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Camden New Journal - ROSE HACKER - The Oldest Columnist in the World
Published: 3 January 2008
The sad state of things to come

ANOTHER new year and I hope again for a new, better world where my great-grandchildren can grow up in peace.
History and literature are not short of utopias. My century is particularly rich in ideas. I have seen so many governments come and go. Most claimed to be based on dreams of making a better world for ordinary people and many to address the terrible poverty on which affluence has always been built.
The attitude of absolute monarchs represented by Louis XIV’s “L’état c’est moi” (I am the state), was countered by chopping the king’s head off.
I heartily supported efforts by poor people to better themselves. So many believed in revolution. Ideals of genuine democracy came with the founding of the Labour Party.
Ideals for a more equal society depended on taxation. Early socialists, believing not in revolution but evolution, had great arguments about whether resources for progress could be generated by taxing land or income. Perhaps it was a mistake to choose income.
The development of our current system seems based on nothing at all. We have vast armies of well paid people called financial advisers – what do they contribute to­wards creating a better society?
Ronald Stamper has written a splendid article he sent out as a Christmas card. It explains brilliantly what money has become.
“The State Is Me” means evil dictatorships, just like failure to control the “leaders” of idealistic states, fascist, communist, socialist, all of which have arisen and been defeated in my lifetime. But money still rules. Instead of or worse, alongside Stalin’s, Hitler’s, Bush’s, Blair’s regimes and countless military dictatorships fighting their fellows all over the world, we now have unelected, faceless, global corporations and private equity groups. So who is now the enemy?
Our dreams in the 1930s became realities in the 1940s. The welfare state worked well. We saw genuine democracies working in new towns, garden cities, suburbs, and estates.
I knew small parties of people building their own houses, helping each other. With new techniques, prefab houses sprang up. My friend Patrick Keiller writes and makes films about the scandal of ignoring modern inventions and building in the old way to create scarcity and keep prices up.
We have made amazing scientific strides, have knowledge, techniques and willing workers. Instead we suffer the evils of privatisation and the dictatorships of greedy gamblers who have stolen trillions of pounds worth of property from the state here and in former Communist countries and we are desperately trying to stave off the coming collapse.
All over the country there are small idealistic groups as in the days when the Labour Party first assumed power to their own great surprise. Our party politics systems seem totally out of date.
We need leagues of committed, responsible citizens taking specific issues into their own hands. We’re seeing it all around with barter systems such as LETS or the Transition Towns network. Instead of leaders we need the kind of Primus Inter Pares – first among equals – such as Clement Attlee.
I served on the committee of Friern Hospital for about 30 years. In old buildings on a parcel of land it was almost self-supporting. Some 2,000 mental patients, pauper lunatics as they were originally known, made their own bread, grew vegetables, made wine, tended cows and sheep, reared their turkeys for Christmas and did upholstery and carpentry. It could have been a small utopian community.
Instead, I have witnessed its terrible transformation into glamorous luxury housing. For many Friern patients, home is now the street. Why can’t mental patients be given the same opportunities to live decently in Brown’s Britain?
The need to raise taxes led to control falling into the hands of criminal gangs. It’s worse than ever today. The faceless ones who now rule have stolen all of this money from the enhanced value of previously nationalised land now privatised. Armies of tax and data gatherers lose all our data. This has nothing to do with the creation of real wealth.
Real wealth is the stuff of corn, things that grow in the earth and on trees and the people who look after them, the work of men’s hands and brains to produce the things that people need. So why do we pay parasites who think only of targets, and profits so much more than the producers?
Computers ruined schools and hospitals. Surely it’s not beyond the wit of so many brilliant people in the world to think of a system other than this party political structure. Over the millennia we’ve swung from slaves being put down. We have had ideas. Now things are worse than ever. We must find other ways; yet it seems we’re not allowed to write anything criticising the current economy.
There are still many positive, creative ideas for the future around yet private control of the media makes it ever harder for them to be heard. I intend to write about some of them in greater detail. Thank goodness this paper lets me rant.
The state no longer represents people. The only way to find the capital we need is to change the system. Completely.

* Patrick Keiller’s exhibition, The City of the Future, runs at the National Film Theatre until February 3

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