Tuesday, 29 November 2011

On the Matter of This Nov30 Strike...

Here it is; in just a few hours, the biggest strike in living memory will be taking place in Britain. Well, a big enough strike anyway.

And I have nothing but pain and disconnected thoughts in my head.

First and foremost, yes, I am indeed very glad to see Unions getting their act together and finally taking industrial action.

And yet, I feel that familiar frustration with the nature of the strike and the kind of unions involved in it. I experienced the same feeling during the last “anti cuts” demonstration organised by the Unions a while ago.

That frustration watches them and asks… “Really? After all that’s going through only public sector workers go on strike and over the matter of pensions? Really?

It has a general feel of… middle class England wanting to better their lot. You know, that portion of Britain you see on the media, the only portion that seems to matter. They drink expensive fair-trade lattes, read the Grauniad, are ubiquitously white, and only “see” the misery of those at the bottom of society twice, three, four times removed. By which point the truth has been bleached and sanitised so much that they mistake making better consumer choices with saving the world.

I fully realise that these feelings are just that: feelings, not an accurate depiction of reality. And I know that the better conditions public sector workers have, the better the working conditions will be for all workers. That the better pensions they have, the better pensions everyone will have. And I’m also aware of the fact that Thatcher has made “general strikes” almost impossible, unless they are over pensions.

But still… pensions? Really? Did everyone miss the riots?

I am entirely convinced that “middle class England” simply has no idea how bad things are for the poorest members of society. And I literally mean NO EFFING CLUE.

They don’t understand the desperation, or the urgency for that matter.

They have the luxury of thinking about their “pensions” because their position in society is, relatively speaking, so “good” that they can physically think about the future and plan ahead.

They cannot imagine how it feels to not be able to even think about next month, next week even, because the future can only mean more of the present, which is unbearably painful. They can’t imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a cycle of “nothing ever gets better”, of “nothing to look forward to”, of “more of the same crap day after day”.

They are not, in short, “numb” to the future. They have the luxury of thinking about pensions.

Then there’s the Occupy movement, which, by its very nature, is born out of desperation, out of frustration of seeing no other “tactic” work. Occupiers go and stay there; not because they hope to achieve something, but because they literally can’t stand to carry on like this. They share one certainty only: things have to change.

People are so politically exhausted that they deal with their desperation by turning it into action. Nothing is in the world works anymore, so they go and do something that doesn’t work either. And they keep on doing it. Because at least while the Occupation is taking place, “something” is working; even if it’s just a small general assembly, to try to keep functioning something that could be swept away at any minute.

The Occupy movement feels like the politics and the actions of the hopeless. “Work without hope”, as a WWII poet once wrote.

The strike, the Occupy movement and the riots. From the most privileged workers, who “do the right thing” and “keep Britain running”, to the most desperate amongst us, who are literally told “they do are not part of society”.  
From public sector workers striking to keep things as they used to be, to the Occupy movement demanding an end to the “1% and the 99%”, to the riots, the most literal manifestation of “wealth redistribution” there could be.

You know what I would like to see? More strikes; for longer periods of time; over many more issues. Public sector workers should leave the workplace and stay out. Or occupy it and not work.

It is not enough to strike over pensions. Public sector workers, as the most privileged members of the work force, need to show solidarity to everyone else. I don’t know how; but they need to find a way to do it. Enough of trying to fix a broken system, or forcing the bad to not get so much worse; we need to start moving towards building an alternative.

Perhaps public sector workers could organise sit-ins with unemployed people? That could be rather fun. And I am pretty sure it would build solidarity like nothing else.

In a few hours most of us will be either striking or joining demos. Remember this: 2.5 million workers will, according to David Cameron, “draw Britain to a halt”.
Presumably the 2.6 million workers who are unemployed merely provide the desperation that keeps the cogs in the machine compliant and obedient?

As for me, I won’t be striking, since I don’t have a job. Instead, I’ll be doing by first ever “subbing” session for Women’s Views onNews. Voluntary work I hope one day will turn into paid employment.
Because I’m desperate. And I only know one this: things have to change.

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