Thursday, 14 August 2008

Schandmentel is back!...

For THIS guy!

Look at that. A face at which even a mother would like to throw rotten fruit. Medieval torture was designed with this guy in mind.

This is Dr. Tim Leunig, Lecturer in Economic History at LSE. He is also works for right wing think -- and I use the term loosely -- tank Policy Exchange. Now, normally I don't want to subject members of right wing think tanks to medieval forms of humiliation and torture (I just secretly hope that their caves collapse, burying them alive), but yesterday this fellow released a report, Cities Unlimited, calling for people, or rather the unemployed, to abandon Northern English cities, where regeneration projects have failed or are pointless because ... well, they're all Northerners, aren't they?... and instead move all these people down South, where they can all fly somewhere else more easily. (So, he hates the environment at least as much as he hates people, it seems.) And no, that's not an unfair paraphrasing. Check out the BBC report here.

Specifically, the report urges the expansion of Cambridge and Oxford, because obviously there are just thousands of unfilled academic posts, just waiting for the Sheffield's ex-steel workers and Liverpool's ex-dockers. And, really, who wouldn't rather live in Cambridge or Oxford?!? This guy makes a brain drain seem like a really good idea.

But, hold those vegetables for a moment and consider just how remarkably courageous a proposal this is to bring forward. Only a brave, radical thinker, a thinker so far tunnelled into the vast anal cavities of Oxbridge that all humanity has drained away into the darkness, could have come up with such an idea.

Now, here's the cruncher: he's right, you know. The report says that cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield expanded greatly in the 19th century, to meet the demands of the economy, the industry -- the mode of production -- of the time. Now, we have a new economy, a new mode of production that no longer requires vast numbers of people -- did I say 'people'? I mean labour -- in industrial areas; vast numbers of cheap, available labour are now required in the heart of those economies dedicated to the new knowledge/service economy, to keep low the cost of other commodities needed there (lattes, sandwiches, clean toilets, Tesco's shopping trollies).

So Leunig is right. IF you regard people as nothing more than labour, commodities to be kept cheap and readily available in a capitalist economy. IF living breathing humans mean nothing more to you than statistics in economic history books, or figures on balance sheets that prop up the profits of shareholders. IF you regard communities as collections of labour, and not places where people live, i.e. enjoy an existence that is beyond their utilitarian value to the economy. IF, in other words, you are an inhumane, Gollum-twinned number-cruncher -- or a lecturer in economic history, it seems -- who has no relationship to fellow humans (or maybe just Northeners) as something akin to cattle, or machines, or coffee beans: commodities that must be kept cheap and available.

In my other life, as a psychoanalytic literary/cultural critic, we have all sort of words to describe such a psychopathology, any of which might fit here: sociopath, depersonalisation, psychopath, normotic, schizoid, conservative capitalist asshole... take your pick.

So, I sentence Dr. Leunig to a Schandmental Tour of Northern England! Let them throw rotten turnips at him in Carlisle, potatoes in Newcastle, cabbage in Sheffield and tomatoes in Liverpool (they are the European Capital of Culture this year, after all).

But maybe we're being harsh. Dr. Leunig is an academic. An intellectual. And so as a man dedicated to the revelation of Truth I'm sure he would be more than happy to discuss these ideas and explain to us his reasoning in more detail. I notice his LSE faculty page helpfully provides his contact details. So why not give him a call at +44 (0)20 7955 7857 or fax at +44 (0)20 7955 7730. Or perhaps you would like to send him some thoughts via email -- which is; perhaps you'd like to send him some pictures of your local community (some very very large photos, that take up lots of room on his server), and I'm sure he'd be more than happy to help find you accommodation in the new boroughs of Cambridge and Oxford he wishes to construct.


  1. Ah, I'm reading the Mao biography at the moment so your medieval punishments sound positively moderate.

    This report is so stupid, I thought that is was just Nicky Campbell mangling some proper research when I heard it on 5 Live yesterday morning (Olympic Breakfast, yo). Turns out it's just really, really stupid.

  2. Oh? and what would Mao have had in store for him?

    (Though, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't Mao have a certain respect for a man -- by which I mean asshole -- who could forgo any humanitarian concerns for individuals in the conception of a cold, calculating policy that served a greater reified economic ideal?)

    I know it's stupid. It should be beneath me to waste the skin on my fingertips responding to such nonsense. It should be...

  3. He looks like a pleasant chap.

  4. I know. It's terrible to be so judgemental just on the basis of looks, but, well... look at him!