What do you want?
Sitting on a bench by the porch of a rural church, the sunshine lighting the pages of my Walt Whitman book and with a soft soundtrack of birdsong around me, I realised that I was one of the few people in the UK who is predominantly happy with their life. Due to background, income and current career, I will also be one of the last to feel the repercussions of sociopathic governmental decisions. The worst effect so far is merely occasional barbed social media spite globs due to my apparent membership of the liberal media elite. The aggressive and near fascist media elite are apparently a far more acceptable bunch, real good eggs of venality and self interest.
In an interview, JG Ballard once said that it had been good for him to spend two years in a Japanese Internment Camp during World War 2 as it gave him some experience of what life for most people in the world was like, the suburban Shepperton life does not represent the mean average of daily human experience.
I am aware that I am fortunate. I am aware that all this did not come my way through nothing more than my own personal skills and tenacity.
I am thinking about these things as our next general election draws close and I have to ask what I want from a government. The choices are not alluring or dynamic, and rarely imaginative.
What surprised me after the EU referendum was the inability of many people who voted leave to explain how they hoped it would change their daily experience. The buzzwords of “sovereignty” and “freedom” came up, but then failed to be transformed into tangible ideas.
This is not an attack on BREXITeers, perhaps it’s an attack on language, how words disconnected from reality become potent motivators when it comes to crosses in boxes.
My problem with that is it becomes harder to work out success or failure if it is just down to whether we have gained or lost a word on our top trump card of values. It’s much easier to con people if the aim is words not deeds. “See, we delivered on you having a new noun to chant, we never said anything about not killing all the first borns.” You can take back a microwave or laptop that fails to live up to its advertised promises, but there is no warranty on a duplicitous government.
Being in the fortunate position of having what I want, what do I want when I vote in an election?
It seemed to be worthwhile to make a list of what I think should be feasible and aspired to, tangible values and possible outcomes that I want, without the distraction of They Live style sloganeering (reminds me, must buy new sunglasses for billboard inspections). I can then return to the list as the five years trundles and tick off the rewards and ring the betrayals.
I would like to see smaller class sizes in schools and an education system that was not constantly being fiddle with due to the ideological whims of education secretaries.
I would like to see access to good healthcare readily available and a healthcare system where people are not pawns of target hitting. Also, a government which listens to the concerns of doctors and nurses and pays attention to them.
Decent care for the elderly and decent pay for carers to demonstrated the both the cared for and the carers are not just some nuisance and impediment to profit.
I would like to see a higher minimum wage and higher management and business leaders having a greater understanding that the size of disparity between the highest paid and the lowest paid is not a good thing for a society or a healthy civilisation generally.
On top of that, I would like to see greater respect for importance of libraries, youth clubs and respite care. I want to see homelessness effectively tackled, equality rights taken seriously and a justice system committed to finding ways to prevent repeat offending.
I also wouldn’t mind clear thoughts on the unhealthy nature of very few individuals owning the vast majority of methods of broadcasting information. Those who control the means of moulding public opinion draw the line of their concern for the country just before it comes to paying taxes. They are keen to contribute discord and hate from their islands and chateaus, but not so keen on contributing tax to build a better country.
For the time being, not all of the above will make any difference to my immediate life, but I think they would make living in the UK better for everyone.
Speaking to an American friend after the United Airlines debacle with Dr Dao, he told me of the number of people who had said to him, “that bloody Dr Dao, getting in the way of all the other passengers flight home.” It seemed that they all imagined themselves as the inconvenienced, not the one being manhandled and bloodied. That’s why I think Rawl’s Theory of Justice is an important to think about when placing a cross in a box, what is the society you would want if you could, by chance, find yourself thrown into any position in it. You might be the Mayor of Moneytown, or you might be the toilet cleaner of Pig Squat.
I know I am fortunate, I would like more people to feel they were too. It is not a selfless act to vote for things that may cost me more in income tax, I think it will mean walking about in the open is just one of the many things that might improve with a more cohesive society where people feel respected and valued.
That’s my list so far, I am sure it will grow, please feel free to add your list of hopes for a new government below this post.
I am off on a UK tour without Brian Cox (so not quite so many arena shows) in the Autumn, dates are HERE. More dates to be added in Spring, do suggest towns and cities and village halls if you’d like.