Are We A Take, Take, Take Society?

A nice picture of Amsterdam to take away the seriousness of my article.

There is a lot of News about income today. It is a very controversial topic that I have often found myself tiptoeing around. People are being bombarded with assertions about tax cuts, average earnings and shortfalls in household incomes. It is an interesting issue which can be very polarising but the basics are straight forward.

This article is about challenging the popular belief that:

“Society Owes Us”

I try to be optimistic and so will aim to represent my thoughts on this in a positive way. I have read articles and heard conversations recently where people have asserted that society owes us money.

Generally when people say this, it feels as though the speakers want everything on a plate and free. I regularly hear things like:

‘Benefits should be raised.’

‘We don’t get enough financial support.’

‘We are taxed way too much.’

‘If we go to work we lose some of our benefits. Let’s stay at home.’

OK I am paraphrasing but these are the general ideas that seem to be floating around.

I spoke to some university students about how they afford their studies and they have talked about loans and funding but rarely do I hear, ‘I work a part time job.’ In fact I have outright asked why students don’t work and they say they prefer to enjoy their spare time. Fair enough. Maybe.

Perhaps society has moved away from ‘Work Hard, Reap the Rewards’ but I really liked that work ethic.

Am I right to express my concern?

Hard to tell. I like people being comfortable and living their lives to the full. I also like fairness and equality. More than anything, I believe that hard work is important and fulfilling and should be something to aspire to.

So governments can’t win. If they raise taxes they can fund the NHS, education, environmental improvements and so on. If they cut taxes, they seem to have their fingers on the pulse but end up borrowing and causing the whole country to suffer. For me a tax cut would be great! However, is it going to lead to cuts in other services? Probably. Luxembourg has higher taxes than the UK but wonderful national provision for health, business and transport (free buses and trains). Their average wages are higher too.

When I was young…

I suppose it is just my personal experience but I welcomed my mum for teaching me the value of hard work. I had a chart on the fridge and every time I did a job (wash the car, hoover the stairs etc) I got 20p. These all added up to make my pocket money.

As soon as I was 13 I got a paper round and enjoyed earning money by delivering Sunday newspapers and weekly ones later as well. At 16 I started earning by working in the supermarket on Friday evenings, Saturdays and eventually Sundays too (until then shops were not allowed to open Sundays so when the Sunday trading laws came out I soaked up the double time wage).

Throughout my A-Levels I worked extra hours in the shop as much as I could and during the holidays. At Uni this carried on and I loved knowing that I was paying my own way. Nobody helped me. Where has that drive to work and earn and give something to society gone?

I also volunteered for charity roughly ten hours a week. But I am not showing off. Many of my friends and colleagues did as well. We paid our way and never expected any freebies. Heck- we even paid tax on our hard earned wages.

So anyway…

I suppose my point is this…

Yes people have disabilities which prevent them from working and health issues that make it more difficult. They should be fully supported by the system. But let’s face it there are thousands of people who choose not to work. They decided they are better off taking money from the state. I know this is true and research suggests it is widespread.

Recent data suggests over one million job vacancies in the UK. One million! Yet there are people out there who could be making a difference by filling these positions.

Where is my positivity?

I believe if we adopt a more GIVE than TAKE attitude to society we will prosper and our country will feel better. Work promotes health, mental wellbeing, feeling needed, accomplishment, wealth, happiness and achievement.

I feel like opening the floodgates now… What do you think about the subject?

Amsterdam – I Feel Welcome

I am happily enjoying the long-awaited summer holidays and have just embarked on a journey by train to a couple of capital cities in Europe. This is something that I had planned to do in 2020 but Corona got in the way. Anyway, here I find myself, emerging into a city full of interesting architecture and a general sense of busyness.

Last time I was here was in 1998 as I passed through during a University residential trip to The Hague. I remember spending a few hours wandering around the streets, taking in the atmosphere and dropping into a rather peculiar museum about ‘romance’ (at least that is a cleaner way of describing it).

First drink – had to be JD and coke

This time…

On my first wonder around the streets my mission was to buy a new coat, as I left mine at home in the rush to get a taxi. H & M provided a cheap jacket to see me through. After this I grabbed a drink in a lovely cafe, which looked more like a pub. I have come to discover that most cafes here are actually bars. Suffice to say, that first cold sip of Jack Daniels was much needed after a hot walk, seeking out H & M.

It had been a 4 hour train ride from London and I really enjoyed the journey. One of the great things about traveling by rail for me is the fact you can relax and watch the landscapes drift by. Grabbing snacks in the onboard food coach is always a highlight and provides an opportunity for leg stretching. Many people would opt for a 1 hour flight but I much prefer using the Eurostar which creates 13 times less pollution per journey. I guess if you take into account the fact that the journey is four times longer by train then you can say a plane is creating even more carbon per hour. In reality, the train is 52 times more carbon efficient.

Anyway, enough of the greener thinking for a moment. Here are some snaps from my first afternoon in Amsterdam.

The Central Station
I just love the shape of the houses.
The red light district
Pinacolada and Mojito
I wanted to go to this Chinese restaurant but it was full.
Some of the architecture is unique.

I don’t want to bore you with pictures but hope you can tell just how excited I am about being here. The only downside is the constant smell of weed wherever you go. It can be a bit overpowering and has made my clothes stink a bit. It is all worth it though and I am really lapping up the sights and sounds of this fascinating city, nestled in the lowlands of Northern Europe.

Take Aways From The Heatwave

This week the UK saw its hottest temperatures since records began. An average July used to see temperatures topping at 23 degrees Celsius but this week we peaked just above 40 degrees, which would have been unthinkable when I was growing up. Working in such hot conditions without air conditioning was really difficult. If this is going to be the new norm, we have to change the way we do things.

With meteorologists now predicting a further ‘heat dome’ over Europe in August and the extension of hot weather into September (which has been apparent for the past few years), the time has come to think carefully about how we ready ourselves for such hot weather.

My thoughts…

Yes, in Southern Europe they are used to having very hot days, but they are also closed during peak sunshine hours for a siesta. As well as this, their homes are painted white colours to reflect the sun and have shutters on the outside of their windows to block out the damaging rays. Air conditioning is part of their strategy too. In Britain our homes are designed to trap hot air. We have double glazed windows and extra insulation which make things worse.

Governments need to start thinking about working conditions during such hot periods. Perhaps they will consider:

– funding air conditioning for key workers and hospitals as well as subsidising this for low income households

– making affordable shutters an option to darken houses during hot days and reduce internal temperatures

– adapting school days to suit the weather (perhaps starting earlier and closing at midday or having a siesta)

However…

I notice that President Biden has set aside 2 billion dollars for air conditioning and sun protection. This is great but I hope he and other governments are putting even more money into finding ways to counter the effects of global warming.

The following things need addressing right away:

– ensuring all power stations use renewable energy supplies such as wind, hydro or solar

– funding a better network of trains and buses to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads

-taxing and discouraging frequent flying and overuse of aeroplanes

– widespread tree planting schemes and re-wilding

Hopefully some lessons have been learned from this week’s heatwave. It would be sad to see no changes taking place, given this massive wake up call. We all know that climate change will become more of a problem over the next few decades. We really need to act now to protect our homes, our health and our crops. Thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it, please consider following my blog for similar future content.