From “argh, toilet roll!” to “argh, petrol!”
A mild disturbance in the supply of absolutely anything we’re used to buying every day has more political impact than, say, people losing their homes, children going hungry, abused women being locked up with male sex-offenders, asylum seekers drowning in the channel, the govt selling our services and infrastructure to foreign businesses, climate change wrecking our world before our grandchildren can live out their lives – any of the things I’ve ever tried campaigning about, really.
I don’t think answers like ‘people are stupid’ or ‘people are greedy’ help much. It’s about where most people’s attention is, most of the time. Most of us usually have our heads down, ploughing through ‘what needs doing’ in the face of a huge range of obstacles from lack of funds to people not answering phones to illness and disability. Everything that disrupts the battle is a ****ing nuisance to throw ourselves at in determined fury.
Do you remember all those extraordinary ideas, songs, lectures, meetings and above all community support projects people thought up in response to lockdown?
Time to think
The time people need in order to think reappears when everyday buzz, pressures and demands stop. Those people we briefly learned to call ‘essential workers’ just had to go on working ( some called lockdown ‘where the middle class stay home and the working classes bring them things’ ). Those whose lives were already in extreme difficulty – for example in insecure housing, in prisons and refugee hostels ( not the homeless though – the government briefly made the effort to ‘get people off the streets’ ) – all those people really had their noses rubbed in how bad things are…
… but the salaried classes, the service, financial and what have you workers – all got used to not being able to go where we want or buy anything we want at a moment’s notice, and started THINKING.
So I’ll be getting on with the community organising, the networking and the educating and the production of books, more aware than ever that these are the vital political acts. How about you? Have you thought of any other things we can do….? (comments section below)
Just keep thinking about how this government, the government that does not care one jot about destroying businesses and jobs, or creating poverty, or stranding the old and the sick, was so desperately, desperately keen to avoid another lockdown. What is it they’re scared of?
PS This blog started life as an FB status post, and got the following comment, which struck me as absolutely on the button…
Aaron McConnell wrote:
In an individualistic society, most of the time we’re encouraged to live in our own heads. And on those occasions where the problems of others manage to permeate our thoughts, we’re also encouraged to think “oh well, they must have done something wrong”, and at that point the concerns and suffering of others can be dismissed as fair because they’ve brought it upon themselves. Taken to an extreme, that logic starts to sound like: “everyone on benefits is an undeserving scrounger… except me, when I was made redundant through no fault of my own.” We’ve all heard that kind of thing.
The anger and panic you allude to in this article I think springs from that mindset. When people who think like that find themselves swept up into a crisis that wasn’t of their making – and they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong – the first explanation they reach for is that someone else must have messed up; and the consequences of that mistake are falling unjustly on the people who had no part in making it. That prompts anger, and creates a strong incentive to blame others.
It’s very easy to ignore something when it’s not affecting you directly.