A few months ago I mentioned the kind of protests that happened under the last Tory government. It seemed civil unrest got underway pretty quickly this time.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axWyu1t4rkE 500] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbzAWmH3SEs 500]
The crimes of a single citizen cry out for justice, the crimes of an entire government so frequently go unremarked.
It’s yobbery and ingratitude if the masses get angry.
I think it’s interesting that we’re seeing this resistance building at the same time as WikiLeaks’ US embassy cables are exposing US and UK governmental abuses of power on a much wider scale. The attempts to keep Julian Assange under lock and key flooding the news and the drama over attempts to punish those helping the US to silence the whistleblowers unspools online.
The actions of a few violent protesters in London, kettled in the cold and charged by mounted police who know what they’re doing and I suspect, expect to provoke this very sort of reaction, pale by comparison to the dirty laundry being daily exposed on the international stage. They show the hypocrisy of anyone in government accusing the students of being thugs and criminals.
There are people, young people among them, who are bemoaning the damage done to the Prince of Wales and his Consort’s Roll-Royce, attacked in the aftermath of the vote over student fee increases. This is less surprising than it might seem; many youngsters are frightfully conservative for all the general tarring of this being a case of youth in revolt (“‘What are you rebelling against Johnny?’ – ‘Whaddya got?'”).
I myself feel little sympathy for the Royals involved. I suppose I’m Republican in my tendencies but it seems a rather foolish choice on the Prince’s part or his handlers to be anywhere near the protests considering the monarchy’s past role and current problems.
Here’s a man who has had his privileged way through life paid for by the sweat and toil of these people’s parents and grandparents. Here’s a man who has done very little to help the majority of UK citizens outside of lobbying on the side of archaic aesthetics, selling over-priced organic biscuits, and offering green gardening. Here’s a man, a future king, who’d be pleased as hunter’s punch underneath it all one suspects, to have us mulching away in some happy organic cooperative collective tending his private gardens and trimming the tasteful hedges of Poundbury.
Prince Charles is not exactly a progressive figure, outside of perhaps environmental issues; and even here I think this has as much to do with his own taste and bucolic preferences as any deep set political conviction.
Back to the students. One comments in a tweet, “not the way to get your point across.” You can practically hear the hushed, mild disapproval radiating from the Home Counties. But she’s wrong, they’re wrong, the future King is wrong. It’s *exactly* the way to get your point across when you are being ignored and marginalized.
Bravo for the students for reacting in a more Euro-centric, a more French or Greek expression of anger. Of course Cameron and the Metropolitan Police are going to use this as an excuse to cry mob and level charges of thuggery – but they’re slinging brickbats while living inside glass mansions. They’re the sort of thugs after all that kick people out of their council houses and shoot innocent foreigners in the head.
The Tories, and let’s face it, It’s Just The Tories. Clegg et al aren’t even window dressing in the Coalition, just the window cleaners for the boys upstairs lapping up the cream and toasting each other over bottles of champagne. The Tories are not the least bit concerned with polite demonstrations. You could politely disagree with them as much as you like and it’s not going to move a single MP from their well-padded seat. Those who think that the run of the mill, mild outrage that the English do rather well, is going to get the point across at this stage are themselves suffering a disconnect.
Several million peaceful demonstrators protesting against the illegal war in Iraq couldn’t get the point across to a Labour Government. What are the chances of several thousand of the same getting anything but a smirk and a sneer from the current Government? Baton wielding riot police and mounted charges were on the menu even before resorting to violence.
Cameron and his squad of Hoorah Henries playing at government are dyed in the wool, unreconstituted Conservatives. Forget the Big Society, they’re part of the Big Conservative.
They’re ideologically and possibly genetically opposed to a free, egalitarian, and progressive society. And they’re damn well opposed to the trappings of the old socialist welfare state which they’re tearing down as fast and with as much finality as they can.
They’re not the first. New Labour was as busy as shy capitalist beavers gnawing down the same institutions that the Tories have now gone after with heavy machinery. The national health service, public transport, forests (they want the bleeding forests! That’s how greedy the bastards are and space to build condos and golf courses and who knows, factories churning out upper class thneeds), tax reform, social welfare, regulatory bodies, education, and immigration. You can hear the chainsaws cutting these institutions down one after another and the Tories concreting the earth on which they once stood.
This actually makes the Tories a far better target for those who want to stop the rot. At least to focus their ire on; the execution of it is more difficult. The Government is not hiding its actions or its general policy, just lying as usual about the needs behind it and the consequences.
The Tory Government is not a soft target. These people are hard nosed and proud of it. Happy to say “look, if it stinks of the poor or has the proletariat’s greasy fingerprints anywhere on it, piss on it.”
They’ll grandly call it a virtue and a savings for the future as they shovel out sacks of cash to shore up their banker friends and tax dodging industrialist backers. They proud of their greed and their unfettered free market ideology.
If New Labour were blushing virginal brides reluctantly drawn to the altar for the hush-hush, hand-over to Big Business, the Tories are rakes happy to show their cards and their wanton bedfellows. With a touch of blue blooded distain for parvenus and thick chinned joy at bringing down the boot on any clods who dare to object to their choice in love-matches.
