It Doesn’t Have to be This Way

I remember reading somewhere, many years ago, something along the lines that “the bigger the lie, the more that it will be believed”. It’s something that I have come to believe myself more as I have grown older and which was emphasised when my wife and I went to the cinema on Saturday evening. The film which sets the tone for my blog today is “Pride”. Based on actual events, it is the story of how a group of gays and lesbians in London formed a support group to help the miners during the strike during 1984/5. They chose a mining community in Wales and travelled to deliver the money repeating the performance again and again, breaking down barriers and forging deep bonds. It may be slightly dramatised but it is a funny and heart warming reminder us of days when to contradict Mrs Thatcher, there was “such a thing as society”. Which brings me to what I wanted to say.

There is a myth that needs to be addressed, an elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. Indeed, many of us do just that. Even, I suspect, at the upper levels of government. Yet, promoted by most of the press, the message is that our current economic woes are the result of government overspending and that a small group of, largely white, middle aged men with a fairly common background have special talents that uniquely equip them to run the country either directly or via control of our press and financial institutions. Moreover, they attained these positions by virtue of such talents and sheer hard work above and beyond similar qualities in the rest of the population. On this basis, they seem to justify remuneration on a scale that beggars belief. It is, of course, self serving nonsense.

Research would seem to show that talent is spread fairly evenly throughout society whereas, unfortunately, the resources to develop it are not. This, it needs to be said, is not just an academic matter. Surely, the country would be more able to operate on a global scale if it made the best use of the skills and abilities of the whole population. After all, if this lot is the best we can come up with, we are in serious trouble. Oh no, I forgot, we already are!

If you should think that this is all just a pipe dream and that there appears to be little alternative, I suggest a thorough reading of our history; especially that part which demonstrates how working people have, over the past 400 years at least, played an active role in creating a civic society based more on communal effort than individual greed. I refer, of course, to E P Thompson’s classic book, “The Making of the English Working Class”. If you should not want to plough through this magnum opus, I would refer you to my own, more modest, contribution, “The Real Big Society.  This latter, as well as providing a brief history also contains a number of recent, practical example; including my personal favourite, Hedgehog Self Build where a group of people who were homeless and unemployed built their own homes. 13 years later they are still there, in work, in a wonderful community.

Finally, I did some research recently on the first Labour MP’s. Many of them came from among the manual trades and, seemingly, could hardly believe where they were when they walked into parliament. They finished up in government, some in the highest offices in the land; which brings me full circle. The film I mentioned is, obviously, a dramatisation, however, those portrayed in it weren’t (at least, not all of them). Sian James, a housewife wonderfully played by Jessica Gunning, went on to study and become the first woman MP for the Swansea East constituency. Truly, things don’t need to be the way they are.

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