Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ranting About EU VAT

I’m not a comic book artist. I don’t own a micro-business, I’m not a sole trader. But I have a friend who is a comic book artist. She is a sole trader. And on New Year’s Day 2015, she could be looking at the end of any kind of dream of making a living from her artwork. Which is amazing. I have a framed piece of it on my desk. I’ve had her work displayed in our café twice. I’m thinking maybe a third time is order because I like her work so much.

My friend is Jennie Gyllblad. Click the name to learn more about her work. Click this link to read what the independent artists have to say about a new circle of hell of bureaucracy and red-tape being looped around their livelihoods. Then read what one of the EU’s top dogs has to say about the whole thing. Doesn’t read like a pile of patronising wank from a government official. Not at all.

I’m prepared to admit that I probably don’t understand this stuff half as well as I should. I’m not providing any kind of digital services that would require me to register for VAT in other EU countries. But I am a creative person was aspirations of making a living out of my work. Sure, I intend to go down the standard commercial route. Get myself an agent, let them do the legwork with publishing houses, take their piece of the pie and leave me with the crusts to live off. But what if that doesn’t fly? What if I decide that I just want to get my work out there any way I can and go in for the ever-growing market of ebooks. Oh yeah, that’s right. The European Union is going to make they get their cut. All in the name of “fairness”. Making sure big businesses don’t utilise one country’s relaxed tax laws to benefit their coffers. Yes, ladies and germs, the small business people, the sole traders, are getting dicked over so nameless corporate fat cats have to get a smaller bonus and go for last year’s Ferrari instead of this year’s flashy new model

Gross over simplifications, I’m sure. I’m straying into the dangerous arena of political discourse and I might as well by painting a big target on my chest and jumping up and down shouting “Hey you there with the excessively large rifle! Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!” But this whole thing has led me to thinking about subject which has been cropping up a lot in my head lately.

We’re about to make an abrupt topic change. Seatbelts on, kids. I’m about to talk about one-world government.

My favourite videogame is Deus Ex. Towards the end of the game’s first act if you will, one of the main characters has a little throwaway line of dialogue – “The wealthy has always been the ones to profit from one-world government.” I have no idea why they do. I have no idea if a single, unified human government wouldn’t just end up screwing everyone over, but I feel rather convinced in my heart that if we don’t all come together and cooperate, there isn’t any hope for humanity.

The Republicans swept both chambers of Congress in the mid-term elections. There’s the terrifying possibility that if they can muster a charismatic enough candidate in 2016, they’ll snatch the White House. It’s a thought that makes me shudder. But then I look back home and I shudder even more. The rise of the UK Independence Party. An unholy band of fascist gasbags who would take the UK out of the European Union and probably attempt to re-establish the British Empire while they’re at it. I wouldn’t put it past them to settle the old score with France by flattening the country with nuclear weapons. And maybe just throwing a few pot-shots at the rest of the EU. And these aren’t the only two examples. In the recent European Parliament elections, many right-wing ultra-nationalist parties made gains. It’s a disquieting trend. It could be considered quite the naive worldview, but I studied history for a good long while and there’s a very important thing I learned about nationalist parties – they are BAD NEWS.

Let’s examine some extreme examples. Benito Mussolini. Turned Italy into a fascist dictatorship and led them into World War II side-by-side with Nazi Germany, the most dangerous nationalist, fascist regime in history. Millions dead in heavy fighting, millions more murdered for the simple fact of their ethnic heritage. Why? All in the name of the nation’s spirit and purity. Are you sure you don’t want to shudder at the idea of UKIP and parties of their ilk taking power in other nations?

But how does this relate to one-world government? Simple. We need to shed our insistence on being identified by nationality, on this idea that our sovereign identity is more important than our shared humanity. I grew up in Wales. I’m Welsh. But I live in England. So I’m British. Because of this dichotomy of national identities, I find I care very little for my national heritage. I don’t give a frak. I don’t wave the British flag, I don’t sing the national anthem because I don’t know or care to learn the words and I sure as frak don’t want this country separated from the rest of Europe or the world for that matter. It’s more important that I’m human. That humanity comes together and embraces that fact that our future is decided together. When the world comes to an abrupt end, we’re all gone. No little country is going to be spared to take all the glory for themselves.

Perhaps it’s my lot as a science-fiction writer to dream of a brighter, more utopian future. Let’s talk about that. I say utopian. One-world government will not be a utopian dream of cooperation. It will not be the United Federation of Planets living in peace and harmony with all peoples. But I think it will be better. With the combined resources of all nations, laws established from one source applied to the whole need for individual VAT regulations for countries. One tax law to govern the whole planet. It’s instances like this that I think the United States has a pretty good model. You’ve got federal laws and state laws. Apply that model to the world and I think you’ve got a nice stop-gap solution, a good first step. Because a lot of countries won’t want to give up their individual laws. So treat them like state laws. Except in incidents of human rights for example, where it’s a global law matter.

More than anything – and this is where I get incredibly flighty and my sci-fi roots really take hold – there is no way, in our current state of squabbling nations, that humanity has any hope of getting off this planet. That, for me, is a big deal. Because this planet is beyond frakked and doomed. Generations down the line, this place is in incredible danger of being rendered completely uninhabitable. And it won’t be the sole strength of China or the United States that will save us. No. It will require cooperation on an unprecedented global scale to save the future of humanity.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said it best: “Earth is the cradle of humanity. But one cannot remain in the cradle forever.” I believe that the future of humanity lies out in the stars. Extra-solar colonisation is the way to go. But we can’t do it alone. We’re going to have to do it together. The sooner we realise that our fate as a species is irrevocably tied together and the Universe doesn’t give two shits if we’re British, American, Chinese, French, German, Egyptian, Sudanese, Iranian or Indian (it’s going to try and kill us all anyway with massive solar flares, asteroids and all sorts of other junk), the sooner we can get on with the business of realising our species’ full potential. The sooner we can step out into those stars and forge a brighter, more incredible future for humankind.

Started out ranting about prohibitive bureaucracy and unnecessary financial red-tape. Ended up philosophising about the future of humanity. All in a day’s work for my incredibly sporadic mind. Still frakked off (on behalf of dear friends) about this EU VAT regulation thing. Sign this petition please. Stop them from bankrupting my friends and fellow creatives. This world would be an even more dull and depressing place without our minds in it.

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