Saturday, 24 September 2011

Thank you, thank you - together we can avoid armageddon

Thank you to everyone who's been in touch with kind words about issue #6 of Benzina: once an issue's in the post I always swear that I've had enough, then the supportive voices chime in and it's on to the next edition. One rod I make for my own back is that I use our local post office: it would be cheaper to have an agency frank them, and it wouldn't take three days for every copy to get stamped and posted on. But to paraphrase JFK, "ask not what your community can do for you, but what you can do for your community."

Our nearest High Street (Market Lavington,about a mile away) has a Post Office (obviously) that doubles as a sweet shop and general store - greetings cards cuddle up with radiator keys and dog food - and is run by a Mr and Mrs team. So when school chucks out, or when they need to go to the cash and carry, timescales slip. But hey, ho use it or loose it. Next to them is a newsagent, then a Co-op; not a mini Tesco's note, because the Co-op run a moral-high-ground policy of not competing with local services, so this one doesn't sell papers or magazines. I think of this when staring at the price of their frozen peas: expensive, but produced on Co-op farms in the UK, and buying them means I'm also supporting the newsagent and Post office, as well as the fabulous butchers opposite - Douse's, an old family firm who source all the meat locally, butcher it on site and sell their own faggots, pasties and more. Perfect, and good value. We are lucky to live here.

But what's this to do with, well, anything? Actually, I think it might have something to do with everything. We live in times that were created by a desire to have anything we wanted, and have it now. Not stuff we needed, note: oh, no - stuff we need like food (unless it's in a posh restaurant), looking after the old, safeguarding our country for the next generation, all has to be done as cheaply as possible, if at all. Stuff we want (cars, holidays, electrical goods) we'll pay the earth for (literally) and sod the fact the money's borrowed in the far east to buy far eastern goods. Or we buy from a big retailer, putting the small local shop out of business. Tesco's and Amazon aren't successful because of what they do; they make money because of what we do.

So instead of begging government to do stuff, we could do something ourselves. The current economic Armageddon is a threat because Governments are still being selfish - the French want Germany to bail out Greece because if Greece goes bust it will take French banks with it, which French taxpayers will have to sort out. And if Germany lets the Euro fail and goes back to the Deutschemark, the words greatest exporter by value will loose the ability to sell overseas via an artificially undervalued currency. So Governments will, my Whitehall sources tell me, "kick the can down the road" for as long as they can, at which point us or our kids will pick up the pieces. As classic bikers we're not the sort to wait for the AA without trying to fix things ourselves, and those who say we can't make a difference should dust down the history books and discover that both Israel and South Africa were brought to negotiating tables by ordinary consumers boycotting their goods. This isn't a plea to buy shoddy goods, like those dreadful late seventies "Buy British" campaigns, but a realisation that we're all in this together: researching the Guzzi factory story in Benzina #6 I kept asking Italians why they weren't on Italian bikes. "Too expensive," they would say to a man. Really? Buy buying (say) a Japanese bike did they really save enough cash to live on unemployment benefit? Seems unlikely to me...

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