It appears that David Cameron was right about something. He said when he tried to roll back the welfare state, that the Big Society would step up- and here we all are.
For 6 months this coalition have left us standing like frightened rabbits, unsure as to which attack to defend ourselves against first. On the day of the budget, i realised that this government in their opening shot= had taken away my ability to feed and house my daughter through working- justifying it by calling it incentivising work and marriage. Talk of poor people not having children tehy couldnt afford, ignoring that most women couldnt afford their children without the support of either the state or their partners- because the gender pay gap opens up when you havea baby-and the cost of childcare is so prohibitive that only the highest earning women in the country come into the category of those allowed to reprduce.
I watched as they ensured that for many women the only way out of poverty is a relationship- and this is what I shouted about. I wrote, and I spoke, and I tried to make everyone listen- even when I came across as a crazy person.
I am not a politcal activist, I am not a journalist- I am a mum and an ex social worker- and I am angry, and terrified about what happens to me in this new society that the coalition want to create.
While I was shouting about this, I was choosing my line. The thing I would care about- the list of other things I could have shouted about grew overwhelming.
The NHS is being dismantled, with primary care trusts dissolved and their budgets passed to privately owned doctors surgerys who dont want that repsonsibility. Our health policy now made with the help of fast food companies, our decisions about which drugs the taxpayer should pay for made by people with profit in mind. Cuts to our police, our schools, and the decimation of higher education funding. Increases in tuiitoin fees that would have ensured that I never went to university, and mean that even though my daughter is the first girl in her class to write her name, she may never see the inside of one of our Higher Education institutes. The social work departments which were already crumbling, who have responsibility for the most vulnerable children in our society facing decimation. Agricultural policy to suit GM food manufacturers, and cuts to the soldiers in our armed forces justofied while contracts with the richest arms companies in the world were honored. A business policy which has strangled the funding available for start ups through regional development agencies, – replaced with a regional growth fund with minimum investment of £1million. Housing benefits changes which teh governments own research shows will create a transient displaced population who have done little more than have the misfortune of being poor.
I watched as important debates about our economy and what is wrong with it, were bypassed with soundbites about the deficit, and welfare scroungers. The fact that our welfare spending in the past 12 years has grown not for the so called workless, but to subsidise low wages and ridiculoys property prices- rarely mentioned. The personal debt bubble of now many times our GDP, based on an overvalued housing market- less important than making everyone believe that those already excluded are now blamed.
David Cameron campaigned on the platform of Britain being broken- yet the only thing that had broken before the election was our banking system and bloated financial sector, and the crippling effect of years of marketisation on our public services. I watched as the coalition who promised pluralist politics shouted Labour did it every time someone farted, and I watched as Labour pretended to be our opposition even though their own manifesto is only a hairs breadth away from the manifesto of the most right wing government in our history.
All this after an alection where Nick Clegg and Vince Cable pretended they were an alternative to the Labservative consensus that has been in place since 1997.
And all the time I watched horrified as my country turned into a dystopia, I felt like noone would stand up. Noone would say hang on. We had been groomed for cuts- we had been groomed to accept that our country was to be asset stripped and handed over for profit, and the structures we fought for- our welfare state, our NHS, our education system would be sold off to the highest bidder.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>see prev post about students.
I receive emails every day, from people like me. Who are not activists, who are mothers, carers- the real big society- the people whose labour, paid and unpaid have kept out country going, and who are now persona non grata. I watched for years, with half hearted support for those willing to fight, believing the things they fought against would not have an effect in my lifetime. How wrong I was.
Never has the net of undeserving been cast so wide- the squeezed middle are the richest people in the country- with the rest of us irrelevant- but we still have power.
And now is the time to find new ways- to take the skills and courage you have all shown and to bring it to those for whom this reality is new and frightening.
This cannot be a random coming together of feeling, or an expression of futile anger.
We need a strategy, one that encompasses politics, economics, and causes a cultural shift.
We need to be smart in responding to the economic warfare that has been declared on everyone not in the richest 20 percent of the country. The social enterprise funding David Cameron has set aside for his version of the Big Society, should be taken BY the big society- the REAL big society.
