Tuesday, 28 December 2010

2011 - Year of the People

Those French eh? They'd take to the barricades over anything. Just close a quango or put up a tax and they'll be out on the streets by the million.

Shame us Brits are so timid eh?

Well, no, actually.

We might have avoided full on Revolutions, but I think you could argue that, throughout history, we in fact achieved more through our unshakeable belief in democracy and direct action.

The Jarrow marches, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Suffragettes, the early days of the Labour Party, Poll Tax, Iraq - the British people have decided their own futures peacefully, forcefully and effectively. We might ignore the flotsam and jetsam, but when it really counts, we get what we want, and the underlying theme that unites all is justice.

As a Nation, we simply won't accept injustice.

We've heard a lot from this coalition about justice. We were told the cuts would be "fair", we were told that fairness would be "wired in" to every policy, David Cameron himself assured us that any minister pitching policies that were unjust would be sent back and told to try again.

Perhaps this word "fairness" was so central to government announcements, precisely because ministers knew very well that injustice was the one thing Brits wouldn't tolerate.

Students don't think 9k tuition fees were very fair.
Sick and Disabled people don't think scrapping most of their support is very fair.
Those on low incomes don't think the VAT raise, Housing Benefit cap and benefit freezes are very fair.
The elderly don't think cutting care provision is very fair.
Dying children don't think cuts to hospices are very fair.

2011 will be terrible. The coalition have chosen the most vulnerable groups of all for their cuts and history shows us that when us Brits are attacked, we fight back and we win.

There is a murmur, a stirring, a slow, blinking awakening that is warming our hearts and restoring a sense of power to the people that some feared was lost forever.

We are realising that the world has changed. Media is now in the hands of us all and protests or petitions can be planned at the tap of a keyboard.

So this is my New Year message to Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Gove, Hague et all :

Go back to that think tank and make very sure that your plans are fair. If they aren't, you'll find that British people will cast you aside. Not with Gallic passion or Mediterranean ease, but with a much more effective British steel and determination.

2011 will be the Year of the People. May they achieve everything they set their minds to.

34 comments:

  1. The Students protests are just the start. The government will throw everything against the people to stop any uprising, aided and abetted by their friend Mr Murdoch, but it will not be enough.

    This is just the beginning.........

    http://redrag1.blogspot.com/

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  2. Hi Sue,

    I hope that you are feeling well after your op.

    There will be a rally against the cuts in London on 26 March organised by the TUC.

    http://www.tuc.org.uk/mediacentre/tuc-18709-f0.cfm

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  3. This is the one I hope takes off in 2011;
    http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/home

    Glad you managed to get home for Xmas. :)

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  4. "As a nation we simply won't accept injustice"

    Rose coloured glasses as history would disagree with this point I'm afraid. It took over 70 years for women to get the vote for example and many other countries beat us to it. The protests against the war in Iraq had little effect and the early days of the labour movement were full of bribes and setbacks. More recently, we have some rather questionable behaviour by the british during recent armed conflicts. The rise in membership of the BNP and other far right groups during the late 20th and early 21st century cannot be seen as a good thing- we even have members of these parties in local government...
    I hate to sound the bells of doom but lets face it, no matter how many protests happen, nothing is going to help in the current world economic climate. Yes the french protest at the drop of a hat but thats all that happens. Everyone gets to shout alot and then the changes get pushed through anyway. Its all very well saying that the British will not stand for "it" but given the choice between paying more or less taxes, most will opt for less. I am old enough to remember the last time the tories got in ( I was already working in the NHS). We were asked about umpteen things by the unions, including the introduction of trust hospitals and non clinical managers- the overwhelming vote was "no". The government went ahead anyway. I'm just glad that I will be retiring soon and leaving the UK for a country that treats its nurses fairly and credits its citizens with a bit of intelligence.

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  5. Sorry Dino-Nurse, I totally disagree.

    Just 100 years ago, this country was ruled totally by unelected, wealthy aristocrats. Without a revolution, that Century saw Universal Suffrage, the introduction of a National Health Service, free at the point of use, universal education, employment safety legislation, we defeated Nazism and Apartheid, going back before then, we saw men like William Wilberforce & Joseph Rowntree challenging the status quo.
    Where we did wrong, good men and women always triumphed to change things.
    The British have insisted on progress at every stage of their history, and invariably, they've achieved it.

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  6. Oh, and Britain was one of the very early countries to give women the vote, one of the earliest modern democracies, and one of the first countries to outlaw slavery.

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  7. Britain outlawed slavery only because it wasn't cost effective - not because they wanted to. I am a direct descendant from the writer of the Bill of Rights in the US and his journal is rather eye-opening on that score.

    Defeated aparteid and Nazism? I'm sorry but you haven't followed the BNP lately, bred on these very shores and actually gaining strength: racism and extreme facism is alive and well in Britain and something I noted as being a huge commodity when I first got here. Xenophobia is an art form, and it's only getting worse because the media has managed to paint all these changes as the way to get rid of the immigrant scum (i.e. people darker than beige). True, proper, white British salt-of-the-earth will be completely unaffected apparently, or at least that seems to be what people believe.

