Part five: Phoenix takes-off.

“Look at that. They’re showing our school.” Joe was the first to notice.

 

Rowan’s eyes popped. “They’ve got a video of our school parliament and how we’ve changed it. That’s so cool.”

 

“You deserve being on this enormous screen, as you’ve shown how it can be better organised. There’s lessons for everyone.”

 

The PH movement, with its prominent logo, had refocused technology to serve the people with — the new payments, cancelling debt and stopping rent payments. It had  somehow taken over the Piccadilly advertising screens in London to broadcast information that challenged the status quo. 

 

There followed a video with an authoritative voice booming out across the Circus:

 

“The equivalent of ONE MILLION DOLLARS  a minute is paid in farm subsidies. A report back in 2019 highlighted this subsidy and how it promoted high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser. What action was taken in the four years since the report was published? Absolutely nothing was done about it. It’s your money, it’s adding to climate change problems and it’s not serving us as people.” 

“Now it’s your choice in this new world. Decide what you want and how to spend your money. Should we stop these subsidies? What do you think? We want you to get involved. Shouldn’t we be involved in the decisions that affect our lives and how our money is spent? Get online, join the local groups, raise your voice.”

 

Maisie and her children were fresh from a student climate change demonstration. There had been many but she questioned if they were effective. PH’s timely release of these announcements was impressive, stirring people up and showing ways to get actively involved. But would it lead to lasting change?  

 

There were groups gathering in nearby Leicester Square. They weren’t the usual groups of young tourists. There was something ominous about them. Maisie decided it was time to get the kids back home.    

 

…….

 

The videos were part of a rapid cascade of news items: a rolling schedule of quotes and videos being broadcast in community centres and through TVs in pubs, the public screens in parks, in world-wide cities and on the net.  

 

They were introducing innovative projects and asking people to get involved:

“We can turn this into an active and popular politics. We can’t just sit back and watch politics as a spectator sport. Politics isn’t something that just happens in Westminster, it’s something that happens in all of our lives, and we have to  genuinely take control of that, get out there, to get involved to be part of the change to be part of the new politics that I believe and hope is coming. It’s one of the great opportunities that any of us have had in our lives,” declared George Monbiot a journalist and activist based in the UK.

In the US on the Times Square Screens the quotes were subtly different:

“Each time a man stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” was a spoken quote from Robert Kennedy. 

 

On hearing this, a man’s avatar, at one of the world-wide cyber camps stood up, raised his fist and declared: 

 

“Let’s send out the ripples. PH has shown us the way. We can take back control of the net, from the corporates, let’s pull down their invisible fences and make it our own again.”

 

More videos and statements appeared.

 

This was not random information and it was interacting with the audience. As people raised questions or made demands, a new response would appear on the screen. The technologies used by Google and Facebook, the artificial intelligence that gathered data about participants and then tailored advertising, were being harnessed in a positive non-commercial way. This was stimulating further interest and discussion.

 

People were joining together to discuss the changes and make their own demands. There was a significant shift with people following up on the ideas, making suggestions for their own solutions and sharing ideas for collective action.

 

Another announcement came from the Oracle and CISCO corporations. They were offering and demonstrating how their networks and databases could help people to find information, organise collectively, develop small scale self-managed initiatives. Groups came together in real time to discuss shared interests, vote and launch new projects.

 

People were talking about growing their own food in Manchester in the north  of England. An example project taking over derelict urban space and growing food on roofs was shared. There was an immediate knock on effect. Groups came together and decided to do something similar in Cardiff, Glasgow and Chicago.

 

Others were interested in water harvesting and sustainable power sources, immediately revealed, on-line were examples of small scale self managed projects in Germany, others agreed to investigate how to do something similar

 

A trade union group wanted to look at how better to organise community nursing, a Dutch project was already doing something similar, it popped up on screen and they checked it out.

 

Sally, online in the UK, told us about her grandchildren being home educated through the cooperation of parents living in houses and the canal boats in Willesden and Harlesden in North London. Others began to look into the possibility of home education  for their children.

