From Lee Hall - writer of Billy Elliott - long but worth reading(20 Posts)
I grew up at a time when you could go to the dentist and have your teeth done, go to university, watch the football on the telly - all for nowt.
Now I pay for prescriptions, I have a son with an inordinate debt before he’s even done a days work, and have a Sky box, an internet service contract and Netflix account - and pay more in the typical month than I used to pay on entertainment for the whole year.
I grew up at a time when I would look out of my bedroom window and see a forest of cranes on the river.
I was there when they sailed the last one to China.
I grew up at a time when I’d go and watch blokes running out of work in Swan Hunters - thousands and thousands of them. All in a union.
Now there are none.
I drank in a pub where those people went to gather and talk.
It is gone.
I used to go round the corner to the library to borrow books. That’s gone.
I used to go to another library in Heaton to see me Mam who worked there part time. That’s gone.
At school, once a year, the kids were taken up to Carrshields where the Local Education Authority kept an outward bounds centre and we’d go hill walking, mountaineering and pot holing. It’s now two luxury ‘conversions’.
After school I used to go to a Drama Centre where there were directors and playwrights who were paid to make plays with kids like me and Joe. Gone.
I used to go and buy cheap secondhand books from the shop in the Handyside Arcade. That went. Then I used to buy books from the one on Westgate Road. And when that went I used to down to the shop on the Side. Gone. Now I buy them from the internet, from a site owned by Amazon. Who doesn't pay UK taxes.
We used to have one phone in our house. Now we all have a phone in our pocket, and the old phone still in the hall. Collectively we pay in one month what we used to pay in a year.
We don’t say anything more significant.
I used to go to watch the football where they’d wear a strip that “belonged to everyone”. Now it belongs to Wonga.
We have been sold a lie. The market did not make things cheaper. Life got more expensive. In the meantime we did not suddenly earn more, we just got ourselves further and further into debt.
This did not happen to everyone of course. The people who deal in debt (bankers), and the people who profit from us getting in to it (Apple and Google and Amazon, add your own name here) all got much, much, much richer.
Look at the graphs - things are changing exponentially.
At least in dark days of Victorian England the Industrialists who ripped off the working class put up the odd museum or financed a public park or two to mitigate their exploitation. I don’t see Amazon or Google funding libraries. They are too busy making sure everything is funneled through a tax free loophole in Sark.
What was held in common has been taken away and privatized. The phone system, the railways, the airwaves: we have a hundred channels of shit that now we have to pay through the nose for.
The places where people assembled - pubs, clubs, churches, workplaces, local shops, day care centers, etc etc are all vanishing.
Most shopping precincts are privately owned. You try filming a documentary there and see what happens. A burly bloke on a zero-hour contract and minimum wage comes up to you and threatens to phone the police and take away your camera.
We have sleepwalked through a wholesale redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Our collective lives have been depleted : what was ours has been taken away then rented back to us. And when the market couldn't manage it on it’s own account governments stepped in and did it on our behalf. Literally giving them OUR money.
It’s really simple: we have all been robbed and we did nothing about it. We continue to act like a nation of zombies = perhaps because we are in disbelief that this could have actually happened underneath our noses.
Obviously it started with Thatcher but PFI schemes really came into their own under Labour. The political parties are all the same: mouth pieces for the same thinking as those out to nakedly exploit us.
Just a few months ago our own Labour administration closed down libraries, pools and daycare centers, and yet at the very same time committed to spend £413m in private sector building; to make more offices and do up shop fronts. What were they thinking? Have you been round town and seen the signs of offices to rent?
The whole episode was a farcical disgrace: the cooked up figures, the deliberate attempts at misinformation. It was a travesty of the political process. The cynicism and the complete intellectual bankruptcy of what remains of the local Labour Party couldn't have been more clearly exposed. But yet they got away with it. Still peddling the same idea - cut things which enrich people’s lives and pour public money into the hands of business.
It’s ludicrous. It’s robbery.
The market is not the answer. The market was never the answer.
If we were unsure about it - it conveniently blew up in our faces : yet we did nothing.
The commercial and financial elite weren't so slow. No, via their political cronies (left and right) they used the opportunity to ramp the gears up and really shaft us. And still we did nothing.
