The following was written by T J D | @elephantlass
Joining the Dots…
It is often remarked upon how disconnected many voters feel from the ‘political elite’ in Westminster. The usual reason given for this is that MPs are part of a self serving and self enriching government elite: they represent no one but themselves and their own narrow interests. Reference is made to the numbers of ex public school boys, the Oxbridge elite, the old boys’ club atmosphere, the overwhelmingly ‘male, stale and pale’ appearance of the place; the expenses scandal fed nicely into this narrative and discontent, and shored up the common perception that politics is nothing to do with and has no effect on the lives of ordinary citizens
If you tolerate this…
What I’m wondering, though, is why no one challenges this view in the most obvious way? Politics is not some remote, autonomous automaton sheathed within the much remarked upon Westminster bubble, nor is it simply about portly men in ermine costumes solemnly marching along red carpets in some feudal pantomime. It is in fact weaved into the fabric of all our lives, hiding in plain sight, waiting for us to notice it and realise the potential power we have over it. This was brought home to me recently when a colleague, whose four year old son has just started school, commented that it was fantastic that free school meals were provided for him and his classmates. This happened to be on the same day that Gideon announced that this initiative was to be ended; we obviously cannot afford hot meals for small children when we need to be finding £1.7 million for each potential air strike against Syria, or £100 billion to replace Trident. Priorities, people!
The intense humming of evil
When I explained this, my colleague was outraged by this news and pointed out that for some children, this was their only hot meal of the day. She seemed confused, however, that this decision was being made by or had anything to do with the government. She’s not a stupid person by any means but seemed to have no inkling about how decisions such as this are reached, by whom and why. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s the way current affairs are presented by the largely supine and complacent media, maybe it is a lack of curiosity but the net result is the same; an under informed, disinterested and apathetic population who have no grasp of how words uttered at party conferences or in debates in the House Of Commons or House of Lords will affect them, their families and their lives.
There by the grace of God
Those of us who consider ourselves politically engaged and want to see a change have a part to play here, I think; it is up to us to join the dots in people’s lives between what they see happening around them/experience first hand, and the remote political rhetoric which rarely reaches them. ‘The personal is political’ is an old school feminist slogan which I think is overdue a revival. Politics is not a privileged white male elite quaffing Chablis while swapping second home allowances.
This is politics:
• Cuts to tax credits which will adversely affect the lowest paid workers
• Being unable to get a GPs appointment or a hospital referral
• The closure of your local psychiatric hospital due to underfunding
• Fewer police patrols
• Longer waiting times for ambulances
• Large class sizes in state schools
• Lack of affordable housing
• Crippling student debt
• The loss of, say, 1700 jobs at UK steelworks, while the government provides subsidies for a steel contract for China
• Zero hours contracts being the norm
• Overcrowded, overpriced trains
• State assets being sold off
• Large corporations avoiding tax, safe in the knowledge that government will not take any kind of enforcement action against them
• Many people feel hopeless, apathetic or depressed by the state of the country but also feel they have and can have no say in what happens next. Disenfranchised and disconnected; isn’t this exactly how the government would like us to feel?
Anthem for a lost cause
Fear of the unknown is paralysing; the first step in changing something is to see it clearly and recognise it for what it is. Once people realise that the suffering they see around them is unfair, ideological and politically motivated, once they realise that austerity is a lie, once they realise that things don’t have to be like this then they can feel motivated to fight back. Empowerment is another old fashioned feminist concept but I think knowledge is empowering, speaking out is empowering, standing up for the voiceless is empowering. Plus the prospect of irritating our Eton Mess of a cabinet is both empowering and delicious. They are not expecting any sort of opposition, buoyed up as they are by their mighty 24% of the popular vote. This is why they are so very rattled by Jeremy Corbyn’s rise, and why their attacks on him are so shrill and hysterical (though as Owen Jones has pointed out, having started at volume 12, how are the government’s pet media going to increase their attacks on him? How can they escalate without becoming so obviously deranged as to be laughable?)
A design for life
Social media is routinely ridiculed by the establishment and their media pals. This is not just because it threatens their business model, although it does, but also because it is outside their control. They can’t control the content and they can’t control the flow or reach of the content and that terrifies them. They do not want people like me (and you, unless I’m talking to myself) to speak, network and share ideas. Knowledge is power, remember, and if we speak, we educate each other, increase our knowledge and therefore increase our power. We are citizens and consumers and we need to understand and appreciate the enormous potential we have to effect change in this wonderful world of purchase power
Those of us who are amazed, astonished and inspired by what is happening on the left at the moment have both a fantastic opportunity and a great responsibility. It is up to us to educate and enlighten our friends, neighbours and colleagues. Speak up, tweet, post, join the dots for people. Restore their hope. Prod and provoke them. Challenge and cheer them. Enthuse and empower them.
WE ARE MANY, THEY ARE FEW!
By T J D | @elephantlass
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