Deep, meaningful conversations over office Christmas lunch…

Now is the perfect time to go to Uni for a degree in the Arts or Humanities
Look, fees aren’t great but they’re here to stay. We’ve been paying fees to go to university for over a decade in the UK, and I can’t see any way that it’s going to change. If anything, the current system is better than when I went, and you had to pay up front for everything.

Actually, if I went today I’d be significantly better off. Forgetting the fact that I’ve got a job and had jobs and can look back and apply the past to the future even though that doesn’t work. But, basically, students who won’t get paid much will get the best deal.

So if you’re going to uni now take a humanities degree, or an arts degree. Explore your creativity, have three years of cultural challenge and learning about what you think and feel, and come out the other end with a degree that will get you lots of different jobs.

Humanities graduates might not be able to be architects, or economists, or scientists, but then if you wanted that route you wouldn’t choose humanities. Honestly, a lot of employers for any non-high ‘profession’ job just want to see you can get a degree at all.

And if you come out with a humanities/art degree, you’re probably not that bothered about pots of cash. If you are, I pity you. Because the jobs in this area – journalists, publishers, events, the like – start low and can take a long time to rise high.

But that’s great. Because if, like me, you start your first job on a paltry 12k, then spend four or five years still earning under the 21k threshold, you won’t pay anything back on your fees. Nothing. Move up a significant grade and you’ll still be paying small change.

Then, 30 years after you graduate (at which point, if you’re lucky, you’ll be earning enough to pay back what I’m already paying back every month) your debt wipes. Gone. You pay no more, if you ever even began. Take a humanities or arts degree. It’s the best deal.

The hypocrisy of the financial industry’s plea for deregulation
In short, the banks yelp that markets can regulate themselves. The governments want to regulate, to prevent big problems sucking all the money out of their economies. The intellectuals biff each other with Adam Smith’s invisible hand. It’s a mess.

But all the time the banking/financial industry is high-horsing it and railing against anyone interfering with the supposedly self-sufficient markets, every financial bods is getting elbow deep into a different kind of interfering.

The markets don’t run themselves. They’re not regulating themselves, or acting without any outside influence, as idealised by Smith’s phantom caress. If they were what we’d see now would be similar except incredibly different.

Rather than almost everyone being a little (comparatively) worse off, there would be a small group of people incredibly worse off. The gamblers, basically, who throw investments around in such complex patterns that even the top-notch economists are dizzy.

Instead of everyone paying the losses of a few gamblers, the gamblers would be suffering the huge losses themselves. But the interfering that the financial industry is doing props up this ridiculous, offensive, unsustainable system with bigger and bigger crutches.

Too big to fail? Bollocks. Just too greedy to accept that in every system destruction follows creation. Too many people with so much money who want nothing but more money, and the only way to have more is to keep this wheezing old financial cycle going for ever.

We haven’t had a real crash, a 1920s crash. Instead of bankers hurling themselves from rooftops we’ve had a whole fucking world act as a trampoline and rebound these soulless idiots back to their boardrooms for another go. This cycle hasn’t ended yet.

How long has it been going on? Decades? 50 years? How long can the financial bastards keep adding a crutch, creating a way to keep their pockets lined, a way to avoid losing anything ever. In financial terms, we’re talking about a group of people who have successfully discovered how to cheat Death.

And while the patched, plastered world economy limps on, pushed and supported and spot-repaired by graspers with four-foot vision, there’s no regeneration. There’s no healthy shedding of old tissue and creation of new, vibrant and lively flesh.

You need a famine before you can see the glory of a Fisher King.

Britain’s negative education of people making the ‘system’ work for them
I don’t think I’m going too far to suggest that British people have a reputation (infamy?) for being inventive, crafty and shrewd. Wheeler-dealing is part of our culture. We don’t haggle because that’s a brash, Continental style. We’re subtle.

Or we were. But instead of a nation of Del Boys, people trying to positively nudge their way through the system we’ve set up around ourselves and make themselves a living, to gently or firmly push in the right place at the right time to make a profit, we’ve a system which, from what I can see, prevent creativity, craft and inventive thinking.

That is, unless you want to work against the system. Where we could be harnessing the British mentality of ‘getting around’ or making something work in a positive way, with a system that rewards craftiness or encourages invention, it just looks to be forcing people out to the fringes and teaching them to approach the system negatively.