 

Janey came on video conference to explain their shared use of land and co-operative way of housing in Australia, others downloaded factsheets on how it was organised to see if they could do it in Argentina and Thailand.

 

“So what’s in it for me?” Another camp participant shifted the conversation to the economic system. “Capitalism as we have it has not served most people well.”

“If this rebellion is going to be successful we need to be less selfish and competitive, more collaborative and challenging to the status quo.”

 

“We now have a minimum income, there’s less traditional work to go around, we have more time to get involved ourselves in organising things and making our own decisions.”

 

Groups were forming and evolving around the world.

 

A trade union group’s representative spoke out:

 

“We’ve proposals for a 2-1-2 week. Two days paid work, one day actively getting involved in politics and two days working for the local community. Growing, entertaining, creating local capital, whatever helps, we have to find a new direction.”

 

……………..

 

“ we are at a critical stage in two ways. The first we’re seeing today is the conflict we predicted, especially from those with most to lose. There’s a resurgence of the old ways of organising. Primitive gangs, powerful hierarchies of vested interests, corporates muscling their way in hold on to what they’ve got. We’re heading into the unknown but it’s our belief that people will take control and get actively involved. Many have predicted this new way of localised self-organising following on from a step-up in our consciousness.”  

 

There was a sudden rush with shouting and screaming. It was manic: children were rushing in, with horrific wounds; arms were missing, they were battered and bruised, cut up by knives; as if wounded from vicious street fighting. The games had come alive, the avatars were efficiently repaired and things began to settle down 

 

Maisie was back in the cave network with Jake.

 

“These fights between avatars online are easily handled but there are reports coming in of fights in reality,” explained Jake.

 

“Do you know anything about the groups of young people hanging out in central London?” Maisie asked.

 

“We know of gangs recruited by landlords to intimidate tenants.”

 

“So what is anyone doing about it?”  

 

“This and other violence from gangs, are challenges we anticipated. The technology can help here as well. The G5 networks with CCTV and sensors on every tree and lamppost are now enabling us, and the Police to monitor and record where there is conflict.”

 

“But what can be done about it?”

 

“With the financial system getting gummed up and the uncertainty in government we worry about the police. But it does seem to be working. There needs to be continuing flows of money to pay for public services to ensure they continue to do their job.”

 

“ There is a real risk of social breakdown?”  asked Maisie.

 

“In many ways it’s as expected. As problems arise people are getting involved with new responses. There are groups of volunteers, like angels getting involved to try and calm down things and show that the community wants to see peaceful ways to resolve things. As expected, some owners are reacting to not having their rent paid and are setting-on gangs to harass their private tenants and the courts to challenge their corporate clients. There are conciliation projects set up to try and amicably resolve disputes. Other groups are tackling the issue of contributing towards funding services”

 

“Many people must be losing out”

 

“Of course but ultimately we think everyone will gain but not in a material sense. We wanted this change as it’s a necessary reordering of society. We are already experiencing a domino effect with people organising themselves and joining in, taking control. It’s the new form of participation that we hoped to see with one group encouraging another, we can see that happening. Our next step is challenging people to keep the changes we’ve already made.” 

 

………

 

The Prime Minister of Finland is addressing the nation on TV, also picked up by the PH rolling programme of information:

 

“The minimum payment is a policy that we were planning to implement. The changes to the economic system in general will have an explosive effect on our institutions and on the structure of society. Many of these changes will be beneficial but the pace of change if it’s too quick could be devastating and destabilising.”

 

“This is about engaging and empowering people to take control of themselves and their communities. In this we wholeheartedly agree as it continues a seventy year experiment in the Nordic countries. As social democratic societies I think many of our systems operate locally and to a decentralised model. The more hierarchical societies where income and wealth is distributed more unequally have even more challenging times ahead.”

 

“We urge our political partners throughout Europe and the world to embrace these changes . It’s important to shift away from both free market liberalisation and centralised government and head towards a new partnership engaging the people we serve.”  

 

He’s joined by the EU President.

