24 October 2011

Things can only get worse?

Perhaps it is just my seasonally adjusted mindset, but it seems there is little good news to celebrate at the moment and little hope to cling to that things might ever get better. The all-pervasive line from the ruling class seems to be that everything is going to get ALOT worse before anything even resembles looking like getting better again.

Some close friends are now openly talking of how they are stockpiling food and other essentials as they believe any question over society entirely breaking down in its entirety is not a case of "if", but "when". Some are going so far as to predict the debt "crisis" will inevitably lead to full military confrontation in Europe to which perhaps the entire world will be dragged - nuclear weapons and all. Others are thankfully less apocalyptic - simply saying that we are going to have to put up with rapid and humiliating decline as our new global masters from the BRIC countries force us to adapt to a new life of insecure wage slavery and relative material poverty.

I try not to be drawn into these black holes as some friends are. It is my estimation the ruling capitalist and political classes actually WANT US all to be deeply demoralised and at our lowest ebb so that when an upswing inevitably occurs in the coming years they can declare the "worst is over" and we will all be so eternally grateful to them for leading us through the dark days that we will never again question their ability to lead us.

But with food, basic living and energy prices rising as dramatically as they are and the dire economic data starting to come through as regards stagnation, it is becoming abundantly clear that our masters across the developed world have NO actual plan for us to find a way out of this whirlpool - something I believe people are very slowly starting to wake up to.

It's not all bad news. Unions are slowly moving towards a fightback on November 30 and the occupylsx protest appears to be steadfast. But strikes and protests do not in themselves show us an alternative route away from the tired system of greed and wealth accumulation we are programmed to accept as being the norm.

That is why the publication that has actually cheered me up the most in 2011 is not a newspaper or national magazine - but a single-edition of my own local council produced newsletter.

Labour took back control of Stoke City Council in May on the back of a massive rejection of wet local toryism and failed Lib Dem posturing. Let us not forget another reason to be cheerful - it also saw off Stoke's final handful of BNP councillors - perhaps my personal political highlight of the year.

The latest newsletter reports on a scheme being rolled out in the city where every council property will be fitted with solar panels. The residents of the homes will get cheaper electric bills and the power companies will pay the city council for the premium roof space. Meanwhile, when coupled with other initiatives such as looking at tapping into an underground hot-water spring in a disused mine and re-using excess power from the cities remaining large factories, the long-term plan is to make Stoke entirely energy self-sufficient. More than 100 skilled jobs have been created installing and maintaining the panels, with the capacity perhaps for many more.

This of course starts to point the way towards the sort of nationwide initiative that could help rescue our economy, reduce unemployment and lessen our power bills in one easy to understand master-plan. Jobs could be created making panels, fitting panels, maintaining panels. Energy could, again, become something we can take for granted rather than worry about.

There's one snag, of course.

None of the solar panels being used in Stoke are built in England and this is not because they are cheaper from abroad.

It's because nobody in England is manufacturing them!

If this disgraceful government really wanted to help our country out of the economic quagmire - and reduce our energy bills - it would immediately start by initiating a massive state-funded solar panel production programme. It could pay for it, perhaps, by scrapping the next generation £100BN Trident nuclear weapons programme and in doing so stop us from being a key military target in any coming world conflagration down the line.

Instead, we learn Cameron and his facile liberal cronies are to scrap what few schemes there are to encourage private solar panel installation in the UK and move us further away than ever from a sustainable future. Instead, the idiot Huhne bangs on again about switching providers, even though they are all bumping up  the prices as much as they can in advance of the predicted freezing winter.

The Tories - and disgracefully some left-wing Labour MPs - prefer instead to waste hours arguing about the European Union at a time the country is in the grip of the most profound structural crisis facing us in a century.

Sure, the example here in Stoke is not perfect. I would rather the profits didn't go to a private energy company for a few rich shareholders to enjoy. I would also like to think that the scheme could be extended to cover private owners as well as council tenants. But nonetheless it points in the way to something better and I'm happy to be part of the local Labour Party that has made this happen.

The challenge is for schemes like this to become government policy so we can truly grow our way out of debt and recession. Are you listening Ed?

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