Every community project, every act of kindness, every time someone works to help someone protect themselves from the effect of this government that is protest. From the smallest act of offering to babysit, to the consciousness raising that defined the radical movements of the 1960s- from standing up with someone when they are evicted, to arguing against the benefit scrounger/soapdodger student myths. Bring in the voluntary agencies who will be forced to pretend they are carrying David Camerons flag, in order to access money- that they can be part of this movement. Understand that the people who most need help, may be alienated by the language of the left.
We are the legitimate Big Society, and we need to ensure that not only is Direct Action protest- but offering of something constructive. Something everyone can be part of.
Use the tools we have, Twitter, blogs- educate people on the reality behhind this false economy – if the language of left has been demonised, it is time to use different language to illustrate the same principles- to show people that solidarity and the Big S
iety are actually the same thing. Show people that they are the market- not the obscene derivatives markets that suck the lifeblood out of our economy. Show people that what they buy is as effective a vote in a market economy, as any general election provides. Support your local exchange and trading schemes, freecycle- green projects.
Concentrate on the faultlines running under this coalition, and bring it down before they cause irreperable harm- and to focus the Lib Dem MPs who dont want to be disliked- but never forget that Labour are part of the problem. If you are a member of a political party make your self heard, demand that they give your party back. While Labour are in opposition and weak- use this as an opportunity to pledge on the things that we know they wont deliver. Do not let them come back into power, pretending to be our saviour and recognise that when teh coalition is gone- before the next bank bailout.
Make people aware of what is happening in Ireland right now- that there is a clear demonstration that austerity measures do not work, Do not allow this to be called an international rescue package designed to reduce contagion. Make sure people know this is another bank bailout, and that the reason it is necessary is that the risks our government have underwritten still have the potential to bring our economy down.
Encourage people to stand for election, make our parliament more accountable. Encourage people to stand in council elections, in parish council elections. Use the hustings of our broken political process to plant the seeds of a new grassroots moevemnt. Start the process of making people understand that for democracy towork, we have to participate again- that apathy has allowed this much damage to be done,a nd it cannot continue.
If y ou are a member of a union, use that membership – recognise the unfair restrictions placed on them and ask the union if they will help direct their resources at encouraging grassroots action.
Use the techniques that allow terrible groups like the EDL and christian fundamentalists to garner grassroots support- and take that support away from them. Learn the lessons of Stonewall- who have ensured that gay rights are at the top of the political agenda. Do not squabble over words and language-and remember that the people who need to fight most, may not share many of of the principles you hold dear. We are fighting a mindset that has been allowed to set in over generations.
Help organise protests which allow people who work to attend- on a Saturday. Protest nurserys so parents have the childcare that allows them to march- organise protesst where people can take their children and the relatives they care for. Let the Big Society spill on to our streets-= and show David Cameron exactly what we look like.
A collaboration of all the groups who have fought the neo liberal consensus, brought together with the people it now deems undeserving.
The skills and training you give each other to ensure you know how to occupy buildings, how to plan a protest, need to be passed onto people who have never done this. GO into the estates and towns worst affected by these cuts- pass on the skills that allow you to assert your power. If you can write, write, if you can speak speak. If you are a web developer offer your skills- if you know how to cook- use that.
Use the PR techniques that allowed David Cameron to rebrand our recession so effectively- contact PR people you follow on twitter- learn how to use the media properly- how to ensure publicity and legitimacy. People believe we offer no alternative to a strategy which has no hope of success- we have to stop having the debate on their terms.
Communicate- make we know what other groups are doing, we are working together. Ensure that solidarity is not just a word- but a mindset..
But most of all, we all need to recognise that this is not just a battle against one round of cuts. This is not a battle about one party, or one government. Our country has had economic stability based on the fiction of consumption for generations, and over the next few years it will end. This is now about fighting to make democracy accountable, to return our countries economy to sustainability- to ensure that we are not sold into corporate serfdom without realising, And this may not be a short battle, but a long long war. This is no longer about scare stories of what may happen if we dont act- my generation sat back and did very little- and we are feeling the consequences of that now. And as those consequences become more severe, and prolongued- the luxury of doing nothing is gone. We need a united grassroots movement- we need the Big Society to come together. Never have we needed it more.
Let the Big Society wake up.
THis was followed by some rather interesting and feisty discussion- and am going back as soon as have time, Have to say- would strongly advise going to one of the occupations. Very interesting indeed. V interesting.