Monday, 14 July 2008

Back to Work

It is Monday morning and after a couple of days of being ill last week, I am now back in the office. One of my colleagues has nicknamed me Swampy which is most endearing. On the whole they are supportive but think I am a bit mad. I have also managed to get the HR Manager for the group to be sympathetic to my cause so an internal transfer is looking quite likely.

The reactions I have been getting from people fall broadly into two categories, there are those who insist I must have lost some element of my grip on reality and there are those who appreciate my creative approach to solving the problems that reality presents. I have been pretty universally branded as a hippy, a point I have no problem countering as I extol the virtues of the free market and the liberty it affords me. It has been a purely economic decision, admittedly there are incidental benefits that will score me points with the hippies and the dog lovers and the land reformists but they are not my primary concern. My primary concern is ridding myself of debt.

I have also been trying to make some sort of case in my mind as to why my debt could be the fault of society. Sadly it is not, it is entirely my own fault and the buck does rather seem to stop here. There seems to be a deluge of media attention regarding the levels of consumer debt, the crashing housing market (which I hope to exploit in a couple of years), the sub-prime credit market, the list goes on. There seems to be a thousand reasons to excuse people from the responsibility of their own financial inadequacy.

Were I to believe what I am told by my television, the most effective way to manage any debts I have is to take out a 'consolidation' loan. The small print at the bottom details that a consolidator is likely to extend the period of their repayments and increase the total payable amount. These however are mere details when there is a big red 'get-a-loan-in-one-minute' button to distract what has been proved to be an impulsive and financially risky bunch.

It is very easy to feel like a statistic, the knowledge that 6 million families in the UK are getting bogged down with debt actually makes me quite happy, I can afford repayments, I can get more credit with ease if I choose. Loads of people can't, does that mean that I am alright after all? No, sadly not. My debts amount to less that 20% of my current annual wage, a comparatively mild peonage. Nonetheless I am seeing that my best option is to move into a tent. God knows how many people do not have this option and are genuinely trapped by their debt bondage. It is by doing something now that I can ensure that I will not become one of them.

The government seem to spend a lot of time tackling very personal problems like debt, obesity and smoking on one hand, yet with the other hand are encouraging the industries that perpetuate these problems. Given the chance to run amok, the marketing people will sell you a diet plan in one advert and then assure you that you deserve to treat yourself with a cream pie in the next. The insane thing is that all of us, every day, vote for this sort of world with the money we spend, filling up our cars and buying dirty burgers. Capitalism is blamed for a great many of the worlds ills, but the responsibility for it lies with each and every one of us, because we do in a very real sense, vote for the world that we want with the money that we spend. It certainly has a hell of a lot more effect than which well shod ape we think should represent us in Parliament.

So are we then a helpless group of automatons? Why do we seem to act outside of our own long term self interest so often in favour of a war fuelled fast food economy? These are not questions I have the answer to, I am as much of a victim of the advertising jingle and the must-have-new-thing as the next person which is why I am in the situation I am in now. But I do intend to do something about it, before I have gone so far down the road of blithely letting every penny of my income get syphoned off before I even get to see it.

Damn the direct debits, damn the landlords and the interest hungry banks, damn the £6.99 monthly payment to some credit checking agency to alert me that I am still a valid member of society. I am going to use my not inconsiderable vote to endorse tents, dogs and cheap cars. I am going to vote for the freedom to choose where you want to live and how you want to do it.

It is the only real protest I have and ultimately I am not protesting to or about anyone but myself. Let's just hope it works.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I for one am with Ben on this adventure. I do work with this guy and i can say he will be in his tent come september no matter what is thrown in his way.
Good Luck and keep it up.

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