I took Paola up to London for another three day whirlwind trip around one of the world’s great, if not greatest, cities. We went to Camden, which I explained to her as being London’s version of Tepito. Great market, colourful, down to earth and full of character. With a dark side. The photos can be seen on Flickr or Google+. We also checked out the Monument. It was built in the 1600’s by Christopher Wren (of St Pauls Cathedral fame) to commemorate the Great Fire of London. I ventured up the 340 odd steps to grab some photos, whilst Paola checked out some nearby shops. My photos are again on either Flickr or Google+.
But the big treat for Paola was a trip to the Docklands. It’s a concrete and glass jungle of skyscrapers, malls and the superb Museum of London Docklands. I explained to her that just a couple of decades ago, none of it was here. As a child this was all still waste land and derelict docks, much of which was wrecked by German bombs in World War II. Prior to the war, this had been the busiest port in the world. London’s wealth was built on these docks. And therefore also the wealth of the UK and the very existence of the British Empire. Without them, and what they stood for, Britain would have been a very different place.
Ironic then that the rebirth of the UK as a trading nation should also come from the rebirth of the docklands. But this time there’d be no ships bringing in tea, spices and slaves for resale. This time is was all about stocks and shares traded electronically, from shiny new Thatcher era towers of steel. Canary Wharf lies at the heart of the new Docklands development, with the tallest skyscraper in the UK taking pride of place outside the sparkling and modern Underground station of the same name. There’s a lot of wealth here, although the housing in the East End, surrounding this area, is incredibly cheap for London. And development of the East End continues. There was also a lot of wealth lost here. The giant banks are all based here, and it was they who plunged the world in recession so recklessly, just a few short years ago. Recession or depression? Time will tell.
I also visited the polar opposite of the Docklands. I checked out the Occupy protest outside St Pauls Cathedral. I sympathise with them. Another world is possible. Capitalism has caused us the problems we face. I am *one of the 99%. As are, probably, you. Whether or not you care to admit it. But I can’t align myself with the Occupy movement based in London. I’m a little tired of people promoting political ideologies rather than practical politics. The extremes of both capitalism and socialism are as bad as each other. We are suffering from the extremes of the former. That doesn’t mean I want an equal dose of the latter. Although I do think a more social nature needs to be injected into global politics. Taking the better elements of both isn’t simply a compromise. Capitalism and socialism depend upon each other to work. Combining the two in a balanced mixed economy is a necessity.
Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. I’ve been quite astonished at the traction Herman Cain has gotten in the US of late. I’ve watched him. Listened to him. Laughed at him. And then nearly cried at him when I realised that there are people who are actually taking this moron seriously. His 9-9-9 plan? Guys and gals, in case this passed you by – he picked those numbers from his backside. It’s a soundbite. Like pretty much all his other ‘plans’. And you’re buying it? Do us all a favour…
American politics does matter in the UK, and everywhere else in the world. And whilst 1% might control all the wealth and power, and the 99% control the vote, you only need 51% to be stupid enough to cast a vote for someone like Herman Cain. At that point, I might be tempted to buy myself a tent and camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. I apologise to anyone who might like Mr Cain, read this and take personal offence. But it’s nothing like the apology I, and the other 99%, will want when the consequences of his election materialise. Not that I expect, thankfully, for him to ever see the inside of the White House as resident. But there are others touting themselves for the job, who look equally as dangerous.
*I have problems with splitting the entire population into such neat categories, such as the 1% and the 99%. But it’s just a concept. I can work with that.