Wednesday, 10 October 2012
That Wonga will sponsor Newcastle United brings to mind an easy cartoon; the impoverished mums feeding pennies into the side of St James Park, menaced by the dark figure of Wonga, while on the other side money cascades in millions down the terraces into the pockets of eleven players on the pitch who sport his name on their chests and smile brightly, pony tails to the wind. It is a vile image yet it has become absolutely true, in the poorest most bankrupt part of Britain, the name of the legal loan shark will grace the sacred football shirt.
However, the good thing, if there is such a thing, about this is it illustrates a neoclassical phenomenon vividly employed in Poussin's C17th painting above; Landscape with a Man Attacked by a Snake. The theme is the decline of horror with distance. At St James park we will see the event face to face in all it's horror, while I can't pretend at Chelsea Roman Abramovich doesn't squeeze his kopeks from the Russian poor, for that is the nature of oligarchy (and since capital follows capital, you eventually get oligarchy) it's just that since that's happening a long way away, we can't help not minding as much. That of course is tragic in itself, but none the less true.
This tragic picture is the result of a very peculiar British faith in the freemarket, where David Cameron can still have the nerve to suggest the rich work harder than the poor, that wealth is a virtue in itself and that it doesn't in itself accumulate. In Germany you can still go and see a top Bundesliga game as a fan for under £20, because they protected in law the idea of the club community just when we flogged it away to parent companies. They didn't quite share the faith in the free market when it came to such cherished institutions as football clubs.