widen their knowledge and develop 189 . Of course.

(3) NOP poll. quoted by World in Action. (4) The Times. 15 Oct 1994. (6) Sunday Times. 15 Dec 1994. issue 25. 4 Oct 1995. 190 . work is an “irresponsible” cop-out – a last refuge of the fearful and ignorant. This article was first published in The Idler. and also in the Guardian’s “Editor” supplement on 8th October 1999. (2) World in Action and Radio Times. 22 Nov 1996. From this viewpoint. 11 Sept 1996. Channel 4. (5) Frontline. (7) The Independent. 1999. References: (1) Study commissioned by the Department of Health.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ their potential. Oct 1995. as reported in The Independent. 6 Aug 1995. (8) The Times. 25 Sept 1996.

and suggests that to operate with integrity. led to mundane and spiritual rewards. has defined hard work as “doing what you don’t want to do”. the American financial author. work is closely related to. This is the typical level of financial re- 191 . The modern equivalents of these archaic religious beliefs are: i) That hard work is the main causative factor in producing material wealth. US government figures from the eighties showed the average savings of a person reaching retirement age in North America to be less than $500. and their belief that suffering is required to redeem our ‘original sin’ as human beings became part of their work ethic. you should forget work and do what you want. and often motivated by. The available statistics don’t support the belief that hard work leads to wealth – for example. in our society. To sweeten their view of work and provide positive motivation. guilt. This is why.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ THE PURITAN WORK ETHIC Phil Laut. ii) That hard work is character building and morally good. Puritan sects were greatly over-represented among the early major industrialists (quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). if persevered with. This is a notion which continues to underlie our attitude towards work even today. This revolutionary viewpoint directly opposes certain beliefs which have become codified into our work ethic courtesy of the Puritans. the Puritans believed that honest toil.

a lot of evidence to suggest that our work ethic is extreme and pathological in its effects. although this epitaph sounds more appropriate for an item of machinery than a human being. ie happiness. The problem with this way of thinking is that it endlessly perpetuates itself – you can never totally relax because nobody ever comes along to say.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ward a person can expect for forty years of full-time hard work – based on government data for an entire generation of working Americans. once and for all. this is saying you have to suffer in order to get happiness. these findings don’t exactly support the idea of work being morally uplifting. A 1995 National Opinion Poll (NOP) revealed that 50% of British workers say work makes them depressed. and 43% have problems sleeping because of work. Unless you regard stress-related illness as character building. fret over inadequate income. in fact. feel that their work isn’t of use to society. suffer insecurity and stress. will always be contingent upon the endurance of some unpleasant activity. There is. For example. that you’ve worked enough 192 . hard work is undoubtedly seen as virtuous – the greatest tribute paid to the deceased seems to be “worked hard all his/ her life”. Whatever its correlation with material wealth. The underlying idea behind this insanity is that you are infinitely undeserving – reward. or to put it another way. a major UK survey (quoted recently by The Guardian) showed that 6 out of 10 British workers dislike their jobs. The hard work ethic has also conditioned us to see happiness as something that must be earned through toil. In effect. you must be unhappy to be happy. and find themselves exhausted by the time they get home.

As knowledge-intensive markets grow in proportion to labour-intensive industry. Beliefs like these don’t only describe viewpoints. According to classical economic theory. that they never stopped to consider if there was any point to it. no gain”. information is becoming the primary source of wealth. How can you despise ease and laziness then not feel guilty when you take a rest? Try an alternative slogan: “anything worthwhile is best done without effort”. You are effectively programming yourself to experience hurt and hardship if you accept this idea of “no pain. you need precise information about where to drill. they also program our expectations. integration and transmission of information) doesn’t usually result from hard work and stress. labour and capital. it isn’t working”. don’t permit you to relax until after you’ve died).Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ (the religious beliefs which originally gave rise to this mindset. information is overtaking labour (ie hard work) as an important wealth-creating factor. Another version of the same idea has been used as a political slogan: “if it isn’t hurting. wealth is created from land. I observed employees in busy offices rushing so much to get things done. or “if you can’t enjoy it. The human brain processes complex information better when the person is relaxed and happy (adrenaline addiction notwithstanding). Increasingly though. A popular cliché says “nothing worthwhile is easy”. Quality thought (efficient reception. As a business analyst. 193 . don’t do it”. If you drill for oil.

