To listen to or watch the news or read a newspaper (not that many of the latter provide you with actual news), you could be forgiven for thinking that the world is in a mess. As indeed it is. To such an extent that even my optimism is sorely tested. Climate change is real, as is religious fanaticism and the hatred that it promotes. This latter, combined with access to weapons of mass destruction, a particularly scary prospect. So what can any of us do? Well, all the above may be true, however, there is a life to be led in the meantime along with both a sense of perspective and some personal action.
More years ago than I care to remember, I discovered E P Thompson’s “The Making of The English Working Class”; to be followed by many other books. In the process, I read that the 14th century was dubbed “the worst century ever”, with climate change, a reduction in crops and an environmental and social crisis which increased the gap between rich and poor. Then along came the Black Death which led to a near 50% reduction in the population of the country. This situation transformed Europe, such that low level struggles between landowners and those who worked the land turned into mass revolt. The intervening 650 odd years have included a fair amount of struggle on the part of working people. Read, for example, E P Thompson’s classic book, and you will find the story of how working class people played a very active role in their society and, in the process, helped to create a culture and political consciousness of some vitality. Starting at the end of the 18th century and forged in the change from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, industrial one, over the next 150 years, it was to herald the Chartists, the Co-operative movement, the trade union movement, universal suffrage, the creation of the Labour Party and, in 1948, the welfare state. Self improvement took hold leading to the establishment of, for example, Mechanics’ Institutes in most of the major towns and cities in the country. What is most interesting about this is that much of it was from the bottom up creating a movement whereby self help was related to greater involvement and control.
So, have your moans, as I do, but also try to do something and get involved. If you’re a “clicktivist” become an activist. Then, if the worst comes to the worst, at least you’ll have tried.