Channel 4 recently launched a new political satire show called 10 O’clock live. Funny and rather more informative than you’d expect for a show in which Jimmy Carr is involved, it’s a mixture of serious hard-hitting interviews, comedy sketches and my personal highlight of the show, David Mitchell’s, generally spot-on, rants.
Now it may come as a surprise to people who know me but I am interested in world affairs and do try to keep up with the news. I will however hold my hands up and say that, more often than not, it deeply confuses me and I don’t understand it nearly as much as I wish I did. I rarely take part in political discussions because of this and also because I feel I’m not eloquent enough to express my feelings on the truly important things going on in the world. So you would be forgiven for thinking I didn’t have a clue what is going on. That being said, I’m currently very angry!
The final straw for me came on Thursday’s 10 O’clock live; David Mitchell’s rant was all about Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the 2011 Census. Now I had no idea who Lockheed Martin was prior to this but looking into it, it appears they are ‘an American defence & communications’ company. I’m sure that’s hugely simplifying their portfolio but I think that’s pretty much the gist of what they do. Basically, the UK Government has paid an arms firm from the US, £150 million to help with the 2011 Census.
There are several things about this that deeply anger me. Firstly, why the hell do we need to pay a company £150million to do this? The Office of National Statistics should surely be able to do the work. I understand the Census is a gargantuan undertaking but it’s not unprecedented. It happens every 10 years for Christ’s sake. Surely by now we can manage it ourselves. And if not, were there no UK companies that put a bid in for the contract?
Secondly, why give the contract to a US Arms firm?! This is the company that is responsible for Trident nuclear missiles & cluster bombs, a company that provided private interrogators to Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. I mean surely this is just insanity? It appears Lockheed Martin was involved in the 2001 Census as well but that doesn’t make it any more justifiable does it?!
There are currently calls from some to boycott the Census but, like Mitchell in his rant, I don’t think that’s the right way to go. In fact I have no idea what I can do with the outrage I feel in response to this. This anger isn’t just aimed at the Census thing. The census merely was the final push into maddening rage for me. Things such as the tax dodging revelations of Barclays Bank last week (see Jon’s blog re that, he can express that stuff a lot better than I ever could), the BBC’s belief that the Oscars Red Carpet is more worthy of news coverage than the goings on in Libya and more locally, the absolute immorality of a local council in the treatment of its longstanding employees have combined to have me seething for the last couple of weeks.
It’s quite obvious to anyone with a bit of sense that the world is falling apart right now. Now I’m not going attempt to comment on the things currently going on as I honestly don’t know enough but I know how I feel and what I’ve seen. We’ve had disaster after disaster and war after war. Will any of it actually prompt me to do anything though? The honest answer is probably not, and that’s what has unsettled me so much.
I recently heard a song called ‘Hurricane’ by a man named David Ford. It’s a song about our inaction both personally and as a generation, to respond. It has really touched a nerve with me:
“Well, this land is your land, this land is mine,
Now pull up a chair and we can watch the decline,
And it's never enough,
The surroundings are just too damn comfortable here”
This blog post is by no means a call to arms. I know my anger will pass, more quickly than it should in fact, but I had to express my frustration. If nothing else I know I can read it back in years to come and think: “Hey, at one point in your life you cared (almost enough)”.
Two links if you’re interested:
- The David Mitchell rant which inspired the above
- David Ford’s ‘Hurricane’ in case you too would like to question yourself