but which are still very rare. teleworking etc) which are forward-looking and advantageous to everybody (the Institute of Manpower Studies has found that employees who work ‘non-standard’ hours tend to be more efficient. A strange effect of the ‘dark ages’ view of work as atonement. or at least try to look as if we’re enjoying it. 194 . The Information Age is here. Presbyterians. This also explains why (according to the US figures quoted above) the average person is prepared to work forty hours per week for no great financial reward – the typical person believes he doesn’t deserve to be paid for enjoying himself. drudgery and toil would be pointless and obsolete. By happily accepting our punishment (ie daily hard work) we demonstrate our moral fibre. but in terms of work patterns we cling to the attitudes of an mechanicalindustrial culture steeped in the Puritan ethic (Methodists. The fact that we are nowhere near manifesting such a dream has more to do with our attitudes and beliefs than with the current state of technology. Wesleyans and other puritanical sects were greatly over-represented among the major industrialists quoted in Ashton’s History of the Industrial Revolution). But for everybody else. Currently there are alternatives to the 9-5 work culture (job-sharing. This doesn’t mean that all-day leisure and enjoyment would be imposed – those who like being miserable could construct their own simulations of busy offices or noxious factories to work in.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ One futurist dream is that technology will eventually free people from the necessity of hard work. Quakers. is the idea that we should enjoy it. enthusiastic and committed).

Don’t do anything. there is an interesting exercise you can try: spend a whole day in bed for no particular reason (ie don’t wait until you are ill or exhausted). This could be the greatest business challenge you have ever faced. December 1996. without feeling ashamed of your laziness. 195 . This article was originally published in In Business magazine.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In order to more deeply understand current attitudes to work. The acceptance of laziness breaks the link between guilt and work which chains us to primitive patterns from the past. just lie in bed and doze all day.

sovereign individuals who freely consume for themselves. critics of the competitive market system would argue that “free market” is itself a metaphor. The market system has traditionally had an individualistic bias – its central premise is that the market registers choices made by separate. atomistic consumers and entrepreneurs. Ironically. then “society” will be viewed as a nebulous metaphor with little economic relevance. social phenomena such as advertising. ‘society’ has aspects which can’t be explained or predicted in terms of 196 . Those who blame their financial problems on an aspect of “society” are unlikely to receive any sympathy from freemarketeers. Adherents of free-market economics have often expressed a dislike of terms like “society” and “social concern”.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ OBSOLETE FREE-MARKET METAPHORS “There is no such thing as society”. She apparently meant that “society” can be seen only as an abstraction or cultural metaphor. an idealised abstraction whose central premise fails to take into account the vast array of social factors affecting human motivation and behaviour. The notion of a ‘totally rational’ individual. For instance. state education and the mass media inevitably tend to influence the value systems which determine what individual consumers will buy. So said Mrs Thatcher. completely immune from ‘social’ influences. seems naive. And contrary to free-market thinking. If every economic effect is seen to result from the free choices of autonomous.

