Undercurrents

Written By: Joy Johnson
Published: July 18, 2017 Last modified: July 17, 2017

Have you seen that cinema advert that shows us how we could make our life even easier if we went cashless? The run up for a movie to start is the ideal captive, targeted audience for
advertising.

Waiting for Baby Driver (great movie by the way) we were treated to the latest bit of manipulative public relations in the banks’ and internet giants’ determination to wipe out cash. A young woman, to an upbeat backing track, flits through shops, tubes, and taxis on her happy jaunt – tap, tap, tapping her way to her final fling with friends.

I bet you never realised that life was so much harder when you had to delve into your handbag scrabbling for a purse or trying to find your wallet and then having to remember your PIN’s four
digits?

Neither, I guess, did you realise that life would come to a juddering halt because you are holding up the queue as you count out money? That’s another ad I saw, this time on the internet. The queue is flowing in the self-service cafeteria until some Luddite counts out cash, causing a pile up.

And just to show how serious all this is, there are ads for parents to teach their kids about money in a cashless society. Again on the internet we have nice middle class parents telling their daughter about the chores they had to do for their pocket money, counting out coins.

What a deprived life they had to lead. Not now – Meet Clever Kash, an adorable moneybox for children to see their pocket money in digital form.

It’s more than 20 years since Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said: “Banking is necessary. Banks are not.” Cashless is getting closer. In a consumer-driven society we are inching to an economy where activity in cash is zero. We lap up all things automatic. Just look at how we queue up to be our own cashier in the supermarket.

But we should be wary. Cashless has enormous implications. Our right to have purchasing power in paper currency is diminished. Our shopping habits no are longer private. Already, when we use search engines one day, the next we are targeted with adverts that relate to our searches.

Spending is valued above saving. Not a lot of point with low interest rates. Yet the future will be worse. Having credit balances in current accounts costs, so expect to see fees being imposed – orworse, being charged negative interest rates. There’s no doubt we are going to end up having to pay for our hard earned cash even if what we are able to save is small.

There will be other consequences. There will be no runs on the bank. We will lose control of our own money. In an economic crash the banks won’t be bailed out, there will be bail-ins. This is not some worst case scenario scare mongering – we’ve seen it in Cyprus when in 2011 it was teetering on the financial cliff edge.

People on lower incomes need an economy that has cash. Not for anything illegal – they just need cash to exist.

The banks haven’t changed. The financial institutions haven’t changed. There is no reason to believe that an economic disaster of the magnitude of 2008 won’t happen again.

Images on our TVs of dying and suffering people emerging from the rubble of cities in Syria and Iraq – Aleppo, Raqqa and this week, Mosul – make all this drive for consumerism sickening.

These last few weeks have transformed our political landscape. We have wealth disparity on an enormous scale. Oxfam recently reported that eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who form the poorest half of the worlds’ population. Eight billionaires – it beggars belief.

If ever a political slogan was pitch perfect, Labour’s, “For the many, not the few”, inspired by Shelley, was it.

During the election campaign Jeremy Corbyn was armed with a transformativemanifesto – a fat cat levy on wages over £350k, return of the 50p tax rate for the richest, and a £5bn Robin Hood Tax on finance were just three policies that would make a difference.

Liberated from the Parliamentary Labour Party he went from strength to strength. He defeated Theresa May, who as I wrote last month not only lost her majority, but lost her authority as well. Now we have a cabinet in turmoil.

She’s now the beleaguered Prime Minister who will not be the mistress of her fortunes, while Jeremy Corbyn is the Prime Minister in waiting to head up a Labour Government in waiting.

We are at a tipping point, and the catastrophic fire in Grenfell Tower is in itself a paradigm shift.