My Bailout

Personal, Politics

The other day I received this email:

HM Serial Number: 768369
BATCH No: HM/03/2011/UK
Amount Awarded: Ј550,000.00 GBP

Attn Beneficiary:
We are pleased to announce to you that your Email Was selected at random as one of the individuals to be compensated with the sum of Ј550,000.00 GBP by the Royal House of Treasury (H.M TREASURY).Do Contact the Below Details via his personal email for immediate Claim:
Name: George Osborne MP (Chancellor)

You are advised to provide Chancellor George Osborne with the following accurate information of yours,
Have a nice day and Hope you use this Money profitably.

Signed,John Thompson,
Finance Director,HM Treasury

So I wrote back:

Dear George Osborne,

Thank you very much for your email and offer of compensation. The money is much appreciated and certainly means a lot in these troubled times. I just wanted to ask a few questions before we proceed.

For what am I being compensated? Is this recompense for the difficulties of living under this Tory government? My initial assumption was that you have chosen to reassign all the money saved through benefit cuts by random lottery — certainly, that’s an economic strategy exactly as rational as using spending cuts to rescue a failing system. But then I realised that you were “compensating” me, and I wondered for what. Is it for the impossibility of finding a steady job that uses my two degrees? Is it for the difficulty in paying back mounting graduate debt for a new generation over mortgaged students? Is it to make up for how hard it would be to get disability benefit even if I lost all my limbs in a freak photocopier accident, because ATOS would determine that I could still operate an assembly line with my teeth?

Or maybe I’m thinking along the wrong lines here. Are you, in fact, bailing me out? It’s true I’ve made an awful hash of my life. Living in a capitalist society means that I suffer regularly from crippling anxiety, mostly around my inability to perceive myself as a success. Are you giving me a cash injection so that I can feel like a success, George? I too, once, thought that I was too big to fail. I too have collapsed my emotional assets through sub-prime lending to ungrateful borrowers. I too have tried to make things better by giving myself absurd bonuses. I could certainly do with a bail-out, so if that’s what you’re giving me, I’m grateful.

But then, maybe I don’t deserve one. I’m afraid, George, that I am a dissident. I have gone on protests. I have been arrested, and intend to continue commiting acts of civil disobedience to bring down the government. It’s true! But it’s also true that my activism is partly motivated by my desperation, my anxiety, my inability to see life as rich people see it. So perhaps your money can help. Is that what it’s all about, George? Is that what you’re trying to do? George, are you trying to buy my silence?

If so, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. £550k just isn’t enough. A cool million should do it.

I look forward to your reply, with the information I requested. I will be happy to send you my bank details and passwords within 24 hours of hearing from you. I’m more than keen to entrust my finances to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. You’ve done such a good job so far!


Harry Giles

I await his reply.


Personal, Rambles

So I’m lounging by a pool in Abu Dhabi, here to train street performers for an international Science Festival that isn’t allowed to talk about evolution. I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” and there’s Western pop music pumping from a plastic rock behind my wicker lounger. The poolside bar sells mojitos. There’s a woman in a full black burkha, carrying an expensive Italian handbag, filming everything with an expensive Japanese camera. “National Express” by The Divine Comedy comes on,  followed by The Police’s “Roxanne”. The poolside staff, as with all the low-waged staff in this city, are all southeast Asian, but have nametags reading “Allan” and “Matthew”. Last night was English night at the restaurant buffet, and they would freshly fry fish and chips for you. The hotel is half-empty. It’s November and it’s 30 degrees. My bedroom window looks out onto a mosque lit in green neon, a ten-stack oil refinery, a motorway, sprinkler-fed grass lawns and several building sites. The team I’m training are from Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Sudan. Paul McCartney and Britney Spears are coming here this week; my team will be performing carbon dioxide experiments by the stage where Fatboy Slim is playing. Large military transports have been taking off all day, and we’re not sure why. I didn’t read the news today.