Ig and Ug had been out hunting. They had been away for over a week (whatever that is) and now returned to the cave they shared with other members of their tribe. Between them they carried a pole, suspended from which was a dead antelope. As they approached the cave a crowd gathered to praise the prowess of the two hunters.
One of the tribe shouted at Ig and Ug. “Give us some of your antelope, for we are hungry.”
Ig said in reply “We spent a whole week (whatever that is) hunting this antelope. It is ours. We’re not going to give it away for nothing.”
“Then tell us how we can get some antelope.” Shouted someone else.
Ig shouted back. “First you must make spears like ours. Then you must travel in that direction,” he pointed back the way they had just come, “for three days. There you will see some antelope. You must then crawl through thorns that will scratch you, over rocks that will scrape your knees and elbows and risk being bitten by snakes, stung by scorpions or killed by bears. Then, when you are close enough, you can throw your spear. If you are lucky you will kill an antelope. If you’re not then they will run away and you’ll have to start all over again.”
“That all sounds like hard work, as well as being dangerous.” Another voice shouted, wishing the public address system had been invented . “Is there an easier way?”
“This antelope is too big for us to eat before it starts to pong a bit, so we will consider exchanging some of our antelope for something else that we can use or trade.” Said Ig.
Thus was capitalism invented.
A man stepped forward. “Ig and Ug, that is a fine antelope you have there. However, you will need a knife with which to divide it. I have here a nice sharp knife that I have just made out of a convenient lump of flint and I will exchange my fine knife for some of your antelope.” Ig and Ug agreed with Sabatier that his knife was indeed a fine one and they made a deal to exchange some of their antelope for the knife.
And thus was the economy invented.
Now a woman stepped forward. “Ig and Ug, do you know what would go well with that antelope? Some nice berries. If you will give me some of the meat from your antelope I’ll give you some of the lovely berries I have gathered.” They agreed a deal and carved off a chunk of antelope, using their new knife and exchanged it for the berries, but it was a smaller piece of antelope because berries were in plentiful supply and therefore were not as valuable as a fine knife.
And so market forces were invented, as was the recipe.
Another woman stepped forward. “Ig and Ug, when you skin that animal you can make a fine jacket from its hide, but you will require needles to sew the hide together. Look, I have these fine needles that I made from some splintered bones. I’ll exchange my needles for some of your antelope meat.” Again a deal was struck.
And thus was invented the fashion industry.
The rest of the tribe crowded round, asking what else Ig and Ug needed and what they would take in exchange for some of their antelope. Ug held up his hands for silence.
“People, as we all know antelope tastes much nicer when it is burnt by fire, but we have no wood with which to make fire. Anyone who brings us wood will be given some of the meat.” The tribe scattered and started collecting wood like it grew on trees.
Thus was employment invented.
At last the tribe lined up to exchange their wood for chunks of antelope meat. The bundles were laid on the ground and Ig and Ug examined them for quantity and dryness before handing out chunks of meat which they considered to be a fair exchange. At last they got to Arfor, a large man and known to be a bit unhappy. No one knew why he was unhappy, he just was. Always. He presented two scrawny and very damp twigs.
Ig and Ug exchanged glances, as though to say ‘we’ve got a right one ˊere’. Ug knelt down and cut off a small chunk of meat and offered it to Arfor.
Arfor looked at the morsel in disgust. “What do you call this. Eh? You asked for wood and I brought wood. But you gave Og a piece the size of my head and you gave Ag a piece almost as big.”
“Yes, we did.” Agreed Ig. “But Og brought so much wood he was almost bent double by its weight and although Ag brought less wood it was dry and ready for burning. What you have brought is not enough to grill a sausage (whatever that is) and is so wet it will take three days to dry it out. So all you get is that amount of meat.”
“Well, I don’t think it’s fair. We all brought wood so we should all get the same sized share. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.* My ability is two damp twigs and my need is a much bigger chunk of antelope.”
“Take it or leave it.” Ig said, withdrawing the meat before Arfor could take it.
“OK. I’ll take it.” Arfor grabbed the meat. “But you bastards (whatever they are) haven’t heard the last of this.” And with that Arfor turned and stomped off.
And thus was invented the disaffected employee.
“Same deal as last time.” Ug announced. “Anyone who brings wood will be given a share of the antelope meat.” However, none of the crowd moved, except for Arfor.
He stepped out of the crowd and stood foursquare in front of Ig and Ug, his arms folded across his chest in the belligerent manner that Ig and Ug had come to recognise when dealing with Arfor.
“On behalf of the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades, I hereby notify you that we will not gather any wood unless the same amount of antelope is given to everyone. Equal shares for all workers!”
There were some mutterings of agreement from the crowd. Others, like Og and Ag, looked at their feet and said nothing.
"What is the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades?" asked Ig.
"It is the body that I invented to represent the interests of the hard working members of the tribe who gather wood and prevents them being exploited by the likes of you two." Explained Arfor.
