17 Jun 2011, 9:17am
rant:
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  • Guest Post: The State of the Nation by Mrs Ermine

    Here, for a change, is a view of the state of the nation through the beady eyes of Mrs Ermine 🙂

    Mrs Ermine here… a regular lurker on Simple Living in Suffolk, a lurker who enjoys everyone’s wise comments on Mr Ermine’s thoughts.

    The other evening, over a home cooked meal of oxtail from a neighbouring farm, accompanied by homegrown salad, the Ermines were pondering their standard of living. The way we live would be ridiculed by most of the iFad generation: an ancient TV that hardly gets watched, no cable/satellite TV subscription, no fancy holidays and none too fashionable clothes.

    Now, in the Ermine household, it is normally Mr E who rants about the economy. I rant about other things, to be sure, but on all things economic it is the male mustelid who is the chief voice. But I’ve been getting this uneasy feeling lately as I hoe my beans, kind of like indigestion, only more in the mind than in the guts. Yes, it was the beginnings of an economic, or maybe even a political, rant, a rant that spilled out during that meal of oxtail, to the astonishment of Mr E.

    Before living with Mr E, I spent a number of years in France, a move that converted me from vaguely left wing tendencies to confirmed right wing views overnight, without actually changing my political opinions.

    I didn't like her!

    At the age of nine, I took one look at Margaret Thatcher on the telly and announced, “I don’t like her” to my Dad’s friend who happened to be a right wing local politician 😉 And I didn’t change my opinion as I grew up through the eighties, and entered the world of work during the nineties (OK Thatcher had gone by then, but New Labour was hardly so very “new”).

    So it was a bit of a shock to find myself thinking, “perhaps Mrs T had something going for her after all”. You see, France, if you compare it to the UK that I left around the turn of the century, was pretty much a socialist state, and IMHO in a bloody mess economically. Employees seemed more interested in the fantastically detailed and ridiculously restrictive “Code of Work” imposed by TPTB than actually doing any genuinely productive work. The French certainly wanted to redistribute wealth, but as one UK journalist put it so neatly, to distribute wealth you do have to generate it in the first place, and this was the bit that my French pals seemed oblivious to.

    Having enthused about the UK’s go-getting, entrepreneurial and dynamic economy to the French, my return to the UK in the mid 2000s was a bit of a shock. I still remember Mr Ermine explaining the latest slang to me: “chav” – loud, self-centred person who doesn’t take personal responsibility for anything much at all. Usually dressed in tasteless, but probably fairly expensive “fashion”, and quite possibly under the impression that they were about to become a minor celebrity. Almost certainly in considerable personal debt. There were plenty of examples about, and I soon got the idea.

    But it seemed that the rot had spread far wider in UK society. I listen to a great deal of the BBC’s Radio 4, and there seemed to be a non-stop litany from middle class folk who expected someone else to sort their problems out. Someone had sold them crap insurance with their bank loan? Clearly the government’s fault. Their child was a disruptive bugger in class? Little Quentin surely had some disorder that needed special support, to be funded by the government of course. Indeed these people were usually outraged that the government hadn’t second guessed their minor grievances in advance and set up an organisation to head it off before it even happened.

    No-one dared say, “do your research before accepting insurance, you idiot”, or (worse), “if your child is a naughty little so-and-so perhaps you aren’t such a great parent”. In general, I wanted to give them all a bloody good shake and say, “you have to make an effort and do some work if you want to get anything in life”. I was clearly out of sync with the zeitgeist of my home country.

    So back to the Ermine household and our standard of living. As middle aged folk, I notice that we live pretty modestly compared with most people we went to university with. No dishwasher, old (though serviceable) furniture, and not a smartphone in sight. Yet why do I feel we are far more financially secure than an awful lot of UK households? For a start, we’re not in debt.

    Not only have many people in the UK gotten themselves into intractable debt, most seem to expect to live an extremely comfortable life without actually doing anything genuinely economically productive. But people seem frighteningly reluctant to commit cash to, and to just get on with, concrete projects that do generate actual wealth, ie stuff, or a service that is really, genuinely useful. Want something done? Call a meeting, shoot the breeze and seek sources of “funding”. Discuss, face to face, online or by phone. Fill in forms asking for money, hold “awareness raising” events.

