The International Writers Magazine - January 06
2006 January Editorial
Got enough? Eaten enough? How is your credit card
today? How much do you owe? How much do you eat? Can you remember a
time when there was self-discipline? Hmm, you must be over 40 then.
Obesity is most often the result of being unable to say no to temptation.
Debt, the same and I pretty much guarantee that we all, myself included,
are guilty of owing money to one credit card or another. Hell you cant
even open an account anywhere until you have a credit history
a polite way of talking about debt.
Our whole modern life is about living for today and tomorrow can be
postponed pretty much forever. We can eat, buy, go pretty much wherever
we want because the modern economy is founded exclusively on debt. You
feel diminished if you dont have a credit limit of at least $20,000.
Some people have cards and run up debts five times that or more. I know
one student with eleven credit cards, all with thousands on them and
he just flips them into 0% cards postponing his day of reckoning till
doomsday. Sometimes I am jealous of his gall. No job, doesnt even
get good grades, but he drives a BMW. I guess hes a roll model
for the other students and hes saying to me when I caution him
Im young I can handle it, better yet, I can always go bankrupt
and start all over again a year later.
It wasnt always so. Your grandparents probably hated debt, lived
within their means, paid off the mortage as fast as they good. Almost
no one was obese because there were times to eat and times to resist.
They were called mealtimes and they most likely ate a table, maybe even
talked to each other. Mustnt spoil your appetite was
one phrase that one heard over an over again. Pets werent so fat
either back then because they didnt snack or graze all day long.
Now everyone grazes and no one is ever hungry. (Yes there
are homeless, hungry people sleeping on doorsteps whether by choice
or circumstances, either way they arent going to be obese or overburdened
with consumer items or reading this I guess).
When a bill arrived your grandparents paid it, or at least fretted on
how they would pay it. Yes there was a downside, moneylenders were corrupt
and horrendously expensive. Banks wouldnt lend unless you had
assets and as most people rented back then, assets were hard to come
by. But then again my aged Aunt just told me that her $850,000 dollar
cottage in Essex cost her just $10,000 (£6000 pounds) in 1971
and she thought that expensive! Are we rich really? Or is this just
a bubble, a cynical miasma? Just numbers.
Are we happier in our consumerist world? Is anyone really happier being
overweight or in debt. Sure many people count themselves as rich, ordinary
people who have speculated in property and as long as they dont
look at the hundreds of thousands, even millions they owe to banks,
they consider themselves rich. I guess it works. Ask Donald Trump. Is
he rich? Just dont ask him for actual cash I guess. I drive a
car I cannot afford, which being a Fiat depreciates quickly, but then
again, dont they all. I salve my conscience knowing it is a diesel
and will use less oil. But why do we accept that cars must depreciate,
especially as they last twice as long as cars built only ten years ago.
If we are to accept that cars must become green and more energy efficient
then why do we not value them more? Is this the logic of market-forces
everything is cheapened to nothing. Food, cars, all electronic goods,
add to that relationships, sex and the environment.
My best friend frets about not being on the property ladder. She has
pretty much forgotten her student loan which still sits there at around
$20,000 and she knows she will have to do the crappy job she hates for
years, decades even, just to pay the mortgage company for the privilege
of living in the wrong flat in the wrong neighbourhood. She can literally
project decades of misery for herself so that she can own something.
She thinks I am crazy for paying rent (dead money) to live in lovely
(but bloody cold) Victorian flat in a safe neighbourhood (because Id
need a $600,000 loan to actually own to live here).
But guess what, by the time she has paid off the 25 year loan and is
still living in a place she hates, doing a job she loathes, shell
be old; and because there is no pension in sight, they will make her
sell it to pay for her health care when shes old. If all her generation
have to do the same property prices might be in freefall
is my fantasy you dont have to share).
Maybe the obese and the smokers have it right. They can eat all they
like and when they get ill (as the statistics surely dictate that they
and smokers will die twenty years before others) theyll be treated
for free in a state hospital and no one will say its their own
fault for fear of being in breach political correction. But lets
be clear, whilst it is still legal to say so. Obesity and smoking costs
healthcare billions every year and the whole world would be a better
place if no one smoked and no one gorged on food.
Gorging on everything is what our civilisation in the west has come
to and we expand, literally, as those in the third world who work (in
Burma for example) for ten cents an hour to clothe and feed us, starve.
It is worth mentioning here that I sincerely believe that we in the
west are mining our future to leave those who follow, our heirs, with
empty caves. Our generation, from the USA to China (most definitely
China) are choosing to live now as if there is no future. We are going
to consume the oil, the gas, the good air, all the fish in the sea,
the land and all the rainforests in one generation. In South America
the rain forest disappears at the rate of a country the size of Austria
every year and no one gives a damn. Not a damn. China grows rich and
they too are learning to consume with ever increasing rapidity. Their
air is thick with pollution, testimony to their industry or sowing the
seeds of their own destruction?
Here we raise cattle to make hamburgers by the billion. We dont
need that many cattle, that also pollute the upper atmosphere with methane
and the rivers with effluent, we dont need that many hamburgers.
We dont actually need any hamburgers at all. We have raised a
generation of kids who dont know how to cook for themselves or
care about where food comes from and why, when its loaded with
fast-growth hormones and chemicals, it makes us fat.
We are a generation of extremely selfish humans who are self-centred,
greedy, and uncivil and we can only be disappointed when it all collapses
in on itself. It will collapse. Perhaps more rapidly than we would like
think. Capitalism is like a house on sticks. Putin in Moscow proves
that when he cuts off the gas to Europe for just one day. We are one
pipeline away from medieval times and can be held to ransom by robber
barons, just like Tsars of old eh. Read history and it wont keep
you warm at 20C but it will enlighten you.
Take only what you need
.another saying that has gone by the wayside.
When Kit and I were in Spain last October, we were horrified at the
despoilation of the land by Spanish farmers on one hand and property
developers on the other. Not just in one corner but for hundreds of
miles. There is no water there, it can only end in misery. Is no one
thinking of the future in Spain at all? Short termism is our way of
life and it will kill us.
I guess, since we are thinking of the year ahead Im saying examine
your life, think hard, are you making the world better, or worse by
your actions? Do you own too much? Do you owe too much? Do you weigh
too much? Is it too late to apply the brakes, be less and learn to be
happier? Elsewhere in the magazine this month we remember Small
in Beautiful in more than one article. We have forgotten it for
© Sam North Editor Jan 2006
Month in Hackwriters:
Antonio goes to Hong Kong, Amber to Costa Rica and Raymond travels across
the USA in an 18 wheeler. James
Campion delivers the last of his Iraq Papers, Nayeefa gives us the Quest
for Universal Human Rights, James remembers Blur and Dan Schnieder has
many reviews of film and books to share with us. James Skinner on the
new politics in Bolivia and Charlie Dickinson reviews George Orwell
in Burma. Check it all out.
Next Edition Feb 2nd then we are off to Paris for the weekend.
at Hacks are self-supporting and if you want to support us, buy Sam's
books - All the funds from the sale of the book go back into the site.
If you live in New York it will soon be stocked at the Mysterious
Bookshop at 58 Warren Street. Or See below.
Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North
Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA
'Chocolate will never be the same again' - Sunday
Buy from your favourite on-line retailer
Or buy direct from Lulu Press plus delivery
If you are
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- The Rush of '72
By Sam North
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terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review
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