Life With The Spivs;

Hector Wonai's Wonderful World of Capitalism
Our Hands on Your Wallet

What a fabulous article by Ron Todd that was; it had me in stitches from start to finish.

On first reading I took it to be an outline for a stand-up routine; I imagined the 'voice' to be Cockney Wide-boy Propping Up East End Pub Bar Bore, with every sentence ending 'stans tu reasun, dunnit'. I even thought up a character name - Ronnie Wonai. (One eye, get it?)

On second reading I could see the potential for a whole sitcom series, what with its plethora of sitcom character stereotypes, and came to the conclusion that a more fitting 'voice' would be Retired Colonel At The Golf Club Bore, and a more appropriate version of the name - Hector Wonai.

Ron really has to be congratulated on the creation of a great comic character - a loudly bombastic individual, but at the same time one so irredeemably naive as to believe in the universal efficacy of Capitalism - all things bright and beautiful, Capitalism made them all.

Of course there's nothing new about an irascible old bore type character, but the subject matter offers a rich seam of comic potential; the stereotype comic academic (sideburns, pipe, tweed jacket, leather elbow patches) offering up the observation that the benefits of the modern world are the results of industrialization and scientific and medical research rather than Capitalism. And while Capitalism has at times hastened the process it has just as often suppressed the process or diverted it into money making but socially negative directions. ("Poppycock and balderdash! And just you remember if it wasn't for the efforts of entrepreneurs you wouldn't have your well furnished ivory tower to hide from the 'real world' in!")

The stereotype comic vicar (buck teeth, round shoulders, deferential manner) mentioning to Hector the story of Christ throwing the money lenders from the temple, and Hector rejoining that without the wealth creating activities of said money lenders the temple wouldn't have been built in the first place. (".... and who does this bearded proto-anarchist think he is anyway? The nerve of the fellow; "My Father's house." indeed! Does he have the title deeds? No, I thought not.")

The stereotype comic Humanities student (long hair partly obscuring face, roll ups, baggy jumper) stating that you can't have democracy where politicians lie, where the greater part of the media seeks to influence the electorate in one direction only, and routinely engages in dishonest character assassination, and where the electorate don't have the time to examine all the relevant issues in sufficient depth to make informed decisions. It may be called democracy, but in truth it comes nowhere close. ("Well, all these politicians, they're all as bad as each other. The only people you can really trust are business men - its the only sphere where the right people always get to be in charge!")

Further, offers the stereotype, there's Anarchy as the politicians and media portray it, and as the ragbag of anti-social malcontents seek to hide behind - in other words chaos, not Anarchy at all, and then there's real Anarchy as a responsible social system based on profound self discipline - not too far away from most of the great religions but with the mystical elements removed. ("Exactly as I've always said; two sides of the same coin - just as bad as each other, and all lining up for a handout, I'll bet!")

The stereotype warm and fuzzy new-ager (frumpy female, pushbike with wicker basket (opportunities for lots of references to wicca), Greenham Common sympathizer) stating that she'd love to be an Anarchist but simply doesn't have the time. ("Well you'd have a lot more time if you got yourself a car instead of that damn bike; forever causing a hazard on the road - and you don't even pay Road Tax. Should be banned, the lot of you, and public transport too!")

The stereotype comic bolshie workman (snails pace, purposefully incompetent, reading the racing pages when unwatched, always referring to the university of life) observing that in his experience most people would be a lot happier with a genuinely benign dictatorship which concerned itself with the welfare of the whole populace rather than with a pretend democracy which has more to do with pandering to the highly partial interests of the financial markets. Oddly enough, he continues, Capitalism rather favours military dictatorships - they tend to ensure a cheap, docile and uncomplaining workforce. ("Happier? Happier? The only thing that would make you happy would be sitting on your backside all day while the world goes to ruin. Your sort should be in chains breaking rocks!")

You might suggest that its an odd sort of golf club that has all these stereotypes, but sitcoms never let reality get in the way of having a laugh - just read Ron's article!

I've got a scenario for the final episode (final episode of the first series, that is). Hector is at the golf club when he hears that those nicely spoken, smartly dressed capitalists who manage his investments have mismanaged to their profit and toward his penury. Next, those other nicely spoken, smartly dressed capitalists who own his mortgaged home are foreclosing in view of his new status. Hardly has this sunk in when he learns that those scruffily dressed, impolite capitalists, the TWOCers, have TWOCed his car.

Driven to desperation (sorry) he tries to find the stereotype warm and fuzzy new-ager with a view to borrowing her pushbike, but she has set off - accompanied, unbeknownst to Hector, by Hector's wife, to a Friends of the Earth rally. Bereft, adrift, crestfallen and lost, Hector is less than amused when the stereotype Marxist agitator (Leather Jacket, Lenin cap, chain smoking) offers him a free copy of Socialist Worker ("You'll need that when you're sleeping on the park bench, comrade."). Nor is he overjoyed when the drop-out son of the bolshie workman sympathetically offers to show him how to make a shelter out of saplings and plastic sheets.

(By the way, I must stress I'm offering these suggestions entirely free of charge, gratis, for nothing, in a generous spirit of disinterested creative co-operation. Although should a sitcom series result I would expect a creative credit, a percentage of profits (gross, not nett), as well as a percentage of associated merchandise sales, etc.)

I came up with some possible titles;

Life With The Spivs

Hector Wonai's Wonderful World of Capitalism
(subtitled Our Hands on Your Wallets)

All Things Bright and Beautiful - Capitalism Made Them All

but these all seem a little 'clunky', a little too wordy.

Then thinking back to Hector's character as being somewhere between a Victor Meldrew and a Basil Fawlty gave the clue for a title somewhere between One Foot in the Grave and Fawlty Towers.

So here then is an excellent title for the sitcom series, and an apposite comment on the premise behind Ron Todd's article; Gravely Faulty.

(October 2009)

As there was only space for the opening paragraphs of the piece above in Mensa Magazine's letters section I added a web address for the complete piece at the end of those paragraphs. Ron Todd took exception to this method of reply. It occurred to me later that perhaps he did not have access to the internet.

I was gratified that in addition to my generalised opening paragraphs virtually every point I had made in the complete piece was made by other responders. Thus by one method or another he received the full benefit.

'Slaughtered' but undeterred Ron Todd was back with another article a little later. In this article he complained bitterly about his inability to get on the 'housing ladder'.

'Isn't Capitalism wonderful!' - 'I can't get on the 'housing ladder'!' The visual image that came to mind was of a clapper in a bell - first hit from one side, then from the other - a succession of loud noises, clanger after clanger.

To become a member of Mensa one has to demonstrate by means of an IQ test that one possesses a high degree of intelligence. However possessing high intelligence and making use of it are two very different things.

0The Return of The Ineffable Pirie