EVERYBODY KNOWS THE GOOD GUYS LOST.
MONDAY, 16TH JULY, 2007 –
“I have serious concerns, to be honest, about the whole child protection, child welfare standards of performance of Jersey, not just within my own department, Social Services and the Children’s Service, but across the board. I am aware of a number of issues, this being one of them, a number of cases, a number of incidents that lead me more and more strongly to the conclusion that we are failing badly in this area. I am probably going to be seeking to initiate a major independent review into the whole sphere of child welfare, child protection in Jersey. So if you are asking me honestly, do I believe the performance of certain senior individuals within this field and of the departments generally is acceptable, no, it is not.”
Former Senator Stuart Syvret, Minister of Health & Social Services
In answer to a question without notice, States of Jersey Hansard.
THURSDAY, 17TH JUNE, 2010 –
“Le Gresley Emerges Triumphant in Senatorial By-Election”.
Jersey Evening Post.
I only discovered this many months later, from my sources – but within two-and-a-half hours of me giving the reply quoted above, to a question I was asked in the Jersey parliament – the senior civil servants within my own department – Health & Social Services – and their allies, such as Bill Ogley – were beginning the process of engineering my dismissal as Minister.
That process successfully concluded for them, nearly three years later – as evidenced in the quote from what passes for a “newspaper” in Jersey – in respect of the recent by-election result.
A by-election I brought about – as it was the last feasible action I could resort to within the Jersey political realm to fight back on behalf of the public interest, against the civil service criminals such as Ogley.
Three years – of an existence beyond the imaginings of Kafka; official lies, brazen denials of evidenced facts, other politicians gripped by a kind of emperor’s-new-clothes consensus-trance born of a peculiar admixture of fear and bitter jealousy, obviously criminal civil servants dictating to the cabinet what it should do, broken and shattered abuse survivors being broken and shattered all over again at the experience of seeing the first and only Jersey politician to fight for them being oppressed for his troubles, soi disant journalists quite merrily churning-out the most breathtaking of lies in spite of the fact I’d handed them evidence to the contrary, obstructions by the Bailiff to the publication of parliamentary reports, many months of unlawful covert police surveillance, ten-strong police raids, unlawful imprisonment, home turned over from top to bottom – without a search-warrant, being locked in a windowless police cell for seven-and-a-half hours, being charged with ‘breaking the data protection law’ for trying to prevent my frail elderly constituents from being murdered, denied legal representation, having my relationship wrecked by the pressure, denied access to the evidence I need to defend myself – and if that wasn’t bad enough – at the eleventh hour of the political show-trial being mounted against me, being told that the prosecution had now decided that the evidence necessary to my public interest disclosure defence was “no longer admissible”.
And that is only up to the 21st October, 2009.
There is a quite fitting arc of symmetry between those two dates – 16th July 2007 and 17th June 2010.
The beginning and the end of a process.
Let us call it a war.
And that is not too strong a word.
The power environment of Jersey reminds me of the giant tanks of ultra high-level radio-active acid – used to dissolve the cladding from spent fuel-rods – at the Cap de La Hauge nuclear reprocessing plant; so radio-active the contents have to be kept mechanically stirred and refrigerated perpetually to prevent the liquid from boiling. Virtually all of the island’s politicians, news-editors, business bosses, journalists, senior civil servants, rentiers and the remaining sludge of other assorted grifters and shills having to be kept in a kind of toxic stasis – a condition carefully maintained only by excluding the facts. The instant that equilibrium is threatened by anything or anyone pointing to that looming, but otherwise ignored inconvenience, known as reality, a carcinogenic seething begins, driven and amplified in a chain-reaction amongst the elements that make up the Jersey “polite”.
It was no happenstance that the analogue of environmental disasters was in my mind, as I sat down to write this posting. Since the cataclysm first began, I’ve been following the oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico with increasing despair – and increasing fatalism. A mood re-enforced having watched BBC Panorama yesterday evening, which reported from the scene.
Two things struck me about the program; firstly, just what a fundamentally weak piece of journalism it was – shallow, hackneyed, the predictable tropes from end-to-end, and an exercise in visual and oral cliché. Name me an oil disaster in modern times that wasn’t reported with a few clips of sea birds being tortured to death by the filth, eye-witness accounts from survivors with mournful background music and a few sound-bites from angry locals condemning the oil business and the government? As though the demand, extraction, and cost-cutting for oil supplies was nothing to do with them.
And that reported and quoted response of the locals was the second thing to strike me. Accuse me of stereotyping if you wish, but the general population of the southern states of the USA never struck me as being generally concerned with such “liberal” considerations as the environment. Nor have they ever been especially noted as supporters of effective regulation – the hated “big government”. This is in many respects, a population who culturally identify with ‘Happy Motoring’, and who are addicted to oil. People who drive four litre Jeeps and six litre Hummers and whose response to the merest rise in pump prices for gas is ‘drill, baby, drill.’
