Friday, 9 November 2012

Addiction, corruption and a necrophile nation

When the great psychoanalyst and voice of 20th Century humanism Erich Fromm coined the term necrophile, it had a very different meaning than that which is associated with it today. Fromm was talking about a malaise that existed in the human character, the desire to replace that which was living with that which was dead. This obsession that can be seen all around us, from the environment and the way we consume to the economy, and to our personal and emotional lives deep within. Few better examples of this can be seen than in the manner in which British parliamentarians have this week tripped over themselves to facilitate corporate greed and to expose an entire generation to new and powerfully addictive forms of high street gambling. We, as a nation are being governed by a parliamentary class that is putting the needs of the material, or as Fromm would have argued, the dead, over the needs of the living. In the UK today there are, so latest figures suggest, half a million people addicted to gambling. The prevailing orthodoxy from both political parties is that the profusion of book makers using the new super addictive fixed odds betting terminals is the result of consumer choice, a magical term that can take any noxious trade and give it an air of respectability; the logic, if followed to its conclusion, is that any nation not based on such laudable principals of market democracy is in some way less free. In order for this shaky argument to hold water the idea that gambling is addictive needs to be quietly dropped, as with smoking, the corporate power behind gambling know full well that for many punters, choice is but a memory. We are constantly told that any limitations placed on socially toxic enterprises such as book makers will result in waves of job losses, but the economic reality is actually quite different. With book makers sucking thousands of pounds out of deprived areas on a daily basis, with little or no real economic or social value being added back to the community, it is excessive gambling that impoverishes the community. Imagine the money wasted in book makers, feeding the addiction and suffering of a gambling addict, actually spent on goods and services on the high street. Our parliamentarians have long been lobbied by gambling industries of one type or another, be they in the City of London or at Newmarket Races, but now the scale of addiction in society demands that there is some kind of leash placed on these most secretive of vested interests. If parliamentary democracy in Britain is to truly revive itself from its currently tarnished state, the necrophile mentality and the power of lobbying and money must be countered, however the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have recommended precisely the opposite. In an act of breath taking irresponsibility, it has recommended lifting the cap on the number of FOBT machines in any one bookmakers, allowing an unlimited number to be deployed. Parliament is due to adjudicate on this matter in the next few weeks, and seems likely to repeat its tired old mantra of individual choice, instead of taking responsibility for the great crisis of addiction that consumes the very citizens it proclaims to represent and protect.