Friday, 24 October 2014

The £1.7 Billion Contradiction


There has been an instant outrage to the EU's demand that the UK pays more in fees to the tune just shy of £1.7 billion. At the superficial headline level, it does seem like a completely unfair thing. Let me tell you, it is. The idea that just because the UK economy has performed better in difficult times means that the nation has to take on an increased burden is ludicrous. It is punishing success and rewarding failure. There is no way that case can be argued. It doesn't matter that we may have started from a privileged position over some of our EU neighbours. They should not benefit from our industry and financial discipline when they could not manage the same principles, right?

There is one problem with that argument. If you believe in a progressive tax system, then you can't complain about the EU's demand. If you believe the rich should pay more and the poorer should pay less, you have to be okay with this request from the EU Commission. Because to be opposed to it and to think a progressive tax system is acceptable is a £1.7 billion contradiction. It is applying a principle when it suits.

Ironically, we have lambasted the rich for doing that. When Take That and Jimmy Carr invested in tax avoidance schemes, we cried moral outrage but now, we, as a nation, want to avoid a macro style income tax increase on us, the rich.

A progressive tax system is an unfair tool designed to make a fairer world. It has been described as a Robin Hood fiscal policy, which foolishly romanticises it when it is morally flawed. Currently 1% of the nation pays about 24% of the income tax bill. We are comfortable with this. In fact, we were outraged when the Government reduced the top rate of tax from 50% down to 45%.

The flaw with a progressive tax system is that it is effective telling one person they can an item for £10 and then telling the next person they have to pay £50 because they earn more. It is a preposterous notion. What is missing from this example though is social responsibility. The rich have become rich because of the nation affording them the opportunity. They have an obligation to those who were not so lucky to at least provide a decent standard of living because that is what they would want from them if the situation was reversed.

So before you jump on the outraged bandwagon against this European request, consider what it says about your stance on tax matters. It is an easy but expensive contradiction to make.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

YSA Convention Ideas


If you don't know what a YSA convention is, you might as well stop reading here. This isn't for you and will make no sense.

Still with me? Good. In my time as a YSA, I was involved in five YSA conventions. One as a committee member, two as the Senior YSA or Vice Chair, one as a consultant and the other as purely the purveyor of the basic premise. That basic premise went on to be a YSA convention called The Genesis Project.

The Genesis Project was intended to be a convention with a difference. The idea was to drag conventions away from bad habits they had picked up and challenge YSA to do something better. Basically, it was no longer a weekend filled with the same old stuff and it would provide a social experience. The chance to make new friends, built on the back of memories of a weekend spent doing something you wouldn't normally do. It was very successful. However, my idea was never for one convention. It had multiple convention ideas, ones that I did share with other YSA but they went on to get married (and rightly so). Yet, there was always something in me that thought my ideas were pretty good. I always figured that, eventually, someone would come along and have the same idea. They haven't. Conventions seem to have slipped back into the same old cliché routine. So I offer these ideas so that if someone thinks they are better than what they already do, they can give these a try. I'm not looking for credit or glory. It's just an idea shared and realised is better than a dream kept to one's self. So here they are:-
  • Zombie city game
This idea was created years ago but now they are big business. The idea was to build an action-adventure storyline involving a zombie apocalypse within a small city area. With missions to achieve and different teams chasing unique objectives, it was intended to be an intense mix of treasure hunt, tag, manhunt and capture the flag, all while a clock was ticking. The game involved trying to find vials of a cure that had been littered around the city, all while a team of zombies hunted you. An operative, someone who knew the city very well, would be trying to beat the teams to the cure too. Each team would be presented with a different advantage.
  • Road trip
How about a convention where, instead of registering as an individual, you came in a car together, one driver and three passengers? The idea being that you start somewhere in the north of the country. The passengers would have different designations (Navigator, Photographer, Messenger). Then people would get mixed up. A random set of four, made up of 1 Driver, Navigator, Photographer and Messenger, would be put together and off you go. The race would be on to get to the next checkpoint, a few hours away for lunch. Along the way, the messenger would be sent challenges that would require you to leave the motorway and find locations or unique things, which would be evidenced by the photographer. The navigator would have to get you all there. Then, at each checkpoint, the three passengers would have to find a new car to go in and the driver would have to find three new passengers, with points being picked up for speed, creativity in fulfilling missions and so on. All while this is happening, a team of drivers are assigned to chase down the racers, trying to take photos of them to cost them points.
  •  Gathering
Anyone who has been part of the YSA scene knows that half of the social aspect seems to happen in those long car journeys to dances. Why not use that to create an epic convention? Everyone attending starts in their respective Stake Centres when a joint broadcast is made to all of them, giving them a clue of where to head. As they succeed in one mission, the next clue is given and so on, leading them to a huge party held in location like none other. I'd suggest a massive dance in the grounds of a castle or on top of a hill. Something like that. The key to it would be that people send the central point photos of their journey, creating a massive photo wall for people to see where everyone has come from to get to the same place. To anyone who gets symbolism, there may be something more in that...

There were other ideas. The flash mob convention that The Genesis Project was could have been done again with different missions. You only have to look at groups such as Improv Everywhere to get an idea of what could be done. The YSA have already held a Hunger Games style event in Wales that could easily be expanded upon. Even staging a 'jailbreak' and inviting people to see how far they can get on zero budget would offer a memorable experience.

These are my ideas but I'm sure there are hundreds out there to be tried. I invite those who are YSA and do have the opportunity to organise a convention to try something a bit different. You never know, it may take off, become a phenomenon and then, in twenty years, it will be the cliché convention idea!