there are good reasons for the Anglo-American belief that economic self-interest must take precedence over social concern. we are not referring to communism or statism. thus benefiting everyone. Japan – possibly the most economically successful of all capitalist nations – has a more communitarian model than even Europe. as reflected. When we talk in terms of ‘communal’ biases here. according to classical economists. The European capitalist model is more ‘communal’ in its emphasis. for instance. shifting resources to those who compete successfully and away from those who compete badly is a process which promotes economic growth. Adam Smith observed that merchants acting from selfish motivations tended to produce more of public value than those motivated by benevolence towards society. The reasons for this are easy enough to follow – self-interest fuels competitiveness and. Meanwhile. To the Japanese. Of course. but to cultural perspectives which recognise that wealth-creation may not be an entirely individualistic pursuit.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ the rational choices made by its individual constituents. 197 . Only Britain and the USA put individual self-interest so far above notions of ‘social concern’. the main purpose of business is to benefit society. To view a complex phenomenon like a human society as no more than the sum of its parts is to subscribe to a kind of reductionism belonging to the 18th century (which was when classical free-market economic theory originated). by the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty.

universal way. of the Henley Centre forecasting organisation. The Seven Cultures of Capitalism. classical economic metaphors obviously reflect the Newtonian mechanical view of the world. Indeed. 198 . They argue that market forces depend on specific cultural contexts and shouldn’t be seen to act in an impersonal. has pointed out that Western economic theory has been conspicuously unsuccessful at making the kind of accurate predictions you would expect from a scientific discipline. Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars describe Adam Smith’s doctrine of self-interest as “perhaps the world’s leading example of cultural bias and historical circumstance disguised as a principal of science”. etc). So is the classical view of the effectiveness of self-interest within a ‘free market’ a universal law or just a cultural prejudice favouring the greedy and predatory? In their book. and that orthodox economics still has no effective answer for basic problems such as unemployment. He goes as far as saying that little in standard economics texts is known to be true. Professor Paul Ormerod. Their book is rich in examples which contradict the fundamental assumptions of mainstream British economics.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ But just as the metaphors of Freudian psychology mirror the technology of the times (eg hydraulic build-up of pressure. letting off steam. as if predicting economic effects is a simple problem of physics. There is a almost mathematical satisfaction to be gained from understanding classical economics. the market ‘mechanism’ is regarded as a sort of universal scientific law by classical economists and business people in Britain and America.

in fact. Similarly.000 higher than in the UK). humanitarianism.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Sweden. rather than simply a hoped-for effect of the market mechanism. customers and local communities) is very much part of their economic strategies. has been something of an enigma to classical economists. insulated exception to universally harsh economic laws.4% in Japan.9% in Britain. If business is necessarily a ruthless struggle between selfinterested competitors. how did Sweden’s “softness” (social equality. Economists rationalised that Sweden was a small. but. for example. since the late nineteenth century Sweden has been a world economy highly exposed to international trends. Holland and Japan. This tendency hasn’t harmed the economic growth of these countries (from 1979 to 1991. with substantial government control moderating economic fluctuations. welfare and environmental concern) lead to such a strong economy? Sweden has had one of the world’s highest standards of living (in 1992 GDP per person was $12. benevolence towards ‘society’ (as expressed towards employees. Also. it is outside the “socialist” categorisation). compared with 4. manufacturing grew by 33. and working conditions and labour-management relations have generally been excellent. in Germany. A strong social democratic welfare state. has put Sweden in the “soft” category of capitalism (but with very little industry nationalised. 199 . GDP per capita in Britain continued to lose comparative advantage with these countries during this period).3% in Germany and 60.

Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Britain’s leading companies are extremely profitable. indeed. there is a degree of co-operative activity in German and Japanese industry which is quite alien to the British and American “lean and mean” approach. much of European and Japanese industry has learnt how to reconcile co-operation with competition. not the end. But what does reconciling co-operation and competition mean in practice? The question we should probably ask is: What is the entity that competes? – an individual. using metaphors of “integrated wholes” (eg “organic”. to put it in terms of the mechanistic metaphor. So. or a nation? Early on in the development of capitalism. This is an especially important trend in the area of high technology. we can’t push and pull simultaneously. Obsession with profit. Or. In Germany the pursuit of technical excellence and service to society through producing quality products is more valued than profit making. individuals competed with 200 . competitiveness tends to be measured here solely by the level of profit extracted. and. With the emphasis less on the short-term profits of the individual. an industry. following classical economics. “cybernetic” or “structured network” models). a company. however. is not a common factor in successful economies. From the western perspective of analytical ‘either/or’ logic. rather than one in which individuals compete to extract profits – profitability is the means. However. The Japanese see capitalism as a system in which communities serve consumers. we choose competition and get rid of co-operation. we must choose either co-operation or competition – we can’t have both at the same time.

