Last week I was midway through reading a big fat book that would not fit into my shoulder bag for a train journey. So I went to a dark corner of my library with its relatively small heap of unclassified books where I sometimes find a unread gem. Three Dollars by Australian Elliot Perlman is a small size paperback ideal for fitting into a handbag and it turned out to be a gem of a book. According to the Sydney Morning Herald blurb the book ‘…is caustically angry and unashamedly polemical. Perlman argues lucidly and with great passion that the misery and social division created by contemporary economics threaten the basic principles our society is (purportedly) founded upon. Nor is there doubting Perlman’s talent and control of his form. Its anger and its passion mark the arrival of a writer of genuine ability!’
I think this is a very accurate assessment. Working at a number of different levels, the book proved to be compulsive reading. But the main thing I was left with when I got to the last page was the truly felt realisation of the fact that the neo-con global capitalist conspiracy to defraud human beings of a decent living has been going on for a long time. This ‘cutting the deficit’ charade seems to most people to have originated in 2008 but it’s been festering at least since this book was published in 1999 and, Owen Jones’ The Establishment brilliantly provides the long background to what’s going on while we are continuing to choose to be conned into believing we live under what’s called ‘democracy’, being graciously permitted to go to a polling booth every five years to plant a cross (for the demise of humanity). The right-wing attack on humanity didn’t just start with Thatcher & Friedman as one might have thought – it goes back a very long way. The Spirit of 1945 (www.thespiritof45.com) will turn out to have been a brief moment when the capitalist vandals were taken unawares; they’ve been trying to consider how to re-establish themselves ever since.
In a previous Glob I indicated the hidden Tory programme to create chaos so that people would not know where they were, what Tory policy to attack first and how to manage it (colinblundell.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/rule-by-chaos). In the context of Three Dollars this is how it works out in Australia (and all over the world we begin to realise – it’s a truly global phenomenon):-
One of the main characters,Tanya, says (in 1999, remember):-
People’s fear of change and their despair at the lack of certainty in any area of their lives, particularly where the social and the personal meet, that is with respect to their jobs and their income, if it lasts long enough, will lead them to abandon reason, to be suspicious of it and to look for scapegoats and simplistic solutions. The wisdom or correctness of a government’s decision will scarcely be discussed but instead attention will be focused on the strength with which the decision was made, the apparent certainty, the conviction with which it was implemented.
Current political ‘debate’ (January 2014), if you can dignify it with such a word, abandons all reason; there is no intellectual integrity to any of it and anybody who seeks to make well-considered analyses of what’s happening is not only regarded with suspicion but written off as a nut-case – Noam Chomsky, for example. Rather than resort to thinking (which hurts the brain) it’s far easier for ‘ordinary people’ to seek scapegoats (Muslims, the disabled, the unemployed) for their woes; simplistic solutions abound – ‘send them all home’, ‘make them work’… and so on. The Power Possessors simply have to repeat the latest slogans often and loudly (plum in the mouth shouting passes for ‘conviction’) enough to carry the day. ‘Because it’s right for our people…’ – just the one right-wing way of looking at things. The frenzy for a new fascist party takes us back to the thirties – millions are taken in. It will of course solve everything.
People will long to have someone remove the uncertainty. They will admire the way the government summarily dismisses any opposition to the decision. A climate will develop wherein critical and analytical thinking, unpractised arts already, will be seen at best as irrelevant and, at worst, as treasonous, threatening the certainty for which they have traded everything else. It will be the fall of the Weimar Republic revisited.
Tanya works on and off for a university relying on it for a a small income while she is trying to complete a thesis.
