Issue 226: 2019 12 05: ‘Woke’ vs ‘Open’

05 December 2019

‘Woke’ vs ‘Open’

21st century inquisition.

By Lynda Goetz

In a busy week news-wise, my son sent me a slightly longer and more detailed version of the following humorous explanation of how taxes work (you may have already seen it; it has been around for a while):

Ten friends decide to get together for a weekly meal, the total cost of which is (rather improbably, but for the sake of argument) £100.  They agree to divide the bill according to their means (and in roughly the way we pay our taxes).  So, the first four men pay nothing, the fifth £1, the sixth £3 and so on until the tenth man who pays £59.  After a while, the landlord suggests that, as they are such good customers, he will give them a regular discount of £20.  They decide that if the first four men still eat for free, they cannot simply divide the £20 windfall by six and give each a £3.33 discount, as in this way the fifth and sixth men would end up being paid to dine.  They therefore decide to divide the amounts according to the same tax system.  As a result, the fifth man ends up paying nothing, the sixth man pitches in with £2 and so on, leaving the tenth man with a bill of £52 instead of £59.  Each of the six is better off, but once outside the men start to compare savings and begin grumbling.

‘I only got a pound back’ complains the sixth man, ‘but he got £7’ he adds, pointing at the tenth man.

The four who were still eating for nothing complain too; for them nothing has changed.  The general consensus is that the rich got all the breaks and they all round on the tenth man and beat him up.  The next week they meet as usual.  The tenth man (unsurprisingly) doesn’t show up, so they enjoy the meal without him.  At the end of the evening, however, they realise that they are £52 short of being able to pay the bill!  Shock horror!

That story, in brief, is why the Labour party’s wonderful idea about ‘abolishing’ billionaires will simply not work.  They will walk away, leave the country, eat at a different table – which will leave the rest of us (apart from those at the bottom, of course) footing the bill.

I have no wish to go over the same ground as was excellently covered by John Watson’s article on The Labour Manifesto in last week’s edition, but the difficulty of all manifestos is that they are, as John said, ‘documents produced in the heat of battle’.  The problem therefore is that they are designed to appeal to those who are already supporters or those who are waverers and ‘don’t knows’.  Those whose beliefs are already firmly entrenched on the ‘other side’ are not going to be very interested and they are certainly not going to be convinced*.  The difficulty with this is that all parties and politicians end up telling what amount to lies.  As many economists have already pointed out, none of the manifestos could possibly be carried out in their entirety.  The cost of all those promises would be too great.  Thus, whoever gets in is bound to break promises – with the result that the public will be confirmed in their existing convictions that politicians are not to be trusted.

The lies told are like the fibs that many of us tell.  They are designed to make us liked, to show us up in the best light.  We want others to see our best side; likewise the political parties.  In their different ways they even come to believe their lies.  Labour is quite possibly convinced that the Tories wish to ‘sell out’ the NHS, but even if they don’t believe this, it is a subject on which they know they have public support.  The fact that, as Philip Johnston points out in his very daring and outspoken article in The Telegraph, the Americans don’t want the NHS ‘because it isn’t very good’ is a heresy many would not dare to utter.  It is, as he says ‘like questioning the existence of God in 15th C Spain and hoping to avoid the Inquisition’.  So true!

As I have written on a number of occasions, most recently in 17th October issue on Locum Doctors, no politician dares to take the sacred cow which is the NHS by the horns (to mix metaphors).  It is held in ridiculously high esteem by the public – even though, compared to many other health systems, it is inefficient, overly bureaucratic, incredibly wasteful and does not in many areas have such good outcomes as health services in other countries.  No other country has copied our system, presumably for good reasons.  One of which is that because no-one pays for it at the point of delivery, many end up taking it for granted.  Another is that because everyone feels it belongs to them, even those who have contributed nothing and who have not the faintest idea of the cost of anything, feel that it is up to ‘them’ (i.e. presumably the politicians) to sort out all the problems, whether those be lack of doctors or nurses, lack of beds or simply lack of money.  When will the public realise that one of the biggest problems is their own sense of entitlement, and abandon the completely unrealistic belief that more and ever more tax-payer money will solve the problems?

The NHS, as Philip Johnston rightly points out in his article, is a ‘ravenous beast that would not be satisfied if the entirety of GDP was spent on it’.  Surely the fact that the new head of the Royal College of GPs Prof Martin Marshall  has argued this week that he considers the job of the GP to be ‘undoable’ would suggest that some radical thinking needs to be given to the way we deliver healthcare in this country.  It is no longer sufficient to tinker around the edges with this massive consumer of national resources.  At a time when demands are being made for social care to be treated in the same way we need to stop and think very carefully.  We need to look at the way other countries deal with this issue.  We need to find ways of raising revenue that at the very least make the general public realise the immense cost of this ‘ravenous beast’.  If that entails some sort of compulsory insurance system as operates in the rest of Europe, then so be it.  There must be a way between the American system, which is so patently geared to the wealthy, and our NHS which in its current form is unaffordable.  We desperately need both parties to stop lying about NHS funding, to stop arguing about this and about social care and to make both the subject of cross-party and professional agreement.

Why is it that even within the NHS itself this is not openly discussed?  The recent poll of 840 trainee GPs by the King’s Fund showed that just one in 20 planned to be working full-time within a decade of qualifying.  So, however many new GPs the Government, of either persuasion, pretends it can conjure up will not deal with the problems.  What we should be looking at is why this is the case.  In August last year, Dr Arvind Madan, the director of primary care for NHS England, was forced to resign and to issue the usual grovelling apology for attempting ‘to provoke a more balanced discussion about contentious issues’.

We increasingly appear to live in a society where those who disagree with so-called ‘mainstream’ thought are immediately shot down and called out as ‘heretics’, whether it be those who venture an opinion against same-sex marriage, trans issues of any kind, rape culture or the financing of the NHS, whilst at the same time those whose tight-lipped condemnation of meat-eating or the sexism of Mr Men books** suggests a total lack of humour and inability to take a balanced view of life as most of us live it, are given media coverage and support completely out of proportion to their useful contribution to society.  This way lies madness.  ‘Woke’ thinking needs to be replaced by ‘open’ thinking.  We do not need the 21st century Inquisition to which we are increasingly being subjected.  How, though, to escape it?

*An interesting podcast on this subject is available.

** PhD student in English Literature, 24 year-old Selby Judge (who studied Women’s Studies for her Master’s) wanted Mr Clever to be renamed Mr Mansplain as she failed to see the humour in the latest book.


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