 

“From the very beginning of the EU we promoted and valued the idea that power comes from the individual upwards rather that the institutions downwards. These changes are in line with and will thoroughly test our adherence to those principles. At times we have lost our way and this provides a reset.

 

As a first step the EU will put all its efforts into supporting the localisation of our activities with the effective support of the regional and global networks. This will affect how we do business, the sharing out of our resources, the way we as politicians and government serve and interact with our citizens. This will not be easy as there will be a necessary reform of our institutions and members states.”   

 

The system interjects with a statement from Monbiot commenting on the work of the climate extinction movement from some years earlier in 2019.  

 

“Gradualist campaigns making small demands cannot prevent the gathering catastrophes of climate and ecological breakdown. Only mass political disruption, out of which can be built new and more responsive democratic structures, can deliver the necessary transformation.”

 

Clearly the PH system was finding quotations that supported its own approach and a big agenda.

 

……………………

Maisie’s family are sitting down to dinner, discussing the changes.

 

“ It’s worked out well. I’ve lost my job but life is better. We’ve found lots of empty ground for growing vegetables and selling the excess at the market. People are much more aware and save water and power, they reuse and re-cycle. I’m helping people with their money and most seem to be surviving on the minimum payments with little bits extra here and there. I wouldn’t have thought it possible in just a few months, but people really are adapting and pulling together,” said Simon. 

 

“There’s bound to be problems. How’s the finance side working, haven’t the banks just about collapsed?” Maisie was more challenging. As a reporter, her family provided insights.

 

“Retail bank services are working again and payments are being made, investments are in turmoil. The rich seem to have been most affected, as their activities are becoming so expensive, even for them,” countered, Simon. 

 

 “Aren’t there gangs roaming the streets?”

 

“I saw the Police dealing with some thugs and volunteers were helping out.” “We’re managing OK as a family?”

 

“Financially  it’s OK, admittedly we’ve had to restrict our spending and it does depend on me continuing to get work but quality of life has obviously improved for you. What about school?”

 

“We love it,” Rowan and Joe were almost in unison.

 

“We’re all involved in the school parliament. We  meet to discuss subjects and feed it into the main decisions. Teachers have changed the lessons. There’s more freedom and we’re more responsible. Everyone likes it,“ said Rowan.

 

“I was with the PHoenix people again this week, I’ve prepared another article. To continue with the changes people will have to get involved and make demands. That puts people on-the-spot, if they don’t, the whole thing might collapse. This next period is the most risky. I really hope it works. They’ve turned the tables and shown a different path. ”

 

“ Look at the TV now” shouted Joe. 

 

…………………….

 

“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one…. ”

 

There was a cascade of information, directly from PH, the Phoenix Movement, through the net and all means of broadcast, with John Lennon’s Imagine playing softly in the background.

 

At the bottom of the screen, operating like a ticker tape was a mix of quotes starting with “I have a dream” followed by statements from PH: 

 

You’ve seen the positive effect of the new monthly payment, want to keep it?…… get involved and make it happen…….. How are you going to use your time?…….You’ve seen debt and rent payments were cancelled…….. To keep these changes you need to get involved……. make your wishes known…… otherwise all will be lost……. The power is in your hands….. get involved and don’t complain……  let’s not lose it.”.

 

Finally a child’s voice spoke out:

 

“We’re in a mess of our own making and there is no excuse. We care less about our people, and those who share our global home. Our system doesn’t serve us all. Our institutions only serve the few and we recklessly damage our planet.” 

 

“But there is a solution”

 

“Phoenix have created a global network and harnessed technology to destabilise and disrupt our institutions and show new ways of organising. It’s now up to you. What’s holding you back? 

 

“Rise up. Rise up

 

Let’s fly.”

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 08.00.00

 

Important Announcement

It has come to the management’s attention that some visitors to our site actually believe that the Phoenix Coup is currently taking place around the world and in Australia all debt has been cancelled. Well it isn’t and it hasn’t.

