me4 It is very easy to be faceless, unaccountable, inefficient and corrupt. All you need is scale, patronage and passive citizen taxpayers. This outcome will be the same whether you’re neoliberal or collectivist in outlook. The Slog makes another plea on behalf of Benthamite philosophy. 

Bear with these seemingly random opening comments: they are connected, and not (as far as I know) evidence of advancing senility.

Watching BBC news this morning – I always watch braindead telly when doing the washing up – there was a feature about You Tube. The story was same-old-same-old from my perspective, but it was obviously news to the Beeb team: that is to say, You Tube had issued a statement (following harsh criticism of the obvious use of this and other social media by dangerous people) saying they “take very seriously”, “have a zero tolerance policy”, “take strenuous measures to” do All Things Good at All Times.

It was, naturally, complete BS of the same ilk as that spewed out by Google. But for once, the BBC actually said “Research we have undertaken, however, shows that You Tube never responds to user concerns”. Well blow me down with a breathalyzer, there’s a shocker.

Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours in a French police station. For reasons which will become obvious one day, I cannot write about why. Suffice to say that, when I told the senior gendarme detective that ISPs ignore all complaints about persistent online abuse – however serious – he replied “Of course they do”. When I suggested it might be a good idea to force them to change their ways, he smiled the sort of smile offered by those who think they are in the presence of a new-born baby.

As regulars here will know, I’ve spent much of my time back in South West France dealing with two large French telecoms outfits, Orange and SFR. Having fired Orange after five weeks of trying to get my internet connection restored, they retaliated by cutting off my line immediately (which is against the law here) but continued to take debits from my account (which is fraud). SFR ignored all emails, phone calls and texts I sent them, until I shamed them on Twitter. They then made more promises, and broke all of them. They also told me by text that my internet box had been delivered when it hadn’t. So in the end, I cancelled the order.

Now let’s examine the behaviour of Credit Agricole. I went into my local branch to get the two phonecos off my back. There I found a queue of people being served by one teller. The 24/7 cash machine was out of order. When I eventually explained to the teller what had happened, he told me I would have to destroy my debit card: it was, he explained patiently (as if it was his brain that was the right way up) how this was the only way to stop these miscreants just sticking a shovel into my account. He added, “You should never give your card number to an online supplier”. Hands up all those who have ever been able to buy goods and services online without doing that.

He wasn’t remotely concerned that I would now have no debit card for eight days because of someone else’s criminality. When I said “Won’t a new card number screw up all my standing orders?”, he told me I’d have to write to all of the creditors to explain. When I asked “Why can’t you do it?”, he replied “Nonononono, that is too complicated for us”. Right then. So f**k you, Mr Customer.

Last week I tried to order a train ticket online from the SNCF site. The process was about as user-friendly as a skunk with irritable bowel syndrome. In the end, I gave up. As I was dropping my girlfriend off at the station later anyway, I booked the trip there by talking to a human being at a desk. The entire operation took three minutes.

But two days later, I tried to book another travel ticket online, and the (English) debit card was refused. So I went online to my Nationwide account, and found I couldn’t get in.

It transpired that SNCF had reported a potential fraud to Nationwide because I hadn’t completed the original ticket purchase. Nationwide then put a total restriction on the card.

Two days later, they still hadn’t told me (you remember me – the customer?). They have yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation as to why they believed SNCF, not me: they have my mobile number here, and could’ve asked me security questions and then whether the attempted purchaser had been me. They just decided not to bother. It is, oddly, even more worrying to me that unwillingness to complete a purchase is now seen as a potential fraud attempt: it says a lot about the mindset of these people.

OK, that’s enough examples to be going on with. And while it is true that I never miss an opportunity to condemn lousy, presumptuous service, I have the same experience every time some SNAFU happens when dealing with big business.

There are a number of very serious problems in Western culture at the minute, but the decline of the Rule of Law in favour of giving corporate globalism carte blanche to stick a prick in every customer’s ear and then piss into the timpanic membrane is one of the most obvious and threatening. This is the case against Big Business:

  • They break the law with impunity
  • They lie 24/7
  • They send emails to which response is barred
  • They never answer texts
  • They demand personal information at every turn
  • They almost never provide a manned phone number
  • They offer after sales service that is no service at all
  • They have no ethics whatsoever
  • They are unbelievably incompetent
  • They profiteer shamelessly
  • They lay off staff in huge numbers to give returns to shareholders
  • They do not GAF about consumers
  • They spend millions on tax avoidance.

