The PHoenix Coup: Part Two

Maisie a journalist living near London but originally from the US has already begun to investigate an astonishing announcement and payments unexpectedly being made into people’s bank accounts. It’s part of a universal basic income for everybody in the UK and increasingly it seems, for people around the world.

 Part Two : Groundhog Day

As I thought, Simon would have quite a different perspective:

“I can’t quite understand. How can it be organised without Government. I can’t see how this coordination on  a global scale works.   It’s bound to unravel as quickly as it appeared. It’s an interesting idea; I can seriously see the benefits but it’s just not going to happen. It’ll be a ‘flash in the pan’.”

We met as students at a university in northern England or the north of in what, the dark and distant past, was jokingly called the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire. Mine was a very general degree. A bit of this, a bit of that. It was called social studies and included a mix of sociology, politics, social policy, even a dip in the waters of social psychology. It was a lot about people and understanding them. It suited me down to the ground. I went on to do a postgraduate degree in journalism after a few years on the journalistic coalface, on a local paper, the Star and Morning Telegraph, still in the steel city of Sheffield.

I was originally from the US and moved to London as a child  as my father had work there and we never left. We lived and around London and holidayed in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. I wasn’t to discover the north of England, quite a different place, until I went to University. I think my view of the world from both a US and UK perspective was invaluable in helping me see how the power games of dominant societies and the increasing power of the corporates played out across the world.

Simon, my husband, who I met in Sheffield, was studying law. A world apart from my easy going mish mash of a course. He had to show real commitment. He knew where the library was. But rather like the student doctors (did they ever grow out of it?) both worked and played hard. He often has a different take on things to me. Now he is a banker.

We married after my masters degree in our late twenties and had our kids by the early 30s. I’d managed to squeeze in some reporting for newspapers and a little TV in crises around the world: Eastern Europe, Africa, South America and Asia but having the kids meant a refocus on more investigative journalism than on the spot reporting. A recent project was finding out about how international corporations and the very rich avoided taxation. Often I’ll work at home on the computer but the kids and Simon, and Simon’s mother are incredibly helpful and supportive, enabling me to shoot off, following a lead, sometimes at a moment’s notice. 

Admittedly I fly too much. Our footprint of consumption is too great for the world to cope.

If I’m truthful. It’s not nearly enough. Maybe, trying our hardest isn’t good enough.

It’s now day two.

I checked with Simon, who was back at work at the bank. Yes the payments had been coming in to everyone and the source was really difficult to identify as it was from some crypto currency or at least a source that was untraceable. Was this real? legitimate money? Was it legal?

I spoke to friends, family, neighbours, here and back in the US.

Whoever was behind this had very sophisticated technical knowledge and systems. so obviously not the Government. I jest but it’s actually true. Neither the British Government, nor for that matter any government or european or global organisation had accepted responsibility. 

That made me wonder… if it wasn’t a government, who could it be? We know that many global corporations mine our data. It’s their business model and they use this knowledge to sell to others, to influence our actions. We’re bombarded daily with ads tailored to our interests, gleaned from our online activity. This also became even more sinister when it helped the campaigners win the Brexit vote and Donald Trump get elected twice.

I wonder if what we’re experiencing now is connected in some way.

First things first. The kids, their friends and I cycled to school and I was returning home.

“Good morning” shouted Jacqueline from down the road.

“How are you guys?” She’s a bundle of energy and one of our best neighbours.

“All good. How are you and John?” I sometimes feel that I’m a bit too distant but Jacqueline is bound to have an opinion on what happened. I ask, “Did you hear the announcement yesterday?” 

“I did. It’s about time that the government did something like this. There’s been too many cuts, services are nothing like they used to be and people hung out to dry. I do worry though, where will the money come from?”

That pretty much sums up what most of my neighbours would think but I think many others will feel something quite different. We’re on the edge of London but it is a rich mix of the original villagers, the poorer working classes that had been shifted out to council house estates through slum clearances and then the professional classes that commuted into work in the city. 

Back home I felt like pinching myself. I was beginning to imagine all sorts of things. It was too good to be true.

How was this possible? It went against everything we had experienced for years.

There was likely to be a lot of negative response. I checked some of the US channels. Fox came up trumps. As I expected, there was a news anchor with strong opinions. He was ranting about something for nothing and felt people need an incentive to find work and make a contribution. It’s working against our values of rewarding those who work hard. We rely on merit, on inventiveness, innovation. The push comes from needing to support your family. This will demotivate people, it’s a catastrophe…… blah blah blah.

Yes you heard that right. They are reporting that absolutely everyone is affected. From the European aristocracy, to the village dwellers in the remotest African savannah, up the Himalayas to the isolated communities, to the cut off tribes in almost deserted islands left behind by the modern age. One way or another, as of today, every man, woman and child would benefit from this change.

But that couldn’t be true. How had they managed to plan and implement this on such a scale, to reach out to every nook and cranny of our complex diverse world? and who are they?

You might think of reporters as cynical. I think you might be right. For my part, I prefer questioning. I’m not easily impressed. I’ve seen a lot and generally I’m angered by people’s attitudes to one another, which is often selfish, violent, aggressive, intolerant, prejudiced.

We seem to follow a predetermined path. To be superficially nice (sometimes) but ultimately fighting for me and mine. Be selfish. Focused on our needs. That might manifest itself in competition in the economy, arguments in the street, online trolling, or more extremely violence, aggression and war.

I’ve always felt that it needn’t be this way.

Was this generosity? Was this amazing action of a benefactor a new chapter in our history? A break away from the predetermined patterns of our previous generations.Wouldn’t that be cool? But, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I am a journalist What’s the catch? How is this possible?

I  switched on the TV and tuned into Prime Minister’s Question Time. The leader of the opposition was challenging the Government to explain how they had done this without the approval of Parliament. The PM is waffling. It’s obvious that they don’t know, they have absolutely no idea how or why this has happened. 

 I needed to look at this as an investigative project and start to work on an in-depth piece. My usual approach is to just cascade ideas on even the most improbable hypothesis.

Maybe we’re all on an acid trip; the powers-that-be having seen the light; maybe it’s a manifestation of the Buffet/Gates super-rich who’ve decided to pay every living human being a basic weekly income. There are, however, no statements from the usual suspects. Even the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are denying any involvement or even knowledge. But they did deny involvement in previous scandals, so we can’t take things at face value.

So it felt as if we had been squashed and pummelled through the wringer of change but there ultimately seemed to be no downside. This is astonishing. It has had the most positive effect. I’m embarrassed to say, that with all my experience as a journalist I was still no closer to understanding how this had happened and who was behind it.  

There was a further announcement.

All debts are removed. What? So what does that actually mean? 

There’s information coming up on the BBC World News programme. They’re reporting from Australia and South East Asia, where it’s already later in the day, on celebrations in the street. News cameras and journalists are out interviewing people.

There’s information about activists meeting people in the street handing out leaflets; little clusters are gathering on street corners;  public meetings were being convened.

I felt like I needed a drink.

 

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