There were riots in Northern Ireland earlier this month. As the news showed pictures of balaclava-wearing youths with petrol bombs in their hands, I thought ‘how old fashioned’ – as if this kind of thing had died out a long time ago. You knew that our rulers thought they would never see the like again: a young, disaffected population, prepared to burn their world down over something that irked them. Meanwhile, on this side of the Irish Sea, business continued as usual: the Government made promises to throw a few more billions after the good ones already lost and we were all too preoccupied with the redemptive death of a former racist to notice.
I look around me at the way that people live and think that either you must all be mad, or I am. Constantly failing to make choices that would bring happiness, as if afraid of it. Grinding out a dance towards ruin accompanied by a soundtrack of ‘that’s the way it’s always been’ while humming the refrain ‘what can I do to change things?’ to a backbeat of ‘why should I care?’ Watching my peers at play in the bars and dens of East London, I am afraid for us. There can’t be enough great jobs, stylish loft apartments and beautiful girls and boys to go around, can there? Which means that most, if not all, of us are going to miss out, consumed by a sense of failure over an unattainable dream, created in an advertising storyboard and sold to us by a magazine, instead of conjured up inside our own heads.
Yet, I wonder. If, as Orwell noted, when ‘the comfortable were uncomfortable, the professional optimists had to admit that there was something wrong’, it becomes easier to convince that things can’t go on as before. For in recent years, the sense that our way of life was crazy hovered in the background, but it seemed disingenuous to point it out while the good times rolled. Like a dream or a retelling of the Emperor’s New Clothes, to suggest that the bubble could pop at any time seemed the action of a killjoy. After the Battle in Seattle, the accidental death of an anarchist in Genoa, protest seemed dangerous. But it must be obvious now our foolishness has been exposed for all to see, that the days of keeping quiet on the sidelines are finished. The sight of the ruling classes displaying their innate drive to maintain the exact structure and neatly chaotic flows of information and capital that keep 200 pharaohs watching six billion slaves toiling at the pyramid demands a response.
But what? I can only stand and point at politicians suckling at the foul paps of softly grunting swine, briskly wanking the dwindling cock of an embarrassed banker, murmuring soft words of reassurance and telling them it doesn’t matter, we will soon have their icy black ejaculate streaming over our faces once more. They leave us to rot without work, signed up to a dazzling array of benefits, happily ignoring the jizz dribbling down our chins so long as they don’t get in the way of our 42” plasma screen. Watch the telly for any time at all and it is obvious that we are more loyal to corporations than to each other, less likely to change our bank than to cheat on a lover. ‘Money doesn’t talk, it swears’, drowning out all whispers of endearment.
Eighteen years of the Tories plus twelve of New Labour has added up to the creation of a ruling class completely focussed on the lining of its own pockets at our expense, gone even the pretence of contributing to the social weal. The Home Secretary, caught claiming £116,000 expenses for her second home, breezily asserts that she could have had more, e.g. £40,000 per annum for her husband to fiddle ineffectively with his flies and expenses. Army personnel purchase their own kit before deployment to war zones, while the Ministry of Defence spends millions on the redecoration of its office building. Resigning offences once, now politicians on either side are happy to lie to our faces and then, on the rare occasions they are caught, even happier to amend the rules to allow their thievery to become law. What call for writers when the satire is writing itself?
Reality is only going to alter for Britain when we realise that it is us v them, but not Tory v Labour, asylum seeker v native, British workers v Italian ones. Not Left v Right, like two football teams in which a victory for your side results in a defeat for the other. Instead it is us v Mandelson. Us v Brown. Us v Cameron. Us v Osborne. Time to realise that they do not have our best interests at heart. They are all in hock to the spread betting billionaires, the formula one team owning billionaires and, er, the steel plant owning billionaires. Meanwhile us poor, ordinary, non-billionaire folk are ignored apart from during elections, our rulers content to dole out the prolefeed to distract us as the numbers become more meaningless – it is bubillions, cajillions, flabillions, chenkuibodillions of nonsense. Wherever you mark your cross the outcome is the same: the shafting of our hopes and dreams, until, like an abused cellar-child, we have actually grown used to it. We have to stop dancing to their tune. Ignore the opinion polls, the leader writers, the professional soothsayers who want you to believe that a Tory victory is the only true outcome, because it is another victory for them. We have to hold them to account. And when there is nothing else left, we have to riot.
Words by Julia and Ampleforth