Letters: How did Christmas become an orgy of greed?

These letters appear in the December 24 edition of The Independent

Click to follow
The Independent Online

So on “Panic Saturday” shoppers were expected to spend £1.2bn, this being contrasted with the 13 million Britons expected to spend Christmas in poverty (report, 20 December).

The growing gulf between haves and have-nots is also a big issue in many Western countries, such as in Germany where I am currently living, but we should recognise that the story does not stop there.  No, the goods bought with those £1.2bn are often sourced in ultra-low-cost countries where, in order to give consumers the lowest possible prices and to give importers/retailers the high margins they demand, goods are produced in sweat-shop conditions. 

Then add to this the inherent cruelty in industrial meat production, energy requirements for production and transportation of goods, and endless, superfluous, plastic packaging and  you have a Christmas problem of proportions far beyond the issues covered in your report.

I don’t want to put a damper on Christmas, but surely the point of the whole celebration is to have a pleasant, reflective time with family and friends rather than to indulge in an orgy of consumption? And, unfortunately, no amount of tinsel will disguise the fact that excessive consumerism involves immoral, inhumane and damaging consequences.

Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

 

Mike Stroud (letter,  22 December) contrasts the unmitigated greed shown by some people with those facing the Christmas festival in poverty, illustrating his point  by reference to a  gold-plated child’s car priced at £30,000.

Assuming his circumstances are similar to most people of average means, he can console himself that he doesn’t have to socialise with the truly awful types who would consider spending that amount of money on such trivial things.

Patrick Cleary
Honiton,  Devon

 

Keith Gilmour’s semantic objections to the current definition of “poverty” (letters, 22 December) centre on the peripheral, ignoring the benefits to social cohesion of understanding, and hopefully doing something about, the obscene gulf between rich and poor.

It matters not in the slightest whether the “poverty line” is set too high or too low, and even should one of his extreme examples come about (“if we could somehow double every income or if all the world’s billionaires were to suddenly relocate to Britain”) there would still be people in need, and in order to help, we would still need to know.

Eddie Dougall
Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

 

Keith Gilmour considers it “ludicrous” to believe that poverty will be reduced “if we just take huge sums of money from one group and hand them to another”.

Not half as ridiculous as the current regime of cutting welfare benefits and wages for the poor, presiding over an increase in zero-hours contracts, increasing indirect taxes (which disproportionately affect the least well-off) and continuing to allow multi-million pound bonuses and salaries in Britain’s corporate boardrooms and the City, while also cutting income tax for the super-rich. Could Mr Gilmour explain precisely how any of these policies will reduce poverty?

Pete Dorey
Bath

 

As a taxpayer I am really fed up with the benefit scroungers favoured by George Osborne.

Every business that does not pay a living wage is, and will continue to be, subsidised by our taxes, as long as Boy George keeps the minimum wage below the living wage.

He decries the deficit and insists on the need for austerity while seeing the only answer as a speedy return to the situation which led to the problem in the first place: excessive consumer credit, purchases and debt, fed by banks given free rein by ineffective regulation.

Malcolm MacIntyre-Read
Much Wenlock,  Shropshire

 

Give us buildings to delight the masses

As an academic who has spent much time in German universities dealing with the evolution of the modern urban environment and the place of architectural form within it, I must protest most strongly about the extremely intolerant and preconceived views expressed by architectural critics concerning the 10 geometric principles for urban design of the Prince of Wales (22 December).

I have long believed and taught that there have always existed certain natural aesthetic-cum-architectural formulations that rest more easily upon the eye of the human beholder than other more arbitrary concepts that have come about over the past 100 years. It really amazes me that so-called objective critics of our built surroundings are so obsessed with the status of Prince Charles that they seem oblivious to the fact that good urban design is not, and never has been, the absolute creature of governing elites. It is, rather, an intrinsic aspiration of the human condition and can be appreciated – if not always so easily achieved – by people with reasonable intelligence of every social degree.

If only the architectural and planning establishment in Great Britain would give up its narrow cultural prejudices about how it wants the future urban environment to unfold, and, as in Continental Europe, actually give the people of this country buildings and urban surroundings in which they could take a genuine delight. A more civilized lifestyle would be achieved for all.

John V N Soane
Bournemouth

 

Prince Charles is regularly mocked for his views on architecture; yet his 10 “geometric principles”, tabulated in your newspaper, are very similar to the strictures of the architectural historian Alec Clifton-Taylor, who visited 18 English towns on BBC television between 1977 and 1984. Among  other things, Clifton-Taylor urged the use of local stone in old English towns.

Many people feel alienated by modern buildings, and by the way towns have been made to conform to the needs of car users.

John Dakin
Toddington, Bedfordshire

 

The NHS is superb value for money

I think we should begin to wonder why the Tory party appears to be so keen to undermine the NHS. Why do they keep saying it is too expensive and wasteful?

The net expenditure for 2013/14 was £109bn (NHS Confederation Key Statistics). For a population of 64 million this works out at £1,714 per head per year. This is less than other advanced European countries such as Germany and France. In comparison with the healthcare systems of 10 other countries (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the US) the NHS was found to be the most impressive overall by the Commonwealth Fund  in 2014. 

There are savings which can be made. The NHS should not have to deal with the care of those elderly who are just frail. As a committed supporter of the NHS I feel that it should be paid for by ring-fenced increases in general taxation.

We should not despair or think that a great social experiment should be abolished. When we are sick, we are all equal.

Mary Leedham-Green
Woodford Green, Essex

 

Last week I had a urine infection, felt dizzy and passed out, somewhat foolishly, at the top of the stairs in my mother’s house. I woke up at the bottom, having broken her stairlift. She called the paramedics (as I’m deaf), who duly arrived and checked me over. I was then whisked off to Royal Derby hospital where I was treated with endless courtesy amid a battery of tests. Thankfully I had not broken or fractured any bones, but was detained overnight as a precaution.

The whole episode showed the NHS at its most professional and efficient, yet still caring. Do we really want to dismantle this for private profit predators whose smile is only as big as your wallet?

Paul Redfern
London N2

 

Due to a diligent GP, I was referred to A&E yesterday and spent six hours receiving a variety of tests and saw at first-hand that hard work and selfless attitude of NHS staff. The winter season is not yet in full swing but they coped well, as lack of staff and equipment seem major problems; there are masses of vacancies in London NHS. Those on duty last night were on 12-hour shifts. In a pressurised environment this is just  too much.

Reform can be a good thing if you take all interested parties with you. It will ultimately fail if you don’t. Therein lies the problem; government wants a failing service. We will never replicate A&E in a market-driven world – we will do well to remember that.

Gary Martin
London E17

 

Is Nigel Farage for real?

The Independent has an excellent history of creating fictitious columnists – Bridget Jones, Cooper Brown and Talbot Church spring to mind. Am I alone in realising the weekly column by Nigel Farage is another spoof? Or have I made a terrible mistake?

David Walker
Sittingbourne, Kent

Comments