ADJECTIVALLY speaking, use of the word ‘Panama’ has previously been confined to canals and hats. Even so, neither of these uses has produced one-tenth of the stir the word has aroused since being attached to the noun ‘papers’.
I expect the first Panama Papers book to be out within months. The first film on the subject cannot be far behind. I’m going for George Clooney in the male lead with Julia Roberts heading up the investigation.
Politicians are now falling over themselves in a bid to show transparency; they jump up and down waving tax returns in the air; David Cameron has been forced to announce he trousered a cool half-million as a little gift from mummy and daddy. “We are all in this together,” he is fond of saying; in his defence it’s fair to say that even now he may not know from whom his second half-million-quid windfall is likely to come.
The Norwegians have the right idea, with tax philosophy as well as dark thrillers: you can check on anyone’s tax payments any time you like in Norway, it’s all in the public domain. What a brilliantly simple idea! In this country we’re hung up on secrecy both about what we earn and what tax we pay. But then in this country we’re hung up on a lot of things!
And there is another vital difference between our two nations: Norwegians have a vastly smaller wage differential than we do. The gap between those at the top (for want of a better word) and those at the bottom (ditto) is much narrower.
I’m all for this, never having quite understood why anyone should earn less than me or more than me. Mind you, as a poor scribbler I only earned about ten grand last year, and I can’t see many people wanting to put up with THAT! No complaints here, though. I have a roof over my head, regular food, good friends and the sea is just around the corner (admittedly, Newcastle United winning some trophy or other would help, but that’s a dream whose pipe is almost worn beyond use).
So as it has long been proven that, beyond a certain level, more income does not equate with more happiness (and happiness being the true objective of any society or philosophy) where does that leave us?
Right here, fellow toilers, with my proposal for a new organisation, The Grand Club, open to all, membership free and voluntary. No leaders, no constitution, no AGM, no company secretary, no minutes, no votes of confidence and a membership free to join or leave at any time, perhaps encouraged – but not required – to wear a discreet badge bearing simply the word ‘GRAND’.
And the The Grand Club would have only one rule: Members shall decline to earn more than one thousand pounds per week. Try to earn and hang on to more than one thousand pounds a week and you would no longer be eligible for membership.
On this planet of ever-shrinking resources where the rich get richer and gobble up even more of what little we have and politicians are clearly unwilling to tackle this state of affairs, why not take matters into our own hands?
Personally, I have little idea what to do with one thousand pounds per week, my own income rarely scaling half that amount. But I realise that many people do have a more extravagant life style than my own while others cast envious eyes and convince themselves they need it. But really, how much do you need, boyo?
A lifestyle that is too extravagant spoils both the person and the world. The rich grow obsessed about getting even richer just to keep up with the rest of the rich. The length of one’s luxury yacht and the variety of its expensive fittings become the all-important things in life. Have pity on the poor rich! It is time we freed them from their golden shackles!
Joining The Grand Club would be liberating. You don’t have to give away all your wordly possessions, as Tolstoy did; nor imitate the nutcase who created an art installation out of their destruction. Just say ‘a grand a week is enough’ . . .
And if you DO earn more, do something useful with it. You might be surprised at the effect it has on you. All those rich people behind their security fences in their gated mansions might eventually conclude that electronic gates and camera-controlled entrances are not keeping people out as much as locking themselves in.
Consider my alternative. Couldn’t life be grand?