Ed, energy and empty sentiment.

I had to laugh, and lament a little. Ed Miliband (a true socialist at heart according to Ken Livingstone) has rocked and shocked the political and corporate world with his pledge to freeze energy prices for two years if he is voted to office at the next election. This could save each household £120 each over the two years (or £60 a year if you speak like normal people).

Brushing aside the unfortunate combination of the word ‘freeze’ and ‘energy’ for a moment, let’s look at just how damn brave this man is.

If you’re not familiar with my blogs, you should know at this point, I don’t come down on any side of the fence. I don’t like the fence at all. And here is yet another reason for why.

I learned about the story from the flapping news coverage that (quite rightly) was covering the reaction of the energy companies to this decree, even if they were perhaps emphasising the companies point of view a little too strongly.

“Britain to face black-out’s if Ed Miliband’s plan is put into action – says energy firms” blared out at me from the telly. Rather unusually I was watching ITV news. Don’t quite know how that happened, but I was.

I laughed at the open corporate threats upon the people of this country. They couldn’t even be bothered to dress it up. They jerked their knee’s with childish obstinacy. Basically saying, “well if you want to freeze our prices, we’re going to leave you all to die, how do you like them eggs Grandma?”

It amazed me how swift and brutal this rhetoric appeared, bolstered by the threat of higher prices before and after the freeze, and a lack of investment in infrastructure etc… It didn’t help that the particular news channel I was watching basically covered the argument from the energy firms as:

“Although the energy companies enjoy high profits, they operate on low margins.”

Well that’s ok then! Isn’t it? I’m sure the billionaires in the industry are constantly worried about the low margins of their chosen trade.

They also tried to gazump us with “not being able to offer lower prices due to the freeze” – because we all know how often energy prices come down don’t we? Happens all the time. And on top of that, the good old “these are multinational companies who may just decide to take their business elsewhere”… where have I heard that before…

But asides from this posturing, it dawned on me that what Ed Miliband was actually proposing, as brave as it sounds (especially when you consider this backlash), isn’t really that revolutionary. If this is all it takes to get companies to drop the ‘caring for the customer’ facade and bare their teeth, what hope is there of anyone ever actually offering us an alternative or opposition to corporate capitalism in the political sphere?

It’s not exactly like Ed Miliband went out there and said he wants to renationalise the energy companies. Imagine the hell that would have caused!

“Energy companies say they will round us all up to use as fuel in their private mansions if Ed Miliband’s plans are put into action”

This ‘brave’ move by Red-Ed, is nothing more than a exercise in hot air (keeping with the theme). I’m all for control of energy to be returned to the people. It is not a commodity that should be profiteered, just like health-care and water. I’m very much of the opinion that those essentials we need to live should not be playthings for businesses to grow fat on and barter with (just look at the threat of blackout’s issued this week, if ever proof was needed why this is a bad thing), but it seems, yet again that our ‘left’ of house representatives, don’t share this sentiment. They’re not talking about nationalising, they’re talking about slightly tinkering.

I heard another view on this matter that I found hard to digest at first. That view was, “well, he shouldn’t interfere with them, they are a private company.” Immediately my blood pressure rises and I start to concoct reasons why private companies should not be allowed to run fast and loose when in charge of live-giving resources, but actually, that’s right, in a fashion. Like I said before, if we don’t want private companies profiting exorbitantly from keeping us alive over winter, we shouldn’t have private companies running those services. It’s the same argument. The only alternative to that argument (one I suspect the Tories would condone), would be to let them do whatever they want, with no fear of reprisal. Which would be fine, if you trusted them, but do we? Do we really?

Once again I find myself looking at both side of this story, both sides of the fence as it were, and feeling unrepresented by either. I also have a feeling that if Labour were to get back in, this pledge would be dropped as they continue to move their funding model away from Unions and court big business interest instead. Once again I find myself thinking, these people have no control, they just want to be ‘seen’ to have control and are being paid off, blackmailed and threatened by the unseen with money, resources. This may sound mad and paranoid to some people, but just think on what happened this week. And what are we talking about? £120 saved each, over two years. Let’s not pretend that will make a ‘real difference to families’ etc…, that’s bugger all in the grand scheme of things, and that’s how little it takes to piss these people off. They need to have their fingers taken off the buttons, but these politic pushers, on all sides, they aren’t the ones to do it. They don’t want to do it.

So, in conclusion. Don’t be taken in by empty promises, don’t be threatened by bullies. I wish I knew what the alternative was, but I don’t. I stick to my mantra however:

‘It is valid to acknowledge that a problem exists even if one doesn’t have the answers. Until we understand the problem, how can we ever get to the answers anyway? Anyone who says your criticism is not valid because you don’t have the answer, is protecting self interest. A good idea will rise from the ashes of a bad one.’

This mantra changes somewhat every time I write it down, but you get the idea, hopefully a good one.

Thanks for reading.

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Beware the peddlers of success & knowledge.

