Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zen and the Art of

A little late in life, I survived my first shaving encounter with a straight razor with both ears still intact and only a small scratch on my cheek. It's easy to understand now why the Victorians boasted such magnificent beards and mustaches, given the potential life and death nature of the daily shave.

In fact, shaving the traditional way, with a straight-razor, badger-hair brush, bowl and soap, like our grandparents did, is ecologically sound, and has the feeling of a long-lost and meditative, Zen-like ritual, I'm familiar with from the martial arts. But you can't do it quickly and most certainly have to run the blade across your face very carefully indeed.

Should you feel tempted to try it, here's a quick guide but I also recommend the excellent Braun electric shaver, my daughter bought me for Christmas, which does the same job in seconds, rather than fifteen minutes but without the excitement of a  near death experience.

Changing the subject completely, I see that one of more alarmist, irregular and less incisive weblogs is asking whether the 13,000 on benefits, here in Thanet, will soon have to choose between crime or starvation? Dismissing this statement out of hand for the rubbish it is, reminds me of the regular diatribe from Labour's Cllr Michelle Fenner, in the politically heated atmosphere of our local Council chamber.

Yes, times are hard and possibly the hardest in living memory and all across the Western-world, living standards are falling and jobs are under threat.

Just to remind ourselves of the underlying facts though, it's not just the fault of wealthy bankers, privately-educated 'Toffs' or indeed, 'The rich,' whoever they may be. In 2010 the American Government spent $1,900 billion more than it collected in tax and last year borrowed $100 billion each month to pay the bills, hence the real worry this week over the United States falling-off its 'Fiscal cliff' and taking us with it.

Thanks in the greater part to Gordon Brown and our last Labour Government, Britain's total public and private debts are proportionately larger than the USA, at more than five times our entire annual economic output. In Spain, France and Italy, this total debt is between three and four times annual output. Not as bad as Greece though, whose debt it 132% of its output.

Fortune Teller
As Douglas Carswell points out in his book, 'The End of Politics,' many of those countries that spent the last century pursuing a free market approach, now have bigger state sectors than those that followed the magnificently bearded Karl Marx; whose all-consuming concern for the welfare of the proletariat left him no time to shave.

Russia's state sector is smaller than our own and the more we spend on government, the more we get and just the cost of complying with European red-tape and regulation, now costs us £20 billion each year, 2% of our GDP. This places the £70 billion or so of bank rescues, most of which the Government will get back with interest, into perspective.

Despite the valiant efforts of the deficit deniers, like so many of my Labour diversity-obsessed colleagues on Thanet Council, we have reached a point in our history where our national debt and an addiction to cheap credit, built-up over the last twenty years, not only becomes unmanageable but saps our prospects for future growth.

In 1990 the western nations accounted for over 80% of global GDP. Today, it's 60% and falling fast; predicted to be less than 50% in five to seven years. On the other hand, since 2004, the Chinese economy's output increased by 126%, India by 90% and Brazil by 37%, while here, the only real growth of consequence, was in debt and taxation.

Thanks to our welfare state, nobody should starve to death, be denied free and prompt medical care or indeed, be forced into a life of crime. However, if collectively, we don't wake-up to what is taking place around us in the world, think less about entitlement and more about being competitive as a nation, then we will most assuredly go the way of other European economies that have discovered that the free lunch they once lived-on, is being eaten by younger and more energetic nations.

Reducing the huge debt that could sink us and drawing-back the unwieldy, bloated apparatus of expensive and inefficient government in Westminster and Brussels, isn't going to be easy for any political party of the left or right but it has to be done, as the alternative to decisive action, is really to frightening to contemplate.


Anonymous said...

Has anyone else had the same experiences as "Jason Johnson" and "Linda Smith"? I certainly haven't, and on the whole have found the staff at Margate Jobcentre helpful and friendly.

Richard said...

The history seems to show that decline creates more posts for managers and more government.

NHS bureaucracy and pay soared under Thatcher.

Blair and Brown were a disaster. But UK problems go back further.

Weren't compulsory apprenticeships ended in 1819 ? A few decades later came the introduction of mandatory state education. 1829 saw the creation of the unlawful state policing experiment that is still with us.

In the late 19th century, whilst British kids learnt to sing, say prayers and know their place, Germany was grabbing the lions share of Science awards and overtaking us in share of world manufacture. By the 1890s they had overtaken us in coal and steel production and technology.

A book worth a read is the radar war story by Jack Nissen(thal). He was a pupil in the 30s on an ILEA project (later ended due to funding shortage) such that by age 15 he was working weekends in Suffolk with Watson Watt.

Jack became the RAF Flight Sgt on the ill fated Dieppe mission where he stole German radar secrets which led to our successful D Day radar deceptions.

The same lesson is in the books of Prof R V Jones. Churchill's head of scientific intelligence. He opposed the effete and irrelevant nature of the postwar education system. But was not heeded.

The Russians were mocking Airey Neave in the 50s that UK had put the nails to its own coffin by training too few engineers.

The Russians were right.

Michael Child said...

Not so sure of the eco friendliness of using loads of hot water, I would say if you intend to persevere with this and that is you full kit, it would be worth getting a barbers leather and canvas hanging strop, preferably one that has been broken in.

When you hone the razor it is best to put electrical insulation tape around the blunt side of the blade, as this is used as the angle guide i.e both this and the cutting edge go flat on the stone and if you don’t use the tape you will grind as much of the guide away as the edge. So fairly soon the razor will be no good.

One of my children is persevering with a mechanical typewriter and seems pleased with the new ribbon for it that she got for Christmas, I guess it will be a quill and soot next.

I am an old hand at this from boarding school where razor blades had to be bought out of very limited pocket money.

Simon Moores said...

Hot water "yes" but disposable blades in landfill and lots of plastic "no"

Anyway.. it fills those dark winter evenings!

Anonymous said...

I see that Matt the Pratt has responded via his blog (no offer's of factual evidence though!).

Simon Moores said...

It's worth reading for the amusement factor if nothing more.. "The dance of vroomfedel" I ask you!

Simon Moores said...

According to Lord Matt:

"For those of you who have slept through the last 42 years here is what you missed: Not a lot aside that is from the works of Douglas Adams in whose epic fiction Vroomfondel and Majikthise reprisenting philosiphers everywhere try to stop the computer Deep Thought from giving the answer to the ultimate question to life the universe and everything."

That's me put in my place then!

Anonymous said...

"reprisenting philosiphers"?

How old is he, 7?