By Parson Thru
I started asking myself the moment I arrived. I agonised. I challenged myself. I cast myself as the green-eyed monster, the glass half empty, the antagonistic spoiler. But, caught in the midst of the end of life, the end of an aspirant working generation, the end of a dream that is collapsing all around me in all its dehumanising loss of faith, I watched Ken Loach’s commentary tonight.
You can pick at syntax but the message is there in spirit.
I saw the winners lined up in the supermarket car park: 18 plated, 68 plated, private plated shining monoliths in their gloating / aggressive / pit-bull elegance.
I walked past the semis where schoolmates once lived, sons and daughters of ordinary people working in ordinary jobs on the railway, in factories, shops and offices; salesmen, drivers, ordinary people. Now those modest gardens are gravel plinths for the monoliths; the modest three bed houses sprawling mansions dripping with kilowatts of festive obscenity – slavishly aping that least humane of modern societies, beacon of religious hypocrisy.
I can’t bear to look at it all. I challenged myself. I did. Affluence. Surely it’s good? I remember the Thatcher stunt in the Commons, her hands figuratively raising rich and poor alike from mediocrity into a brave unregulated world of wealth.
“The trouble is, Jean, to them, we’re the haves and they’re the have nots.”
That was twenty-five years ago. My ex’s dad and a gang of louts outside his golf club. Even he couldn’t have dreamt where we’d be now.
I’ve challenged myself. Advocated for the devil. Held the positives up to the light. Winners, losers. The brave new economy needs those. Winning is good. Not everyone can win. Not everyone is the same. Losing isn’t good. Losing isn’t a game. It’s misery. It’s life and death. It’s a system. It’s punitive. It’s suspicious. It’s degrading. It’s inhumane. It’s run by people who fear for their own success, for their own jobs. We’ve been there before.
“Am dead.” she said. “We’re both dead. You and me. Look at me.”
She held out her spindly bruised hands – so wasted – wiggling arthritic fingers. The rippled skin of her arms hung over bones like a bag containing liquefied flesh.
“A’ve got nothing. These buggers've taken it all. My house. My money. Everything I had. This is it. What you can see. There’s nothing left. Am dead.”
My mam perched staring, like a bird, on the edge of the bed.
“We’re the last ones, you and me.” she answered.
How on earth can they talk about unity when they’ve intentionally torn society apart? This isn’t the land that nurtured me; that gave me opportunity and hope; this land of haves and have nots.
It’s there in the supermarket car parks. It’s the frontier between one estate and the next. Between the “academies” and the smug independent schools down the road, whose playing fields were never sold to developers. This state of affairs is a violation of the message that the dripping lights purport to spread. A violation of what it means to be human.
Ken Loach was right: classification, procedure, dehumanisation at the hands of our fellow human beings. We are always but a few steps from Auschwitz II – Birkenau.
Kings at a cowshed.
Without humanity, none of it means a fucking thing.