“These are very different – and deeply worrying – days.”
By Alec Ross
I’m thinking about the ubiquitous and slightly terrifying nature of social media, and it all came about – obviously – because of a discussion about what dairy farmers get paid for their milk.
About four o’clock yesterday and I’m thinking of closing down for the weekend, a steak pie for tea and a game of curling followed by a beer.
A colleague ‘phones. We get talking about how the price of things has changed (or, in terms of milk price, not. This month’s British Dairying has an article from a guy who does a lot of work with me. The milk price was about 24p / litre in 1994. In 2019? Aye, you guessed it. About 24p).
So that took us to a discussion along the lines of:
“in what other industry would someone not get a pay rise in a quarter of a century, particularly when all your costs went up and you we’re actually taking a real time cut in wages year on year, and as your margins were tighter you were employing fewer people and working more hours yourself, which meant you effectively paid yourself even less”?
My colleague then tried to put that into his own context. His salary is roughly double what he would have been earning in 1994 (and quite right too). He also mentioned that a small piece of property he was lucky enough to buy in 1994 in now worth four times as much.
As always happens when the two of us speak, we got onto football. And this is when it gets weird.
The milk price is at 1994 levels. Salaries double. A small flat goes up in price by a factor of four. We didn’t actual discuss football salaries, but ticket prices have gone mental. A great pal of mine is a sportswriter and did a retrospective piece about a Manchester United game against Barcelona in 1984, when the great Diego Maradona was in his pomp. I’m imagining you’d be looking at £75 plus for a big European night at Old Trafford these days (although “big European nights” aren’t as big as they once were for the red half of Manchester these days). But in 1984, you could witness the great Diego from the Stretford End for as little as £4. Jings, it was £15 to watch Stranraer beat Clyde last month (but worth every penny, to be fair).
But this isn’t really about salaries the price of match tickets or flats or milk.
Because we then talked for a while about the genius that was and is Diego Maradona. About his leg break at Barcelona and the explosive retribution of his comeback game against the Bilbao mental case who nearly ended his career (check it out on YouTube. Po-faced commentators who say “this is a side of football we never want to see” are lying. I’ve yet to meet a genuine football fan who thinks less of DM because of his one man vigilante campaign against the “Butcher of Bilbao”. Quite the opposite). And how he took Napoli single-handedly from obscurity to the Scudetto and a European trophy. Plus, I’m Scottish and there’s the hand of God thing. Wee man, I’m eternally grateful.
Heading for the curling match I checked my Facebook page. There’s a “sponsored link” for – guess what – the Diego Maradona film now available on Amazon. I heard friends telling a similar story – they were sitting in the house discussing something as mundane as new kitchen equipment and they were suddenly bombarded with links for new kettles. My son tells a similar story about golf shoes. In every case, everybody was speaking into a mobile ‘phone. Or in the case of the kettle, the ‘phone was just switched on. And listening.
This is happening too often. There’s something really quite wrong about all of this. A film or a kettle is one thing. But when a system that harvests your data to determine the result of an epoch defining vote – as happened with Brexit – or when a political party has its data attacked- or when footage of a bumbling and clearly hungover Prime Minister laying a wreath is doctored by the media to make make him look more statesmanlike – or when a remainer has an interview butchered to make him look much less so – then we’ve gone the full Orwell. Like Diego in Manchester, we’re in 1984.
And it makes me wonder about just how far the genie is already out of the bottle. I appreciate the irony of posting this on social media, but with a general election and further referendums imminent, I’m beginning to worry that what actually determines our futures isn’t us, but dark money and forces beyond our ken. We need to be unbelievably vigilant and disciplined.
These are very different – and deeply worrying – days.
It’s more important than ever to ignore the noise and the fake news and then vote for for Scotland’s self-determination in numbers so huge that all the spin in the world can’t alter the seismic meaning of the result.
The milk price is a worry. The rest of the stuff we can deal with later.
Have a good day.