Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The polarised state of debate about UK budget cuts (no jokes in this one)

My friend Satu Facebooked a link to this video of Sam West speaking at the TUC rally on 26 March 2011 — making a case (passionately) against government arts cuts. Have a watch.

Noble words. And art is indeed for everybody (though, en passant, some artists themselves don't always act that way).

But saying 'art should be for everybody' and 'art is a right' is a bit different from saying 'art should by default receive £X million in public money'.

I'm not saying it shouldn't, by the way. I wouldn't dream of it, and know nothing about the arts sector and funding. So let's, please, be clear about that, yah? But that video draws attention to the thing that (hugely) discomfits me about the way in which the issue of The Cuts is discussed in the public domain.

Because cutting a subsidy doesn't necessarily equate to denying people's right to art. Which is a very very fucking very strong and emotive concept, innit?

Again, I'm not saying the subsidy should be cut. I'm saying that the size of a subsidy is a nuanced issue. People's right to art is not. I mean, how much of a cut would deny people's right to art? If I cut the budget by £5, am I denying people's right to art? What about by £50,000? What about £1m? At what size of cut is people's right to art snuffed out?

I'm trying to illustrate a broad point. One of discomfort at polarised debate. And the debate about the cuts has polarised to a degree that makes it difficult to afford space to nuanced discussion. Which I think is necessary, just as much as rousing adversarialism.

I'm uncomfortable with a situation in which I either accept that public funding is 'right' as it is, or else I am an ideological vandal. Because I reckon I can't be the only person who thinks that public funding has produced (and continues to produce) fantastic work, fantastic results, immeasurable benefits. Not just in arts, but in healthcare, in local government, in community support. I can't be the only person to think this — but also to think that huge tracts of the public sector are woefully, woefully inefficient, disgracefully ill-managed. That huge amounts of money are wasted.

I'm not talking about the need for 'efficiency savings', that tired political get-out-of-jail-free card. I'm talking about jobs for life held by people who are fucking terrible at them. Yet will get a staggeringly generous pension when their 9-to-4.30 days of time-in-lieu and apostrophe-shifting are done. Teachers who can't teach. Managers who can't manage.

Sure, these exist in the private sector too. But a private sector firm with shonky employees pays the price, one way or another. A state sector firm often doesn't. Instead, we do. Via our friends at the Inland Revenue.

And I don't know — I genuinely don't, here from my armchair — what mechanisms are actually open to government to change this. I suspect it's pretty fucking hard, working against the inertia of that system, from the top down.

But I'd like to see more space for discussions that acknowledge the complexities, the compromises, the nuances. That's all, really.

Now, please form an orderly queue to use the comments to tell me I'm a rabid Tory skinflint and a traitor to the cause. But sometimes the cause can be kind of alienating, you know? LET ME HAVE A BIT OF MIDDLE GROUND, FOR PITY'S SAKE.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Santander joins RBS to fund construction of enormous reservoir of shit

I think this blog may finally have found its niche.

Now — it's Santander.

Above (for consistency's sake) is Santander's logo: yes, it's a picture of a piece of shit that someone just set fire to.

Before hurling it through the window of Santander's customer fulfilment department.

Customer fulfilment. Customer fulfilment! The only thing Santander has succeeded in fulfilling is its customers' arses.

Hell, this is a bank that sends out its customer (dis)service emails in FUCKING COMIC SANS. As though they were invitations to a child's birthday party. A child's birthday party organised by drooling, subnormal parents. With a paedophile clown.

It has taken the Customer Arse Fulfilment Department since early December — a full three aching months — to process my application for a current account. During that period, the people of Egypt managed to overthrow a dictator.

Meanwhile, the people of Santander sent me seven emails.

Of these seven emails, four consisted of exactly the same message.

(All seven were written in Comic Sans. Oh so jaunty! Oh so friendly! Cripes, these emails make me feel so damn elated that they'd make me want to set fire to a piece of shit. BAARGH.)

The four identical emails? These were requests (at intervals) for ID. Reasonable enough, you might think.

Less reasonable, I'd say, when the bank was already in possession of copies of —

  • my passport
  • my driving license
  • two bank statements, 18 months apart (yes, thanks, RBS)
  • printed details of my overdraft limit
  • a recent credit card statement

— practically everything, in fact, that featured in their 'send us two of the following forms of ID' list. TWO OF THE FOLLOWING.

So I'd write back to them. 'Dear Santander,' I'd say, 'What more do you want from me?'

'I can confirm,' Comic Sanstander would reply, 'that your application has been received.'

Then, a little while later, I'd receive that same first email. 'We just need a bit more info,' it would announce. With a wrist-slitting kind of chiripiness.

'Dear Santander,' I could but respond, 'You already have all the fucking info (if I may be so bold) that I possess. You now know more about my finances, I dare to suggest, than I do myself. So when you say that you "need more info" and helpfully provide me with a list of suggested "info" I have already provided, are you (in fact) telling me that you have lost my info?'

'I can confirm,' would come the (touchingly personal) response, 'that your application has been received.'

And so it would proceed.

Until today. Email number seven.

'Thank you for your recent application. After careful consideration we will be unable to offer you the Santander Current Account you applied for.'

Timorously, I suggest a rewrite:

'Thank you for your near-historical application. After careless kneejerking and spasmodic panic we were about to offer you the Santander Current Account you applied for. But then some mad bloke hurled a flaming shit through our window and we were all pretty shaken up by that. So instead we took that same shit, scanned it in on our office printer (which also has a handy scanning function) and emailed it to you. HAVE A NICE DAY!!1!'


So now, how do you think I feel? I have wasted three months of my life on this. It's as if I'd spend three deluded months devotedly wooing some braindead minger with rotten teeth and an addiction to competitions — only to realise, with crushing simultaneity that (a) I'd been making a terrible, terrible mistake and (b) that the minger had JUST FUCKING REJECTED ME ANYWAY.




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