Tuesday, 30 June 2015

"The Grass Is Always Greener Where You Water It"

"The course of progress and social justice is never simple or straightforward. Change happens because people don’t give up. They don’t take no for answer. They keep demanding change. This is my faith. When we see injustice we must tackle it."
Ed Miliband resignation speech

I copied and pasted this quote the day after the UK election. I didn't really know what to do with it, but it struck a chord with me. As time has passed I've been thinking about things and I wanted to share some of my observations and snippets of conversations, if only to get them out of my head and organised into something that resembles a thought-process. 

I have spoken with friends about my despondency at the election result, and my concern that we have lost our way as a country and as a society. My sense of community is perhaps a romanticised one, a little old fashioned and based on rosey-tinted tales from others - I often wonder what happened to street parties, and why nobody seems to know their neighbours any more. I remember the green-grocer who used to sneak tangerines to me while my parents shopped for the weekly veggies, and my nan used to get the bus to town a couple of times a week for supplies and to catch up with friends - a lovely couple who regularly visit my shop reminisce about how you could spend the whole day in town because you'd see most of the people that you knew and you'd chat and catch up. I wonder what happened to that. 

image from www.plumstead-stories.com 

We seem to be fed such hateful propaganda these days - at what point did being vulnerable make you the bad guy? When did it become normal to be so suspicious of others? I am sure that there will be people who mistreat the system, there always has been, but I'm positive that they are in the minority. Surely the system was put in place for a reason? I mean things good and supportive things like disability allowance, child support, unemployment benefits - these things were put in place for the greater good, as a safety net, so that those who could give a little more could take the pressure off those who had less. Am I being naive here? 

"When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net...was there to break the fall" JK Rowling 

But instead of looking after people, we seem to be turning on each other, blaming the people at the bottom when it's the people at the top who are actually causing the problems by not paying their way. Who do they answer to? Where is the justice? I have just finished reading Mark Thomas' latest book "100 Acts of Minor Dissent" and in it he comments on the fact that companies like Apple, who pay no tax anywhere, still expect the roads and pavements outside their shops to be maintained - I'm paraphrasing here because I don't have the book to hand but the point he makes is totally valid. We've lost our high-street shops to supermarkets, our bakers and butchers and greengrocers are more or less gone on the high-street, mostly relegated to markets, and we've let it happen, and then we complain about it. From first hand experience of having a market stall I know that we can make a difference - we have tiny businesses in the great scheme of things, but they are honest businesses, run by (for the most part) people who care about their customers and believe in their product, wanting always to do their best. We just want to keep doing what we do, just trying to get by and keep going. We are just waiting to be discovered.

I wonder, where do we go from here? Everything is so resentful, the media so full of divisive language, the world feeling like it's beginning to crumble. There have been so many awful things happening everywhere - such hatred, differences used as justification to dehumanise, the propaganda that is being so carelessly thrown around being used an excuse for violence. It's been everywhere - attacks in France and Tunisia, which instantly lead to Islamophobia, hate feeding hate. The shooting in Charleston, where innocent people were seen only for the colour of their skin. Police shooting rubber bullets at a Pride Rally in Turkey. All of these things bred from intolerance. Are we not all just people? 
A friend sent this little video to me after a conversation that we had on Saturday. We talked about tending your own garden, making your own patch nice and helping others with theirs. How the government don't care but they don't get to set the standard that we all live by. They can lead with the example of looking out for themselves, but we can do better. We are worth more than the standard they set - they are pathetic and we can surely do better than that. 

I've seen some glimmers of hope - the historic victory of love over inequality in the United States and the show of solidarity with facebook rainbows. The rejection of Fracking in Lancashire. The Craftivist Collective fighting for M&S employees to be paid the Living Wage by embroidering messages onto handkerchiefs for the board members. Amazing women like Clemintine Ford fighting for women everywhere - I've been following her story in particular (thanks to lovely Pip Lincoln at Meet Me At Mike's for highlighting it) but there are lots of other amazing people raising their voices too, and there are fantastic campaigns like Let Clothes Be Clothes and the super-dad over at Man Vs Pink who are trying to raise awareness of the harm that gender stereotyping can cause. There are lots of little steps which cumulate in big changes.
photo from Greenpeace

So, I come to the end of my little rant, and I guess what I'm saying is that I am starting to feel more positive. I am just one person, I don't have all of the answers, and I'm sure I don't understand all of the questions either, but I can fight, in my own little ways and I have to stay positive. I have to be inspired by the amazing people who are also fighting, and try to rationalise the negative things, work out if they can be changed and how, and what difference I can make. I will try to be well-informed and open-minded. I will try my best and I won't give up. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Gemma. I enjoyed reading your rant about the sad state of the world, and also your conclusion that you're feeling more positive and know that you have to fight in your own way, and be inspired by others. I often feel like you do (I think a lot of us do!), sad about the state of the government/environment/terrorism/treatment of refugees/Islamophobia etc etc etc, but at the end of the day, feeling sad doesn't get you anywhere. Looking at what good people are doing, and being one of them yourself, is defs the way forward. Good on you for caring, and for not letting yourself be a hater. Being open minded, well-informed, trying your best and not giving up is totally awesome. I'm with you! x Isabel