The BBC this evening reports that the British government has relaxed the rules on fuel tanker drivers’ hours in an attempt to address shortages at filling stations. Of course, if you have money, there will always be fuel available.
Life has always been different if you have money in your pocket.
It is said that after the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, as the rebels from the Royal College of Surgeons were being marched down the street, Constance Gore-Booth, the Countess Markievicz, was offered a lift in his motor car by the commander of the British soldiers. The Countess declined; preferring to walk alongside the remnant of her makeshift army. The perception that she was of a different class meant that even in the midst of a failed revolution, her opportunities were different.
One of the most surprising moments in A level history was the tutor quoting statistics that, despite the French Revolution claiming the slogans of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, it was not the aristocracy who suffered the most deaths – the popular perception – but the ordinary French peasants.
Crises seem invariably to favour the strong to the disadvantage of the weak. The culture of the spivs and the black market in Britain during the Second World War didn’t do much to benefit Tommy Atkins and his family; it existed to serve the demands of those with wads of cash who could afford to pay whatever might be asked for the goods they wanted. Private Joe Walker from BBC television’s Dad’s Army represented a culture not nearly so benign as the comedy character in Walmington-on-Sea.
Food, fuel or currency crises, whether affluent Europe or in the least developed nations in Africa, do impact upon the rich and powerful, but not nearly as much as they do upon those living at on wages or, even worse, at subsistence level. The strongest elites will always be able to pay for what they want.
During the years of financial crisis, it has been working people who have been most affected as the funds holding their occupational pensions were devastated. It has been working people who have faced the repossession of their homes if they have lost their jobs and have failed to keep up their mortgage payments. It has been working people who have been most affected when budgets have been squeezed.
If the tanker drivers choose to strike, their actions will hurt most those who are most vulnerable. Ordinary people who need the car for the essential things of everyday life, for work, for hospital care, for reaching elderly relatives, for getting children to school, ordinary people will suffer; as ordinary people always do.
If you have money enough in your pocket, strikes are no problem. Joe Walker is alive and well.