Saturday, January 17, 2009

You had it coming, you miserable sinners

George Monbiot and friend

Toby Young is not noted for his being a champion of the poor but he has harsh words for those (and I suspect that includes most of the BBC and Guardian editorial staff) who, safe in their tenured posts, look upon the financial Götterdämmerung with a barely concealed delight at the cleansing power of crisis in the financial systems of the world.

In this article, Young takes aim at George Monbiot (Stowe; Brasenose, Oxford), the aristocratic environmentalist (is there a working class variety? I've never met one) who with Knox-like glee at the retribution being visited upon the business world omits to have an ounce of sympathy for the poor blighters collecting their P45s:

Puritans love disasters. No sooner has some calamity befallen mankind than some hair-shirted scold emerges from his priest hole and starts wagging his finger. The message is always the same: ‘You are being punished for your immoral lifestyle.’

The latest grist to the puritan mill is, of course, the credit crunch. George Monbiot, the Guardian’s very own Oliver Cromwell, has been looking forward to this moment for years. ‘I hope that the recession now being forecast by some economists materialises,’ he wrote in 2007. Now that it is upon us, he and his colleagues can hardly contain their glee. ‘A much-needed reality check’ was how another Guardian columnist recently described the global economic meltdown.

He also has a good pop at Oliver James, celebrity psychologist, who also seems to think a spot of unemployment is good for one's mental health.

However, none of these prigs has welcomed the disaster quite as joyfully as Oliver James, the broadcaster and clinical psychologist. Last Sunday, I heard him on Radio 4 discussing his most recent book in which he offers ‘scientific proof’ that there is a link between material wealth and mental illness.

‘I absolutely embrace the credit crunch with both arms,’ he said. He went on to denounce ‘Thatcherism, Reaganomics and neo-Liberalism’ which he claimed were responsible for the ‘consumer binge’ that encouraged us to think ‘wide-screen TVs were more important than playing with our toddlers’. ‘With any luck people will actually change their values, they’ll start concentrating on being rather than having and on meeting real needs rather than wants,’ he concluded. ‘It could be the beginning of a radical change in our mental health for the better.’

It is really quite astonishing that someone who prides himself on his sensitivity to human suffering could be so openly enthusiastic about an economic recession. Does he know any of the 1,230 people who are about to lose their jobs at M&S? Or the 2,700 people who work for Waterford Wedgwood? How about the 27,000 people laid off by Woolworths? The number of unemployed in the UK currently stands at 1.8 million, but according to the CBI it is due to increase to 2.9 million by 2010. In all likelihood, the number of people who will receive a ‘much-needed reality check’ from the credit crunch will exceed one million.

That's right, it worked wonders in the 1980s. Just take a walk round Govan or the bits of Motherwell that used to depend on Ravenscraig Steelworks.

One wonders how pundits, the likes of Monbiot and James can parade their disdain for people in financial difficulties with such apparent glee. I suppose they fit the classic definition of the Calvinist:

a person who is miserable at the thought that someone, somewhere is actually enjoying themselves

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Blogger Martin said...


Glad to see you've started using the Barnett Formula (Correlli, not Joel - name, school and college).

BTW, you're bang on the money.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Kirk said...

How true.
Their lack of charity when faced with another's misfortune is appalling.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, one worries that Oliver James unwittingly has put himself in the way of mental illness. One doesn't worry too much about it, but seeing that he raised the point...

12:03 AM  

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