Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Douchebags International, British Division

There was a one-day general strike in the UK today. It only concerned public sector workers - teachers, nurses, firefighters, ambulance crew, some police, civil servants. Schools were closed, hospitals couldn't admit or do routine surgical procedures. People travelling to the UK from abroad found delays because customs and border control were understaffed.

The public sector unions are striking because their pensions are being altered, and the retirement age will be raised to 67 in the next fifteen years. In the UK, public sector people are poorly paid. I know. I married a civil servant. Mostly, however, these people are given very generous retirement pensions in lieu of having been paid well below the national norm throughout their working lives. That's why people stay on in the public sector - for the pension.

This morning, local BBC radio interviewed a woman called Ann Widdicombe. Most Americans wouldn't have heard of her. She's a recently retired Member of Parliament, a Miss Marple spinster type who speaks with a cutglass accent. Needless to say, she is a Conservative. She branded the strikers lazy, greedy and weak. Considering the fact that Widdicombe comes from wealth, enjoyed a healthy salary and now a good pension from her service as an MP, retains the MP's private healthcare program, has had two bodice-rippingly bad novels published on name recognition alone and commands five-figure speaking and appearance fees, that's a pretty rich accusation to level (pun intended).

Today, over 2,000,000 union members either walked out or quietly and non-violently picketed. They'll be back at their posts tomorrow, minus a day's pay, but there was a point and a purpose to their protest.

Now, witness one Jeremy Clarkson, pictured below in the clip from an afternoon talk show broadcast on the BBC. Keep in mind that the BBC is state television and radio, funded by a licence fee, which everyone in the UK has to pay, if you have a television. The fee is roughly about the equivalent of 300 dollars per annum. If you're a pensioner or if you're blind, you are exempt. The UK has special "licence-detector" vans which patrol neighbourhoods and who can detect which households don't have television licences. If you're caught, you can either get fined the equivalent of $1600 or you can go to jail.

This is correct: In the UK, you have to have a licence to own a television. You pay $300 a year for that licence, and all of the proceeds, all of the proceeds, go to the BBC. Think of that - a network funded by 60,000,000 households at a rate of 300 bucks a household. You can imagine the BBC's budget, and you can imagine what it pays its biggest stars.

Clarkson is one of those biggest stars. He hosts the weekly boys' toys show about fast cars and assholes (like him) called Top Gear. On the talk show today, however, he and his hosts were talking about the general strike and the strikers in general. Have a listen. You'll be enlightened.

Presented as satire, this is, however, exactly how Clarkson feels about the people striking. That they should be summarily executed in front of their families. Oh, I know that was bluff and bluster and hyperbole, but make no mistake - Clarkson cannot abide the little people who take it upon themselves to protest what they consider to be one of the inherent rights which went along with the profession they had chosen.

According to Clarkson, these people - the people who don't teach his children (because his kids go to private schools), the nurses who don't stitch up Clarkson's cut pinkie (because he has the BBC's private healthcare cover and wouldn't, literally, be caught dean in a National Health hospital with the plebs) and all the rest of the factota of general society, employed on the public tick - should just shut the fuck up and stop whining. They get a bloody good pension for doing nothing (in his opinion). Some people, he sniffs, such as himself, actually do a day's work.

We should all be so happy in our work as Jeremy Clarkson, who bears the burden of a seven-figure salary and who gets sent, first class and with an expense account, all over the world, testing the latest in luxury high-speed vehicles. It must be so hard.

But then, Jeremy Clarkson should remember that those poor work-shirking bastards who went on strike today all have to pay a licence fee, monies from which help to pay Jeremy Clarkson's hefty salary.

It might humble him to consider that if any of that striking hoi-polloi don't pay their licence fee, they could very possibly be imprisoned.

It should humble him, but it won't. And he should also remember that he's speaking as an employee of the BBC on a BBC program.

Now, spot this douchebag.

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