“God Bless Us, Every One!”

Life’s lesson 4 on What doesn’t change and what might

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As a child I had to learn large chunks of the King James Bible off by heart. It was quite common in the Scotland of that day. As a result I still carry the echo of these around in my head.

One day I was on a train going to some conference or other on change in the public sector.  As I half-heartedly scanned the conference papers, all of a sudden one of those echoes slipped into my mind.

“The poor you have with you always.”

I had always felt this was a rather ungracious comment for the saviour of mankind, but all of a sudden it fell into place.  Not just the poor, but the learning disabled, the sick, the neglected, the old and the despised.  All the vulnerable populations in any society. Every generation and community has to choose how they treat their weakest members.

That’s something that doesn’t change.

Another echo I carry around in my head is of the literature I had to read at school.  A lot of it is just too long nowadays, but before digital technology and wall to wall entertainment, there was more time to fill.  Now I’ve gone back to the great Victorian writers in audiobooks.  They’re particularly clearsighted and scathing on the dark side of politics, business and charity.

That’s another thing that doesn’t change.

So why are we so surprised and hurt that we still have to fight the  injustices in our own society?

I suspect it’s that we swallowed our own post World War 2 publicity. We thought things were changing.  People were better off, healthcare was much improved and more accessible, secondary education was universal.  We all had more stuff.

We overlooked the dark side.  The increasing power of the state, the surveillance and intervention of officialdom in aspects of life that had previously been a matter of personal choice.

No wonder so many of us feel guilty and unhappy about aspects of our work. We’re the Bob Cratchits of today, sitting shivering at the modern equivalent of the clerk’s desk , at the mercy of a corporate Scrooge. And our Scrooge isn’t going to be visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. Our Scrooge is hanging on to his money and looking to make more.  Tiny Tim is going to his grave.

But I sense we’ve reached a tipping point. Too many articulate, educated, stroppy people are now affected. Government, local and national, might get away with fobbing off the poor with crappy services. Hampered by lack of education and resources, they’re too disadvantaged to put up much of an organised fight.

It’s organisation and persistence and ingenuity that is dangerous to the corporate Scrooge. It’s the sustained guerilla campaign that undermines, as it increasingly gathers support from a disgruntled, disparaged citizenry. 

That might just tip the point in the right direction.

That might just make a change.

Lesson 106 Corruption

Lesson 106 on Learning from contrast

Living between two cultures is odd. Things that are taken for granted in one are unacceptable in the other.

I was thinking about this today, as I was stuck in an hour long queue at Gatwick passport control. I had come from an airport where the border police just looked at the holiday making families with little children and the old age pensioners fussing over where they had put their travel documents, and waved them through. 

I was thinking about LB too, as we reach the 107th day.

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In my second culture, corruption amongst politicians and government officials is accepted as a matter of course.  One local mayor, having been found guilty of a huge fraud involving public money, was freed on bail pending an appeal.  He retained his passport. The local paper reported without a hint of irony that that the judge considered this no risk, because “he was a person of integrity!”

As an innocent brought up in Dixon of Dock Green Britain, it is an eye-opener to experience a society that shrugs its collective shoulders and recognises that bad things happen because people who should be honest and committed to the service of others, are corrupt.

It hit me again that what is so hugely hurtful in the struggle for Justice for LB is the bland corporate pretence that their hands are clean, that everything is fine and dandy, that anyone who protests or thinks otherwise must be misguided, stupid or unhinged.

It is this Alice in Wonderland situation which is so appalling and cruel.

The fury that has pulled so many different people into LB’s campaign, springs from the conviction that what happened was just so glaringly wrong. That a system that tries to pass it off as merely “unfortunate” is deeply corrupt.

We can’t countenance the sham of a flawed organisation protecting its interests by picking on the victims of its negligence.

In the heart-felt words of all my fondly remembered pupils

“It isn’t fair!”