I often wonder about terms like “left” and “right wing” and how well they actually describe people. When you look at different nations the terms mean even less. For example in the US “Left of centre” is still reasonably “right wing” by (traditional) UK standards and weirdly we have a left wing government which is implementing more right wing policy than any in living memory. So I wonder, do the terms still mean anything?
It gets even more confusing when I apply them to myself. Personally, I exhibit left and right wing traits. More than that, I mix wanting to be filthy rich with wanting the general standards of society to be improved. Are these reconcilable? I have no problems with government taxation (I actually think tax is a GOODTHING™®) but the thought of government interference with my life is abhorrent. One area where I was concerned that I had strong left-wing tendencies was in the newspapers. Out of habit, I read the Guardian newspaper each Saturday, which is certainly a “leftie” newspaper. Fortunately, today I find myself seriously add odds with some of its other readership. Maybe I am still a “right winger..”
In the “Money” Supplement, there is a section where people write in with a problem and others give advice on how to solve it. It is normally pretty cheesy stuff about which fair trade presents they should buy for some wedding. Today it was about some one who was struggling to cope with the increased petrol costs and was asking for advice as to how others cope.
As you may have imagined (if you’ve ever read the Guardian), the responses were nearly all along the lines of “it serves you right for driving a gas guzzler” and “Stop whining, there are people worse off in Nigeria” (or where ever). One even suggested the questioner doesn’t “have to live 25 miles from [their] place of work.”
What self satisfying, smug, arrogant nonsense the answers are.
Infuriatingly, this is typical of a certain group of the UK society, most of whom are Guardian readers… They appear to be of the opinion that the massive fuel price rises are a GOODTHING™®© because it will combat climate change and (as most are well off enough to not actually be affected by the increased prices) any side effects are easily tolerable. This is not a “socialist” view point as the whole set up massively disadvantages the poor over the wealthy. Like most things, there is the assumption that a some of money which one person feels is insignificant must be insignificant for everyone else – yet at the same time it carries the idea that the increase will make other change their lifestyle to one the first person feels is “better.” It really annoys me.
Take an example of some one I know very well. This person is very hard working but, to be honest, not very well off. Earning low end of the average wage, this person has to pretty much accept any job offered to them. At the moment, they work 32 miles from where they live. The area is not well enough serviced by public transport to make that viable and, like most people, they own a car that is a few years old (and is used for family tasks at the weekend). Now, with today’s prices they are paying £1.19 per litre of fuel. The round trip journey is 64 miles, and is a mix of traffic. Their car is reasonably economical but, because of the nature of the journey, they rarely get better than 30mpg from it. As a result, each day they are using 10 litres of fuel per day. The simple journey to and from work is costing them nearly £3000 per year. Shocking. This is a only a £600 a year rise over last year, but when you live close to the margins, £600 means an AWFUL lot.
Now everyone has choices. My friend has choices. They could change jobs, but there aren’t any closer. They could move house, but being poor they cant afford one closer to work, they could cycle but it would take hours and they’d have no where to change at work, they could change cars to a more efficient one but (again) they are poor and cant afford a new car.
Switch the example to me. I am not rich (far from it, sadly), however I am better off than my friend. I drive a much more un-economical car to work (albeit a much shorter distance). I live a less environmentally friendly life and, to be honest, if you try to change me through taxation you will leave people like my friend destitute on the streets before it has any effect on me.
How, in the real world, do things like increase fuel prices have any real effect on changing people’s destruction of the environment?
In a similar manner to increasing alcohol tax, forcing shops to up the price of “party drinks” and the like, it has no real effect on the people clamouring for it. All it does is massively disproportionately punish the poor. You don’t even have to be rich to ignore these measures, because the poor will break before the middle classes begin to suffer.
Back to my rant about the Guardian. It is nice to think there is a whole swathe of supposedly “Left wing” Guardian readers who are happy to see poor people suffer even more because it massages their “climate change guilt.” No wonder the Labour party have become right wing neo-Nazis.