Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Oh, FFS. Really?

WHAT strange days.

First we wake up to the realisation that for the first time in the Western world a government is going to try to regulate what its citizens say on the internet.

China does it, quite effectively, but then they've got a lot of people to patrol the worldwide web. They do it in Cuba, North Korea, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan. In short, the kind of countries you wouldn't want to live in.

They haven't, until now, tried it in one of the world's oldest democracies where freedom of expression is enshrined in law.

Anyone who doesn't sign up to that is liable to massive legal costs if they are sued and even win a case; it's licensing by any other name, and it's such a bad thing that in Togo yesterday journalists protesting state licences were subjected to rubber bullets and tear gas.

On top of that, one afternoon's public adulation 18 months ago has led to a 29-year-old woman becoming almost unemployable.

Never mind that any slim young woman in a dress which cost thousands of pounds would be bound to look good; never mind that somewhere in there is an ordinary, but very privileged, person. Fact is that these days she couldn't get a paper round much less what most of us would think of as a proper job, because there's so much fuss around her any business would grind to a standstill.

She can't even give her boyfriend a kiss without it being reported around the world and people being instructed to come up with profiles about who he is. Who cares? Her bum cheeks are no different to any other sporty young woman's, and she is rapidly being pushed into the corner where the only way of earning the rent is to sell your soul, over and over again, in the style of Alex Reid and Chantelle Houghton.

It's fun at first, and withering in the end. You keep staring at her arse, people, and it'll wither before your very eyes.

Then we've got a couple of chaps who like doing interesting things in private who are forcing laws onto the statute book about what everyone else is allowed to be interested in. Max Mosley and Hugh Grant may, and do, behave as they please, but telling the rest of us what to do is a little rich.

The private company they and others fund has a right to lobby politicians - but there aren't many that get to sit in the room when laws are being written.

There's the oldest member of the cast on the country's oldest soap opera proving that age is no automatic source of wisdom by saying sex abuse victims must have misbehaved in a previous life and that we shouldn't be judgemental about paedophiles.

He'll probably be in a turquoise shellsuit and running for office in under a year. He could call it the 'Love Party' and there'd inevitably be a sex scandal and that would keep us all entertained for months, if only Max Mosley is all right with it...

So: strange days.

But they're going to get worse, and here's why.

A country which is in debt has suggested getting out of it by grabbing hold of its citizens' savings. Not just that - the savings of anyone who banks within its borders.

So far Cyprus has 'only' asked for 9.9 per cent of all accounts with more than £85,000 in them, and 6.75 per cent of every account with less than that. They are £8.7billion in debt, and grabbing hold of the cash might raise a little over half of what they need. A fair chunk would come from 60,000 British ex-pats.

Now, we all know the Mediterranean countries are broke. They've been broke repeatedly throughout history, and they'll probably be broke again in the future. Anyone who puts their money in a bank out there might as well be throwing it off the back of a train.

And the savings tax is being voted on today, might be rejected, and Cyprus could instead enjoy an all-out banking collapse, a default, and bankrupt the government.

Either way it's bad but the problem with it for the rest of us is this: the savings tax was suggested because Cyprus doesn't make much money, their banks were daft enough to invest in Greece of all things, and there was no other way to guarantee a loan from the Eurozone.

We've invested £8billion in Greek debt. Our main industry is banking. We have to import energy to run our businesses, cars and homes, and we owe £1.1trillion - that's 125 times what Cyprus does.

If officials in poorer, and less debt-ridden, places than us have emptied out the back of the sofa, searched the car footwells and are now reduced to simply mugging pensioners in order to pay the bills, we will not be far behind.

What starts on the Med soon spreads - democracy, terrible drum'n'bass, building booms. If the finance officials start looking at Italy, at Greece, then half of Europe will run on the banks and start stuffing their cash under the mattress.

And Europe is where we do 10 per cent of all our business, it's the place that energy we have to buy in is channelled through. The banks we now rely on have fingers in a lot of European pies, and we already know that when a banker's finger is burned it's us that pays for the Band-Aid.

There's every chance that before anyone can regulate the internet, before Pippa's bum fades and William Roache says 'I'm being silly, aren't I?', the Gidiot in charge of our economy is going to announce the disabled have been bled dry and there's nothing left for it but to start taxing the only people in the country with the wit to put something aside.

Eventually, we really will be out of cash, unless we can find a way to plant a magic money tree and call it 'North Sea Oil' or 'Industrial Revolution' like we have before.

Without that our frenzies about Pippa's bum or Ken's silly sayings will be pointless, and without the freedom to blog, tweet, whistleblow and castigate our leaders we won't be able to turn their stupid, stubborn heads to look at the things that really matter - to convince them that making money is just as good as saving it.

But then, the one natural resource we never seem to run out of is morons.

If only we could bleed them dry instead.