We cannot absolutely guarantee anything as in India anything can happen and it is without a doubt ‘consistently inconsistent.’ It is however great to hear that our factly fiction is getting a following and it’s believable.

Please do read on

The Phoenix Coup in three parts, with more to follow can be found here.

The PHoenix Coup Part three

a revolution in the making

Maisie is a reporter investigating sudden unexpected changes in society, including a minimum income for everyone around the world and the deletion of all debt. Some see the positives but others feel it’s a prelude to chaos. No one seems to know who’s behind it.

…..

“Hello”

“OK Babe? Sorry I didn’t manage to speak to you this morning before I left. I couldn’t sleep and needed to get into the office.”

“How’s things?”

“It’s all very worrying. It’s chaos and probably no different from any other bank. All payments are suspended. There’s no money coming in. Mortgages and loan payments have stopped. Virtual money is drying up within the formal system. There’s a massive panic in banks and major businesses. The possible implications are mind blowing. I seriously think some will go to the wall. ”

“What about investments?”

“Investors are running around like headless chickens, so there are some good sides to all this. The futures markets are frozen, maybe they can’t see a future.”

“So what happens next?”

“I have no idea. The institutions that are critical to our functioning economy have ground to a halt. The systems are failing”.

“So suits your radical alter ego? I have a telephone call arranged with John from The Guardian. Hopefully, he’ll commission a piece but sounds a challenge just to get paid in this brave new world. See you later, I hope your day gets better.”

I check out news programmes further east. I’ve found a discussion panel on TV, it’s probably in India, as they seem to be shouting and talking over each other. The anchor doesn’t seem to be holding his ship in place.

“Who is responsible for this?” “It will create chaos” “ If they don’t need money, the lazy people will not do the jobs.”

“They’ll just drink themselves unconscious or stay at home”

“Where is our government in all this?”

“How will they pay for the police? The crooks will take over, it will be dog eat dog.”

The anchor intervenes to get a view from a community activist:

“It means people will have to do their own dirty jobs, is that such a bad thing?”

“Yes, but, how will we make or move money? The banks seem to have stopped working”

“How will society grow and improve?”

“There’s only a certain amount of money or resources available to us, so maybe it will halt unnecessary growth, it means we’ll need to share things more, less of the extremes of rich and poor”

“Where will our food come from?”

“What’s to stop people from growing food and selling it to others?”

“Most of our trade is informal and in cash so I think most people will manage OK”

“ Who will pay taxes to the government?”

“Yes, there can be big changes but maybe there’s a lot of positives in this, less globalisation, being more self sufficient, working together to collaborate instead of compete.”

I’m exhausted, just watching it.

I clicked to another channel showing pictures in the street with Indian farmers. Jumping, shouting at the top of their voices, skipping, flapping their green cloths around, laughing, celebrating the cancellation of their debt. I understand this often happened in India so they might not be fazed by these changes.

We’re now getting beyond the initial reactions. People are beginning to realise the potential problems.

I found a BBC World News report that helps.

“What’s the use of these small payments? It’s not enough to live on and if we can’t sell our products around the world, what are we to do?”, was a typical concern of a New Zealand sheep farmer.

A reporter in Australia reported that:

“Mining company executives were ‘over the moon’ that debts are erased but begin to wonder how people will pay for products. It’s predicted to create chaos in the markets.”

I was going stir crazy, I wanted to speak to some local people. I was carrying my digital recorder and an unnecessarily big microphone. I think it sometimes helps to focus people’s attention and treat my questions seriously.

“Good morning. What do you think of the new monthly payments and the cancelling of all debt?”

“Well, I’m not going to say no now, am I? I’ve had no debt for years, so that means nothing to me. I’ve been working the market on my dad’s stall here for over 35 years. I worry about what else might be round the corner. Suppliers are already telling us there may be low stock soon.”

“How about you madam? What do you think of the changes?”

“I don’t know if it’s in addition to my pension, or not. My worry is my rent. I get help from the council to pay it. Will I continue to get that? If not, they’ll throw me out, even though I’m a pensioner who’s paid my taxes all my life”.

