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Monday, 25 April 2016

Splintered World

The world has changed a lot during my lifetime and especially so over the last ten or fifteen years.
Obvious,  I know.  I'm just trying to get my head around it in order to make sense of the world as it is now, and my place therein.  If indeed I have one.
When I was young, and if you were of the working class, there were unions to represent you and steady, reliable jobs that paid proper wages and at the end of your working life you got a pension.  You knew that, you were sure of it.  You saw your parents' generation doing that.  They'd fought in the War, most of them, and if they were old enough to have done that they were also old enough to remember what life was like before the NHS and the Welfare State and they valued these things.
There was plenty of work.  You applied for jobs on paper, or if it was a temporary job you might just phone or go along and speak to whoever was in charge.  In summer, there were generally plenty of seasonal jobs in hotels or on farms.  And if you couldn't work, there was social security instead of 'welfare'.  You could go to the Job Centre and look at the job cards and if there was something you could go for you took the card to the desk and spoke to someone who would assist you.
Now what do you do?  You fill in some crappy online form and send it to some anonymous agency which takes all your personal details and stores them who-knows-where, and you never hear from them again.
Or perhaps that's just me.  Is it just me?  I don't know.
Property was affordable.  They talk of affordable homes now but they aren't really affordable, not for the majority of people in the way that homes used to be.
People generally did better than their parents, educationally and financially.  If you didn't do well at school there were other chances, if you wanted them. People went to libraries and evening classes and learned new skills to help them 'get on'.  There was no such thing as 'student debt'.
That's all in the past now, by and large, and of course, there's no going back.  Even if you wanted to go back, you couldn't. You never can because things never gel together in exactly the way things used to be.  Some might say that's just as well and perhaps in many respects they're right.
A lot of people were like me and didn't want to 'get on'.  In fact. they spat in the face of 'getting on'. The old certainties were taken for granted.  Looking back from where I am now, I can see that that was quite the luxury - at least, if you so chose, you could 'get on'. At least, for most of us, there was the option of so doing.  Now?  Not so much.  Not at all, for many.  For many. there is nothing but bare survival and little if any
chance of escape.
To me it seems that the world has splintered into layers.  At the bottom, there are those who live among the shards of life,  living among shattered pieces of the old and the new.  Grubbing around in the best way they can.  There is no sense, anywhere, any more, not really any sort of a workable consensus anyway in the way that there used to be, that 'these people' (or 'the poor') have a right to a decent life and dignity and that we should all help each other to achieve that because by helping one we help us all.  Lives are uncertain at best, precariously desperate for many.  The old certainties of job security and having a sense of how one's life would, or should, evolve aren't there any more.  The new certainties are fear and chaos. Patterns have shifted or vanished, like unused paths to an abandoned coal mine.  At the top, are people who seem to have everything, and who seem to control everything, materially.  And there are just enough people in the middle to stop the world imploding. People who can afford mortgages and these big white cars you see all over the place and even second homes.  People with buy to let mortgages, for heaven's sake.  People who have retired on public sector pensions and who can afford to eat out a lot.
But there are far too many people at the bottom.  And the bottom seems far, far grottier and far, far harder to escape than ever it used to be.
Where will this end?  I fear for us all.

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