Where, exactly, do they think it comes from?
What other can it be, than a tragic, and fin-de-siècle spectacle – when in the year 2010, people still have so little sense of the direct and culpable links between themselves – their own demands and actions – and the often terrible and pyrrhic consequences?
I know there are many committed environmental campaigners in the GoM states – often people who have striven for years to try and raise levels of awareness. You can read many blogs and campaign group web sites in which the sense of despair is palpable. These people have been fighting a war; not really against big business, but more against the circumscribed immediacy of people’s expectations and demands. And those campaigners have lost their war, just as we have lost ours, here in Jersey.
But, in truth, what other outcome was ever likely? Leonard Cohen nailed it in a song:
“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
That, indeed, is just how it goes. And I came to the conclusion quite some time ago that so unwinnable is the war, the only meaningful final-stand was to take the truth to the public – do one’s best to confront them with it – and regard the inevitable defeat as a means of escape from the front-line.
Inevitable defeat – because the war is not really against the amoral transnational corporations nor the shysters in blazers who tend to make up the majority of the political ranks. Rather – the war is against the distancing and disconnect between people, their immediate instincts – and the consequences. Consequences made inevitable by a political culture which is shaped by a kind of Darwinian evolution to serve the short-term wishes of the populous.
It was when watching news reports and the Panorama programme, that I was struck by the similarities between the normally confidently ignorant NASCAR crackers, suddenly pious in their respect for the environment and startled and angry in their demands for ‘big government’ to kick the ass of big business – and – many Jersey people when simultaneously confronted with their own Armageddon.
Monday, 21st June, 2010.
The Jersey Evening Post reports – as though it were some kind of surprise – that the bubble has burst for the usually de minimus approach to taxation in Jersey, and that sales tax, income tax, social security contributions, rates, and duties are all in urgent consideration as targets for increases.
This is, for most people in Jersey, an unpleasant encounter with that entity called reality. But – really – can anyone be surprised?
We have a tax system that has stagnated for decades – taking less revenue out of the economy as a percentage of GDP than any other jurisdiction in Western Europe – with a purpose-built feature for the rich – namely engaging with the payment of tax only as a purely voluntary exercise.
And by way of contrast, we have a colossally expensive, top-heavy and bloated senior civil service – the major players in which are incompetent, unaccountable, frequently corrupt, unsackable yet unemployable, often criminal and generally crap.
So crap – that notwithstanding numerous well-evidenced and very serious examples of gross professional misconduct and other malfeasances by the senior managers within Health and Social Services – rather than them being sacked – and replaced with professionals actually capable of doing the job – we’re about to spend another vast fortune of tax-payers money employing another layer of Health mangers – to do the job of the existing crap managers – whilst those crap managers sit around doing nothing – because they’re too crap to be in charge of a first aid box. A crap first aid box, at that.
The suddenly shocked population of Jersey may bellow for the blood of the politicians responsible for this disastrous end – but, really, just whose fault is it?
Just as the rednecks were hitherto happily burning fuel by the trailer load, content that paradise consisted of a 12 MPG Humvee and a weekend trip to the NASCAR oval via the beer and firearms stalls at Walmart, Jersey punters have happily voted for a collection of really quite obvious gangster and cretins; people who would rather spend taxes on expensive reports to protect even more expensive civil servants – even though the civil servants in question have – on the evidence – engaged in outright criminality, such as conspiracies to pervert the course of justice.
And – who knows – if the public had been a little more discerning in their choices, it is quite possible that our taxation circumstances would not be quite so disastrous. Perhaps with a few less gangsters and halfwits in our parliament, the States assembly would have voted to support the proposition I tabled for debate in 2004 (P.41/2004) which argued for a comprehensive and transparent inquiry into all of the taxation options Jersey faced at what was a pivotal time.
I argued then that the so-called ‘zero/10%’ proposals of the old Finance & Economics Committee were – quite obviously – not going to work; that we had to fully examine all of the options – and that if we didn’t, we would end up with a revenue crises in which our tax policies were insecure and unstable, and would involve a massive transfer of the tax-burden onto the shoulders of middle and lower income earners.
Now, I realise people don’t like this kind of thing, it being considered too “impolite”, and thus an assault upon the “values” of “The Jersey Way” – but – I told you so.
Here are just a few random quotes from my Report of the 9th March, 2004, in which I was arguing against the ill-considered and obviously rubbish tax proposals of the oligarchy:
“There is no evidence in the furnished documentation that a detailed risk analysis has been undertaken. Have representatives of Jersey sat down with representatives of the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and spoken with them? Have we put our proposed 0%/10% structure before them and asked if it is likely to satisfy them in the medium and long-term?”
“When considered in this light the 0%/10% proposals look more and more like a short-term palliative measure and less and less like the required structural re-configuration of the Island’s tax structure. If there is a real risk of the 0%/10% proposals doing little more than buying us a few years’ breathing space, have we attached sufficient weight to the downside of the proposals? Have we taken a robust enough view of the possible alternatives? Especially when such alternatives may prove longer lived?”