later. may have important benefits.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ other individuals. in contrast with the UK. in the keiretsu (a co-operative conglomerate). pushing competition to its own boundaries” (The Seven Cultures of Capitalism). whose divisional companies co-operate and share technological knowledge and resources (in Anglo-American conglomerates. rather than ruthless self-interested struggle..a function of evolving co-operation. then. The UK approach derives from a belief in the universal nature of the market mechanism – ie the conviction that all-out competition will work at all levels. Japan has spread the level of co-operation further still. European nations have largely adopted the internally cooperative approach. particularly in knowledgeintensive markets (eg high technology). the development of capitalism may be seen as “. which spreads outward. and share nothing).. which is often not in the interests of the company). Thus. Describing economic progress in terms of evolving cooperation. competition was largely between companies whose employees co-operated (although fierce competition is still encouraged between individual employees in the UK and US – one effect of this is that employees are out to get what they can for themselves. In order to compete successfully at the national level. the divisions compete with each other for the funding of the holding company. where the political strategy has been to increase internal competition. where a co-operative free flow of information throughout a company (or industry) is likely to prove more effective than jealous guarding of privileged knowledge by ambitious individu- 201 .

the information technology revolution is increasingly leading to commercial scenarios which the mechanistic metaphors of classical economic are unable to deal with. which is that people should conform to their definition of “contribute”. Society holds us accountable for not complying with its definition of our individual responsibilities. Countries which insist on clinging to outmoded economic dogmas will very likely fall behind in the technology race. This emphasis on the individual’s sole responsibility for achieving success fails to take into account the role of social consensus in defining “success”. reflects the cultural metaphors we use. The tendency to polarise economic issues. Mrs Thatcher was certainly admired for being resolute in her polarisations. In fact.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ als. The metaphors we use to describe economic success have a flip side that we can’t easily escape from. eg private vs public sector. but is it surpris- 202 . If we believe that a competitive and individualistic (rather than co-operative and communitarian) approach is the way to succeed. hierarchy vs equality etc. rather than social factors. market vs social concerns. We therefore resent the poor for their lack of individual initiative. and despise people who blame their problems on social circumstances. then it follows that economic failure must be the fault of individuals who aren’t competing hard enough. individual vs community. but they rarely say what they mean. We often hear politicians talking piously about the responsibility of individuals to contribute to society.

Everything They Told You is Wrong
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ing if we find that the combined metaphors of ancient Aristotelian ‘either/or’ logic and 18th century economics are inadequate for the realities of the 21st century? Acknowledgement: This article makes use of some of the ideas expressed in The Seven Cultures of Capitalism by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars (Piatkus, 1994). The above article was originally published in In Business magazine, July 1997.

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THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF WORK
The workerless society may be much closer than we think. 75% of the work force, in most developed countries, engage in work that is little more than simple repetitive tasks. Most of these jobs are vulnerable to replacement by automation. But that’s not all – technology is increasingly taking over tasks previously thought to require human intelligence. Office workers and managers are now under threat as corporations restructure to take advantage of the huge productivity gains made possible by the new technologies. Economists have traditionally argued against the likelihood of the decline of work, believing that productivity gains produce wealth, which is used to expand markets, thereby creating new jobs. Admittedly, this has been the case in the past. For example, when technology began to displace agricultural workers, a new growing sector – manufacturing – was able to absorb those displaced. Then, between the mid fifties and the early eighties, as manufacturing became increasingly automated, displaced factory workers were absorbed into the growing service sector (banking, insurance, accounting, law, airlines, retail, etc). In most modern cities today, nine out of ten jobs are in the service sector. As we approach the millennium, however, service sector jobs are increasingly falling to advanced technology – without the emergence of any new growth areas of the scale required to absorb the redundant office workers. It has been estimated, for example, that human secretaries currently spend more than 45% of their time filing pa204

