A Story Of Fairy Lights And Power Failures
Once upon a time, there was a green and pleasant island, in which people knew the law, and by and large, they obeyed it. They took their children to school, went to work, and lived by the unspoken contract whereby, in exchange for a person’s contribution to the common good and the taxes he paid, he got perks. The citizen could buy his house, tend his garden, polish his car and go to the pub. If he got sick, there was a communal health service to make him better.
Government was straightforward and simple. Elected representatives and unelected incumbents could lean back in their leather armchairs in their stuffy clubs and puff contentedly on their cigars. In this happy land, everybody knew his role and left it to the Government to maintain the status quo.
One day, the garlic-sausage and spaghetti-eaters over the water started jumping up and down and making a fuss. “We want you to join our club,” they chorused. The stuffy civil servants governing the green land peered in consternation over their brandy snifters. “But we don’t like garlic and sausage and pasta. We eat roast beef,” they objected. It was no good though, and in the end, they took out a membership. The members of the menu-mash-up club squabbled and fought, but everybody kind of rubbed along together.
One day things changed. Strange corporate invaders arrived from other parts of the planet and gate-crashed the bier and bratwurst blowout. The corporate invaders weren’t content with their own possessions; they wanted everyone else’s too. The little green island was overcome. The Genie of Globalisation tipped the dozing civil servants out of their leather chairs and they landed on the floor. She folded her arms and placed a four-inch heel on the back of the fattest one, in between his shoulder blades.
“I’m out of the bottle now,” she said. “You tired old gits must get on the band wagon or you are going to miss out big time. You shabby anachronisms need to shed the pinstripes and bowler hats and get sharp-suited and sexy, like the rest of the corporate world.” She dazzled them, and they didn’t clock her secret agenda, which was to upset the not-so-happy camaraderie of the garlic-sausage club and run off with everybody’s assets.
Running on Empty
So they did. They spurned home-grown hand-tailoring for imported off-the-peg two-pieces and cheap designer knock-off footwear. They partied with bankers and financiers like it was 2008, and eventually, as do party-goers everywhere, they collapsed. The population sucked in a collective breath and tutted as it cleared up the mess of the party from the night before. These were hard-working people who wanted to get on, and they didn’t have time to nanny people who couldn’t behave. Soon, they’d done all the sweeping up and filled the black bin bags. The small green land tried to return to normality, and everybody got back to work, (where work was available.)
Until the lights went out.
“What’s this?” cried the hard-working oiks who wanted to get on. “If you cut the power, you’ll wreck our little joke about, ‘Will the last person to leave please switch off the light?’ It’s one of our favourites and now you’ve taken it away from us.”
“Ah,” replied the Controller Of The Master Switch. “One faction of your round-tummied civil servants has threatened to put a cap on our charges and we can’t have that, so we’re going to hit you first and put the fear of powerlessness into you stupid little gas-guzzlers, so you won’t support the policy.”
“But but but,” protested the nose-to-the-grindstone slaves who wanted to get on, “we can’t work in the DARK, and our economy is based on THE INTERNET now, so if you turn it off, you turn everything off! And you’ll suffer too – it’s your land and your power stations. We’re all in it together, right?”
The Controller and His Energy Generating Team gave a collective evil grin and their sharp teeth glinted in the candlelight. “Wrong.” Their faces shone with a glow of inner triumph. “We’re global investors and we’re nothing to do with you peasants. We don’t care what happens on your sad little island because we live in Villa Billionaire in Tax Haven Land and all we care about are earnings, share price and dividends. We don’t give a stuff whether you have power generation or not. You should have kept your steam-driven energy generation network local and kept control, but you gave away your power when you joined the Globalisation Game. It’s no good complaining about the rules now.”
The stuffy small-minded rulers of the pleasant green island wondered if membership of the garlic-guzzling club had been as bad as they thought it was, even if it had been a bit stinky.
And turning their backs on the slack-jawed civil servants and the stupid little nobodies who wanted to get on, the corporate fat cats linked arms with their money-dealing friends, and sniggered as they boarded the international yacht with the champagne bar and sailed off to the next round of binge-trading at Stock Exchange Central.
I wrote this in September 2013, when the subject of over-charging by power companies was first put under a reluctant government’s nose. It’s as relevant today, when not only is energy pricing a hot topic, but energy security is becoming alarmingly relevant once more. My trigger for writing it, was the then-popular and simultaneously loathsome meme of the government of the day, “We are all in it together.” We need less of the power crazy, and more of the power responsibility.
What does this have to do with fiction writing, asks my reader. Quite a bit. Fiction writers need to get hot under the collar about something, or their writing will have no edge. We all have passions and opinions, and buttons which people can press. Britain’s management of its national power supply is a hot button for me.
Credits: Image courtesy of Picjumbo.com