Relative Wealth

Image result for fifty pound note boulton watt

‘Last night I had such a good time. Now there’s a price to pay. A night for kicks, now the sun’s in my eyes and I feel so weary today.’ – From ‘Close my eyes’, by Ride

Yesterday I got drunk for the first time in two months. It happened after I read the back of a fifty pound note. Really.

On the back of a British Fifty pound note are the pictures of Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and James Watt (1736-1819). Both men are famous for being business partners who improved and widely distributed steam engines. Their particular area of expertise was in how to make people redundant off the backs of mechanisation. They were profit-driven and serious about where the direction of the British Empire should be heading – upwards, outwards, trampling everything under the heavy golden jackboot of whichever Royal was on the throne. Money was to be made.

There are two quotes under their names on the back of the fifty pound note. These read-

‘I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – POWER.’ And ‘I can think of nothing else but this machine.’

Chilling stuff. I read it and stared at their faces looking out at me from beyond the grave, cravat neck ties and puffed cheeks, magenta with Bank of England Dye. A timeless evil that I would have to spend to get rid of; accumulate more stuff, eat more, drink more booze, get fatter, thank you. Disgusting. I read the quotes over and over. Before I knew it I was several drinks in and sinking.

Money equals power. And power will bite you on the ass as soon as look at you sitting semi naked at a writing desk on a hill somewhere wondering why you have a fifty pound note in the first place. In my case the note came from my mother. She’d snuck it into my rucksack last week without me knowing. It was to say thank you for looking after her. She seems to have an inexhaustible supply of them.

I hate my tie to money. I hate our tie to money. There on my desk they lay, Matthew and James, glorifying money, power, selfishness, progress. And here I sit, old and tired and hungover, wondering if they can both help me get blotto today to forget about it all again. This is lesson #1 in life: don’t think. Ever.

But let’s forget history, and the inhumanity of the human race. Let’s forget poverty and the appalling disgrace of the human condition. It’s sunny today outside and I have a crisp £50 note to use. I have Wealth.

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