Mind the Gap between public service and private greed

Another hasty blog post written between Wimbledon and Dorking, so immediacy trumps eloquence 

For those hankering for a revolution, or maybe a Glorious rebellion, I must sadly inform you that Russell Brand is wrong. Having taken a few commuter trains this week, and experienced the abysmal service that many accept every day, I looked into the eyes of those commuters (carefully of course, I know the rules of blindness to all others on the English train), I saw resignation, pent up anger, miserable complacency, but I did not see Che, Fidel, Trotsky or even a hopeful Fawkes. On the intermittent occasions I have been forced by my tour schedule onto a commuter train, I have rejoiced that this is an aberration in my life, not my daily grind. The trains are uncomfortable, ugly, overcrowded, hugely expensive, slow, cancelled at the last minute with the scantest regard for genuine apology, and without joy or toilets. I presume the late night friday suburban trains are sodden with piss by early Saturday morning after the inebriated are suddenly alerted to their flooded and sloshing bladder as they approach Motspur Park. Why do we put up with all this? There is so much impotent rage, so many miserable faces sleepwalking to miserable early graves under the yoke of the stress of their lives. 

We may curse as we sit on Witham station for an extra 45 minutes in the drizzle, aware that another night with our children has been cut down, too late to deliver that promised bedtime story, too wound up to smile as you go through the front door. Yet, once the primal rage is gone, do you remember to send off your form to get your money back for a botched journey? You have to claim every time, it costs them money, the more that is bled from their dividend coffers maybe they’ll take notice (or just put the fares up above inflation again to cover the wages of sloppiness). 

Is our failure to react and organise the cost of 20th century individualism? We curse individually because we either don’t give a fuck or are not even bothered by the thought of all the others cursing alone. To hell with them, it’s your life that is being ruined, who cares about those losers in their Next suits with last year’s iPod a spilt can of Marks and Spencer’s gin and tonic. 

Why do we feel so powerless, wasn’t all this connectivity, email your MP, global village made real by a web meant to empower us, or did it the fripperies that decorate the technology distract us from its possible purpose and power?  We shut ourselves off from each other, jam the earphones in and barely look up from the handheld screen, there is no one else, only you and some avatars; we are not brains in a vat, just avatars on a screen to be abused or adored or ignored. As people try to get off the trains, others crowd around the door like the walking dead, not after brains but after that one viciously patterned seat they have spied in the corner. Though crowding around the doors, impeding those trying to make space by disembarking, slows everyone down doesn’t matter, because there is no everyone, only you. 

We need to stop seething alone and make plans, this cannot be the best way it can be with an NHS being stripped and sold on for private profit and public subsidy, the rising cost of our public services being matched by the plummeting quality of them, legal aid being sold to haulage companies, oh fuck, you know the plot don’t you. Like the earlier blog post of the day, I write this just to ask, “what are we going to do?”. This is our one life, I reckon it might be finite, though others will disagree, to spend so much of it in someone else’s armpit, being slapped by an Evening Standard as you teeter and then apologise for lateness to the ones you love, as the burnt soup evaporates in the bowl and your supper is  inhaled as mulligatawny haze. Must private profit always usurp public well-being?

Tour dates coming up in Totton, Windsor, Leeds, Hull, York, London, Evesham, Cirencester and Edinburgh, details not those plus DVDs and Christmas shows HERE

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4 Responses to Mind the Gap between public service and private greed

  1. TTG says:

    These are first world problems, Robin. There will be no revolt from the people on your train because they are doing OK. Sure, it’s not always the best of lives… and there are some other fuckers taking the piss and having a great time.. but it’s still pretty good, and the lives of the vast majority of the population of the UK are unimaginably better than the lives of practically every other person born anywhere in the history of all humankind.

    We have universal healthcare (even though it’s a bit shit at times), there is housing, food and clothing for all who need it save for those few who, for whatever reason, fall through the inevitable cracks in a nation of so many. There is an education system to which we are all granted access. Our media is fairly free, or government is fairly uncorrupt.

    Perhaps these seem like modest achievements in the year 2013.. but you really don’t have to go far (in time or place) to see the worlds that truly do breed revolution.. viscous theocracies, brutal and corrupt governments, war, famine, *actual* poverty, apartheid and institutional misogyny.

    The people aren’t going to rise up… because this country is almost as good as it gets. On the scale of the world we need tweaks, not revolution. That’s why the people demanding change congregate around ‘Comment is Free’ with snarky put-downs, instead of around the Houses of Parliament with burning pitchforks.

    Most people, however, including most of those who sometimes really do have something to moan about, are just getting on with life. They’re not listening to you, to me, to Russel Brand, to Polly Toynbee, to Milicleggeron or any of the other rich fuckers determined to point out to these people how shit their lives are and whoever it is they should be angry at about it.

    And they’re all the better for it.

    • robinince says:

      bread and circuses, and I don’t like the circus

    • lambcourt says:

      Well said. Robin is right – there is so much more that could be achieved if the populace worked together for good. But history and the news tell us that this is not a virtue of first-world human nature. The summer riots are closer to the truth. Talk of change and revolution stirs up the wrong people about the wrong things, while the non-militant population stick as far as possible to their daily routine to earn a crust and keep the country running, even if someone has set fire to their usual bus to work. They trust that the government, unsatisfactory as they may be, will sort it out without declaring martial law and that the underpaid but esteemed emergency services will clean up the mess. Meanwhile, they keep calm and carry on. But they also give generously to some useful charities which do help the less-fortunate, and they partipate in crowdfunding of innovation and talent. How does it go? “…accept the things I cannot change;
      courage to change the things I can;and wisdom to know the difference” . Positive change in 21st century UK is more likely to come slowly and quietly, withoout arson and gunfire or even placards, through the technological means designed to tap into that vast sea of commuters who are glued to their mobile devices to shut out the frustrations of the day.

    • mattoid says:

      I’d say giving away billions of pounds worth of public services and property to your own overseas, tax-avoiding vested interests and telling outright lies is about as corrupt as European governments get.

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