Too many people don’t get it and politicians don’t want to or can’t cope with alternative socio-economic views. Their ears are on default selection. You want to talk about the idea that public ownership of utilities is better than private and all they counter with – all they hear is Big State, Unions, Taxpayer Money Pit… You tell them working people are claiming benefits because their wages are inadequate and they hear people aren’t working hard enough… All the stale labels of left theory are flung in contempt and the right goes into shallow vitriolic transmission. And the Left, gods bless it, falls for it every time: finds itself utterly positioned. Everyone is stuck in Yesterday.
When the socio-economic climate is sick and unstable as the direct consequence of the malfeasance or incompetence of governance then politicians have no right to punish the least culpable and most vulnerable – have no right to exchange entitlement for discretion.
There is dignity and common sense in a social security system focused on need. Ethical and sustainable employment with a decent wage requires ethical and sustainable policies. The constancy of quality in education and health fosters equality. Both political wings are fools because aren’t these what contribute to making people feel secure and independent? And isn’t this exactly what enables everyone else to ignore those they would prefer to have nothing to do with? It is as though they don’t have the capacity to grasp that contented people of any social/economic ‘class’ tend not to be afraid and judgemental; tend not to desire retribution; tend not to see themselves as taken advantage of; tend not to stick their noses in other people’s general business unless it harms another. Even when they do acknowledge reality, they merely parrot stale rhetoric and erect myths and idiocies as economic barriers. Everyone acts as though there were no other solutions. Call it ignorance, call it inflexibility, call it a lack of imagination. Call it pathetic. But let’s call it.
What to do with such selective intellect? Obviously compassion, ethics and equality are not cutting it so what’s left? What buttons haven’t been pressed?
The excellent argument of false economy is one: that some actions cost much more than money. This argument is poorly made or not made at all by either the opposition or mainstream economists and media. Are they incapable or reluctant? Are they so enamoured of Thatcherite bunkum? For, as we’ve seen all too often, Labour only makes an argument insofar as it doesn’t contradict the Conservatives, so englamoured are they by polished turds – or so scared by the statistical capital of petty polls. Irrespective, this is collusion in a system that keeps people down.
From it’s too icky to it serves them right, people generally don’t want to deal with the vulnerable, nor do they desire the guilt of burden for those who don’t have their good fortune, contacts, ambitions or acumen. This is an observation of people rather than a criticism. It’s not so much that they simply don’t care – though some obviously don’t, but people feel they have enough to contend with in their own lives. Besides, only do-gooders and zealots want to actually be their brother’s keeper on a basis which overreaches common neighbourliness. This is why the caring professions are known as vocational: because not everyone has the stomach, empathy or patience for the tasks involved. It is also why the voluntary and charitable sectors are not a solution or demonstration of a ‘Big Society’ but rather a careless avoidance of a government’s representative responsibility. The right and the comfortable can scoff at the idea of economic common good and interest but it is the cheapest and most egalitarian option for those needs which any or every individual requires, be it ‘welfare’, education, transport, utilities or health. The alternatives currently being endorsed indicate collective irresponsibility.
It’s widely recorded in history and accepted by political theorists that the middle-classes hold the power for change. So, is it not the Middle which needs to realise that we can’t afford not to have a strong, dependable and benevolent safety net, especially in such an asymmetric world? The bottom percentage includes them also and, given a long enough timeline, they too may join the dispossessed, as the economic manipulation explodes in the elites’ faces and implodes our planet. Actually, the micro-macro relationship means this timeline is shortening rapidly as events accelerate on the domestic and world stage. The Middle has striven for its aspirations and now finds itself running just to stand still. This wide income bracket may feel ‘squeezed’ but this is not really fair because the poor have the least voice and power and so have little capacity to pressure anyone above them in the economic chain. A capacity that recedes with every year. The pressure comes from the mindset and policies of governments above who have long encouraged the aspirations of some at the expense of others. The Middle is a victim, yes, but it is not powerless: it can apply pressure in both directions and I would ask that it aim higher.
Politicians miss how reckless it is to perpetuate systems and policies that leave people with nothing to lose but their anger and desperation; that they undermine, castigate and contain the poor at their peril. The rich and the superrich surely want their children to be free, not locked away from a hostile world, living ever closeted, reductive and superficial lives and yet this is their direction of travel. And those who are clinging on to their middling comfort, who keep their heads down and hope for survival, do so by practising denial and trying not to become what and who it’s most afraid of which, let’s face it, might be only a matter of time. ‘By the grace of…’ is not practical when your job, your health and your money could collapse in a flash because you really won’t like what is waiting to catch and ‘help’ you.
It’s a reality which the poor recognise and fear only too well because they live there. The superrich and super powerful have been at this grotesque game for a very long time. And, as in other times, the slow-to-rise middle holds much of the balance of power for change over both the above and the below.