Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The rule of fear

The Labour Party conference may be in full flow, but I have to confess that engaging with the political posturing is more than a little difficult, when so much is going on elsewhere. Mind you, even the slow suicide of the euro – alongside the Greek economy – seems a little unreal, and it is very hard to share even Jeff Randall's preoccupations as he and many other commentators have very little new or interesting to say.

It is, in fact, all very well getting worked up about macro-economic issues, but what really matters to us all, first and foremost, are our own personal micro-economies. Such are the conditions that are developing that these may well devolve in the near future to questions of whether we can afford to buy enough food and afford to heat our frigid homes as the winter sets in.

On this, I am still haunted by the piece yesterday which records the assault on the Greek middle class, focusing on one couple Dmitris and Mary Andreou. What was chilling was not only the double assault of increased prices and reduced income, but also an extra property tax of between €500 and €1,000 a year until 2014, and a further income tax hike.

Sentiments not dissimilar to those expressed in Greece are also being heard in the UK and yesterday we saw The Scotsman reporting that Scotland's nursing staff are "at breaking point", with a survey showing they are suffering "plummeting" morale, financial worries and a complete collapse in job security.

That message can be repeated across a wide spectrum of occupations, in both private and public sectors, and the great fear is that the collapse of the euro and the certain default of the Greeks, will bring with it a massive economic downturn that will make an already bad situation much, much worse.

And if that is bad enough, what is really terrifying is the government at different levels which has not yet learned to temper its insatiable demand for our cash, but is developing ever more inventive ways of extracting hidden taxes – such as parking fees, income tax penalties and a whole raft of imposts – and is resorting increasingly to bully-boy tactics, with the use of bailiffs and other forcible measures to fill its coffers.

If the markets are currently ruled by fear, as the above chilling clip asserts, so are our daily lives, as private economies contract and the predators move in. And first and foremost amongst those predators – as the Greeks are finding – is the government.

The party conferences are the shop window for the political classes, but behind the smiling faces and the honeyed words, a government of aliens has declared war on its own people. Its insatiable appetite for cash does not allow it to do otherwise, and it will destroy us rather than reduce its own demands. Like the shark, it must keep swimming forward or perish.

All of this makes me very pessimistic for the future - more so than I have ever been - and it makes today's battles all the more relevant. These are not jolly little japes, or little local squabbles, but part of the battle for survival which is increasingly going to engage us all.

A fight we have evaded during the good times is now going to have to be fought when we least want it. It is one where the rule of law has been abandoned, and no quarter is given or taken. The rule of fear is about to descend.