Simple things made complex: ‘When things seem bad, think positive’

A petition team assuming the politicians care what we think

This is a series of posts in which I talk about simple things but extend my commentary on the simple things to several paragraphs, thus making them more complex.

Anyone who isn’t immensely rich or a secret psychopath (in the Cabinet there’s a lot of overlap between these two groups) is currently mourning the Great Leap Forward in dismantling the NHS. It’s one of those political moments when we know that nothing we did worked and the bill we failed to stop will kill people and everything seems hopeless and we wonder how much worse it is going to get and how much more of the country they can sell off and pretty much every morning the news remind us that if they aren’t stopped the answer is ‘everything’.

In the midst of such doom and gloom the bright rays of sunshine in our midst will want to strike a positive note. ‘The Poll Tax was defeated after it became law’ say some. ‘We can punish them at the next election’ say others. And of course as always there are people to remind us that people fighting together can beat abusive rulers.

Well, yes. While not known for being a ray of sunshine myself, I agree with that. I also think we need to think positive – if only to stop everyone involved in fighting this government from killing themselves in a fit of depression. But I want to instead suggest that when things seem bad we should think positive, and negative, and positive, and negative, and then positive.

It could go something like this:

Positive voice: There’s got to be a way out of this mess. We have to throw ourselves into the fight again.

Negative voice: But everything we’ve done has failed. Every demo, every petition, every action was for nothing. It is clear that the government cannot be pressured because we are not their constituency. ‘Democracy’ appears to mean doing what the rich want.

Positive voice: That’s fine. That’s the situation we’re in. Relax about it. People have been in worse situations.

Negative voice: That’s your positivity? That’s the best you can do? You’re agreeing with me that we’re in the shit!

Positive voice: Stop being such a drama queen. The situation is as bad as it is. We should face it. But let’s not make it worse by getting all apocalyptic and acting like the world is going to end. Even Tories die – even if takes a stake through the heart – and not only will this particular government come to an end but this entire system of government will come to an end. All of them do. We just have to work to make sure it is a happy end for us all.

Negative voice: And what about all the people who will be made homeless, kill themselves or die for lack of treatment in the meantime?

Positive voice: Listen Mr Negativo, you’ve had your turns – count them! But since you ask, we’ll have to look after each other as best we can with what resources we can chip off the edge of Privatised Britain. Meanwhile we start working out how to dismantle this sinister political and economic apparatus over which we have so little control. To do that we have to accept that the petitions and the demos don’t do anything and the politicians couldn’t give a toss what we think – and that’s what we’ve got to work with. It’s a judicious mix of negative and positive that’s going to get us through this. Having accepted the negatives we can say ‘worse things happen at sea’ (or at least in the British Empire – we really aren’t in the worst situation anyone has ever been in) and start organising to win.

If it bleeds, we can kill it: a success in the fight against marketisation

Marketisation, at home yesterday

At some point I suspect most people involved in the recent struggles against The Marketisation Of Everything In The Universe have at some point felt that they are on the losing side. While many people remained optimistic enough to stay involved in the struggle, it was difficult to avoid the fact that tuition fees did rise, the marketisation of education continued apace, and although some resistance was offered to the sale of the NHS most of the successful opposition was by doctors on technical grounds – though I’m pretty sure many hid their politics behind the technical objections.

It is therefore a great pleasure to see this week that the government has shelved ‘indefinitely’ a bill to further marketise education, that would have introduced purely private elite universities similar to the US. It is not just a great pleasure, it is a victory, because it appears that the government did not have the stomach for the fight.

Tuition fees rose, despite the protests, despite the strikes, despite the million column inches, and sometimes it felt like we were doing it all for nothing. But this is not nothing. This is something. The government is scared of another fight. I, we, helped make them scared. It is difficult in the middle of a fight, when everything seems to be going against you, to feel you are achieving anything. But even if we don’t win the battles we want to, our resistance can and does win other battles.

It is true that it is a small victory in the grand scheme of things. It is true that many tasks remain, including the public trouncing of the philosophy of marketisation – the idea that those who can pay most should get most and those who have already won should win more – and the undoing of the social damage it has done.

But this is a good day for those involved in the fight. We should feel happy about the grief we have inflicted on the government. And as we gear up for more fights over education and the NHS, we should remember the words of Arnie before he went all governor on us: If it bleeds, we can kill it.

