Thursday, 1 June 2017

Boo! (The Death of Community)

I haven't posted anything here for a while, and while I've still been writing elsewhere (mostly intemperate rants on Facebook about people eating apples or crisps noisily within earshot), I approach this with some trepidation. 

Life is complicated, its almost impossible to distill it's many intricacies into bite size chunks  - and exactly the same is true about politics and this upcoming election.

Which is sort of what this post is about.

We have unionist parties standing in Scotland on the message: 'No to a divisive second indyref', which is fine, if a little one dimensional. Dugdale, Davidson & Rennie (its almost impossible not to fall into a rant about Ruth Davidson - she's worse than apples and crisps), are still trying to fob us off with simplistic chants about the complexities around Scotland's place in the United Kingdom, and indeed out of it if we so desired.

Personally? My view hasn't changed, if anything - it's sharpened. It seems to me, if you live and vote in Scotland the choice is thus; you can vote for a party that will actually oppose the Tory agenda or you can vote for a party that says it will but will mostly abstain. Its what Labour did up till now and there's no reason to suppose they'll change. Sure, the SNP will never be able to outvote the Tories at Westminster, but neither will Labour in their current form and probably wouldn't even if they could - at least with the SNP, you can sleep at night.

The real reason I'm writing this though, is because while in our Scout Group's committee meeting last night, (I know, bear with me), something became a lot clearer. I mean, I knew it was happening, but I suppose with this new example - it threw into stark relief the language and tone Conservatives like Ruth Davidson and others deploy on a daily basis and the changes it continues to make to our society.

In Scouts across the UK, we have something like 50,000 kids on waiting lists, ignore for now that they're probably mostly middle class and not-exactly-struggling, because that isn't the point. Last night's meeting was held in the pub, its what normally happens. Once the business is taken care of, it becomes a social event. I made a passing comment about scout summer camp, I said if leaders from other sections wanted to come along, then they should. Summer camp used to be as much a social occasion for leaders as it was a week away for the kids.

But it occurred to me, that's not not how it works anymore. We don't recruit leaders, we hold parents to ransom. The only way we can get new 'volunteers', is if a section will close when no one steps forward - what a way to run a community organisation. We no longer get folk interested in outdoor pursuits, we get parents who've been threatened with a Chinese burn if they don't step up.

While many parents are eager to get their kids into Scouts at age six, they no longer think its their responsibility to support a community group they're so keen to take advantage of. And do you know what the most prevalent excuse is? Its that they're paying for it.

Even Scouts - one of the most well known voluntary organisations - is heading for a corporate model. What ever you think of leaders and volunteers in Scouts, will any voluntary youth organisation (for example) survive the death of community endeavour?

Because this is the direction of travel. People are being encouraged to pull the ladder up behind them, those who are less well off are having ever more paths to betterment (ha!) closed to them - and all to protect the welfare and wealth of those who are already okay.

We're told that to be on the left is soft. We've become convinced that being community minded is somehow weak and unnecessary. Its all happened in a strange asymmetric way too - while being convinced we must protect our lot by leaving the less fortunate behind (don't worry, the Tories will see they're alright), we've decided we must also shut ourselves in and not engage with our communities.

A lot of the parents putting their sprogs on waiting lists today will be my age, my earliest political recollection was of Thatcher going to war in the Falklands (which at the time, I was positive was in Fife...) These folks and their kids are growing up into a new normal - where its okay to deprive disabled people of essential equipment and money, that its normal for some families to rely on food banks to feed their kids and that for a few paltry quid, a victim of rape must fill out a form to apply for a non-consensual conception exemption...

I've got to say, this is not normal - its disgusting.

But, all the kids I see are growing up into a society where this is all ordinary. They might all be a bit middle class, but they're decent kids who have no choice but to grow up in the context of the world that surrounds them. 

So for your kids sake, or other people's kids if you have none of your own... This is only going to get worse, we're only going to get more hard-bitten. Trickle down economics - I think we've ascertained - is so much arse gravy. The gap between the richest and poorest continues to grow. The sick, poor and disabled are being systematically killed off  to satisfy a political dogma.

I'm not going to say who you should vote for, but I will suggest you don't vote Tory, because by any measure, they are fucking horrible - and the day will come when the Scottish Parliament won't be able to assuage the worst assaults on decency coming from them. Already, we're being told -  even with almost double the votes of any other party - the party of Government in Scotland does not have a mandate to deliver on its manifesto - and never will... The cutting away of the lifeboats is being set up in advance...

We can rationalise all sorts of things away in order to reach a compromise about how we vote. But can we rationalise away mutual care and a sense of community? It seems to me, you never quite know when you might find yourself on the wrong end of circumstances, but if you do (and think about all that is going to change over the next couple of years), whether you like it or not, the goodwill of your neighbours will be the only thing keeping you and yours in the neighbourhood you're used to, and in getting you all back to where you want to be.

Equally, you might think the Tories have got it right, in which case - and I say this in my mildest tones - we'll have to agree to disagree.


  1. Jeeez...

    The next time I send you to Waitrose for a tin of beans and a half cabbage, I'll expect you back in 5 years' time!

    So, anyhow. It's good to see you. I miss this blog.

    I think one of the most damaging things that Cameron did, and heaven knows he did a few (try EU referendum to save his miserable ass from the Kippers, for example), was to launch what he was pleased to call his "legacy" within the first few weeks of his premiership.

    The Big Society, which from another government would have been seen as a good, no, a GREAT, idea, was viewed with deep suspicion by those of us who weren't died in the wool Tories.

    The Tories wanted to sell off for a profit or close down everything that was state run. The Big Society would take over. We would all volunteer to run libraries, youth groups, OAP provision, etc, etc...

    And people thought, no, sod it, we're not volunteering because if we do that Tory bastard will remove the funding and leave us to get on with it.

    And as you well know, there are only so many jumble sales you can do.

    Volunteering is a great thing. Whether it is scout groups or driving people to hospital, visiting old folk, digging their gardens, or working in the local community centre. It should be the normal way of life.

    But Cameron's push for it made it dirty. A sort of complicity with these ghastly Tories.

    And for all that he cut services and replaced them with volunteers, nothing ever got better. The debt and the deficit remain ridiculously high, and going higher by the minute.

    So, I agree. If you live in Scotland I'd hope that you would vote SNP because Labour aren't actually ever going to do anything for us, and they certainly don't act as an opposition to the Tories.

    But whatever you do, VOTE. And absolutely don't vote for the Tories. They'll crush the life out of you.

    And to young people I say, I know voting takes up some time that you could otherwise have spent doing something fun, but rest assured your dad and granny and that obnoxious old couple across the road that moan about everything you ever do, will vote, even if you and your mates don't.

    You wouldn't let them choose your music (Vera Lynn) or your clothes (beige cardigan and brown slacks). Don't let them chose your government.

    So good to see you back Paul. Don't go again. :)

    1. Hey.

      True enough... I watched May and Corbyn last night, May was all over the place - and some people in the crowd seemed quite preoccupied with nuclear obliteration.

      I wrote the blog above because volunteering is dying. Another thing Cameron brought in was the NCS program which competes directly with voluntary efforts in England and Wales. Its funded by government too and not volunteer-led.

      Same with Cadets in schools...

      Meanwhile everyone else thinks they don't have to bother, so they don't - but - they still want it all.

      This seems to be way we're going and its not good.

      Hope things are good with you too.



Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?