I’ve found a funny thing happens when you join the world of blogging. As with all social network sites, you start to get (quite quickly) a number of other users marking your post as a ‘favourite’ or ‘following’ your profile. This is, for the most part, quite a nice thing, especially when you get the friendly little email pop up in your inbox to say:

“Chaos Monkey thinks your blog is great! Why not check them out too?”

And so, I click on the profile, happy to reciprocate the interest that Mr Chaos Monkey has shown in my work with a quick look at his profile and latest article. Now, a lot of the time, the blogs I’m greeted with seem to be the usual content of social/political commentary, reviews, opinions, life-style tips and so on. But every now and again I will get something like:

“Chaos Monkey – How to be a success, time and time again… 3 easy steps!”

Often these articles will give advice on how to ‘optimise’ your blog, using ‘SEO’ techniques, foster good ‘time-management’ and how to spot and capitalise on ‘trends’… that kind of guff. They may even add advice on monetizing your blog with advertising partners, or by writing articles for certain websites on a range of popular subjects.

The thought struck me that these people who purport to offer the key to success by writing blogs, and only write blogs about success, must in themselves, either have been successful at something else in the past, or just be liars. To highlight this we can place the conversation in a real-world setting – say a motorway service station pre-internet days. I am casually walking from my car through the bleak concrete park towards the oblong tomb of over-priced sustenance, when a man with slick, gelled-back hair, wearing a ‘trust-me’ suit approaches…

Peddler:               Hey you!

Me:                        Me?!

Peddler:               Yes you! Do you want to know the secret to success?

Me:                        Who wouldn’t want to know the secret of success?

Peddler:               Exactly! Well, I can tell you the secret of success…

Me:                        How did you come by such knowledge?

Peddler:               Because I’m successful!

Me:                        What at?

Peddler:               Telling people  how to be successful.

Me:                        Is that it?

Peddler:               Erm… yes.

Me:                        Go away.

At least that is how I imagine it would run in the real world if indeed the success peddler was trading off the pyramid scheme of ‘selling success’. We’ve all heard it before I’m sure – there used to be (and probably still is) a postal scam, which digitized to e-bay eventually, whereby you blind ‘buy’ a package that tells you how to earn £x thousands of pounds, and when it arrives, it simply tells you to advertise and sell a package that will earn you £x thousands of pounds to other people. And thus the circle of bullshit is complete, and we can all go to the farm and smell like the animals.

But this new blog version of the scheme works slightly differently. It is costing me nothing but time when I stumble upon their ‘secrets to success’, but they are getting revenue from various other sources. My click, my precious click, is paying for them to fill the worlds servers with pointless articles. The world’s supply of bullet points, *asterisks* and CAPITAL LETTERS – not to mention EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! – is being depleted by such scammy scamsters.

And they are just one ingredient of this bitter word-soup that sloshes around our ankles in the digital bowl and is quickly rising. The other is the likes of the ‘e-how’ article. I hope for your sake, dear reader, you have never found yourself in the throes of some important research, trying desperately to find out some important info about your chosen profession, and all you can find is 200-500 word articles written by people who have no idea about the subject, clogging up your search engine like claggy gump oil. They do this for a living. There are numerous adverts that can be found that go something along the lines of:

“Do you know jack-shit about anything? Can you just about send the signals from your brain to your fingers to make them move over a keyboard and construct basic sentences? Can you read other websites and produce inferior copies of the information they contain? Then this is the job for you! For up to 0.0000015p a word you can make your living today writing for http://www.pointlesswebsitethatjustclogsuptheinternet.com!” (hint – Don’t try and follow that link… I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist. Though it really should!)

Back at the pre-internet motorway service station again, I notice a man by the dead grey steps on my way out, he has a sign with the legend… “Ask me anything!”. I am intrigued. I approach, clutching my obscenely over-priced toasty and sucking on an Amber roll-up…

Me:                        Anything?

Peddler2:            Absolutely!

Me:                        I want to know a good average word count for different age group categories in children’s literature…

Peddler2:            Certainly! One moment!

The peddler dashes into the service station, he heads straight for WH Smiths. He comes back with a children’s book about a dragon who is sad or something… He spends the next twenty minutes counting the words…

Peddler2:            Approximately 2000 words!

Me:                        But that’s just one book. I could have done that myself.

Peddler2:            That will be £50 please.

Me:                        Go away. Actually, don’t worry about it. I’ll go away. This is a weird service station.

And so, that’s what great swathes of the internet are, a soulless service station full of weirdo’s who don’t really know much about anything, but are willing to stand there pretending they do, on the off-chance that they will catch you unawares. Of course, no money needs change hands, that is provided now by the advertisers on our behalf. It is as if the internet is constructed on top of some dark and mysterious catacombs that contain a terrible word-hungry beast who demands that 10% of all content sacrifices any meaning or substance. In return for this sacrifice, the peddlers are allowed to live, but they must leave their soul as a deposit, and in their endeavours, they must gather small bits of our life-force with every pointless ‘life tip’ and ‘how to’ article that we stumble blindly onto…

Beware the peddlers of success and knowledge, for they have neither, but they will feed on yours.