A grim fairy tale for our times

Photo by SavidgeMichael, Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time, there were some men who made a lot of money from doing things that were wrecking the planet. They had known for ages that they were putting toxins in the air and water, causing global warming and damaging the health of their employees and the general public and the environment, but they hid the knowledge and put the frighteners on anyone who wanted to speak about it and paid politicians to ignore evidence and make sure that the laws did not make it hard for them to keep doing what they were doing.

Some of the rich men were also politicians. They found combining power and money made them very good at making and keeping money. They were also able to give nice business opportunities to their rich friends, so everyone who was rich or powerful or rich AND powerful was very happy. It meant that the money stayed with the right people.

But life was not as perfect as it should be for the rich men and the rich politicians and the rich and powerful men.

There were lots of things that really got them mad. Having to pay taxes so that losers (poor people) could eat and have somewhere to live made them mad as hell. They really resented that! After all, they had made themselves into rich men all by themselves! Why couldn’t other people do that? Poor people were, effectively, stealing from them! Why should the rich men pay for hospitals and housing and education when they did not use any of these things themselves. In fact, they PAID for their own special healthcare and education and the houses they had all over the world themselve, so they were having to pay TWICE! How was that fair?

The rich men really hated having to obey laws that messed with their business! Who were these people to tell them what they could and could not do? How they hated all the bleeding heart, whingeing snowflakes who thought it was wrong to kill nature or wreck people’s health or poison the environment. If these people did not like what the rich men’s products did, then let them live somewhere where such things were not made and did not happen!

The rich men lived where the air was clean and nature was glorious and all there for their private use, even killing some of it for sport and great pictures on social media. If people wanted access to nature and clean air, then they should do what the rich man did and buy some of their own! It wasn’t rocket science!

Laws were useful for keeping people under control, but they simply did not apply to the rich men or the politicians who made them. Those who funded the country and made the laws were, naturally, above them.

The rich men must be free. They must be free to make money in whatever way they wished and to keep that money. Freedom was an important word for the rich men. If ordinary people wanted freedom, they must work for it, just as the rich men had. It was high time people stopped thinking that everything should be handed to them on a plate! Yes, it was true that some of the rich men HAD started out with money given to them by their fathers, but that advantage was merely proof of genetic superiority and, besides, they had made more money still – just like in the parable of the talents.

The rich men often called themselves ‘libertarians’. People dreamed of liberty, so the word had a very nice ring to it and, to most people, meant being allowed to do what you want and get drink and go to parties and sleep with loads of people and live and let live etc…confusing it a bit with libertine. Of course, there were some politicians and rich men who were libertarians AND libertines and they had a very nice time indeed, usually at other people’s expense.

They most certainly hated the idea of free healthcare! Poor people ate such appalling, cheap food and smoked and drank, and very stupidly lived in polluted cities, so no wonder they got ill! The sick really were a terrible burden on society. Same with the old. Really it was high time that people adopted the policy towards the old and sick that the rich found worked for them with animals and servants. Didn’t the champions of these burdens on society bang on about ‘quality of life’? Well, what quality of life did the sick and old have? It would be an act of mercy to spare them further misery and it would mean more room for healthy workers and consumers.

Another thing the rich people really hated was being told how to treat workers. Workers were two a penny and they just did what they were told or they got fired. They should not need cossetting and indulging. Why did they need rights? The only rights that really mattered were property rights, and poor people and workers did not have those. As for the rest? Why, the rich people never needed HR or paternity leave or sick pay! And they would certainly never go on strike! Striking was hugely inconvenient and disruptive and must be banned. And why did the workers need things like creches and childcare and maternity pay? If women stayed at home where they belonged, raising the future workers and consumers, then they would not need such things! It was all common sense, really.

It also made them mad that more people were being born who did not look like them than people who did. THEIR people looked up to them and admired them, because the rich men were models to aspire to and because the rich men kept telling them that they, too, could be rich because they were nice and white and christian and understood how the world of wealth and power works and would not question it.

And the rich men were also very unhappy that some young people were getting infected by education with crazy notions of social justice and saving the planet. It really made them very mad. So they took some millions from their billions and set up special foundations and endowments with lovely names which included words like ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’ – words that made people feel proud and patriotic – and they paid places of education to teach the right things and to stop teaching the wrong things. And they made sure that all their children and their friends’/associates’ children all got the right introductions and could fulfil their god-given potential, because they were the blessed by virtue of their wealth and power.

Another thing that made them very mad indeed was creative people who expected to get paid for ‘art’ and ‘ideas’ and stuff that was no use to the rich men at all, until everyone decided that some of it actually was worth a lot and they were able to set up a market in it and show the stuff off to friends to prove that they had taste as well as money.

But what made them most mad about these people (and the ‘woke’ types) was that some were not interested in money and they were critical of the rich men and their products. So the rich men used some more of their millions to buy newspapers and TV stations and social media platforms and then they could just read nice things about themselves. Anyone who tried to write nasty things got a SLAPP or the sack, so that made everything much nicer and it meant that their workers were reassured that the rich men were indeed worthy of admiration and devotion and very nice people indeed – planting trees and starting food banks and really kind things like that.

And all the while, they kept reminding the politicians that, although there were lots and lots of poor people, they were just that…poor, so duh! Pay attention to the money if you want to get on! And, if you know what’s good for you, make it hard for them to vote so you don’t have to do what they want! In fact, it might be better for everyone if there was a return to the days when only those with property and wealth could vote and that certainly would not include women or young people (except for the rich men’s sons and daughters, of course). After all, the rich were the ones who were responsible for the success of the country and who gave away some of their money out of the goodness of their hearts. It stood to reason that they should make all the decisions about who ran the much-shrunken administration function, which, unfortunately, every country seemed to need to have.

And the rich men told their newspapers and TV shows and social media and educators to keep telling everyone that people who cared about other people were socialists, like the Nazis, or even Commies, though Putin was not so bad because he understood about power and how to make people rich and let them keep their money while they behaved and, after all, they all admired other strong men who reminded them of themselves.

And then one day they realised that the planet they lived on really was getting wrecked and lots and lots of poor people were getting quite angry; desperate even. Some of the rich men thought of leaving for other planets but that wasn’t really going to work, so they decided to make as much money as they could and buy up as many governments as they could. The plan was that these governments could start bringing in laws which would prevent the wrong people from voting and would control the masses for the day when the politicians and the rich men would have to let a lot of these wrong people die or even cull them, because otherwise they might want either the rich people’s stuff or revenge. And though the rich people had guns and some even had private armies, they thought it might get a bit hairy for them, so better to be safe than sorry.

‘You have to look out for number one!’ they said to themselves, as they surveyed their bunkers with their special water and air filtration systems, and their larders and their armouries, and the piled up gold. ‘No one else will!’

Originally tweeted by West Country Voices (@WCountryVoices) on 03/02/2023.

For a grown-up version read ‘Dark Money‘ by Jane Mayer, ‘99%: Mass Impoverishment and How We Can End It‘ by Mark E Thomas and any number of other books trying to get the truth out there.