    Why? Have we all become infantilised in the last three decades? What happened to the “make it happen” approach of the 1980s? Don’t get me wrong, I hated seeing the miners shafted during the Thatcher strike, and hundreds of homeless appearing in my home town. But it wasn’t all negative, people did get up off of their arses and actually do stuff, created businesses, made dreams happen. IMHO there does need to be a basic safety net that keeps people sheltered, fed and warm, with access to education, healthcare and local libraries. But that is about it. No doubt I’ve missed some basic services off my list, but you get the general idea, and subscription television and holidays including air travel are not, to my mind, a basic right.

    I now seem to be a dinosaur from another age. I liquidated my entire wealth, pension and all, and sunk it into a plot of land from which I now make a modest living. Modest, but my ideas seem to capture people’s imagination, and slowly the Ermine household is reaping the benefits. Not only salad, but also hard cash. Not much, but a seemingly recession proof income.

    a farm-fresh lettuce grow with real soil not artificial fertiliser- tastes of something compared to the Waitrose variety, apparently...

    A visitor to the farm from the City of London, a financial whiz kid, was beside herself when she tried farm grown salad, she’d never tasted anything so good. Sometimes, to make things taste good, to make stuff happen, to change the world just a little bit, you have to stop whinging that someone else should make the changes, stop demanding that you should be protected from your own stupidity, and simply get on with it. And if that means putting your own money into it, then get on, earn some and put some skin in the game. You’ll care about it more, and when push comes to shove you won’t complain that “something should be done”, instead, to paraphrase some corporation somewhere’s marketing, you’ll “JFDI”.

    Hi Mrs E

    A thoughtful post. The sense of entitlement and the way the masses never accept responsibility for their own actions are the two that wind me up the most. You touched on both of them.

    If we could get a change in both of these attitudes through education and policy the UK really would be a better place to be.

    Cheers
    RIT

    Hello Mrs ermine,

    Words fail me…. I have melted to a flubbery puddle at this brilliant article… Truly words fails me… Sniff!

    So, here’s how I feel about the article…

    http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1986/05/31/
    Third panel from the left!
    THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU………….

    > I liquidated my entire wealth, pension and all, and sunk it into a plot of land from which I now make a modest living.

    Good God in heaven… Is that the Oak tree farm you are talking about there? And you’re making moeny when (rant mode ON) every farmer and very farming article in bleeping Guarinad goes on and on dripping about farming and how GM’s the way and megacrops running dairy farms is the *only* next way… \rant \rant \rant…!! (still frothing, but stops ranting).

    Mrs. E, your post was a welcome sight for sore eyes. 🙂

    @guv,
    she ought to write more… or as monevator might say in jest… looks like “misery loves Mrs. E’s company”… 😉

    Thumbs up!

    Whan I think of Chav,
    I mentally bring up an image of this parody

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0A7tLVIsuNw

    and I am no longer able to treat them seriously.

    17 Jun 2011, 8:25pm
    by Mrs Ermine

    reply

    @RIT – thank you! It is good to know I’m not alone in being infuriated by the culture of entitlement.

    @Surio – thanks too, and yes indeed, The Oak Tree is indeed making me a modest income. It is early days, so as for any small business it is a lot of hard work. There are a lot of vested interests who prefer not to acknowledge that viable alternatives to agri-industry work…

    An excellent rant in true mustelid style, and much of it I could well have said myself (except I’ve never lived in France 😉 )

    Good to see your ‘skin in the game’ is actually paying hard cash. Hopefully that will prevent the old codgers on the farm next door (metaphorically speaking) with their organophosphate poisoning, soil erosion and oil addiction, demeaning you as a ‘hobby farmer’. I know which farm I’d back as the one most likely to survive the coming problems. Kudos for “Just Effing Doing It” (I prefer the acronym that way 🙂 ) It’s somewhat reminiscent of my garden, just much much bigger…

    Your description of the Ermine household was very resonant with Macs Mansions – no TV, iFads, the same mutterings at Radio 4 whingers etc etc, and the general tone regarding today’s entitlement culture echoes my own seething impatience with the herd. I’m very tempted to design a poster or a T-shirt or something: “Newsflash: You are NOT worth it”. Just because they are incapable of distinguishing the difference between quality of life and ‘standard of living’, it doesn’t mean they have a right to have all their dreams of (unearned) luxury fulfilled.

    I could go on and on, so had better stop now!

    That lettuce looks incredibly healthy, by the way.

    Great article Mrs Ermine.

    The official term for the chav generation is Generation Y which I like to think means Generation Why do I have to do it?