    I also agree with Dino-Nurse that protests don't work - the only reason they worked in the past is because it sent a message "Imagine what would happen if we got angry". Revolution has never happened quietly - someone had to make a mistake, someone had to get killed. And let's face it, revolution is uncomfortable and scary, ergo no one is going to go for it. Not be able to fire up the SUV or get Starbucks that day? Horrors! People ate quietly in restaurants whilst the school protests were going on and stared when the kids broke through, but then went on eating their meals as if nothing was going on.

    Unlike Dino-Nurse however, I'm staying put even though Britain would rather get rid of me. The truth is, there's nowhere else to run to. I'm immigrant scum anywhere. So I'm taking a lesson from the English and will Endure.

    I don't forsee anything major happening with these cuts and reforms. Since none of these huge cuts are hitting anyone that "matters" that's going to continue on. Iraq is still going on, the people protesting said themselves "this won't do any good but at least I'm out here". There reaches a point where protest stops being action and instead becomes a bandage for the conscience, and that's rather sad.

    For once in my life, though I am all too aware the human condition, I'm hoping the anarchists will stop talking and actually do something; I'm hoping the students stop thinking about "peaceful" protests and actually do something drastic to be heard. The anarchist's vision of reality is as much as pipe-dream as anyone else's, but at least it would shake things up enough that things would HAPPEN. It'd all go back to the status quo after 20 years but at least it might start.

    *sigh*

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  8. Very pessimistic views.
    There will always be battles to change injustices - but what matters is the goal is ultimately achieved.
    Does it matter now WHY slavery was stopped? The truth is it stopped and earlier than most nations.
    Does it matter how long it took women and working men to get the vote? Surely what matters is they won and sooner than most nations.
    The BNP were routed at the last election. In seat after seat British people said "No thanks". Just because evil tries to regroup, it absolutely doesn't mean Nazism lives on. Men like my Dad who fought all throug the second world war would take great exception to that claim, I'm sure.
    The Iraq protest turned o e of the most popular politicians of our age (Blair) into a detested hate figure and ensured that maximum scrutiny was applied to the decision to go to war.
    Britain today is oneof the most democratic, least corrupt most culturally diverse countries on the planet. (I lived abroad for a while, so I do have a comparison lol)
    The media have tried incredibly hard to make us believe that nothing can change, that we as people are powerless, but it's not true and with the rise in so ial media, it becomes less true by the day.
    The public opposed the end of NHS Direct with a massive Twitter campaign and just a few days later the government backed down.
    38 Degrees raised 60,000 voices to write to Ofcom opposing the BSkyB deal and The Artful Dodger ads will appear in every newspaper on 4 Jan, paid for with money donated online in just a few hours.
    Don't fall for Murdoch's lies - we can oppose anything if we come together.

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  9. I love the assumptions made that, since I'm not English I know nothing about WWII, but my grandfather came back from fighting the wars with three plates in his jaw and shrapnel in his skull. He got a medal...and he binned it. "We haven't done a damn thing but put young men in the ground" he said. He forbade anyone else in our family to fight a war, and let me tell you something, there's a certain amount of bravery in being the person standing in front of people unarmed and saying "No", knowing full well you're probably going to get shot. I've got the photos of what happened to family members of mine during the civil rights period...lynching post cards, when the surpremists used to take the whole family out for picnics whilst a black man's corpse burned on a fire. My family has done a lot of fighting and protesting and the truth of the matter is that in many cases what they were doing was against the law. They ran the risk of being imprisoned or, in the case of my three cousins, much worse.

    THAT is what tends to happen when revolution happens...people end up dying. And that is a reality that people aren't going to accept, so they'll just march in the street or write blogs and thing they're making huge change. But since the Powers that Be know that is ALL we're prepared to do, then little else will change.

    I've watched a lot of people getting indignant over the cuts but I've also watched the government just roll them out regardless...and as a result a lot of the disabled sites have gone silent. I think it's starting to sink in that there's nothing we can do unless we're going to do it BIG...and I know for a fact, and for the sake of my son, I'm not willing to risk a jailterm. I feel I'm letting my ancestry down with that but all I have is my son, and I won't lose him for this. All I can do at the moment is endure and hope.

    As are we all, I think. Rant away however if you will, but my life is too short to scream into the wind when I know my voice won't be heard...and gone are the days when I'd lob a brick and damn the consequences.

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  10. Oya's daughter - An unfair criticism. I have absolutely no idea what your ethnicity is.

    I'm sad that you (and undoubtedly millions like you) feel so utterly betrayed and powerless. I will indeed rant for you and I'll do my best to change things until I run out of breath.

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  11. I agree with Oya his daughter.

    A Ford trade unionist leader was once asked why they had struck when they had only achieved a much smaller rise than was demanded.

    He replied that only by this means could the management be convinced not to try its luck in future negotiations.

    Might is right and we did not win the 'you know what' (Godwin again) by asking the opponents to desist from their activities.

