What is an environmental question? Shall I tell you what I think? A good one might be, why it is that a bee somehow looks like you’d like to stroke its back? Whereas a wasp, for instance, has a hateful quality apparent in its bifurcated, tapering abdomen. A bee has a solid waist, it looks like a corpulent, middle-aged geezer who has found what he is looking for and is happy to share it with you over a glass of beer. Or a portly woman doing a bit of gardening, possibly with a few buns on the go in the oven. Sometimes when one opens the newspaper to find that carbon dioxide emissions are up 8%, or some similar news story, it feels very disheartening – and does not inspire one very much.

Anyone following the political debate in the United Kingdom will have realised that yesterday London was filled with demonstrators protesting against the British Government’s public spending cuts. Predictably enough, within a few hours, gangs of hooded and very confused young men wearing black were attacking the symbols of their oppression: the Ritz Hotel, assorted bank offices and Fortnum & Masons (purveyors of fine teas, veal pies and ginger shortbread biscuits). I had to admire their persistence in managing to pulverise large plate glass windows with nothing more than well-aimed kicks and the odd claw-hammer.

While this was happening, the head of the Labour party, a certain mild-mannered and very well educated fellow named Ed Miliband, was standing on a Trade Union Congress rostrum invoking the fight of suffragettes (campaigning for women’s voting right) and the civil rights movement in the United States. The connection between such well-known human rights movements and a demonstration against government policy remained unclear to me, until I reflected on the fact that Miliband is a standard politician accustomed to intellectually patronising his voters, few of whom could possibly have his level of education. But judging by his performance, they may well be better off without it. I can almost see Mr. Miliband sitting in his swivel-chair with a frown on his polished face, telling his scriptwriters to “keep it real, keep it visceral, make it understandable…” Maybe those struggling scriptwriters should have invoked Churchill, the Blitz, the march on Rommel? That would certainly have stirred the buds of British patriotism. One commentator who did fall back on the workhorse of World War Two rhetoric was Liam Halligan – chief economist at Prosperity Capital Management – in an article in Britain’s mainstream broadsheet The Daily Telegraph. Halligan clarified the fact that while George Osborne, Britain’s amazingly schoolboyish Chancellor of the Exchequer, was aiming to balance the budget by 2015, this would only be the “end of the beginning” of the fiscal battle. For if Osborne’s plans go smoothly, that will be the year when his Government stop borrowing money every month in order to balance incoming and outgoing revenues. If the current rounds of savage cuts are applied and maintained for another four years, the country will then find itself in the lovely position of not having to borrow money every month to pay for its functionaries, hospitals and schools. Interest payments on its borrowing are swallowing 6% of tax receipts, and this will rise. Almost a trillion pounds of debt remain to be repaid once the day-to-day financial disorder has been settled.

How amazing it is to realise the scale of the problem not only in the United Kingdom, but also America and throughout Europe and the world. Whenever I sit at the breakfast table opening my bills and frowning at my incompetently managed affairs, I remind myself that I am an indebted individual living in an indebted world. My incompetence is a necessary product, even a requirement, in the world we live in, where people are obliged to buy useless things with the help of credit cards, overdrafts and payment plans.

Ever since the West began its assault on Islamic fundamentalism and our media spouted highly debatable conclusions about Islamic extremists I have been asking myself whether, in fact, the extremists are not the very people who claim to be our leaders? Churchill (let’s not forget him) once said “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”. Here I think we are getting closer to the point. For in spite of the crowing of Capitalists about the superiority of their system over Marxism, increasing numbers of people are now suggesting that Capitalism has also failed and is only being propped up by banks (themselves propped up by Capitalists). Is it not, in fact, economists who are fundamentalists? – persisting with their flawed ideology even when the evidence is more than enough to put them in the dock. If so, then I think we can safely assert that economics, as a science, has failed.

I repeat, I am no economist, but it seems to me that given that we invented money and the whole system of economics, could we not now simply de-invent it? We are free, after all. Surely money is nothing but an idea, an outmoded idea? Why not simply abolish it altogether and cancel the debts? Milton Friedman (a Nobel Prize winner in the field of Economic “science”) may have established in the 1980s that too much money eroded wealth (an unlikely proposition, right?) but now it seems incontrovertible that “wealth” also takes a bit of a knock when it is nothing but a polite word for borrowed money.

The Royal Mint in the United Kingdom was established towards the end of the 1700s, headed by the stringent figure of Sir Isaac Newton, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist if there ever was one (though he was unlucky enough to be born before Alfred Nobel). Before the existence of the Mint, people used to make their own money out of bits of scrap metal (silver, gold, tin, etc) and the system seemed to work reasonably well. Once the Mint came along, the Government made sure that anyone counterfeiting their production of coinage was swiftly strung up from the nearest tree. The Royal Mint has had 200 years to prove itself, and surely that is long enough?