If we could find a way to show people how the dedication, effort and invention that goes into bending benefits or hoodwinking the system could be put to positive use, how our national craftiness could actually benefit the nation, we’d all be a lot better off.

How the Masons were set up to just get shit done
Think about it, think about natural human desire. Who the hell wants to sit in a robe in a dark room and fuck about with killing Presidents or hiding treasure or suppressing the existence of historical facts or shit like that. Wouldn’t you rather just get shit done?

Now I’m just repeating what I remember seeing on a TV show, but bear with me. The story goes that the architect John Wood turned up with great plans for Bath, and was turned away. He spent a year in London. When he returned, he had the run of Bath.

The theory is that he became a Mason in London, and the Society of Secrets and its infamous connections meant that on his return to Bath he could just get shit done without messing around with permissions or requests or that time-wasting nonsense.

This story might be bollocks. But I love the idea that the Masons are, simply, just a society set up by forerunners, by outliers, who simply can’t be fucked to jump through the hoops held out by desk-pilots with no vision or ability to embrace change and progression.

That’s why Masons are all high-rankers, all influencers. If you want to get something big and impactful and different done, something which might usher in change, then you’d want a gang of mates rubber-stamping your plans while you spent your time far more productively in exploring and perfecting your creation.

All of which sounds pretty positive to me. Admittedly you wouldn’t want nuclear repositories being waved through by a closed-door club that answers to nobody. But, come on, would you want to spuff your privileges like that if you had such a set up? No, you’d protect your ability to avoid the willy-waving and cocking about and just get shit done.

That Heat and anti-aspirational celebrity culture makes people feel better about doing fuck all with their lives
If you actually regularly buy Heat and don’t just read month-old copies in waiting rooms, then first of all: FFFUUUU. You’re part of the problem. Heat is at the forefront of our inability to celebrate people. Fundamentally we don’t celebrate or congratulate talent. We celebrate success. And success is a parasite.

The culture of celebrity is a parasite. The masses look at actors, look at sports stars, look at TV personalities, and they (directed by a bully-wanking, daisy-chaining, professionally stupid [HT @Glinner] phalanx of media shits) want to pull the stars down to their level.

Instead of aspirational examples, what we get is a conveyor-belt parade of individuals who have done something with their lives being reduced to flawed, damaged people just like us, just like the masses.

So is it any wonder that monstered young stars whose heightened position simply provides a better target for the shit-snipers writing bullshit for idiots to devour aren’t at all motivated to become the role-models the soap-box wailers demand them to be?

If you achieve the highest success in your ambitions, and I sincerely hope that you do, how will you feel if some bottom-feeding rabble-rouser chooses to ignore the efforts and sacrifices you made and instead focuses on your relationships, your mistakes, your arse?

What Heat and all that glossy toilet paper does is tell its readers that these people, these stars, are just like them, that they’re damaged like them, that they fuck up just like them, that their readers should feel better because the stars are no better than them.

And, therefore, their readers can happily continue to do fuck all with their lives but earn money to buy bigger and shinier shit without worrying about it – exactly why reality TV celebrities are the biggest focus. They’re just you, but with shinier and bigger shit.

Because the challenge, the difficulty, that talent presents is that you might not have it. You can always get bigger and shinier shit, but guess what, you can’t just decide to be Lionel Messi. You can’t just buy Stephen King’s prolific writing talent. You can’t order this or that actor’s stage presence or charisma from a cocking online retailer.

But, even worse, you probably do have it. There’s undoubtedly something in you that you’re just built to be really fucking good at. Except you’ll have to search yourself to find it, you’ll have to make mistakes to grasp with it, you’ll have to work hard to make the most of it, you’ll have to put in some effort to develop it. It’ll be fabulous to master it, deeply rewarding to succeed at it. But it won’t be easy or instant.

When we look at the stars, at the people who’ve made something of themselves, the last thing we should be doing is dragging them down to our level, making them just like us. We should be seeing how we’re like them, how the great things about them aren’t beyond us, any of us, and how with some hard work, we can be just like them.

Except that doesn’t sell endless copies of fucking bullshit magazines.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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