By Jack Peat
I never imagined myself as someone who would begin a sentence “back in my day”. It’s the sort of cringe-worthy prelude you’d hear your parents or grandparents utter which meant for most children they’re either about to be bored by irrelevant nostalgia or lectured on traditional values, often both. But since the turn of the century we have witnessed such seismic change that I feel obliged to tell you, that back in my day, things were a bit different.
From the age of thirteen I and many of my other friends did some sort of a ’round’. I worked a paper round delivering the nationals before school and The Yorkshire Evening Post when I got home. On Sunday I’d do a similar round but break my back lugging around the oversized papers stuffed with inserts and bulky magazines. The milk round was the other staple teenage profession in my area, although I never fancied the 5am starts that those boys had to endure as they clung to the back of a van amongst rattling glass milk bottles.
Today you seldom see kids carting luminous paper round bags on their bikes or hear the electric buzz of the milk cart. The supermarkets, or superchains, have taken care of that. The independent newsagents that sourced jobs for the community are also suffering at the hands of hyper localism, the sort of Global Theatre stuff referenced in Marshall McLuhan’s works. The trickle-down economics brought about by people such as Thatcher have turned a trickle into a drip as small businesses vanish and the supply chain becomes increasingly centralised.
‘The rounds’, as poorly paid and rigorous as they may be, were all about jobs. They were the trickle up effect of using the supply chain to create a demand for products, one that is becoming increasingly scarce today in an economic system where money falls into fewer pockets than ever. The newsagent manager held a stake in the community, chains couldn’t give a toss about it.
This is all systematic of a wide-spread erosion of the global economy. The right to own a house, the ability to make a decent wage, the ability to compete in saturated markets are all shot because supply is being strangled by a minority who grow increasingly powerful with every purchase. We are building another economic recovery on sandstone, and although ‘the rounds’ are admittedly a feeble attempt at showing the fragility of trickle down economics, in my day, we took heed to warnings such as this.
Anyhow, I know a man who puts it in a more concise way:
“In every stockjobbing swindle every one knows that some time or other the crash must come, but every one hopes that it may fall on the head of his neighbour, after he himself has caught the shower of gold and placed it in safety. Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society.” – Karl Marx