Monday, 19 November 2012

Left writes

As awareness rises of how some well-known large corporations are organised to obviate the necessity of paying UK taxes, my mind has turned to writing about the global economic system, and in particular Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater. This novel has an arresting opening line:
 A Sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.
and concerns the attempts of one Eliot Rosewater to use his massive inherited fortune to perform public good works and improve the lot of the disenfranchised and unfortunate, a campaign to which his family responds by attempting to declare him legally insane. As with all Vonnegut's work, much of which is concerned with questions of economic and social equality, this broad satirical canvas is decirated with brush-strokes of irony which undermine any attempt to see the work as a simple declaration or manifesto, but there is some very astute writing about capitalism, especially - in the context of tax behaviour, in this well-known passage, in which Eliot's father is attempting to fathom his son's perspective: 

'"You mean shame about not knowing where the Money River is?"

"The what?"

"The Money River, where the wealth of the nation flows. We were born on the banks of it - and so were most of the mediocre people we grew up with, went to private schools with, sailed and played tennis with. We can slurp from that mighty river to our hearts' content. And we even take slurping lessons, so we can slurp more efficiently."

"Slurping lessons?"

"From lawyers! From tax consultants! From customers' men! We're born close enough to the river to drown ourselves and the next ten generations in wealth, simply using dippers and buckets. But we still hire the experts to teach us the use of aqueducts, dams, reservoirs, siphons, bucket brigades, and the Archimedes' screw. And our teachers in turn become rich, and their children become buyers of lessons in slurping."'

"I wasn't aware that I slurped."

This is Vonnegut at his best in terms of dialogue, imagery and humour, and the book is one to which I return frequently.

In the same vein, my dear wife kindly alerted me to a new children's graphic novel from an American labour organisation - Union Communication Services, inc. - which explains the violent circumstances under which the classic protest song 'Which Side are you on?' was penned.

In the interests of proper balance and objectivity, I will of course be posting a marginally slightly less left-wing article tomorrow.

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