The price you pay

Once upon a time, in a land long ago, I was at a rodeo.

No, seriously.

Snarkness on the edge of town.
Snarkness on the edge of town.

It was in a place called Greencastle, In.,  and the only way you’ll ever have heard of it is if you work for IBM, know where one of two V1 rockets in the USA are (apart from Werner von Braun’s den, obviously), or you’re an alumni of De Pauw university. Or you know something about Dillinger or the way any old bank robbery in the 1930s got attributed to the famous robbers if the actual robbers didn’t get caught and escaped in a car. Or maybe, like me, you were chasing a red-haired cheerleader called Nancy-Jean and driving a ludicrously big old car that probably extinguished three species on its own.

Anyway, it was a Saturday, Nancy-Jean was out of town, I was staying at her folks’ place in her room with the rainbow painted on the wall (as Werner used to say, ach, it vas all so long
ago…), I’d done a week’s worth of pretending to be in a Springsteen song working in a sawmill the other side of the tracks and apart from golf, which I don’t do because I don’t, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. As we used to say.

I sat there on the bleachers (oh because that’s what they’re CALLED, ok?) and had myself a darned fine time. The steer wrestling was good. They got a steer and let it loose and anyone who thought they were hard enough grabbed it by the horns and wrestled it to the ground. Then they let it go. They didn’t have a whip or a gun or a stick, just their hands. It looked pretty equal to me.

Look, I know, ok? I’m not like that now. It was the past, it was definitely another country and they did things very differently there. But actually not so much, speaking as someone who had to get a lorry load of bullocks out of a pen and into a truck one dawn at Bridgewater Market. I was fourteen. I learned that bullocks are more scared of you than you are of them but it’s close. That if you twist the ring in their nose they’ll go anywhere you want. And that if you don’t you might end up sneezing your lungs out of your nose after they’ve slammed you into a metal fence and trodden on you.

I still wasn’t gonna go an wrassle a bull and that ain’t no lie.

I just watched and listened. A guy who was about my age now, wearing a cowboy hat, was talking a few feet away. I liked him. He was one of those people who could turn pretty much anything he said into a story and a good-natured one at that.

Even when what he was saying was serious. And sad. He told a woman a few seats away and pretty much anyone else who wanted to hear about his daughter. She’d bought herself one of those fancy Japanese cars, a Honda or a Toyota or something. And in the real world of Indiana back then, you didn’t do that. So he stopped talking to her. It had been months.

He said it was for a reason. Sure, it was a good car. Maybe better than a comparable American car. In fact no, definitely. She was smart. And it was cheaper. But if everybody did that there wouldn’t be no car industry. And that meant Americans, real ones he knew, up in Flint and Gary not even a hundred miles away, wouldn’t have jobs.

I don’t have much sympathy for the people who voted for Trump for a lot of reasons, but this one is up at the front. Actions have consequences. The first time I went to the US all the clothes in shops were from the USA. The second time, 12 years later, I couldn’t find any that were and they were less than half the price. If you buy cheap import stuff I don’t think you have the option of complaining about the lack of jobs at home.

And before anyone writes that off as elitist, that people on low incomes don’t have those choices, they do. They chose to buy a phone made in China and a network data plan instead of a $40 shirt from the USA. But they still need a shirt so they get a $15 one made in Guatamala instead. Funny how that factory closed and there ain’t no jobs here no more. Dang Democrats and their elitist globalisation. Trump all the way.

Tom Petty had to live with some hard promises. Springsteen told us we could count so many foreign ways to the price we paid. And now I’m as old as the guy in the cowboy hat back at the rodeo, I know they were both right. And Trump and his supporters are wrong and always wrong. Because there aren’t easy answers. What you do comes back to you.

Life, as Dr Hook put it, ain’t easy and nothing ain’t free. And cheap stuff isn’t. Sometimes you have to do without the things you want because of what will happen if you get them. Don’t want globalisation? Then don’t buy its products. People like Trump always promise it’s about personal responsibility; Thatcher did it too. But their biggest message was always the opposite: the bad stuff, that’s  always someone else’s fault.

I ate a hot dog, watched the men wrassling steers and drove my big old Chevrolet back to Nancy-Jean’s house, up on the hill by the golf course, the good side of the tracks. A week later I drove down to Bloomington to see her, then drove out west on I-70 into my life, leaving her to hers.


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The liberal consensus

I don’t know what the Liberal Party is about. I avoided running over Paddy Ashdown this week who seemed pleasantly surprised that a bicycle was stopping to let him cross on a crossing, and he seemed a straightforward-enough sort of person. Given the deranged style of riding of most cyclists I’ve encountered this week I’m not hugely surprised, the same way I’m not now when I hear about cyclists in London being killed, but that’s another story. Keep going through red lights, treat one-way streets as advisory, overtake up the inside and generally act like an arse might work in a car but sooner or later when you haven’t got a tonne of steel around you, you’re going to say ‘ouch’ just once. And not for very long before your brain gets squashed between your teeth.

