Now that Jim can’t fix it, who will?

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By Kenneth Roy

Jim used to be able to fix it, but even he can’t fix it any more. Died in his sleep; no suspicious circumstances. Last seen on telly a few nights ago, on one of those creepy time-warped Top of the Pops from circa 1976, he was wearing flimsy summer shorts and surrounded by pubescent girls swooning over the Bay City Rollers. Ah yes, one for the archive.

Like a good communist, Jim gave most of his money away. He now lies in state, or a state, in the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds; visitors welcome.

By Kenneth Roy

Jim used to be able to fix it, but even he can’t fix it any more. Died in his sleep; no suspicious circumstances. Last seen on telly a few nights ago, on one of those creepy time-warped Top of the Pops from circa 1976, he was wearing flimsy summer shorts and surrounded by pubescent girls swooning over the Bay City Rollers. Ah yes, one for the archive.

Like a good communist, Jim gave most of his money away. He now lies in state, or a state, in the Queen’s Hotel, Leeds; visitors welcome.

Now that he is gone, who is to lead the anti-capitalist cause?

Ever the accidental journalist, I stumbled a few Saturdays ago on the establishment of the Glasgow camp in George Square, just as they were pitching their little tents and preparing to distribute the first leaflets. It was a peaceful scene. One of the students was reading a textbook. The police stood in great numbers – well, four or five – on the edge of the non-action, smiling indulgently. It seemed inappropriate to ask a question of any of those present, so absorbed were they in the important work of anti-capitalism.

I walked away, marvelling as ever at the achievement of the city’s bureaucracy in converting this revolutionary space into yet another example of urban brutalism (or chic, if you prefer). The trees were uprooted, the grass was paved over, in order to accomplish the desired aesthetic effect; the result has all the charm and personality of an inner ring-road. My old friend Robert Burns and others in no position to fix it observe the desolation from their lonesome plinths. They include Walter Scott, who lost all his money.

Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver has opened an expensive restaurant where the post office used to be. No doubt there will be a monument to him one day, for services to school grub.

The flattening of the square was explained away as a noble contribution to the restoration of the local environment, but the real motive was horribly visible all too soon. Not a month now elapses without some money-making tented exhibition, which necessitates the blocking off of at least half the square, the dispersal of the people and the enclosure of the statues within this open-air citadel of capitalism. In choosing it, the anti-capitalists must have sensed the power of symbolism.

These may be the first anti-capitalist protests ever to be supported by capitalists themselves. (Although an exception must, as ever, be made for the appalling Boris Johnson). A literate supporter of the money-making class, the Spectator’s business columnist Martin Vander Weyer, wrote last week that the protesters ‘have a powerful strand of argument, even if many of them don’t fully understand it’. He continued:

The rewards of the last boom were distributed in pockets of extreme wealth that look grossly undeserved as the speculative underpinnings of the boom continue to unravel, while the privations of the current stagflation fall disproportionately on those who were at best only partial, passive beneficiaries of the boom, including pensioners and the unskilled…The point is well taken by anyone who pauses to think about it – and the protesters can pack up their tents, because there’s really nothing more to be said.


Yet still there is no hint of a police investigation. The terrifying words ‘criminal deception’ are never so much as whispered. No suspicious circumstances.


But maybe there is. We all have our little stories. How well I remember the night years ago when a sober suit – Kirk elder type – called at the house and persuaded me to start an Equitable Life pension. He said that Equitable Life was more ethical than the others. Hey: I believed him. So now I must go on editing other people’s copy until, like Jim, I can’t fix it any more – finally unable to insert that missing hyphen or excise that misplaced comma. People do seem to have a problem with commas, just as I have a continuing issue with the distinction between that and which. Even reading Simon Heffer’s excellent book on grammar hasn’t quite fixed it.

But bankers: they have no problem with commas. They just have a general problem with the meaning of words. In the spring of 2008, a colleague arrived in the office one morning and asked me why the Royal Bank of Scotland suddenly needed an injection of £12 billion from its shareholders. We had a look at the morning papers and all seemed to be in order: no big deal. The trusting shareholders coughed up. Though not before they had been categorically assured by the clever people running the show – we now have the video evidence for this –  that RBS was not affected by the sub-prime collapse in America. Either, then, the clever people running the show were lying when they gave their categorical assurance, or they were so negligent that they were unaware of the nature of their own business. Is there an alternative explanation? I can’t think of one offhand.

Yet still there is no hint of a police investigation. The terrifying words ‘criminal deception’ are never so much as whispered. No suspicious circumstances.

The only looters who go to prison are the ones of execrable taste who gather up odds and ends of cheap, shapeless clothes from cheap, shapeless stores. The trend in such fashion was launched successfully in the village of Dundonald, Ayrshire, by the entrepreneur Tom Hunter, who made a fortune and then, like Jim, wanted to give most of it away. But that was before the crash. He is now Sir Tom; I imagine every sensible university in the land has given him an honorary doctorate, though not necessarily in philosophy. The looters too are minor capitalists, but without the education to aim for the high end of the street.

Irony succeeds irony. The Glasgow bureaucrats – the same ones who decimated the square to make way for commercial exhibitions – want the space cleared of anti-capitalists in good time for Christmas, so that all the family can make use of the temporary skating rink. But mind how you go. The ice could be perilously thin this year; and there’s no Jim to fix it.

 

Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review
Image by Bob Smith –
http://bobsmithart.com