“How will the changes affect your young family?”

“I can’t make head nor tail of it. Our mortgage payments have stopped leaving our account and the bank is useless at answering our questions. Will we lose our house? The new payment included extra for the kids. It’s enough to keep us ticking over but it’ll not cover any luxuries or emergencies. Our biggest worry is work. My husband works at the main Ford dealers in town. I wonder how this will affect the business. If people just have the new payments how will they have enough money to buy cars?”

“Thank you, I appreciate your help and hope it all works out for you.”

“Hello Councillor.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Maisie Judd living locally and reporting for the Guardian, I’ve seen you before at Council events. What’s your take on the recent changes?”

“I can’t believe the Government isn’t behind it. How else would it have happened? Why are they being so secretive?”

“If Labour was in power, how might they have handled it differently?”

“I like some aspects of it and potentially it could lead to massive reform in society which I would support but to be truthful, I can’t believe it’s technically feasible nor politically realistic, there are too many vested interests for this to end well.”

“Thank you for such a helpful insight, may I contact you for further quotes as the story develops?”

“By all means”

I needed to get back to the privacy of home for my call with the Guardian.

……

“Hello John. What’s the latest from the news desk?”

“First, what’s your take on it Maisie?”

“I’m just back from talking with people in our local market, I’ve also checked in with corporate contacts and others via the net including some of the more radical members in the darker corners.”

“Good, and what do you think?”

“People seem to be pulling in three different directions: Firstly, the lost, confused, don’t knows but who seem to be happy to go along with it all yet worry about where it might lead. Secondly, the rich and powerful who are resentful of the changes as it challenges them and they are beginning to realise they have a lot to lose. Thirdly, the more radical, the activists, the ones who see it mostly as positive, and love the idea of a shake-up, a reordering of things.”

“There are, as always, the ones who are looking for an angle to do a deal and make a profit out of any opportunity.

So what’s the view from the Guardian?”

“There seem to be few people, if any, picking up on the potential for real and lasting radical change in how our society functions. The usual suspects are working on that and some of us are seriously excited. In my view, the corporates are working hard on it but seem utterly bewildered. I hope the real action will be amongst the entrepreneurs, the catalysts, the activists. Things are beginning to happen in the streets. I think, it’s just the start of it. , and we haven’t seen anything yet. Our overriding concern, shared by our progressive political friends, is if the system just comes to a grinding halt. Where would we get essentials: food, fuel, medicines? There could be civil unrest. Even a total break-down. The big questions are: how is this happening and who is behind it? I can’t believe we still don’t know.” John provided a good summary.

“Well, I don’t know but someone said it seems that a power has taken hold of the technology that controls our lives. We’ve become dependent on digital banking, online ID, social media, you name it, we’re on it. Think back to the early 90s when we were waxing lyrical about how the web was going to empower communities, be as significant as the printing press and then the corporates took it over and used it for their own ends. It feels to me as if the net has bitten back.”

“I agree. This is really radical and it does seem to be part of a coherent programme, that’s astonishing in its reach, even to the most authoritarian states, although those are the places it doesn’t seem to be working.”

“So, how can I help?” Maisie, is not at all sure.

“We’re going to need a lot of material and just about everyone is working on this.

“Give me a piece 750 words. It’s OK to cover the general narrative but most important is to use your contacts to find out whatever you can about who’s behind it. Get your ear to the ether. It’s your experience and contacts online that is valuable. Follow up those ideas about the net, especially the darker reaches that we generally don’t know about. I’m also interested in where this is taking us. What are the activists doing? Delve into their motivations, what does it all mean and where might it lead.”

“Great thanks”

“You’ve got seven days”

Super,this could be the break I’ve been looking for. But I’ve had enough of the net for now, I‘m off into the centre of London for a sniff around. I wonder if Simon’s mum is available?

“Hello Mags Hiya, how’s things? I need to nip into London this afternoon for some work, can you help out? Do you mind being in the for the kids when they get home and preparing something simple for dinner? Do stay on as I’d love to hear your views on all the stuff that’s happening at the moment. Yes? Wonderful thanks.”