If it were not for China desecrating its environment and its people’s health in a race for economic development, if we did not have the expansive Indian, Brazilian and Asian systems similarly “developing”, the West’s decline would be even steeper.

Let’s say this very clearly: we are bankrupt. We cannot pay back the debts, because debt-repayment is itself dependent on running up more debts. The consumption model is thoroughly discredited. Banks make profits out of corporate and personal debt. And profits in manufacturing are generated by people running up personal debts to pay for their new acquisitions – this toxic mechanism applies to almost everything.

If, for instance, I went out this morning to set fire to a car, the Gross National Product of my country would increase. Why? Because the subsequent insurance payment would finance the purchase of a new car. Every time an airliner crashes and passengers are killed, we have positive financial results: a new plane is ordered, while the grieving next-of-kin go out and buy new houses and cars with the damages they are paid.

The problem of credit and debt has been debated for a thousand years or more. Economists should be made to read Rabelais, who once (sarcastically) said that debt, rather than the human spirit, was the true measure of man. Saul Bellow, in “Herzog”, once wrote: “Dear Mr. President, Internal Revenue regulations will turn us into a nation of book-keepers. The life of every citizen is becoming a business. This, it seems to me, is one of the worst interpretations of the meaning of human life history has ever seen. Man’s life is not a business.”

I believe the time is now ripe for universities all over the world to heed Mao Tse Tung and send their Economics undergraduates back to the countryside to learn the intricacies of chicken rearing and potato cultivation. Maybe in the bosom of Mother Nature they can learn something about the real creation of wealth and prosperity?



Standing before me
is the naked beauty of possibility—
perfect eyes, perfect lips
perfect hot-and-fresh-off-the-griddle everything.
And I can’t even get up outta trouble’s gutter
to reach her.

’Cause all the wars raging through the world
all the famine, poverty, greed,
earthquakes, hurricanes, oil spills, and disease
got my soul stuck down here
in the gutter’s metaphysical infirmary
right alongside Mother Nature and all her woes,

and history with its terminal amnesia,
so bloated with regret and forgetfulness
it can’t even touch its toes.

And maybe that’s not the Grim Reaper
I’m glimpsing outta the corner of my eye.
Maybe it’s just me
slowly dying of loneliness.

Either way, I can’t find my way up
outta trouble’s gutter.

Yeah, there’s a S.W.A.T. team of linguists
shoving submachine guns and assault rifles
in my face, threatening to blow me away
if I refuse to physically conjugate
the verb,

“rise.”

Still I can’t get my ass up
outta trouble’s gutter.

Down here in trouble’s gutter
I can’t even get a conversation, let alone an amen
from God. Not by prayer, divine intervention,
cell phone, or Internet.

And oh so slinky, double-jointed
and full-breasted infinity
where are you now, when I need you
the most?

You, the one
once so versed in practicing
mirror-worthy aphrodisiacrobatics
before my eyes.

All the times
I risked my life
to prove my love for you
by writing heartfelt haikus
on the heads of speeding bullets.

But with you gone now
every day is just one more day of missing you.
And that’s a gravity that weighs me down.
That’s a gravity
Newton never took into consideration
when talking about how all things eventually fall,
like I’m falling now.

Falling hard.
Right on down into trouble’s gutter.

There was once a day
when I escaped the shadow of the Damned,
the shadow of Zero.
I’ve even mowed Satan’s lawn
without breaking a sweat.

But right now
I can’t find my way
outta trouble’s gutter.

Yet one of these days I’ll rise,
move like the finest of drugs
through the veins of night.
Until then, I’m just lying here in this gutter,
staring up at that night sky,
and it’s looking down at me
like I’m some wounded animal by the side of the road,
believing it’s offering me relief
when it shows up with a gun.

And oh, Saint Elation
I remember those days
when you’d jackhammer my brain to dust
and my heart would still pump
a boogaloo beat for you.

Steal my eyes
and I’d still see you as my one and only.
Rip off my ears
and I’d still hear the music in your every step.
Cut off my arms
and I’d still hold you with all my attention.
If I had no mouth
I’d still speak your name
through telepathy, semaphore, or Scrabble pieces.
Cut off my legs and
I’d still make my way to you by train,
dumb waiter, or levitation.

Yeah, somewhere there’s a gravestone
with my name on it.
Somewhere there’s a cloud
with my face on it.

Somewhere in my gut
there’s this radio that won’t stop playing.

It keeps saying:

“What’re you waiting for?
Get your ass up outta the gutter.
Move through life. And when you do,
do more than just imagine the lives of others.
Breathe their breath, beat their hearts.
Wear their faces.
Let your words be theirs, and their words yours.
And when you speak, speak loud and clear.

And when you speak,
speak only of strength, promise, and love.”