The posh and the volunteers

A really good article in the guardian today talks about the return of the posh to popular society. It talks about various aspects of posh, and how they have become acceptable again in public circles, its well worth a read.

But as a class warrior (ha!) myself I am worried about the seeming rise of the posh towards a perhaps now inevitable Tory victory in the next election. I find Dave, Boris et al a troubling group who seem to work on the basis of an old school of patrician conservatism – although the same could of course have been said for Blair. Basically I dont really like our political system, but let’s gloss over that for now.

What I have been considering is the potential changes in society that a Tory government would bring, I fear that many of the progressive social institutions that arose under labour will disappear – I’m talking Sure Start, extended schools workers and so on. What will have to appear in their place is the volunteer – arguably a good thing I suppose, as a perpetual volunteer I must support the idea. But it does concern me that the kind of voluntary social care provided is provided as ‘charity’ or elitist conservative patronage.

However, what will be will be, and I suppose every cloud has its silver lining, with the new posh will probably come the new mods – and mod music is some of the best music in history.

By the way, also on this kind of subject is a video of a Copenhagen confrontation (more like a love-in) between Boris Johnson and George Monbiot (himself just a bit posh) on carbon emissions and electric Porsches. It’s also on the Guardian – newspaper of choice for posh lefties everywhere.


Letter from Mumbai

So I’m currently in India, where for the last couple of days I’ve been immersed in the world of garment manufacture, and trying to solve a nagging production issue, which has now been resolved – hurrah!

However, the world of business means that I’ve been living a very ‘unreal’ Indian existance, being picked up from one air-conditioned location and carried in an air-con car to another similar place. Even the factories are clean and well presented, with air-con meeting rooms and bottled drinks for ‘important’ western buyers like me.

It all feels really weird living like this, even the way I dress is required to demonstrate my separation from the poor and lowest parts of society, I must appear smart and well groomed in order that the factory bosses take me and my business seriously. I must deliberately differentiate myself from the urban poor, demonstrating my ability to be ‘worth something’ to them.

This afternoon I had a rare, and far too short opportunity to escape the clutches of business colleagues and anxious hotel staff and to get out for a change amongst the smells and dust of Mumbai.

One of the great joys for me in this kind of place is to travel by rickshaw, something I’m not often able to do as a business traveller, so I grabbed the chance this afternoon, and without realising it, scored a double whammy.

Not only did I get the rickshaw ride I wanted, but I got a driver with attitude and humour, not only was his ride ‘pimped’ with a large pop culture sticker which almost completely obscured the windscreen, but he also had a large brass hooter for a horn, something which is rather impractical but a lot of fun.

As if this wasn’t quite enough, he turned to me as we got in and said: ‘Magic?’

‘Magic??’ I replied, wondering what he was on about.

‘Magic!!’ he declared, before putting on the loudest music in the road, so off we went in his pimped out rickshaw, music blasting. Highly entertaining.

However, the reality of the separation between me and the people around me is not altered by one short rickshaw ride. From the fourth floor window of my hotel room, I look down on a collection of slum dwellings, where people are living in circumstances which for me are unimaginable. Kids walk blithely along huge concrete pipes, between which a stagnant sewer steeps.

Ragged homes are built of reclaimed junk, and men sit for hours sorting through piles of plastic litter, presumably looking for items which are worth reclaiming or have some other resale value.

This is India in the 21st century, beautiful hotels in which the priveliged can dwell in air-conditioned luxury, right next to abject poverty. Apparently I’m stuck in one camp, wanting to make a difference to the other, unsure as to how well I am managing it.

should we look to the elite for climate solutions?

According to what I read at Treehugger, the rich are to blame for climate chaos.

“For example, the average American’s carbon footprint is 2000 times bigger than the average person living in Chad. The average British [sic] emits more carbon in a day than the average Kenyan emit in a year. It gets worse! Did you know that the top 20% wealthiest people contribute 80% of greenhouse gases? Or that the top 7% are responsible for half of all carbon emissions?”

This all adds fuel to my revolutionary fire, but a counter argument that has been gaining some ground goes like this – if the rich are responsible for so much of the problem, we should work with them to solve it. This is based on the rather dubious ‘offsetting’ programmes that seem to abound, but that to one side, does this general approach make sense? Is it pragmatic?

“Most people see this as a reason to loathe the affluent, but wouldn’t it make more sense to see them as an enormous opportunity to create fast and dramatic change for global warming? If the 20% well-to-do offset their CO2 emssions by 50%, that would mean an overall decrease of 40%.”

Everything within me rankles at this suggestion, but I wonder if I’m just to idealistic? Can the wealthy really just buy us out of this mess?

The Belgrave Trust – HT Treehugger.