We’re so familiar with it, our circle of humanist-type people who want to Do The Right Thing and see politicians do it, too.
It is, I agree, a pretty noble approach to things, and the reason I do count myself in with the liberal lefty crowd. Freedom is important. Protecting people from harm is important. Justice and happiness and equality. All that shiz.
We’re lucky, those of us who have time and the luxury to sit and think and even do something about these things. I’m lucky I have a computer and internet access to tell you how lucky I am, and you’re lucky because you can read it (well, that might be subjective).
I think it’s important to have wake-up calls. Remember what you’ve been taking for granted. I read a lot of articles that contain a line that goes something like “Now I know I’m a middle-class white (wo)man, but…”. I think, regardless of the admission, people are still forgetting that privilege and what it really means, because – through no fault of their own – they’re lucky enough to have no experience of living without it. Not in all cases, obviously, before you complain.
I like a good debate, a serious chat, pondering the big questions in life, and how I should best go about things day to day. But what I don’t like, sometimes, is the liberal pontificating that goes on and the kind of things that come from people who just have no fucking idea what they’re really talking about.
Now, there’s a bit of an I used to be a Tory! club that exists, and I have to say I’m a card-carrying member. But there are different circumstances that can lead to righties-who’ve-swung-left. Probably the most common in my experience is the people who are born into pretty well-off families and the most sensible course for them, politically, is to be conservative because ultimately that preserves their way of life. Kind of like men who go along with damaging sexist culture, because for them it’s better to keep their power than face the reality of all the people it hurts and take up a banner for change.
There are other situations, though, and mine is one of a pretty humble working/lower-middle class (I think, I don’t really get the class system, I must admit) background – I’m from a council estate and while I’d never profess to have had it really tough like many do, I think I have a better insight into the realities of benefit culture than a lot of people who talk about it do.
I’m not going to recall a whole load of anecdotes because it doesn’t say a lot, but sometimes I think about it and because I am lucky, it now makes me sad instead of just angry.
I remember explaining how tadpoles turned into frogs to a boy who used to go around cutting up animals with pocket knives. He was so interested, but was never encouraged to be, so most of the time just played up instead. My mum confronted his (he was 8), and the reply she got was “oh, I thought I’d taken away all his knives”
I’ve seen people’s personalities change dramatically depending on whether they’re in care, with a good foster-family, or an abusive one. I’ve been the target of their frustration. I’m not going to dwell on it more here and now, however.
Liberals will often point at Daily Fail headlines and coverage of benefit cheats and how the wrong people are being demonised. Of course that’s true, they’re not the right targets at all. But there seems to be a lack of recognition of why this happens. It’s not just because politicians are trying to stay out of the blame spotlight (of course they are) but, again, remember who we’re talking about.
Liberalism often seeks to solve problems by finding the real cause of the problem and addressing it. Mostly people will agree that that will involve giving more to people who have less to redress the balance, close gaps in society and improve people’s sense of self-worth and ability to do the things they want in their lives.
But life isn’t simple, and life isn’t usually fair. A lot of people do not have the luxury of time to sit and think about their life, their feelings, their raison d’être, much less campaign for the changes that are really needed – sometimes it’s very hard to see what should be done. I don’t actually envy politicians; a lot of the problems I’ve seen, I would have no idea where to start in terms of tackling them. But generally things seem to be the wrong way around; blame doesn’t land where it’s due, we’ve got conservatives in (the majority of) power again, and it’s getting worse for the already-worst-off.
Imagine, though. If you’re busy worrying about not having enough money to buy food this week, how you could possibly get away from the person who will likely come home drunk and beat you, or how you could possibly make a better life for your children when you are so utterly powerless – do you really think you’re going to care what was said on PMQs?
When you live day-to-day in close proximity to people who send you regular death threats, who steal things you’ve worked hard to buy, who follow you home to beat you up and validate their place in a group of people they spend their time with, it’s very easy to hate them when they’re making your everyday life a nightmare. If you live in fear of what surrounds you, you will likely hate those surroundings and what is immediately affecting you. Not some abstract idea of economic disparity.
It seems like a good idea to vote tory because you’re promised harsher punishment for the people who aren’t helping. Who needs to be given more? How will that help? Take it away, that’s more fair.
But it’s difficult to realise that all that doesn’t work unless you can get away from it, and that’s the problem really, most people can’t.
Not when your mum is only really only old enough to be your sister and was taking so many drugs at the time she had you, that you never really had a chance anyway. Just have a baby and get a flat, it’s easier, you were never told you could amount to anything, your parents ignored you or just screamed at you that you’re stupid and should shut up.
And for those of us lucky enough to have families that do care, but aren’t well-off, it is extremely annoying when you’re all trying very, very hard but the people around you who are just fucking up all the time, ruining things – get free stuff! Whether it’s a flat, new furniture, satellite TV or any other hand-out. It seems so unfair.
And that is why people get Daily Mail angry about benefit cheats and all manner of things that we as Liberals can see are the wrong targets, because you can try as hard as you fucking want, but a lot of the time, you start in a certain place not of your choosing and you cannot move on from it.
Some of us are lucky enough to manage it, a lot of people are not. And it’s all very well for people who started a step up to look down on everyone who’s angry about the situation they’re in and say “they don’t get it”.
Of course they don’t fucking get it. It’s like people complaining about rioters not being able to articulate a good reason for the firebombs they’re throwing. Your education has slipped through your fingers, your home life is unbearable, you have no prospects. Why do you expect everyone to have a piercing political knowledge just like you? It’s ridiculous.
The goal is to cope. Find someone to blame, something tangible you can point to – because it isn’t your fault. It’s much easier to blame other people you vaguely understand, the people and things you see around you, than some rich bastard politicians who run the ship, whom you will never meet and can never hope will listen or change anything.
So next time you (or I) start talking about how stupid everyone is and how frustrating the situation; remember who’s really to blame, because it isn’t the people who were never given a chance. It’s the people who took all their chances away.