They are part of the same hyper capitalists who have wrested control of the global markets and they’re desperate as WikiLeaks have shown, not to be left behind by the US who have given corporations virtual free reign to plunder the world economy.
This means that they are not going to listen to polite, reasoned discourse. Not going to change policies due to a swing in public opinion or protests. The electorate have already shown signs that they’re easy to distract with fear-mongering stories whipped up about immigration and welfare cheats and printed up to order by rags like the Times and the Daily Mail.
Much as in the case of their opposition to climate change, the Tories can count on a confused and xenophobic middle England whose natural aversion to heated exchanges and boisterous demonstrations encourages them to remain quietly grumbling on the sidelines or even come to the Government’s defense.
I believe that the current Government doesn’t mind if they’re out in the next general election – should it come to that. Because they’ll have done what they set out to do in a much shorter span than the last time around. Namely turn the Government machinery into a chute going straight into their and their cronies’ pockets for generations to come.
A quick return to the socialist welfare principles of the past won’t happen – it can’t, even if a left-leaning, progressive government was to follow immediately. Such a government would not be able to recreate what will have been lost, not from scratch and not after the Tories have knocked it down to the last brick, paved it over, and posted signs of NO TRESPASS PRIVATE WEALTH all over it.
You can’t restore ancient forests from a few acorns and you’ll find an American styled healthcare system once established, is next to impossible to uproot. Just look at the trouble that the US has had with getting through the watered down, weak version of healthcare it is offering.
The price tag for replacing what is being removed is such that the impoverished taxpayers of the future could never afford to so once the infrastructure is entirely gone. The Government’s attack on the poor and lower middle classes will ensure that only the very rich will come out of their stewardship of the country any better off than they were before. The electorate will not be in any condition to give more after they’ve had their pockets so thoroughly picked by the departing Tories.
So, what can be done? I can’t say I know the way forward. It might seem that the only real chance is to stop them here and now. But that might mean turning to methods less pleasant and reasoned. Fill the baracades with warm bodies and get uncivil. Expect to dig in for a long and bloody struggle.
But I think this is a Government which isn’t opposed to violence and will meet like with like. That’s a dangerous game of chicken. The Government has too much cash invested to blink first. For those on the front lines, there will be a high cost to pay for their commitment. Massive civil disobedience? More nonviolent protests? Revitalize a true political opposition and offer a viable alternative to the Conservatives? Rely on better technology and global opinion to influence events? Focus on the youth at the risk of alienating the older generation? I’m not sure any of these will work.
It looks bleak to me.
This is exactly the reason you should blog about general subjects! I share your pessimistic outlook about what will happen, and how irreversible it will be. I see it, rather, as the last throw of the dice for a crumbling facade – one that has stretched back all the way to the Chicago School economists, and their society-shattering policies.
What I find more optimistic is the level of organisation of the youth; that, in fact, it wasn’t so much as a failure, but that they changed the mind of tens of MPs. It has proven that direct action will get news coverage and that social networks have changed the way these things work.
There is much optimism to glean right now. I can’t see the NHS being touched, at heart, either. It’s the last bastion of socialism, and without that moniker, the people love it. I can’t imagine people in the UK surrendering free health care.
Ha, again I’m sorry for the long rant.
Perhaps you’re right and I’ll move my longer comments to my own blog in the future and spare you the space on your own.
I’ve been watching the student protests closely, and have personal connections to the healthcare debate so the current crises really gets my fingers tapping.
I wish I felt as confident as you do about the security of the NHS. I think people will be shocked at how quickly things will change. My better half is a senior manager in the NHS. She has seen various versions of privatization and HMO styled management coming for the past five years or more – but now things are accelerating at an unnerving pace. She has also worked for healthcare in the states, so knows what these changes mean.
The head of UNITE has gone to press recently saying he believes the NHS will be effectively privatized by May of next year. You can say he’s being hyperbolic or alarmist but I think he’s closer to the truth than most people realize.
I sincerely hope he and others like my wife are wrong in their predictions, but I think you’re being fooled and fooled twice if you think it’s not one of the goals of the Coalition which they are even now putting into practice.
If the NHS survives, it will because of action and reaction on the part of the citizens of the UK and already, it may be too late.
What does survive, may well end up being unrecognizable compared with what the majority of this generation has experienced.
Often what you (and others) can’t imagine happening, is exactly what comes to pass. People in the UK think healthcare is “ring-fenced” and I don’t think they’ve understood the vulnerability of the institution as a whole. A lot of the public no doubt consider that you would have to be crazy (or have motivations other than doing what is best for the majority’s good health) to voluntarily get rid of the traditional NHS for all its wheezes and problems – but that is exactly what the current Government and the one before it have had in mind.
It will be hard times ahead on the fronts of healthcare and education in the UK; this is my firm prediction.
I hope I’m wrong.
Eric – no need – I welcome these comments here. I think you should blog because you’d make an excellent political blogger, I really do.
Thanks for the link there, and for sharing re: your wife’s employment.
I heard about some of the periphery privatisation, but I hope the core essence, that people get healthcare for free, will surely never go? Getting rid of that – making people pay as per the US – would be the quietus for any government.