It doesn’t make sense.
But maybe we have entered this age of Zombie Capitalism because we don’t assemble together - we don’t regularly go to union meetings or the pub or the church or the chapel - the most usual place to bump into someone is in the aisles of a supermarket - not the best place to ferment resistance.
Maybe we are supine to these rampaging forces because our common life, our civic life, the bit that we are enriched with for free, the bit through which we can enrich the lives of others, has been snatched away.
That is why this forum is important.
In order to fight back we need to start talking to each other. Just like we used to. Just like everybody used to. All those people who demanded a living wage, an education, the NHS,, a safe place to work, theaters.
We are slipping quickly into a world that is going to resemble Dickensian London rather than anything we knew in the Twentieth Century. It’s not the end of civilization. There’ll still be schools, there’ll still be hospitals, there will still be football, but there will be a mass of misery, injustice and exploitation for the majority and a gilded elite that will live in another world.
That is why the People’s Assembly is important. It is a place where we must conspire to demand something better. To make sure the redistribution starts going the other way.
All of us are suffering - whether we've realized it or not. We've all been sold a lemon - we just don’t know what to do about it. Well, the first thing is to join up with everybody else who’s been sold the lemon and start knocking on some fruit sellers doors.
That’s why I believe in the People’s Assembly. It is a very real opportunity. But it’s a very easy opportunity to blow.
Yes, it’s an enormous task, but we've to start somewhere.
So I send my support and say to you: Be brave. Get organised.
Every single one of you can make a difference.
Interesting to me. Thanks for posting minidipper.
can you provide a link as to where you found that please, OP
i'd like to share it
"We have sleepwalked through a wholesale redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. Our collective lives have been depleted : what was ours has been taken away then rented back to us."
Just how I feel. All of the public assets, railways, utilities, libraries, schools etc., that I though we owned collectively as a nation, have been stolen from us and sold off to foreign big business in the cause of competition, and we, the rightful and largely unconsulted owners, are now paying the price. I haven't tried to work out the value of my share of all of these assets, but I bet it comes to a tidy sum - where do I go to get it back, please?
Ripping Yarns it was sent to me via FB, so I can't really say who by as I'm not sure of the etiquette about disclosure (I almost never use FB but needed to get in touch with someone and saw this and thought it deserved a wider audience. It was read aloud by Geordie actor Joe Caffrey at a People's Assembly - in Gateshead I think, or maybe Newcastle, so it is for public dissemination.
It shook me up, reading it, to see how far we've shifted to the right since my own childhood. I knew we had, but had actually forgotten what was on offer then that is now gone quite possibly for good.
thanks, i'll have a look to share from source then
very moving, i felt the pit of my stomach stir as i read it, all within my lifetime too
Found a direct link to it at the People's Assembly. There's a bit at the top by Joe Caffrey that I edited out, because it was a bit of an in-joke. If you know Joe Caffrey's work (brilliant actor) it really does get you hearing his delivery in your head. Main speech starts a few lines in.
fabulous! thank you so much!
Quite. I would say I loved it if it weren't so throughly depressing!
I often think people are right where the government wants them: at home with big screens/surround sound entertainment/gaming/tippy tappying away on computors/with supermarket refreshments.
No one goes out and gets together now.
Youngsters do. But there used to be a mix of ages out in town on a weekend evening.
I do know it's not just about the pubs
Didn't we chose this though? Perhaps collectively rather than individually, but as a society this was our choice. No one forced us to have a landline and a mobile, no one forced us to subscribe to Sky. We saw the adverts, looked amongst our peers, paid our money and took our choice. We chose to support the football corporations rather than the non-league club down the road, to buy our books on line rather than at the small independent bookshop. We did it in the name of convenience and we are all largely responsible for that.
Similarly, the places where we choose to assemble has changed. Sure, the church, the pub and the working mens clubs have gone but they've been replaced by social media (including here on Mumsnet) where ideas can be discussed nationally rather than parochially as before.