I cycled to the local station and I was in the centre within forty minutes and walked around central shopping areas Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Regent Street, frankly I was sorely disappointed.

Where were these activists that John referred to? It was boringly normal.

I did find some individuals reaching out to pedestrians, and groups talking. But they looked no different from the usual individuals approaching pedestrians who were campaigning or fundraising on the usual subjects: anti-war, pro Europe, ‘Vegans of the world unite,’ Greenpeace, Oxfam. This was a waste of time. I wondered what I was missing?

I manage to draw a few into conversation. It’s not all straightforward. The activists do seem to be very relaxed and well informed about the background to these changes but seem reticent to share anything. I wonder what are they hiding and where they are getting their information from. There seemed to be links between the activists from very different campaigns. Some clearly knew about this beforehand, many attended on-online discussions groups, had training sessions.

I’m lost, it doesn’t seem to lead me anywhere.

“Thanks mum, for helping out today and preparing dinner. It’s a bit hectic for both of us at the moment because of the changes and especially stressful at the bank.” Simon’s visibly relaxed since reaching home.

“Has there been talk at school about the new monthly payments?” I was keen to hear what the kids had been discussing.

“Yes, we discussed it at our School Parliament.” Rowan was first off the starting block.

“It’s supposed to help us understand how the real Houses of Parliament works. We’ve elected our MPs and raise the main topics of the week, just like the real thing. “

“Sounds a great idea”

“I don’t think it works well.”

“Why?” Simon gets into it.

“We’re allowed to attend , providing there’s enough seats, but only as observers. If we want to raise something or have an opinion about what they plan to discuss, we have to raise it with our representative beforehand,” adds Rowan. “That’s rubbish.” Clearly, Rowan is not impressed.

“Spot on. I’m with you there. But it does sound to me like a very fair representation of the real thing and how it doesn’t work effectively.“ Simon showing his more radical side.

“So the changes were discussed , admittedly by your representatives but I bet it’s also been discussed in lessons, breaks, lunch?” I wanted to know more.

“Yes we’ve discussed it,” Joe piped in. “Everyone thinks it’s a great idea, same with cancelling the loans. We seem to be set up to always be owing something to someone else. Why does it need to be like that?”

“Thanks guys, that’s very refreshing and seriously grown up.”

“I’m impressed that you’re challenging the way its run and sharing your opinions.” adds Simon.

“What about you, Mags?”

“ I worry about where it’s all going, which we don’t know. It could end in trouble.”

“Maybe good will come out of it but it’s not going to be easy. Thanks Mum for looking after the kids and dinner was lovely thanks.”

Simon walked Mags home. Unusually, for me, I made up a Bed-time story for my ‘adult’ teenagers. I miss the innocence of their early years and feel they’re becoming more distant as they grow older. I love them so much.

In the lounge afterwards we shared a nightcap. We needed it.

“How’s it all working out for you at work?” I wanted to know more about Simon’s situation.

“As I mentioned on the phone this morning it’s chaos and it’s impossible to predict. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there are redundancies. The bank could completely implode. It may be a new opportunity I could see myself getting involved with a local business. I’m excited by the opportunities this might provide.”

“I love the radical side coming out in you but it’s likely to be a rough ride Simon.”

Later in bed, Simon was asleep.

It came to me, I had completely missed the point. I realised what was happening in Central London, like Oxford Street. All the groups were focusing on engaging people and seeking their commitment. I had a sense the purpose was to connect and activate. The subject matter was important but secondary. They were beginning to show, through their actions, something of the hidden purpose behind these changes. These were role models.

I think back to the amazing campaign of the Extinction Rebellion. Ostensibly this campaign’s focus was action for the climate but in fact I’d always thought, it was a means to another end, to help people take back control. This feels the same. But where will it all lead?

Screenshot 2019-08-26 at 08.00.00

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.

 

The Phoenix Coup: Part One

‘Same shit, different day’ I saw written on a badge attached to another passenger’s bag.  I was joining a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Chennai.

