Time to agitate for change
I have no choice but to be agitated. And I have to agitate. I am troubled. My dad often used to say that we (his children) would have much more leisure time then people of his generation. He believed that technological developments would take the strain, so to speak. He also had the reasonable expectation that the life chances of working class people would continue to flourish, as he had noted from the end of the Second World War.
Like most people who grew up in the East End of London he voted Labour. In common with his fellow dockworkers he was a rank and file union man, and he could measure and illustrate how his quality of life, working conditions and access to leisure were all way ahead of those of his own father.
My dad was in his sixties when Thatcher came to power. The London Docks had had their day and the baby boomers (including my elder siblings) were established in white collar professions – the first generation of working class people to reach these lofty heights. Many of these baby boomers saw Thatcherism as an opportunity to advance further upwards, alas. Now in their sixties themselves, with mortgages paid for and pensions matured, the insular among them (far too many) are closeted from the nightmare that many others are having to cope with.
Of course, many others of that generation were forced from manufacturing, mining, agriculture and fisheries and either never worked again or had only part-time or yellow pack work. Still and all, my dad remained somewhat optimistic that things would get better. After all, he could remember the 1930s and had come through a terrible war; had seen how non-union labour was dealt with in the docks, and had seen the effects of poverty on the health of family, friends and neighbours. He was even happy to see Tony Blair elected in 1997, though his optimism was sorely tested and then crushed by the jettisoning of all semblence of socialism from Labour in the following decade. Still he had seen people fight for better conditions and win.
I want to be able to impart that kind of optimism to my children. I want to be able to say that their lives will be free from conflict and stress and that the future will be civilised and not barbaric. It’s been hard to maintain that optimism over these past 20 years, dominated as they have been by the self-interest and individualism of Thatcherism and the erosion of all that was gained by ordinary working people.
With the current crisis in capitalism, there is a glimmer of hope. If enough people are agitated and agitate (in whatever way they can), then we can get back onto the collective track of moving forward. That begins with a mindset of course. It requires that us to be of a mind to envisage a future free from the barbarism of untrammelled market controlled capitalism. It means that we stand with those who are under threat from the privileged and the agents of the privileged - the 1% in the current lexicon. It requires that we either join with or use (and I know that we understand that 'use' is a positive here) the various occupations that are mushrooming to demand a shift from the political and economic paradigm that has set back the hopes and dreams of those who struggled for us.
It is not a time to sit on the fence. It is a time to tell stories, to inform or remind people of all that those who came before us achieved and hoped to achieve. It is a time to understand that many people have been conditioned to see no alternative. Indeed, for many of these people, the language that us lefties use is strange and our sometimes sectarian behavior is a barrier to understanding and participation. I wish that I could get on with lots of other things, but I am agitated and I have to do something.
Image top: jessicadarlingx.