Where I do think that the author has a good point is that education used to be free (or even subsidised for those of us old enough to get a grant). Hopefully though, the winds are changing on this. The government initiative of FutureLearn, which was launched earlier this week, provides free distance learning via the web. So far, it is limited in size and scope and doesn't result in a qualification. I fervently hope that this initiative is expanded in future to the point where qualifications can be gained.
I didn't choose it.....but feel as if many others have and so we all swim in the shit of this marketization = privatization, not just economically but also personally and emotionally.. On FutureLearn...Ok... sounds nice but as a teacher in HE, I really wonder how the content will be extracted and from whom at no cost, lo-cost. Perhaps there will be zero hours contracts for intellectual worker drones servicing great MOOC projects, from which some private provider makes a tidy profit.
I agree that society is looking for joy in all the wrong places. However, I think this is a rather blokey take on a working-class ideal that probably never existed. I have a lot of knowledge of the places he's taking about having lived there myself at one time, and having been brought up in a working-class area of the North West. My home town is by no means brilliant but I think it's better than it was in the eighties. There are no miners these days but then again there are no glue sniffers either.
I particularly dislike the comment about the pubs. Having worked in one I don't mourn their demise. They encouraged men to drink money they should've spent on their children and spend time away from their families.
Good points Judgey and Just. However, Judgey I do think Thatcher's government has a lot to answer for. An awful lot of people were shouting Don't sell the family silver, once it's gone, it's gone for good, as she private all nationalised service industries and sold council housing off without replacing it. There wasn't an awful lot that those who objected could have done to stop her. Now we are stuck with the results of that quick fix coffer-filling. Social housing is seriously underprovided. Services are skimmed to make profits for shareholders at the expense of those who use the services and work in them.
Not everyone asked for this.
God that's one long depressing moan. Some people are just determined to see the dark side of life!
"I grew up at a time when you could go to the dentist and have your teeth done, go to university, watch the football on the telly - all for nowt."
I grew up at a time when football crowds were racist and violent.
I grew up at a time when the mines and industry were closing down, in part because of their own intransigence and unwillingness to change, and male unemployment in my area was 80%.
I grew up at a time when there was nothing to do in my village in the evening except drink cider and get pregnant ... at 14.
I grew up at a time when women did not have equal pay for equal work enshrined in law.
I grew up at a time when half naked women were still routinely used to sell everything from cars to baked beans.
I grew up at a time when teachers were allowed to hit children in their care.
I grew up at a time when palliative care was almost unheard of, cancer survival rates were dreadful and a painful lingering death was pretty much guaranteed.
I grew up at a time when a man could legally rape his wife.
I grew up at a time when children were divided between schools at 11 depending on how clever they seemed to be.
I grew up at a time when it was illegal to talk to school children about homosexuality.
Some of what he says is true, but don't sugar coat the past. We were not all pooling our resources, eschewing capitalism, joining a union and having a jolly knees up at the pub. Collectively as a society, and as individuals, we have grown more tolerant, more open and with a broader outlook than ever before. We can fix the things that are wrong in the present without harking back to some imagined glorious past.
Is it sugar coating the past to comment on what has been lost that should have been saved, otherside? I totally agree with you about all the things on your list, but just because there has been massive and desirable progress in certain areas doesn't mean we should be slack about the steep slide and neglect in others.
No, but why does current discourse about the future always involve looking back to the past? Isn't our great strength as humans being able to adapt and change? To be imaginative and creative? I would rather see ideas about society and the future be more forward looking and optimistic. I truly don't think that people will be motivated to mobilise and change by looking at recreating the past; and in any case, you can't turn back the clock, economically or politically. I'm not saying we can't look for the best in the past, but doesn't positive change come from creating something new and looking forward?
I think you're right Otherside - things are so different now that any changes we make have to be forward seeking, not harking back. However, it's always worth looking at the past to check whether progress is being made. If certain things worked better then, surely it's worth checking how and why and considering reinstating some?
It is interesting, this idea that people assembling together to exchange ideas is what leads to a progressive, and reform seeking society. I seem to recall from O level history that there were laws passed in the 19th century to stop people meeting up and discussing revolution. I suppose the government don't have to do that now, social changes have isolated people more than ever. Perhaps that is why I like Mumsnet.
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