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pers, photocopying, delivering messages, posting letters and waiting for assignments. Electronic office systems make all of this redundant. Sophisticated labour-saving technology is being developed at an accelerating rate. Hundreds of companies now use computer systems to screen job applications. One such system, called Resumix, optically scans incoming CVs, reads and evaluates the applicants’ details, and makes decisions concerning applicant suitability (field tests have shown the Resumix to be as skilled as human personnel managers in evaluating job applicants). Voice recognition software is already being used to replace human customer service telephonists in many companies. These companies face a simple choice: use the new technology or lose competitive advantage and go out of business. In either case job losses will occur. In 1993 the US retail giant, Sears, cut 50,000 jobs from its merchandising division. That same year, its sales revenues rose by 10%. General Electric, a world leader in electronic manufacturing, reduced its global workforce from 400,000 in 1981 to 230,000 in 1993, whilst tripling its sales. The tyre company, Goodyear, cut 24,000 jobs between 1988 and 1992, and increased productivity by 30% in the same period. During the writing of this article, Electrolux announced they would be eliminating 12,000 jobs over the next two years.

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Large layoffs such as these are becoming increasingly common as the electronic revolution forces corporations to ruthlessly restructure in order to stay competitive. According to renowned management expert, Professor Charles Handy, we are losing more jobs than we can replace. This is inevitable, he says, because developed countries can’t sustain the level of growth needed to create sufficient jobs to replace those lost through technologically enhanced productivity. Automation is shedding jobs faster than markets can expand to create new jobs. Handy remarks that we all need the equivalent of an earthquake to remind us to take nothing for granted in the world of work and economics. Another economic commentator who believes we need a shock to awaken us, is Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, in Washington, DC. According to Rifkin, “not a single world leader seems willing to entertain the possibility that the global economy is moving inexorably toward a shrinking labour market with potentially profound consequences for civilisation”. He criticises the logic behind ‘trickle-down technology’ – the theory, held by most conventional economists, which says that advances in technology and productivity create falling prices, generating greater demand, and thus leading to the creation of more jobs than are lost. In his book, The End of Work, Rifkin presents evidence showing the steady rise of unemployment in most developed nations: “With demand seriously weakened by rising unemployment and underemployment in most of

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Wealth is piling up all around us.” Consumer debt has rocketed to alarmingly high levels in both the US and the UK. This is already occurring – most reports of the last few years indicate that the low-paid are becoming financially worse off. Unemployment has more than doubled in Britain since 1979. neither is it a creature solely of the marketplace – it rightly ‘belongs’ to everyone. employment wages will become inadequate to live on. coinciding with increasing losses of full-time jobs. The most notable growth area during this period has been the credit card companies. the business community has turned to extending easy consumer credit in an effort to stimulate purchasing power. As human contributions to production reduce in significance and quantity. and the vast majority of new jobs created have been temporary or part-time (since 1992. The technological revolution which brought this wealth should be seen as a social phenomenon – it was not created by any one individual or group. relative to automated contributions. Economic rewards have traditionally been distributed on the basis of contributions to production. 207 . Technological advances continue to have the effect of reducing the commodity value of human labour.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ the industrial world. 90% of jobs created have been temporary or part-time). Every technological advance implemented in industry effectively increases wealth – otherwise it wouldn’t be utilised. which have experienced phenomenal success.

August 1997. This article was originally published in In Business magazine. if any.Everything They Told You is Wrong ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ In a world of decreasing demand for human labour. the economic rewards derived from technology will need to be distributed to people in ways that have nothing to do with the amount of work. THE END PLEASE PROCEED TO THE CHECKOUT 208 . they perform.

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