Be that as it may, the liberal consensus was what people used to call pretty much anything they sort-of liked a bit. The liberal consensus is that not stealing stuff is a good thing. Not killing people. Not beating someone around the head because they contradicted you. Not going to work, not being paid for it and being sold to someone else without any say in where you live, what you’re paid or who you’re going to work for. The liberal consensus then was that the Human Rights Act, the thing the Tory government want banned in the UK, was alright. Obviously, it’s got to go. The campaign against it in The Sun will start within days.

A Good Thing.

human rights


These are the fundamentals of this evil, dangerous, subversive and ought-to-be-illegal thing. Let’s have a good look at how wicked it is. Starting at the start, obviously nobody should be allowed to live without the government’s say-so. That’s what a right to life means. Without the express approval of the government, you don’t have a right to be born or to carry on living without their approval.

As for torture, ha ha ha!!! Of course you shouldn’t have a right not to be tortured whenever the government feels like it! I mean, look at all those people in Guantanamo who were kidnapped, taken half-way around the world, tortured and gave us all that Grade A intel. Oh. Well ok, bad example, because they didn’t have any secrets to tell anyone and if someone says they’re going to kill you unless you start talking then you just start making stuff up. You see? The government said they were all liars anyway! OK, so over 90% of them hadn’t done anything against the law anywhere. But bad example or not, you obviously don’t have a right to walk down the street looking the way you do without the right to have a bag stuffed over your head, get bundled into a van and held down while someone pours water up your nose. Who the hell do you think you are?

Poundland is going to have to start paying people if you have a right to be free from forced labour, so that’s out of the window. You don’t need a right to liberty, because the government obviously wouldn’t lock you up without a good reason or at least one that suited them. Just the same way that the police wouldn’t have arrested you if you hadn’t done it, would they? Stands to reason, do you see? They’re very busy you know. They haven’t got time to make things up.

It's only funny on TV.
It’s only funny on TV.

As for Article seven, the right not to be punished for something which wasn’t against the law, that kind of hippy nonsense would stop decent, hardworking people like Ian Duncan Smith from retrospectively changing legislation.

You do not need a right to the government not being able to root through your Facebook account or your mobile phone records or your bank statements whenever they feel like seeing if you really do know that person or not and how often. Whoever they are, with or without the egg whisk.

You certainly do not need to able to think whatever you like, or decide whatever you think is best. There’s no limit to some people’s effrontery, is there? All this “I can think as I please” nonsense. You’ll think as you’re damned well told, and like it. That’s what the British media is for now.

I remember all that silly nonsense we used to have where people used to talk the most absurd nonsense. Some of them even had different opinions to the ones the government gave them. ISIS is good. David Cameron wants us to fight with them against the government of Syria. ISIS is bad. David Cameron has sent the RAF to blow up one of their jeeps. Which seems quite an expensive way of getting rid of a Toyota LandCruiser, but you have no right to that opinion, there are no contradictions here, Eastasia has always been at war with Eurasia and apart from Who’s That Girl nobody can remember anything they did anyway.

The right to freedom of assembly. No. Sorry. You may well have booked the Village Hall and paid the deposit, but you’re not coming in here talking about whatever you want without it being checked first. A what? An evening of people training their dogs? To do what exactly? No. They could be terrorists. The US Navy trained dolphins to carry bombs you know. I can see the connection even if you pretend you can’t. No, no and no.

Nobody needs the right to marry whoever they chose. If your uncle can’t find a decent person for you to marry then I’m sure the government can do it. Someone blond and Aryan and quiet, maybe.

The right not to be discriminated against? Don’t be disgusting. I’m trying to explain this sensibly, but if you’re just going to take this tone then I won’t bother. In a minute you’re going to say that people have a right for the government not to come along and take their things any time it suits them, aren’t you? Well?

You see, if you’d paid for an education to a school outside the evil clutches of the NUT then you might have a right to be educated. As it is, I’m sorry, but I can’t see any reason to believe that you’re entitled to send young, impressionable children, children for heaven’s sake, to be indoctrinated with the beleif that it’s perfectly normal for adults to wear beards and glasses, have leather patches on their sports jackets and say things like “Yes, there was homework – quiet!” or “it’s your own time you’re wasting.” You have no right to this at all.

I like a laugh as much as the next person and it always makes me chuckle when people talk about a right to a free election. It’s not as if ballot papers ever go missing, or the printing somehow forgets some of the main parties or the barcode isn’t on the back of the ballot papers so they’re invalid. Then that wretched Naomi Wolf woman starts banging on and what the Daily Mail is even thinking of repeating this nonsense I don’t know. If you do still have free elections it’s no thanks to Rupert Murdoch, who can tell you who to vote for if you still need to be told. Perhaps we’d better check your phone calls to find out.

As for the abolition of the death penalty, everyone knows they jolly well don’t do it again! Including the people who didn’t do anything in the first place.

Look. I’m trying to be reasonable about this. If you pay for a decent lawyer like a normal person none of this is going to be a problem for you, is it? Until then you can just shut up and do as you’re told. It’s not as if the government would ask you to do anything that wasn’t the right thing, is it?


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