Dealing with any large organisation today – be it tax authorities, welfare ministries, healthcare suppliers, ISPs, global concerns or banks – is like being milked. They milk us for information to help them milk us for yet more money; and when that doesn’t keep the share price up and the directors fat or the Exchequer full, they milk us for money we don’t owe them – at a price that is unjustifiable.

They milk the State through tax avoidance and unemployment costs, they exploit the ludicrously underinvested police services, they buy immunity by giving money to politicians, they crush wages and thus slow down the economy, they cause everyone to tear their hair out in frustration…..and they hide from every responsibility they have. Their idea of accountability is fiddling the books.

And there is not one government anywhere in the developed world that has the slightest intention of changing that behaviour.

For those readers too idle to go to the AIMS section on The Slog’s home page, I will attempt once more to explain what I’d like to see happen….and why.

I spent 35 years in corporate life. I know that it is impossible to have a very large organisation at the same time as a strong ethical culture and an efficient, respectful attitude to customers. The larger a company gets, the harder it is to monitor hirings closely, and root out rotten apples. The more sprawling and international an organisation is, the more disorganised it becomes. The more a company has to think about public shareholders and profit lines, the more the profit margin becomes everything. The more that happens, the more powerful the accountants become. And giving power to bean counters is like giving diminutive Austrian corporals a lifetime supply of chemical weapons for Christmas.

Bourse-driven globalism puts the mass of citizens last, and simply acts as a magnet pouring more and more coinage into the coffers of the 3%. We need far more mutualism, far more entrepreneurial manufacturing, far less emphasis on financialised capitalism, and far more behavioural/taxation regulation of multinational business.

What keeps the citizen shut out, alienated, angry, poor and starved of real democratic liberty is the incestuous financial relationship between ISPs, media owners, banks and global business on the one hand, and politicians plus the law on the other. We need to take all monied lobbying and Party donations out of politics.

Although the young and otherwise naive voters these days seem to make a correlation between voting Left and finding a solution to the problems outlined above, the evidence shows that socialist/liberal Governments if anything make things worse. After two terms as President, Barack Obama left the US poor worse off than they’d been before, and bourse-banker capitalism even more deranged than when he arrived in the White House.

After 11 years of almost uninterrupted power, mid 20th century Labour in the UK failed to tackle a single problem of economic output and restrictive working practices. The ‘Socialism Lite’ policies of Blair and Brown led to a banking disaster and a further, accelerated decline in Britain’s manufacturing basis, without restoring any workers’ rights.

“That’s because we need to be harder Left,” chirp the Momentum parrots, but here too the evidence of Britain in the 1970s, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China, North Korea, post Ho Chi Minh Vietnam and Venezuela illuminates the flaws in collectivism better than any high-intensity torch beam. Productivity declines, economic inequality gets worse, freedom of speech is undermined, elections are rigged, constitutional safeguards become a sick joke, and secret policemen have a ball.

There is no difference whatsoever between the dictatorship of the corporate State and the dictatorship of the collectivist State.

Both involve big, unlistening and uncaring institutions, both become divorced from reality on the ground, and both end up believing that some citizens are more equal than others. Comedy, the stage, movies, art, sculpture and architecture atrophy under both. Above all, fulfilled citizens are harder to find than seaworthy colanders.

It’s time to move away from archaic ideologues like Adam Smith and Karl Marx. It’s time for more pragmatism, better governance, communitarian philosophy in action, the dilution of power centres via active devolution, and more neutrally holistic education. It’s time for economies based on mixed motives that discern the important difference between the social weal, large-scale export business, and community entrepreneurialism. And perhaps most important of all, it’s time to reject the false promises of Friedmanite globalism alongside Supranational trading blocs.

A perverted belief system is putting institutional profit before citizens, and share prices above persoal fulfilment and employment. That is mad.

Big is bad and mad. The obsessive love of money for its own sake nurtures evil. Ideological control of education, the media and the police blatantly leads to Orwellian horror and militarist hate.

Blah blah blah blah blah. Have a great weekend. And don’t mind me….I’m just a pacifist extremist hellbent on putting nice people first.

The past present tense is unfit for the future.