"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 6 December 2012

When were we ever all in it together?

I will leave the commenting on the Autumn Statement to all those with better analytical powers than I [I rely on Paul Lewis to put me straight] But of course any change in the financial system in the country and the way that it is arranged and distributed between those who have and those who have not causes more far reaching discussions than just the monetary aspect.

So have we [citizens of this country] ever truly 'been in it together' - and what is this vaunted 'togetherness' anyway?

Look back over history, maybe only as far as the late 18th and 19th century, for examples of this 'togetherness'. What about the too many workers in the Industrial Revolution living in poor conditions around the mills, factories, foundries, mines and their employers living away from the areas in the better air and countryside? What about the agricultural workers thrown off the land they had worked for generations during the enclsures whilst the owners 'ploughed' greater profits into their own bank accounts. The Highland Clearances were another example of 'them and us' when 'them' did NOT want to be in it with 'us'. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported for Swearing an Oath which was very similar to that sworn by Freemasons yet none of the latter found themselves shackled and in a boat to Australia with the former.

In the twentieth century, are we thinking about the togetherness that sent ordinary, conscripted, working men who did not understand the reasons for the First World War into the hell of enemy fire at the front line whilst the Generals sat and planned those advances way behind the trenches? [Siegfried Sassoon  above wrote rather a good poem about this * below] And when the men who were lucky enough to return from that war needed jobs, decent homes to live in or care for their injuries did they get it in the same way that medals were handed out to those same Generals and Officers? The togetherness that meant hundreds of men and women from different parts of the UK in the 1930s found it necessary to band together and march to London to illustrate to the 'other half' of the country just how deep was the plight of the unemployed?

The twentieth century also saw a hope of 'togetherness' that was snatched away. Those  of us born after the second world war had the hope that we could become equal wherever we happened to be born - whether in a Castle or a Cottage. The introduction of the Welfare State, the National Health Service, Education that did not have to be paid for so that a child whose parents could not afford school fees could eventually get a university degree - it was a wonderful time to be young. We got our university degrees, we got good jobs and paid a lot of tax and National Insurance. Our old age was secure - we had the State Pension to which we could look forward, the company pension to which we had contributed [thus our life savings] and the National Health Service would mean that we would not finish our lives in the sort of pain and suffering and anxiety our grandparents had suffered. Of course there was still the inequality of those who started out with a lot more money than us - but so what, we would be OK.... and if we were unlucky enough to fall ill or unemployed, we had paid in all those years, that was what the tax and insurance was for, wasn't it?

Come forward into the 21st century and look at our present situation. University education is now so costly that many poorer students are deterred from even applying to university. The sort of interrogation [and I use that word in its true sense] that many have to undergo to receive disability payments is shaming in a so called civilised society. Whilst waiting for the decision to be reached if an individual is entitled to 'welfare' payments, many are quite literally going without food. Education and health provision can be better or worse according to the 'post code lottery' of where one happens to live - in other words richer areas fare better than poorer ones. Look at  the way the Remploy factories have been closed. [Minutes ago closure of the rest of the factories has been announced] Very many ordinary hard working individuals who have all their lives invested in either private or company pension schemes have in the past few years been defrauded when those schemes have failed for different reasons. [You can read about one here ] Those living on a State Pension are finding it increasingly difficult to manage - and yesterdays comments that those on welfare benefits should share in the hardships of the rest of the country and therefore not get much of an increase over the next three years has a very hollow ring.

Then look at this coalition government  with its millionaires and public school educated individuals. Can they really understand the problems  of those living on welfare benefits - of course not but the real question is do they want to? Are they interested and are they asking the right questions of those who know and can advise them? Do they care enough about the tax avoidance and evasion of big companies and richer individuals as much as they seem to fear that just possibily someone somewhere might be getting a pound or two more than they are entitled to on welfare payments? Because believe me, all those that I know who are on welfare benefits have a hard enough job getting that to which they are entitled, with out any extras.

This is a miserable rant, I know. Anyone with a cheerful take on it all, please write on a Charity Christmas Card and post to keep the postmen and women in work.

*The General

‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

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