 Just five days later I was back home in London.

Little was I to know how life would become so incredibly different, not at all the ‘same shit.’

I’m Maisie, a freelance reporter covering just about anything and everything. I’d just been in South India and Sri Lanka for the U.K. Guardian newspaper, researching for travel articles.

My antennae were twitching, something was happening, I could feel it in the air.

It was an astonishing day that no one could have predicted. It would take some time to sink in but it would set us all reeling.

As a reporter my approach is to search things out, get under the skin,  help give people a voice I love to challenge the established order, so here’s my take on it.

Over the last few years we’ve become more familiar with the idea of constant change and unpredictability with one crisis after another. Today’s change was a different order of magnitude and was, in my view, positive. Not what we’d come to expect at all. It all began with something that seemed quite simple. The impact would be profound.

 It was an ordinary workday morning. The kids were up, rushing around as usual, then off to cycle to school on an organised cycle ‘train’. Simon, my husband, had already left for work at the bank.

I was due to do desk work, search the net and cover a slowly evolving story about corrupt politicians. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

That afternoon there was an announcement via the net, on the radio and on TV. For some time now politicians in Finland and other countries have been toying with the idea of providing every citizen with a minimum weekly payment regardless of their personal situation or work. It’s called all sorts of things but usually Universal Basic Income / UBI or Guaranteed Basic Income. Many countries had experimented, but not implemented it on any scale.

The announcement pointed out that we in the UK, in the fourth biggest economy in the world, was to introduce this very idea with immediate effect.

Fascinating. We’d had no prior knowledge that this was actually planned. No discussions or  announcements from the Government, nothing. 

I checked with my contacts. They didn’t believe this was coming from the UK Government. How was this possible? Maybe it was a hoax. 

The online communities, the cyber street corners, the dialogue of the ether, woke up. It was startling. It was almost as if all the lights in a major metropolis had been switched on. But it also, instantly, reached out to the suburbs, the villages, the farms.

Pretty quickly it was apparent that it had spread throughout the net. We often could see and track videos, memes, chat going viral with the latest news but this was different. It seemed to permeate every cyber street corner and the scale was enormous. 

It wasn’t just in the UK.

The very same policy of a flat income regardless of need, employment, whatever, was available to everyone throughout Europe and north America. It was incredibly consistent.

Hang on a minute, there’s more coming in via the net.

It was also the hot topic throughout South East Asia, Japan, and South Korea. This was astonishing.

I just might be going out on a limb here but I reckon politicians are renowned the world over for their selfishness and short term thinking. They represent acute levels of disorganisation and seem to be completely unable to create effective sustainable partnerships. They just can’t keep secrets.

So what is this and how could it happen? Coordinated action, at the same instant, through half the economies in the world. This is incredible, I’d never experienced anything like it.

I wanted to know more. I was on the hunt. 

I checked with my most trusted colleagues from around the world. I delved deeper into my own very informal, alternative online community networks that I built, slowly and carefully over the years to help me put stories together and to ensure they stood up. 

Exactly the same announcement was made in Russia, China, and North Korea. The same everywhere. A direct payment in the local currency.

Astounding. How? Who? What would this mean? Could it be true. I checked my bank account.There was a payment into my account exactly as announced.

I hadn’t noticed the time passing in all the excitement. The kids were back after a day at school. Simon would be early tonight and would be back home an hour later.

We’re quite a liberal family. We work from home whenever we can. We get great support from Simon’s mother whenever I had to go away on an investigation. We were trying to achieve a decent work life balance.  

So it might be earth shattering news but boundaries are boundaries. It was time for me to leave the work alone, put away the computer and switch on quality time for the kids.

“Hi, guys, how was today?”

“The usual stuff, but science was the best, really cool looking at our bodies. Did you know that we have more than one brain?” Rowan had a clear leaning to the technical side of things.

“Really?”

“Three in fact, obviously not exactly the same but they help us control our body in completely different ways. We spent ages on the gut, it affects absolutely everything and some scientists say it’s just as important as the brain in our head. How cool is that?” Rowan was clearly enthusiastic.