Government propaganda announcement: Anyone can be a success

[FIZZZ, *CRACKLE*]

THIS IS YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD LOUDHAILER AGAIN. YOU HAVEN’T BEEN LISTENING TO ME RECENTLY HAVE YOU? I KNOW YOU HAVEN’T. I HAVE CCTV EVERYWHERE. PLEASE LISTEN TO THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT CAREFULLY. IF YOU SWITCH OFF HALFWAY THROUGH YOUR POWER AND WATER WILL BE SWITCHED OFF.

[...SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH...]

ALL PRAISE OUR GLORIOUS DEMOCRACY FOR ITS BENEVOLENT MERITOCRACY! OUR SYSTEM OF ECONOMICS AND GOVERNMENT IS BETTER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD FOR ONE SIMPLE REASON: ANYONE CAN BE A SUCCESS. YES, YOU HEARD ME: ANYONE.

WE’RE NOT LIKE SOME TINPOT DICTATORSHIP WHERE YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE RIGHT FAMILY TO MAKE MONEY OR RUN THE GOVERNMENT. WE’RE NOT LIKE CHINA WHERE YOU HAVE TO BE IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY. WE’RE NOT LIKE IRAN WHERE YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE RIGHT RELIGIOUS BELIEFS. WE ARE A MERITOCRACY! ANYONE CAN BE A SUCCESS! ANYONE CAN MAKE MONEY! ANYONE CAN RUN THE GOVERNMENT!

IT MAKES ME LAUGH WHEN I HEAR PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY COMPLAINING ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT. WELL IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, GET IN THERE AND CHANGE IT! THAT’S WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT! IT MAKES ME SAD WHEN PEOPLE COMPLAIN THEY DON’T EARN ENOUGH MONEY. START A BUSINESS! ANYONE CAN DO IT! ANYONE CAN BE A SUCCESS!

I DON’T WANT ANYONE SAYING THEY HAVEN’T HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO BE A SUCCESS – PUNISHMENT FOR THIS CRIME IS HAVING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT FROZEN – SO I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU SOME TIPS ON HOW TO BE A SUCCESS.

ANYONE CAN DO IT! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS THE FOLLOWING:

1. ACCEPT OUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS I.E. YOU MUST WANT MONEY AND POWER OR YOU WON’T GET IT.

2. SACRIFICE YOUR FAMILY TO YOUR AMBITIONS. THE REASONS FOR THIS ARE OBVIOUS.

3. BE PREPARED TO IGNORE THE EFFECTS OF YOUR DECISIONS ON OTHER PEOPLE. THE NEED FOR THIS IS OBVIOUS.

4. MANAGE YOUR VALUE. NO ONE ELSE IS GOING INVEST IN YOU, SO INVEST IN YOURSELF! TREAT YOUR LIFE AS A BUSINESS OPERATION AND YOU WILL SOON SEE THE RETURNS.

5. BECOME YOUR OWN PR COMPANY. MANAGE THE IMAGE YOU PRESENT TO THE WORLD. WHEN YOU SCREW PEOPLE OVER, PRESENT IT AS AN ACT OF BENEVOLENCE. WHEN YOU ARE UNSURE OF YOURSELF, PRESENT UTMOST CONFIDENCE.

YOU SEE? THAT’S IT! ANYONE CAN DO IT! WE’RE NOT LIKE THOSE MEDIEVAL COUNTRIES WHERE ONLY CERTAIN TYPES OF PEOPLE CAN BE A SUCCESS. IF YOU’RE NOT A SUCCESS, IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT AND I DON’T WANT TO HEAR YOU WHINING ABOUT IT, OR ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS. AND I CAN HEAR YOU: I AM NOT JUST A LOUDHAILER, I AM A NETWORK, AND I HAVE A DIRECT LINK TO YOUR HEAD.

PUNISHMENT FOR WHINING ABOUT YOUR LACK OF SUCCESS OR ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S ‘UNDESERVED’ SUCCESS IS SOCIAL OSTRACISM. NO SUCCESS IS UNDESERVED. THAT’S WHAT MERITOCRACY MEANS. THAT’S WHY YOU ARE THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.

THIS IS THE END OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING.

[FIZZZ, *CRACKLE*, SCREEEEEECH]