“The community of Jersey already faces central London living costs – and these are inescapable in an island environment where we cannot commute to a cheaper region. What effect will the regressive nature of these proposals have upon the less well-off in our community? Economically, how many more expensive state interventions will be required to enable ordinary working people to simply live in their Island?”
Naturally, my proposition – which only sought that all taxation options be examined in an open and inclusive manner – was rejected. The Frank Walkers, Philip Ozoufs and Terry Le Sueurs of the States – and their obedient herd of passive lobby-fodder – preferring not to even examine the options in a transparent way – lest the plebs start getting ideas.
Oh well – you casts your votes – and you gets your consequences. Enjoy those big, fat tax bills.
Whilst the final three years of my twenty years as a politician were spent fighting the particularly horrifying and demanding war for child protection in Jersey – in truth the entire twenty years were one, long, war.
And it was during these last three years that I realised it was a war that could never be won.
If as a politician you confront the public with hard evidence of the unlawful concealment of child abuse by their expensive public administration – and a majority of the public just don’t care – then the war is unwinnable.
Unwinnable because the complacent ignorances and casual belligerences of people are un-breachable; when they prefer to defend a civil servant who costs them £250,000 a year, rather than the victims of child abuse – they just can’t be reached.
If I’m honest – I knew – just simply knew for a stone fact – the war was lost – from the afternoon of Wednesday the 5th December 2007.
If there was a single point at which my previously optimistic view of what society could be, was swallowed-up by the dark reality of just how disgusting so many people are, it was then.
In fact, that incident made me return to a book I had last read some years before – Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. I’d always regarded it as a great work, but I felt compelled to read it again – remembering that the horrors depicted in it felt like the truth. And they are. Which is why McCarthy is such a great writer.
The central antagonist in the book is an omnipotent, seemingly invulnerable, child-murdering mutant, known as the judge. He always wins. Remind you of anything?
At one point McCarthy has the judge say –
“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”
Like all truly great writers, McCarthy has an executive-box, full-on panoramic view of the truth; a vista broader, deeper and more crystal-clear than a thousand HD widescreens could ever be.
And, at the last, it is that truth I have to acknowledge defeat by.
In fact – so implacably grim are the prospects for the world, that I read an American commentator who recently suggested – only half-jokingly – that Cormac McCarthy should be the next President; the thinking being that only a man who has written such works as No Country for Old Men, The Road, and Blood Meridian could look at the vast confluence of unprecedented epochal economic, social, fiscal, environmental and global disasters befalling the USA – and not be overwhelmed by the bleakness.
I don’t think he’d want the job, somehow. He would know already just how futile it was.
I found myself wondering if he will write a novel based on the events of the oil eruption catastrophe? The southern USA is his part of the world – and if anyone could encompass and truly understand just how bad it really is – it would be him.
How bad is it?
A lot worse than you would understand from platitudinous broadcasts such as the Panorama program. It now appears that the flow of oil into the Gulf waters is dramatically greater than original estimates – and some expert observers mount credible arguments to suggest it could actually take several years to fully close down. As with all such incidents, there are some off-the-wall stories as to just how bad it could become, but it is feasible that the cemented well-bore could be corrupted beyond repair in several places many hundreds of feet below the seabed, allowing the oil to emerge directly from the sediment around the well-head.
If you’re a pensioner, whose fund might have been invested in BP – I would be worried.
The company has – effectively – accepted liability – and committed to paying the full costs of the disaster – economic and environmental.
Not – of course – that any amount of money can now recover that beautiful part of the world from the consequences of our demands and expectations. Over twenty years after the Exxon Valdez, communities up and down the coast of Alaska are still uncovering patches of oil. They say on a hot day, when the tide is out, you can smell it – the air reeks of petrol. Some species that were wiped-out in the spill have never recovered.
But set aside the environmental destruction – and just consider the economic and real-estate damage done by the spill – a spill which, in my estimation, we can already describe as the worst oil disaster in human history. The income and assets of ten BPs wouldn’t get close to meeting that cost.
Expect BP to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection within the next four to six weeks.
Alas, the planet – and human society – has no such devices to enable shelter from reality.
The environment has lost its war with us.
Our children’s futures have lost the war with our immediate demands and gratifications.
Jersey tax-payers have lost the war with their selfishly intended voting habits.
Vulnerable children have lost the war with the collection of over-paid gangsters who control Jersey’s civil service.
The straight cops have lost the war with the bent cops.
The poor, bewildered rednecks have lost the war with a failed – as in now over – life-style – and no amount of yee-haws, Budweiser and handguns loaded with hollow-tip ammunition is going to fill the gas tank on the hummer for forty bucks – nor restore the destroyed environment of the Gulf.
We’ve all lost the war.
And it was an inevitable defeat.
Because the war was with our own natures.