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Strike day today. Perhaps you noticed? The Brothers and Sisters were knee deep in the entrails of stockbrokers today, as the workers of the world united and raged against the machine, and the machine stroked its white cat and wondered how it could manoeuvere forty thousand people onto a table so it could laser them into dog food.
Last night saw me jet off from parent’s evening to speak at a meeting of NUT comrades in Wembley Park, which I am sure earns me an in with Arthur Scargill if I ever meet him at a cocktail party, which is unlikely. Although I was running on fumes after a rewarding, but exhausting day telling people endlessly about their child’s undoubtedly unlimited potential, the welcome was warm and as ever, and it was an honour to speak and be listened to, talking about things I love to talk about: behaviour, behaviour behaviour. I even bumped into a few familiar faces.
|‘I object to be compared to bankers.’|
I striked/ struck today, not because I am particularly animated by gestures, or by the illusion that George Osborne will magically pull a string of endless magic beans out of his anal iris that can pay for adamantine pension pots (although that’s one circus I would QUEUE IN THE RAIN to see). It’s been a long time since a British strike reversed a policy so deep and indomitable. If you believe the financial wallahs (and I have to, although I am perfectly aware that their pronouncements are as solid as strawberry mousse on most things, given that the future is a foreign country, and no man knows the hour of his departure, or foreclosure) then we are very much a busted flush; that we have lived beyond our means for too long; that the guardians of our financial destiny have written cheques that posterity could not cash. The cupboard is bare.
And I didn’t strike because it was demanded; I am obstinately personal when it comes to morality, and I weep to think of anyone striking because they were afraid not to- and don’t let’s pretend that this isn’t the case. Every man and woman has the right to chart the course of their own conscience, and I often feel that if it wasn’t considered such an imperative to do so then many people would strike more easily. A picket line chills my heart- it is the opposite of what I believe freewill and ethics to be about; the good will, freely chosen and decided in a conscious, conscientious way. Forcing people to comply is what the bad guys do.
|‘No, Mr Bennett, I expect you to DIE.’|
So what did I strike for? Not because I believed it would change matters; but not as an exercise in futility either. I stepped out for a greater cause; because when people take to the streets, governments are reminded of a fact that remains tacit in the main; that they remain in place at our behest; that we are the final arbiters of their destinies, and therefore our own. The moment the people decide they have had enough, they can shrug their shoulders and all shackles melt away, as if they were never there. This is the power that people have, and it is the power that they forget. ‘No’ is the most powerful weapon in the world. ‘No.’
Of course, the Masters of the Universe have a million tactics to deter this power- and in some sense rightly so. The wisdom of the herd is often no closer to wisdom than that of a real herd; Plato derided Democracy as the will of the lowest common denominator, saddled with charismatic false prophets who can promise bread and circuses and lead the proles by the nose, as long as there is grape and grain to keep our mouths moving and our eyes shut. You know the rhetoric. Some of it is true.
But there is one last, doomsday weapon; the decision by people to refuse. It’s blunt, but then so is a nuclear bomb. Hobbes feared no government even worse than poor government, and perhaps he was right; civilisation rattles along on the rails of rule, and we forget the privations of nature at our peril. Revolt easily runs into ruin; the London riots give us a glimpse as to what can happen when manners and civility are set aside for egoism and the savage pursuit of happiness.
|Even THE EMPIRE is in.|
Which is why rulers should pay heed when people fill the streets. Because it indicates that the rule of law is being challenged, not by opportunists and empty-headed hoodies farting on their leather-effect sofas, but by the people who drive the trains that keep everyone going to work, the teachers who teach their children, and by the men who pick up litter and change hospital sheets. People.
Should we consider that the cupboard is now bare? Of course we should. That’s not why I was out. I was out because the farmers have been blamed for the prodigiousness and cavalier avarice of the locusts. Wealthy men have been allowed to play roulette with the savings and securities of helpless people who have been forced to entrust these people with their futures, only to find them used as a gambling chip on the baccarat tables of Wall Street and the City. There is an excellent- and unavoidable- case for contracting public expenditure. But I will watch my pension wither on the vine with a smile and a handshake the day that I see the same happen, proportionately to the Masters of the Universe. When the Lords and the CEOs and the Eloi agree to catch a tube, defer a bonus, or vote down an autopayrise…that’s when I’ll feel happy about the Big Society. That’s when I’ll believe that, to some extent, we’re in this together. Until then, it’s business as usual in the ghetto.
I mean, I KNOW life isn’t fair. I know that shit rains down on us from birth to the moment we topple with exhaustion into holes we had to dig for ourselves. But that doesn’t mean I have to hold out a soup bowl, catch it, and wolf it down with a smile.