It was not that she loved the university. On the contrary, as time went by, she had become increasingly critical of universities, their acceptance, as she put in her more mordant moments, of Departments of Hospitality and Tarantino studies, or Hairdressing, whatever brought in fee-paying students. She railed against the intellectual weakness of the students and the moral weakness of the staff. The universities seemed to her at the vanguard of society’s unravelling… They were not the first to retreat from what they had once stood for, they were not the first to turn their backs on any notion of the common good and to prostitute themselves, they were not the first to promote a meaningless language designed to preserve their own pseudo-cultural and economic fiefdoms, they were not the first to willingly, enthusiastically and blindly, destroy themselves. But if the universities were not the first neither were they the last…
The universities, forced to charge for entry because their funding has been cut, reduce learning to the status of money-making; learning becomes a commodity directed towards making more money. It betokens the death of intellect.
Eddie Harnovey, the story-teller, is a chemical engineer deliberately hired by the once boyfriend of two of Eddie’s loves, the second being Tanya, to fail at a task of investigating a huge proposed environmentally suspect super-smelting installation on a site (Spensers Gulf) owned by the rich father (Claremont) of Eddie’s first boyhood love.
Eddie completes his report with its adverse recommendations.
A second letter enclosing a copy of my report, its recommendations and an outline of the confidential agreement between the government and Claremont that I had heard about. He, it appeared, wrote back directly to Gerard.
Once again, Gerard called me into his office, but not before making me wait outside.
“You’ve been writing to the Minister.”
“Yes, I know.”
“You’ve gone over my head.”
“I know that too.”
“Why did you do that?”
“To be honest, I didn’t feel comfortable taking up something as big as this, running with it and stopping at your head. Out of concern for you, I felt I had no choice but to take it over your head. I felt better with it over your head.”
He told me that he appreciated my honesty and asked me why I was so concerned. I explained what would happen to the whole area around Spensers Gulf if the proposed mega-smelter were permitted to operate, to all intents and purposes, unregulated.
“Not unregulated, deregulated,” he said. “There’s a difference.”
I asked him how he saw the difference.
“Unregulated suggests we haven’t looked into it. Deregulated means that, after detailed analysis, we’ve decided to free everything up.”
“Free it up from what?”
I asked him whether he saw a difference between regulation and over-regulation and he asked me what I meant.
“Isn’t it possible for something to be under-regulated or regulated to the right extent?”
“Harnovey, these are semantic games and deregulation is the name of the only game in town. We don’t play semantic games here.”
“Where do you play them?”
“It was a figure of speech, Harnovey. I was using words in a colourful way to illustrate my point. You’ve got to understand that writing directly to the Minister is not part of your job and that your work at Spensers Gulf is over. I see here from your file that your recommendations concerning the shifting of that chemical storage facility were ignored. You seemed to be able to handle that. The report you co-authored with Chamberlain found that a chemical accident there was highly probable and that such an accident, seven kilometres from the centre of the city, posed a toxic threat to a large part of the metropolitan area. According to your report, the facility housed styrene, propylene oxide, acrytonitrite and … acrylates … what are they?”
“They’re used in paint.”
“Are they? Good. Your views were bypassed and you offered barely any resistance … a few telephone enquiries and a one-paragraph memo to … oh, it was to me … and yet you go directly to the Minister just because your Spensers Gulf report was ignored. Frankly, Harnovey, no one wants to hear any more about it from you. Do you understand that?”
I explained that there were many levels of understanding. I left his office and wrote a third letter to the Minister. After another two weeks of silence I lost patience and anonymously sent copies of my report and the letters to the newspapers.
There are indeed many levels of understanding and we are in the grip of mass hysteria that has only ever arrived at the very basic level of understanding – the imagining of what’s-in-it-for-me?
So Eddie lost his job, Tanya’s attachment to the university ends, they have a young child and Eddie only has three dollars to his name.
That ‘deregulation’ = a state of total unregulation is pretty clear: it enables the capitalist classes, the establishment, the moneyed, to do just whatever they like to the ultimate detriment of the ‘working classes’ (all who spend their lives working for others’ gain & therefore wage-slaves) who are in turn fool enough to think that to replace one fascist dictatorship (the Tories) with another even worse (something with no intellectual credentials whatsoever called UKIP in England) will serve their interests.