The sweet assassin

16/12/2014 § Leave a comment

Hello Mr Andrews, this is Amanda from the [ABC] Building Society.” The voice on the phone is charming. “This is just a courtesy call to see if you got our recent mailing.” “Yes thank you” I respond politely. “Do let me know if you’d be interested in increasing your borrowing with us.” the voice continues. “ If so, I can pass you through to our mortgage adviser.” “If I do want to borrow money, you will be my first port of call.” I assure her. The voice takes this as a no, and politely terminates the call.

Do we really need more growth? It is more than 40 years ago since the Club of Rome produced “Limits to Growth”, forecasting that if we carried on as we were, promoting economic growth as a primary aim, global collapse would inevitably come at some stage. Recent research  shows that many of the forecasts made in the original report, about population, pollution levels, resource constraints and so on, are looking rather accurate.

And yet as a society we continue to repeat the mantra that what we need to fix the problems caused by excessive growth (social fragmentation, ecological devastation, spiritual unease) is more growth. With the honourable Jinx-bond-girl-Halle-Berryexception of the Greens, all political parties across the spectrum continue to push this (“growth is our priority” said Ed Miliband in his first speech as Labour Party leader).

And how does this push for growth manifest itself? Very often in unexpected forms. It is the alluring packaging of the fair trade chocolate bars. It is the earnest and caring mothers on the PTA stall at school, asking if you will donate some sweets or toys so that they can sell them back to your children and pay for more computers at school. It is those clever people at Amazon saving you the huge hassle of having to click more than once when you want to spend some money online. It is the charming Amanda, or Dawn, or David, calling you to make it as easy as possible for you to increase your overdraft. You won’t feel a thing, honest! Just sign here.

I like it when, in those secret agent movies, the deadly spy is someone unexpected. The Bond movies have worked this one to death – there is always some beautiful woman who turns out to be a martial arts expert and can kill you with a single blow to the neck. There must be a bittersweet quality to being killed by an assassin you are attracted to. This is what we are being killed by, slowly but surely. Sweetness.

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