“Oh. OK, well, no. We can’t agree with that.” Announced Ig. “We will exchange meat in proportion to the amount of wood gathered, same as last time. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”
“In that case.” Arfor drew himself up to his full height. “I have to notify you that in accordance with the Union Handbook (whatever that is) the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades has held a ballot and we are withdrawing our labour.” With that he turned on his heel and walked away, followed by the rest of the tribe. Some looked back longingly at the antelope, but others shouted at them and so they hurried away.
And thus was invented industrial action.
A few hours later the smell of roasting antelope wafted across the cave. Arfor sought out Ig and Ug, only to find them basting their antelope as it sat roasting on the fire.
“Where did you get that wood?” Arfor demanded to know.
Ig pointed towards a group of people who were sat waiting patiently for the meat to cook so that they could have a share.
“Who are these people?” Arfor shouted. “And why are their legs a funny colour?”
“These are the swamp people. The colour of their legs is caused by them wading through mud all day. They are called Blacklegs. They are very poor and so they have come to collect wood for us, in exchange for some of our meat.”
Arfor was furious, but there was nothing he could do, so he stomped off once again, shouting back at Ig and Ug. “You haven’t heard the last of this.” Arfor had a very limited imagination so he tended to repeat himself.
And so strike breaking was invented.
“We’re sorry Ig and Ug, but we can’t gather wood for you. Men beat us up and threatened to do the same again if we gathered wood for you.”
“Was one of them Arfor?” Ig asked.
“Oh no. Arfor was on the far side of the cave at the time holding a meeting of the union.”
So the Blacklegs, like the wood gatherers, went hungry.
A few hours later the smell of roasting antelope once again wafted through the cave. Arfor once again went to find and confront Ig and Ug.
“Where did you get that wood from? Did those effing Blacklegs gather it for you?”
“No, they didn’t. But the cave down the road has plenty of wood. In fact they have so much that they are giving it away almost for nothing. We got far more wood from them than we ever did from this tribe and we had to give away much less antelope.” Ug explained.
And thus outsourcing was invented.
Arfor returned to the tribe and called together the members of the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades. “Brothers and Sisters.” He exclaimed. “I promised you victory over the capitalist dogs Ig and Ug and now I have to tell you that victory has been achieved.”
One brave man shouted from the back, where he hoped he couldn’t be identified. “If we have won a great victory, how come I can smell roasting antelope?”
“Ah, brother. That is just propaganda put out by the employers. There is no antelope being roasted in this cave."
“Ok.” The voice shouted again. “If we’ve won such a great victory, why am I so flipping hungry?”
“That, my friend, is the fault of the fascist capitalists who snatch the food from the very mouths of our children.”
“But it’s their food. They hunted for it and brought it back.”
“Brother, you are in grave danger of earning yourself a punch up the throat, but I will answer your point. The food exists for everyone. It is not right that just two people should have it.” Arfor retorted.
“So how do we get some of it?”
“We take it from them. Come brothers and Sisters. Let’s march and snatch the food from the capitalist fascists.”
So the people marched, shouting as they went “Snatch the rich. Snatch the rich”. They seized the antelope from Ig and Ug and they ate it.
And thus the protest march was invented.
And thus was invented industrial decline and the off-shore business.
Industrial decline has been most keenly felt in Alba, Eborakon and Silur. When the people of these places were faced with the consequences of their own actions they did what they always did and pulled themselves up to their full height, stared the world squarely in the eye and blamed Aggie the God of thatchers. This tradition continues to this day.
Those of the tribe who did the gathering and the making of goods now had to send their products to another cave to trade for antelope, which was then sent to them on an sled dragged by an oryx.
Thus was the import/export market invented and also the logistics industry.
Those of the tribe that were still willing to gather wood moved to other caves, where they received less in exchange for the same amount of wood, because there was now a surplus of wood gatherers in those caves and no one thought about retraining (whatever that is) as something else.
Thus was invented the economic migrant and cheap migrant labour.
The rest of the tribe lived as beggars, for once they had eaten the antelope they discovered that no one else in the tribe knew how to hunt and the only two people that could teach them to hunt had moved away. Neither could they survive on the handfuls of berries gathered by the members of the Co-operative of Berry Gatherers and which they couldn’t afford anyway because they made nothing and gathered nothing for which anyone would trade their berries.
And thus was invented unemployment and the poverty that goes with it.
Afror lived happily ever after, on a pension funded by the membership fees paid to the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades. He is now suing the union for unfair dismissal because ... er... because... well why not? Everyone else is at it so why not him?.
* This quote is attributed to Louis Blanc (1811-1882), a French politician, but it appears he was 40,000 years late with it as Arfor got there first. However, Louis is to be forgiven as Arfor didn’t have the benefit of a written language with which to record his sayings. It is also sometimes wrongly attributed to Karl Marx who may have used it but only after Arfor and Louis Blanc.
If you enjoyed this tongue in cheek look at history there is another one in next week's blog: The True(ish) History Of Religion.