“Does that affect  what we should eat?” I was concerned, this might lead to more lectures at meal times.

“More than that, what we eat, how we live, the stress we feel.”

“Thanks Rowan…”

“We’re putting together a show of dance, music and skits.” Joe was altogether different and very artistic.

“When will the show be? we’d love to the there. What are you doing?” 

“I’ll know next week”

“Cool”

That is so good. Too many schools have let that sort of activity go and focussed too much on academic subjects. I’m so pleased that we’ve found a school that keeps it up and of course manages to keep both of you very interested. and enthusiastic.

“Do you have much homework this evening? OK to fit it in after dinner? I’ve prepared that cheesy rice, cauliflower thing.”

“Yep”, suspiciously in unison.

“Great, lets grab a snack and take Sally for a walk.” 

We live in the suburbs. Way back it was a village but it had now been taken over by the big smoke of London. We have a great park nearby and the canal and its wonderful tow path. Sally expects a walk after school, in fact she’ll peacefully growl and stare if we don’t, at exactly 4.00.

As we walk there is something in the air. I must be imagining it, but people do seem to have a skip in their step, a smile on their face, Oh my God they’re even greeting each other.

Surely it’s not down to that announcement?

It would have a dramatic impact for millions of people, not least those families experiencing real poverty.

Later, after dinner, the kids had said goodnight and retreated to their rooms. Simon and I got a little time together to discuss the strange events of the day. He’s a banker and so will have solid insights into what’s happened today.

“So what’s your take on all this?” 

 

Note: revised on 28th August 2019

Great response!

Our following increases with more people checking out our postings.

This is a new one however.

Ina the perpetual guest really liked a recent one.

It made her think of a Robbie Burns poem….

She asked why wedding rings are made of gold;

I ventured this to instruct her;

Why, madam, love and lightning are the same,

On earth they glance, from Heaven they came.

Love is the soul’s electric flame,

And gold its best conductor

And then she had this dream….

She entered a jewellery shop,

In the centre of the floor was a wooden chair.

It was covered in carvings of people’s initials.

The jeweller explained that it came from a school where it had been carved by young lovers.

It was symbolic of first love and that was the role of a jeweller recognising and celebrating love.

Ina blames my story for her dream….

Telling Stories

Dear friends,

I’m used to telling stories as a cycle tour guide and as someone who facilitates workshops. I’m told I can be good at it. Writing stories; fiction or otherwise is quite a different matter.

Here are my first attempts, more will follow:

1. The first example is, a Mysore View, posted in June 2019. You can read it here

2. The second, Magic Roundabout, was posted in July 2019 and can be found here

After some feedback I created a revised version of Magic Roundabout, you may wish to go straight here.

3. and here’s yet another one Looking for a home, who is it about?

4. Forever Together …. stars a certain beautiful, smiling woman

please provide feedback to help me learn to improve.

Improving my writing skills is a new challenge and a different way to connect. Learning proper English is a big enough challenge from a guy from Yorkshire! 😉

I want to relay Manjula’s story to a wider audience. It’s part of managing my new situation, keeping going on this rocky path and holding Manjula close to all our hearts.

To try and do Manjula and her story justice I’ll be completing some online training courses and so I invite readers to give critical feedback to help me improve.

Please do feel free to comment.

Thanks

Stephen

Mysore

July 2019

The following appeared elsewhere…..

“Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment there is. From campfires and pictograms—the Lascaux cave paintings may be as much as twenty thousand years old— to tribal songs and epic ballads passed down from generation to generation, it is one of the most fundamental ways humans have of making sense of the world. No matter how much storytelling formats change, storytelling itself never gets old.

Stories bring us together. We can talk about them and bond over them. They are shared knowledge, shared legend, and shared history; often, they shape our shared future. Stories are so natural that we don’t notice how much they permeate our lives. And stories are on our side: they are meant to delight us, not deceive us—an ever-present form of entertainment.”

From New Yorker 6th July