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Welcome - 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 can’t 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 don’t 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, doesn’t even get good grades, but he drives a BMW. I guess he’s a roll model for the other students and he’s saying to me when I caution him ‘I’m young I can handle it, better yet, I can always go bankrupt and start all over again a year later.’

It wasn’t 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. ‘Mustn’t spoil your appetite’ was one phrase that one heard over an over again. Pets weren’t so fat either back then because they didn’t 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 aren’t 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 wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 don’t ask him for actual cash I guess. I drive a car I cannot afford, which being a Fiat depreciates quickly, but then again, don’t 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 I’d 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, she’ll be old; and because there is no pension in sight, they will make her sell it to pay for her health care when she’s old. If all her generation have to do the same property prices might be in freefall…(
This is my fantasy you don’t 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) they’ll be treated for free in a state hospital and no one will say it’s their own fault for fear of being in breach political correction. But let’s 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 don’t need that many cattle, that also pollute the upper atmosphere with methane and the rivers with effluent, we don’t need that many hamburgers. We don’t actually need any hamburgers at all. We have raised a generation of kids who don’t know how to cook for themselves or care about where food comes from and why, when it’s 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 won’t 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 I’m 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 too long.

© Sam North Editor Jan 2006

This 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.

We 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.

The Curse of the Nibelung - A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
by Sam North

ISBN 1-4116-3748-8
$19.98 Retail - 300 pages - Lulu Press USA

'Chocolate will never be the same again' - Sunday Express

Buy from your favourite on-line retailer
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Or buy direct from Lulu Press plus delivery charges

If you are looking for a good read Sam North's book Diamonds - The Rush of '72 is available also. $19.95 from in the USA or on special offer from the publishers direct - see box below.

Or buy direct from the publisher from only $12.95 plus shipping

Diamonds - The Rush of '72
By Sam North

Buy now from
'a terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review

Now printed in the UK and available from

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