Citizens into Customers

I still attend cardiac rehab sessions once or twice a week. They are held in the gym of a local school, and there’s a sort of stoical fellowship amongst us as the instructor gets us to walk around doing various exercises, followed by work-outs on our collection of rather worn out machines, and then finally a cooling down session before we return to our various homes feeling healthy and holy. We pay an entrance fee to the company that provides the facilities for us and for many other activities, and last week I noticed for the first time the words on the bottom of the receipt: ‘Thank you for shopping at our club’.

‘Shopping’?! O.K., old people often get worked up over simple things. I am one of them and I do, but once again I feel that as a person and member of a group with a sense of purpose, I have been reduced or seduced to the level of a commercial possibility. However it seems that there is a growing movement of resistence to such an idea, as there is to the capitalist myth that making money by whatever means is more important than finding ways of working for a just and equitable society.

I have recently read Ha-Joon Chang’s book ’23 Things They Don’t tell you about Capitalism’in which he criticises ‘the over-development of the financial sector’.

I have also been reading David Marquand recent book, ‘Mammon’s Kingdom, An Essay on Britain Now’. The language of the public interest is rarely heard, he claims. The notion that the common good should take precedence over individual appetites has virtually disappeared from political discussion. He argues that ‘we have lost our bearings as a people. We no longer know who we are or where we belong.’

Owen Jones new book, ‘The Establishment:And HowThey Get Away with it’ is about to be published, and was previewed in The Guardian on Saturday.

Apparently it covers the same sort of ground of a philosophy of greed without conscience that so bothers me. Its publisher claims that the book reveals a ‘powerful and unaccountable network of people who wield massive power and reap huge profits’.

The journalist and novelist James Meek has just published his latest book ‘Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else’. His main thesis is exactly how I feel. ‘In a little over a generation the bones and sinews of the British economy – rail, energy, water, postal services, municipal housing – have been sold to remote and unaccountable private owners’..’ so that Britain’s commonwealth has become private’..’with the individual consumer left to pay the ever increasing bill’.

A ‘growing movement of resistence’? And truth telling? I do hope so.