Robert Tressell didn’t have Broadband

'Robert Tressell' sign on student halls of residence is backdrop to Jeremy Corbyn speaking to a rally in Hastings.

So, my mobile went squiffy and a couple of days later the home phone-lines went down, leaving me the choice of the sort-of functional computers at the children’s library or life off-line. The worst thing was, after a few days of it, the temptation to try and get news from mainstream TV got the better of me.

Perhaps I would have watched the circus known as Question Time anyway, as it was filmed in Hastings, and had Kerry-Anne Mendoza on as the token human. It started out okay I suppose, with Dimbleby giving Liam Fox a hard time over the DUP deal – but of course he didn’t mention what’s really wrong with the Tories’ relationship with the DUP. Then it went downhill fast, as the four establishment members of the panel’s sour faces poured (heart-felt, blinkered) scorn on Kerry-Anne’s notion that most of the people who prepare and present BBC viewing come from the same packet. Of course they think they’re stunningly diverse. They are all oh-so different varieties of product from the same factory, and they don’t know the rest of us are real.

The second worst bit was when they all ganged up to agree (to different degrees, and in different tones) that it was wrong to ‘politicise’ the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Mr Common Sense from the Daily Express or whatever billionaire rag it is he works for drove the nails home by going on about the widespread use of that infamous cladding, conveniently forgetting to mention that those hotels and rich-people buildings with similar stuff on their walls would also have had sprinklers and plenty of on-site staff.

I felt like a loser for nearly 24 hours. My memories were fading, social media memories of the Grenfell residents who’d been trying to politicise this for years and, since the nightmare night, yelling for help, yelling to get the Tories out of Westminster, and get their Tory council to hell out of Kensington. Without the constant backing of social media clips, I could believe that only I had seen that film of Tory Boris Johnson in his council throne telling their fire-safety campaign people to ‘get stuffed’. Perhaps only I knew that the residents had politicised this long ago, and had asked Corbyn to carry on that battle. Cut off from all that, I felt like a lonely, silly rebel. I felt silly because it was my fault for watching the BBC hypnotists.

The bosses know what they want you to think and feel. Whether it’s your line-manager at work, the DWP that grab you when you don’t, or the corporate billionaires who shape your business. They want you to think you have to work every day for money to survive, and they want you to feel that everything that goes wrong is your fault, because you are weak and slightly silly.

They don’t have to try very hard to make you think and feel that way. All they have to do is supply the words or the film, and you buy them. That’s what Robert Tressell meant when he called us all Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. We take the path of least resistance in our thinking and our shopping. We kindly doing the bosses’ work for them, making ourselves weak and silly, keeping ourselves ragged, helping them stay on top. It’s not just your line manager doing it to you – it goes on all the way up the ladder. On every rung someone is doing his or her boss’s work for them. We do it just in case we can get to the top. We think there’s a place up there somewhere where we can relax.

We all believe this… but wait, that’s not entirely true any more. There are cracks in the wall. The communications revolution that brought us the internet and the oh-so-precious smart phone let us reach further, and compare the words and films intended for others with the ones intended for us. The whole thing got out of hand, and they got a bit panicky.

Once, coming home via Waterloo Station, I stopped to buy a bottle of water. The lass behind the till gave me the water, and a copy of the Daily Telegraph. “I don’t want that,” I said.

“It’s free with your purchase,” she said.

“I don’t want it anyway,” I said. “I don’t want to know what the Telegraph’s billionaire owners want me to think.”

“Oh, the water’s cheaper with the free paper,” she said. “It’s a special offer.”

So – the billionaires need us to read their words. The advertisers need us to see their pictures. If you stop being a philanthropist – if you stop paying them to keep you down, they’ll give you their words for free and if you won’t take them for free, they’ll pay you to take them.

It’s fun when you stop being a Ragged Trousered Philanthropist. The girl stared and stared, as I took the water and the paper at the special offer price, wiped my shoes on the paper and threw it away.

I’m glad to say that I got over the BBC depression quickly, because I went to a political rally in Warrior Square, looked behind Jeremy Corbyn, and saw the name of Robert Tressell and, here in Mugsborough, heard people cheering on the politician that won’t be bought, and I got my spirit back. We really do not have to do their job for them any more. All you have to do is bin the billionaires’ newspapers, ignore their TV channels, and the world suddenly looks a whole lot brighter.

There we all were in the fresh air on the grass, listening to Jennie Formby from Unite, saluting all the political work people do; Louise Hersee saluting those who’ve campaigned for the teachers, the nurses, the carers, the police, the firefighters; Peter Chowney, reminding us that we very nearly unseated the Home Secretary, and that we intended to do so next time, and Jeremy Corbyn telling us to keep together, be ready to do it all again soon, to keep together and keep the pressure on the Tories, to keep together, and fight policies not people, and keep together… and a lot of other people going ‘oh, Jeremy Corbyn…’

Well, that’s all been good practice for how to go on when Amber Rudd and Theresa May and the people who work them finally manage to lever social media out of our hands. Right. now to have another go at getting BT to put the poxy phone-lines back into action. We don’t need them, but they really do make the job easier.

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