Tuesday, 8 November 2011

St Paul's and Slavery




Greetings from a London turning grey for winter. I’ve been away a while, hanging-out with mortality and reflecting on whether there is any point making efforts at writing journalism. In conclusion, the answer is probably no, and though I might give it a whirl again at some point in the future, that won’t make the occupation any less of a waste of time. Journalism is only the profession of forming opinions for others to dispense as their own, and whatever the craft involved, or the value of this service, world-changing it ain’t.

I’ve been down at St Paul’s Cathedral a fair amount recently, chatting to protesters in the occupation and seeing what’s going on. They’re good people doing a good thing, and I suppose that, though less negative than often is so, a few familiar things have stuck-out in my impressions of the coverage of it all. Firstly, I’ve enjoyed the familiar media habit of focussing on the class background of the protesters, in particular the fact that they are largely middle-class and educated. It amuses me that when riff-raff start smashing-up their community it isn’t political because all they’re doing is vandalism and looting, and then when middle-class people start protesting against economic injustice it is somehow less political because they’re middle class. Clearly the only way to be political in modern society is to run along and vote nicely twice a decade, and then get back to work because, fear not, we have professional politicians taking care of the politics. I’ve also enjoyed the irony that it is a serious political statement when somebody is prepared to live in a tent in central London to demonstrate their beliefs, the only problem is that once you’ve started living in a tent in central London to demonstrate your beliefs, nobody will ever take you seriously again. Most enjoyable amongst the negativity is the criticism that the protesters generally seem to be a happy bunch, a definite flaw, for indeed, who would ever listen to a happy person, and indeed, what do happy people know about the world anyway? If they’re not miserable then they’re obviously not aware of what life’s supposed to be about.

What else has been good… property laws?... that was a good one, the property laws and lawyers that float backstage, waiting to remove the protesters from outside the cathedral. In Syria it’s the Assad family, in Bahrain the Sunni royals, and in Britain we have the great and faceless god of property laws to move the people along in orderly fashion. Whatever the method, the net result is no different… shut-up, shove-off and do what you’re told before we baton-charge you. I love the fact that we have laws in this country that will stop people protesting in Parliament Square outside the seat of our democracy, and outside the seat of our economy at the Stock Exchange (to avoid splitting hairs we’ll pretend for a moment that the Stock Exchange is not also the seat of our democracy). We do not, however, have any law that stops every vacant property on an impoverished high street from being filled by a pawnbroker, a payday loan company, and at least three betting agencies.

Which might as well be the crux of this… and I hate to break it to you… but… well… we’ve been screwed. Let me just say that again. We’ve been screwed. We have been screwed for a long time, we’re being screwed right now, and – boy oh boy – we’re going to get screwed so much harder before this is out. Acceptance is the first step, if we can get more people saying that we’ve been screwed, admitting to the truth of things, then perhaps we can get screwed a little less hard, or perhaps maybe we can even unscrew things a little. That’s the problem… we’re all too damn weak. Your average citizen will sooner spend his time defending the very system that betrays him, than swallowing pride and admitting that they have been screwed, and that they have been screwed each day of their life. Come on… let’s try it together now, as one… we’ve been screwed, we’ve been screwed, we’ve been screwed… it gets easier the more you say it, because that’s the thing, we’re all slaves together at the end of the day. You might have all the music you want for just £10 a month courtesy of Spotify, you might have bought a wetsuit and taken-up river swimming, you might have ridden your bicycle through a desert and over a mountain range, but once you get out of the river and off of the bike, make no mistake, you are only a slave.

Every living expense in your daily life is more expensive because it is purchased in direct competition with a financial machine that buys commodities for no purpose beyond making money out of another’s legitimate need. Every pound that you earn for those purchases is going to be worth 95 pence in a year’s time, and only 75 pence in five year’s time (assuming, optimistically, that inflation doesn’t rise) because a gaggle of politicians devalued your money to keep that same financial system in business. People would be wise to pay attention to the eviction of the traveller community at Dale Farm in Essex, because whatever the whys and wherefores of the case, make no mistake, the underlying message is clear. This system owns you, and alternatives are unacceptable. Against that, don’t doubt that it must be so much easier for politicians to do nothing when all the little people are lining-up obediently to say that the system works. Just you wait, just you wait for the day that you start seeing payments to the Chinese government in the ‘deductions’ column of your salary, just you wait for a Russian estate managements firm to buy-up that seaside town where you had your childhood holidays, just you wait for a crack-head to snatch your laptop from outside the cafĂ© because his care worker was laid-off. Oh it’s going to be fun all right, at last life will be more exciting than Facebook again.

A couple of things to remember as the insanity mounts. The RMT-member train driver who gets however many tens of thousands a year… is not your enemy. The teacher with a generous-sounding pension… is not your enemy. The Somali immigrant is certainly not your enemy, the buy-to-let landlord (who may well be a scoundrel and a scumbag) is not your enemy. Even the bankers, the suit-wearing banker who takes home a few tens of thousands and feels smug about his work address, still he is only small fry and not your enemy. Even the police… even the god damn police are not your enemy (we can only hope that they realise as much too). Your enemy is not even the 1%, it is the 0.1% and the government that was mandated to deliver a healthy and just society, and goes about a day-by-day failure in that task with the same assurance as if they were doing the job well.

What is really needed… let me tell you now… at a whisper so as not to cause alarm. What is really needed… is a war! Yep, that’s right, and none of that class war claptrap either… we need a good, old-fashioned war… spilled innards and missing limbs (!!)… if you don’t believe me just look at the reforms and social welfare policies of the post-Second World War period. Sadly, really, this is so sad… but the truth is that in order for people to realise that this is their society and that they are entitled to a fair piece of it, what really needs to happen is for people’s husbands, fathers and sons to be killed by the tens of thousands in the name of the country. Only then, after the bleeding has stopped, will people finally recognise that they live their lives as part of a nation, and are thus entitled to a part of that nation. I really hope that it doesn’t come to that, but with the government ratcheting up plans to start dropping bombs on Persia in the name of world peace (Persia, incidentally, hasn’t invaded anyone for over 800 years)… well… perhaps it might.

In the meantime, if you’re in London, take a trip to St Paul’s… as I said, they’re good people with a good cause. When you arrive there, reflect on who it is you give forty-hours of your life to each week… those hours are precious. At the camp, be sure to put your prejudices against appearance aside, enjoy listening to people playing music, enjoy being given a meal and asked nothing in return, enjoy it when someone says ‘hello’ without a thought of what they can gain from you, but only because you’re another human being. After all, isn’t that what society was supposed to be about?

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