    Bad politics are to blame. The working class is now basically the bludger class thanks to 13 years of a Labour govt. They are deeply hooked on the ‘crack’ of benefit payments – payments for having children, payments for made up illnesses, etc. When more than 1 million kids are ‘autistic’, something is wrong with society. When students are on the streets trashing the place and getting away with it because their student leader is a labour politician, something is deeply wrong. Politically sponsored terrorism makes me sick. We have Unison et al moaning about their pensions that they don’t contribute to. And threatening indefinite strikes. I say bugger off and let someone who wants the job take it.

    The sense of entitlement to ‘stuff’ baffles me. If you haven’t earned it through hard work, you don’t deserve it.

    Like you I despair at the lack of get up and go in England. I’m a product of NZ. When I first arrived in Britain in the 90s I couldn’t believe how lazy and feckless the British were. If a job was required to be done at work, five people would sit round looking at each other, while another would go off to get coffee / tea for the rest. This would take at least 3 days. Yet, no-one seems to care. Having just escaped one recession in NZ, I was taking advantage of the ability to be an economic migrant but I couldn’t believe what people would get away with over here. It’s not hard to rise to the top because you stand out like dog’s balls as the only one who ‘can get get thing’s done’.

    Unfortunately, one failed relationship later and I’m stuck over here for a bit longer. A basic compatibility issue with a lady who just spent, spent, spent. When I discovered the store cards with £000’s on, I knew we couldn’t survive.

    Now, I live quite humbly in my little two bed flat in a quiet market town / ‘commuter’ village not far from London. I do however still subscribe to a bit of the gadgets and technology era. I think I would go close to ding dong mental if I had to sit and learn to play piano in the parlour room, rather than watch the latest idiots on reality tv (freeview though). And as for my laptop and iphone – they allow me to keep in touch with home, trade shares, read about the world, etc – without them I would be completely lost. At least I think I would be…

    I admire you and Mr Ermine for trying something and making it happen. Just wish I had the money to do that too. One day maybe.

    One cheeky question, do I as a taxpayer subsidise you to make that food? 12,000 per farm last year in England…. http://farmsubsidy.org

    Hello Mrs E,

    I find much to agree with here, but I query a detail:

    >Someone had sold them crap insurance with their bank loan? Clearly the government’s fault

    Normally, I have little sympathy with people who have been gulled by financial scams but PPI, sub-prime and numerous other activities of the Wunch are national/international issues which can’t really be left to operate on a business/customer basis. To your basic list of education and healthcare etc, I would definitely add a properly regulated business and financial system with consumer safeguards.

    >I liquidated my entire wealth, pension and all, and sunk it into a plot of land from which I now make a modest living.

    That’s a fantastic and worthy commitment to a sustainable business/lifestyle for you and Mr E. Good luck to you both — you have a better balance than many of us can achieve.

    I, too, have no smartphone, but I probably do have more in the way of other gadgetry. However, I do enjoy the luxury of NOT owning a car, which saves more £££s than any amount of iFads foregone. Realistically, this is probably not an option for those living outside big conurbations, though.

    19 Jun 2011, 10:33am
    by Mrs Ermine

    reply

    @ Macs – Macs Mansions sounds like a very civilized household 🙂 And please do put my name down for one of those t-shirts!

    @ fatherb – ok, I admit it, I have some minor gadgets too, but I don’t expect anyone else to pay for them, and I’m sure you don’t either. Good for you, enjoying your hard earned gadgets I say.
    No offense at all taken about the subsidy question. Total governement subsidy issued to The Oak Tree? £0.00 We have had two £500 grants from private donors, one for tools for the community agriculture scheme from the coop community fund, the other a research grant from a private donor for planting costs for our forest garden. I don’t accept grants that compromise what we are trying to achieve at the farm – and I fear that state subsidies would.

    @ Surio – you might find this article about how alternatives to GM are being ignored http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/522538/agroecological_farming_methods_being_ignored_says_un_expert.html

    20 Jun 2011, 8:15am
    by Andrew Hunt

    reply

    You ask

    “”Why? Have we all become infantilised in the last three decades?””

    but don’t have the sense to understand that

    “”Don’t get me wrong, I hated seeing the miners shafted during the Thatcher strike, and hundreds of homeless appearing in my home town. “”

    is the reason why.

    @AH Blimey, I was a kid at the time of Lord Arthur and his flying pickets. If there was one thing that scared me more than what Thatcher became it was what life would be like under Scargill. Inflation of 27% because everybody wanted to be paid more, and to ‘maintain differentials’. Concrete blocks dropped on “scabs” by enforcers.

    You’re right, though it probably isn’t what you meant to say. That’s where the infantilisation started 😉

     

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