Thursday, 5 December 2013

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out : Makeshift Studios 2013

In Edinburgh as night falls, and in the soft glow of red, blue and yellow Christmas lights, a man with the aura of Jesus approaches. Tall, bearded, with long flowing hair, his clothes grubby and ragged around the edges, he leads a little dark dog with a maroon coat.

Around us, the capital is alive with the sounds, smells and noise of the festive season. Fairground rides are busy with eager thrillseekers, the big wheel is packed and a queue is already forming for the next spin, the German market is enjoying a trading bonanza and everywhere people seem to be having fun.

'Daddy can I have train set for Christmas?' a youngster pleads with his father.
'You'll have to write to Santa little Johnny,' the man explains to the child.
'But I don't believe in Father Christmas!' The boy says petulantly.
'Then you won't get any toys at all then will you?'

Little Johnny looks horrified and bemused, simultaneously wide-eyed then frowning, as his father leads him by the hand through the crowds.

As he arrives, the man, with deep, dark, dead, pleading eyes offers me the obligatory Starbucks cup. He shakes the few coins and watches me closley.

'Can ye spare any change buddy?' He says quietly.

He is the outsider, the one our financial system was not designed to help, the needs of capitalism are not the same as the needs of people. You can only eat and/or have a roof over your head if you have the cash flow to allow you to do that.

Capitalismo does not fret if you sit at home wondering where you are going to find the money for the rent, your next meal, Christmas. The Royal Bank of Scotland does not lie awake at night if you are hungry and on the street without shelter in the storm. Whatever you may think, It just doesn't work like that.

The people who work for the above organisation (RBS), on the other hand, are obliged by law to increase the profits of the company to benefit their shareholders. That's how it, quite simply, operates, not to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless but to fatten up the wallets of the wealthy.
Think about this.

We know, for example, that the USA alone produces enough food to feed the world seven times over, nevertheless children and adults still starve and wander the streets without a home. Photographer Adrian Markis has taken a poignant series of images of homeless women and their children on the Streets of Buenas Aires, but that is part of the fall out of the global financial system.

Multi-roomed homes often go empty for weeks, months, even years and still the homeless on the streets of the UK and the USA are increasing. Men and women exposed to winter's harshest weather when homes devoid of people lie water and wind tight with nobody home.

It would be foolish to consider capitalismo as everyone's friend, it was not designed and developed to meet the needs of people but simply to continually increase margins at an ever accelerating rate by any means.

In this capitalismo universe the stretch between the fabulously wealthy and the precariat, the marginalised and the dispossessed is measured in light years and it is gravity (debt) that it is built on.

Despite the fact that the world's largest banks are being forced to pay fines for various misdemeanours - the last 12 months has cost the biggest financial brands billions - the average UK banker has enjoyed a 30 per cent raise in salary, while RBS have announced a £500 million pot for its executives bonuses.

I place the coin in the man's cup just as it starts to snow. A cold wind whips across St Andrew's Square, a drunk man singing a Christmas Carol, 'Good King Wenceslas' in a slurred voice staggers toward the St James Centre.

The Jesus figure thanks me and begins to melt into the night, his large shadow moving slowly toward Princes Street, the dog tottering behind his master.

'The energy companies, ye have to admit,' he stops, turns and calls back to me with the afterthought. 'Are not in business to heat hooses or light them up.'

He paused, his dark eyes piercing into mine.

'They're in business to make cash. The fact that they heat hooses and provide light, is really neither here or there. Think about it, there is a subtle difference.'

'Right,' I said absently and watched as he walked off, trying desperately to get my head around what he'd just said.

(Written in Starbucks, West Nile Street, Glasgow and Starbucks, High Street, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, between December 1 and 5, 2013. I wanted to thank Starbucks for providing so many polystyrene collecting cups to homeless people everywhere.)

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