“She was only a bird in a gilded cage, a beautiful sight to see..” so sang Florrie Forde (and numerous others) as the timepiece of the centuries clicked over, and the twentieth became a reality.
It was the now well-worn tale of a rich old man buying the affections of a beautiful young woman, and it became a smash hit, at least in sheet music, as the century rolled along.
Today, the door to my gilded cage has been swung wide open. I am able to fly free, so long as I don’t ‘fly’ more than sixty miles and stay two metres away from everyone else on the planet.
France has loosened the lockdown just a little. No more filling in forms before exiting the ‘gilded cage’. And I must admit my cage is well gilded. I sit here at my computer keyboard hearing the steady hum of the dishwasher and washing machine. There’s a large TV and Hi-Fi in the living room, food in the fridge-freezer. I have a warm bed, an acre of garden when I need fresh air, and a view of the French countryside that used to leave visitors speechless. There was a time there were visitors.
How many throughout the world have nothing like that? Even in our so-called ‘civilised’ western societies there are more homeless people than ever before. Many who can manage a roof over their heads have only one or two rooms for a whole family, possibly an apartment, or even a small house -most likely rented and with no security. In other parts of the world, they would be considered the lucky ones.
Over a third of the population of the Philippines live in tin shacks. In parts of Africa, South America, it’s a similar situation. Yet, in all these countries there are those whose lives are luxurious, who have everything they want. They have more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes, let alone, one. Little do they care for the poverty and suffering around them – people struggling every day to put food in their mouths, and the mouths of their children, with no access to healthcare and certainly no recourse to the laws made and controlled for the welfare and security of the filthy rich and powerful.
Only yesterday the Guardian ran a further report on the acrimonious and long-winded divorce of the Russian oligarch Farkhad Akhmedov and his ex-wife, Tatiana Akhmedova. This is just one of the things they’re fighting about:
450 million dollars worth of superyacht toy for them to play with. Akhmedov is a good mate of Putin and was, of course, welcomed into the UK by the British government who just love to hobnob with the stinking rich of any country. Akhmedov made his money investing in Siberian oil and gas. He’s presently worth, according to Forbes, 1.4 billion dollars.
The divorce case has been ongoing for years with numerous High Court appearances. God knows how much money the lawyers have made out of it, but judging by the broad smiles on their faces they’re no doubt swooning over the state of their bank accounts.
That’s the ex-wife in the middle. She’s a fine example of the corrupting power of too much cash. She’s now dragging her son into court and forcing him to disclose private emails between him and his father. Such a loving, caring, mother.
The Akhmedov’s are just one example of the state the human race has arrived at in one lifetime. There’s always been those who have and those who haven’t, but now it’s reached a level that’s not only excruciatingly wrong to those of us who bother to think about it, but to many has become accepted as a normal way of being. There are those people, once known as ‘working class’ who’ve been conned into believing they’re ‘middle class’, and admire the likes of the Akhmedov’s, or Jeff Bezos, Zuckerberg, the Walton’s (Walmart, not ‘Johnboy’ ), and many more unnoteworthy families and individuals, whose sole claim to fortune rests on two assets: being in the right place at the right time, and sufficiently ruthless to stab in the back anyone who got in their way.
Frankly, to consider anyone displaying those virtueless talents as worthy of respect or adulation, is beyond comprehension. Their wealth results from a ransacking of the world’s resources, with total disregard for the environment and its long term consequences, coupled with the misery, fatigue, and eventual ill health of those who sweat and labour in their factories, call centres, multi-national online retailers like Amazon, sweat shops in Asia, and anywhere where the bulk of the world’s population is forced to eke out a relative pittance. Meanwhile, the CEOs, directors, investment bankers and money launderers, coin it in off the backs of those workers, and live in luxury.
Trickle down economics, or free-market capitalism, as espoused by Milton Friedman and seized on by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, was possibly the final nail in the coffin of humanity. Anyone who thought, and many did (or at least pretended to), that corporations would throw their profits back down to their workers, instead of growing wealthier and more powerful themselves, was living in cloud-cuckoo land.
Wealth and power brings control, and once control of government is lost to corporations they can do what the hell they like. And don’t they just! Even the so-called leader of the free world is now firmly in their grip, busy wrecking more and more environmental controls while his citizens die around him.
No three people in modern times have done more towards the destruction of this planet and the suffering of so many of its inhabitants, than Thatcher, Reagan, and Friedman. They’re all dead now. They didn’t live to see the effects of their crimes against humanity and probably wouldn’t even recognise them if they had.
Our world is plunging into chaos. Global climate change is accelerating at an alarming rate; we are presently in the throes of a pandemic we’re powerless to overcome; millions are out of work and suffering the most insecure times they’ve ever known; politicians behave like the proverbial ostrich, the leader of the free world using the deaths and plight of thousands of Americans to assist his re-election by transferring blame to anyone or anything but himself.
It’s now the new norm to believe making money is more important than human life. Bits of paper, or plastic cards, reign over flesh and blood. The wealthy politicians and businessmen don’t care how many die so long as their precious ‘economies’ are making them money again. If ever proof were needed of the disdain in which they regard the rest of us, it is here in the midst of this pandemic.
The world is in dire need. Perhaps the saddest fact of all is that most of its inhabitants don’t even realise it. Let’s get lockdown done and get back to normal, they cry, rushing to beaches and parks in Britain as though ‘normal’ would appear if they just ignore the abnormal.
In America, armed vigilantes invade government offices demanding their “freedom” back. Do they really think they can kill Covid-19 with their AK47s?
In Brazil, Bolsanaro refuses to accept there is a pandemic despite 11,000 Brazilian deaths. Keep cutting down the rain forest, guys, we need to boost our economy.
The French government has today opened the door of my gilded cage. I reach out and quietly close it again. I’m not yet ready for the world today.