David Beckham symbolises everything that is wrong in our society. The fanfare with which he recently announced he is to donate his entire salary from his new club, Paris St-Germain, to local children’s charities in Paris bore all the hallmarks of a cynical PR stunt, performed with the objective of enhancing his public profile. The fact he used the plight of poor children to do so is surely reflective of a sick culture in which wealth and virtue are considered two sides of the same coin.
Let’s be clear: David Beckham is someone who doesn’t visit the bathroom in the morning without pondering over how it will either enhance or distract from a public persona which attests to the massive edifice we have erected to the false gods of celebrity.
Even more insidious has been the plaudits his ‘charitable gesture’ have earned him from a mainstream press which puts the ‘sick’ in sycophancy. The plaudits were exactly as anticipated and intended, with no thought of the deeper implications and/or symbolism of what can be accurately described as the mythological equivalent of Apollo descending from Mount Olympus to bestow his beneficence on us mere mortals.
Too, no one should be in any doubt that Brand Beckham will have been mindful of the changed social attitudes towards the tax affairs of the super rich, both individual and corporations, and obscene wealth in general. Thanks to the sterling work of grassroots campaigns such as UK Uncut a harsh light has been shone on the level of inequality that bedevils our society, and the West as a whole, at a time when the emphasis on the part of governments throughout Europe and the industrialised world, in response to a global economic crisis caused by the greed of the rich, has been to make the poor and ordinary working people suffer.
When are we going to start taxing the rich in this country and beyond in a manner befitting a civilised society? It is no exaggeration to state that the gap between the haves and have nots in the 21st century has reached levels that were last witnessed in ancient Rome.
The owners of David Beckham’s new club, Paris St-Germain, is the Qatar Investment Authority. This is the foreign investment arm of the Qatari Government, controlled by the Al Thani family, who’ve ruled the Gulf State since the middle of the 19th century. Qatar is currently engaged in massive global project to enhance its international profile via the disbursement of some of the billions it is raking in from its considerable oil and gas deposits. Through the Qatar Investment Authority it has amassed significant shares in companies and organisations as diverse as banks, oil companies, football clubs, and media corporations. The Qataris founded and own the news network Al Jazeera. Qatar itself is home to a major US military and air force base.
This is the new company being kept by David Beckham.
On a deeper level isn’t it reflective of something deeply rotten that in a rich economy such as the French there are still children who are reliant on charity? The same rhetorical question can be levelled at the UK, Germany, the United States, and every other western country. And yet we presume to point the finger, and often times missiles, at other countries for what we consider to be the regressive state of their cultural values and civilisation.
Philanthropy and charity on the part of the rich is no substitute for social and economic justice. Progressive taxation and civilisation are inextricably linked, with the amount of the former determining the extent of the latter in any given period. Poor children in Paris or elsewhere do not need a Crassus to care for them. Instead they need a government that understands the immorality of allowing extreme wealth to devolve to a small minority at the same time as millions of its people, children among them, are mired in poverty. One, in fact, is contingent on the other in a circular relationship that in its current state is deeply exploitative and verily reeks of injustice.
The David Beckhams of the world are as much prisoner as perpetrator of this state of affairs. They live a rarefied existence that distorts the human experience, which in the last analysis leaves them bereft of what it is to be human – in other words the bonds of solidarity that give life proper meaning and a true sense of worth.