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  12. Howard

    I agree with your analysis ... the protests are not in themselves usually very successful in the specific instance, but they can change future policies .... governments do not generally operate in a black and white way, but seek to get through as much as they think that they can get away with according to their political stance ... and the poll tax riots were the final straw for Mrs Thatcher's ministers because they recognised that she had lost touch with what she could get away with!

    The problem for the electorate is not knowing 90% of the government's actions because of the poverty of our media reporting ... although Murdoch is trying to make it even less.

    I think it was Milan Kundera who said that "the struggle of the people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting" ... active opposition to the wrongness of these cuts helps ourselves and others not to 'forget'.

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  13. Just found this quote from Mark Serowto

    "Some will ask what we hope to achieve by going on strike. It's simple: without it, the government won't negotiate. This is an ideologically driven government committed to making working-class people pay for the crisis. The more of us that stand up against cuts, the more difficult the government will find it to do this."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/30/unions-cuts-protest

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  14. That's my feeling Sue.

    The government can ignore a few thousand, even hundreds of thousands, but they can't ignore millions and they can only put through policies if we allow it.

    The resistance from Dino-Nurse and Oya's daughter show me clearly what a very long way there is to go to convince people they don't have to accept this.

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  15. Sue

    What is certainly true is that, not protesting ensures that nothing will change, whilst making a noise may make a difference....

    and at the very least, it can demonstrate that this is an ideologically driven agenda which the coalition will not amend in spite of a pretence of 'democracy'/'listening'. Tony Blair's refusal to listen to 2M on the streets was the real turning point in his popularity.

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  16. Oya's daughter - Your post troubles me greatly, hope you don't mind if I come back to it.
    I gather you have Afro-Caribbean heritage? The horrific events of the civil rights movement are so sickening.
    May I ask though, do you think your ancestors would be proud of their black descendants today? Do you think they would feel their struggle was worth it - a black US president, black music and acting stars, black CEOs etc or do you think they would be disappointed that black youths are still much more likely to be let down by society?
    I'm genuinely interested in your opinion on this.

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  17. I'd quit while you're ahead with trying to second guess peoples motivations.
    Decades of working in healthcare all over the world have taught me one thing only....nothing changes. It dosen't matter who is in power or where the money is coming from. People in general look out for number one. The most common phrase that I hear when patients/visitors are complaining? "my taxes pay your wages" usually followed by a list of diseases that are thought to be "worthy" of treatment. Often includes "little babies" and suggestions that paedophiles and drug addicts be left to die in the streets (or experimented on, take your pick). Whilst the BNP might have beem lambasted by the press during the recent elections, they are alive and well where my trust is located. I still have patients and visitors referring to non white staff as "paki" or worse. Being of Irish descent myself, I have often been called a "thick mick" or other choice comments by people that I am trying to help. People in the UK have no idea just whats around the corner...they have no concept that their pathetic NI/tax contributions could not come close to the real costs of healthcare. They are about to find out. A lifetime of NI would not keep a patient on the ICU for a single week, let alone the vast numbers that we care for that have never paid any NI at all. Its all going to end in tears. sorry if this sounds a little downbeat but believe me, a lifetime of dealing with the worst of what joe public represents tends to knock any sympathy that you might have once had right out of you.

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  18. Well I suppose that depends...as it was my mother's family who fought the most for civil rights...and they're white. And since one of my best friends in this country asked me once who all those "white people" on my altar were and she was genuinely shocked that they were relatives, and said "I just thought your skin colour was a throwback"...yeah, honestly I'd say little has changed.

    What "struggle" has been won exactly? Just because a few figureheads have made it so that people can point at them and say "See, racism is over!" doesn't make it true. Obama is being slated regularly for every bad move he makes and there's always the insinuation it's because he's black (he isn't, actually, he's multiracial like I am, he just "looks" it). Yes there are people of colour who have "made big" but amazingly when they screw up it makes world-wise news (tiger woods, anyone?). Reverse racism/discrimination is a great buzzword people fling around when they don't get a job they weren't particularly skilled for due and they blame "quotas" instead...but to me discrimination is when you're arrested and beaten to death for drinking out of the wrong fountain, not because you got turned down for a job so they could hire someone darker or with breasts for 20% less what they'd have to hire a white bloke for.

    My "resistance" isn't what you think it is. I'm not sticking my fingers in my ears and saying "la la la". I've done my share of fighting...and the fact of the matter is, it seems that what has taken hundreds of years to try and fix is being reversed in all of five years. Why? Because it's expensive and inconvenient to care about human beings as if they were human beings; it's expensive to pay immigrants as much as you would a national for the same job; it's expensive to care for the huge amount of disabled and vulnerable in society. Expense is inconvenient, so best to do a complete u-turn on equality, welfare and philanthropy...and better still if you can demonize the people who have been benefiting from it.

    I've seen how this worked in the US...and it won. I'm seeing the same happen here and like I said, I have neither time nor energy to waste of a fight which will do nothing whatsoever, because as I said again, I KNOW what is actually required, and I am unequal to the task. The best I can do is be a good mother to my son ...and when I can't do it anymore, his father will take over.

    And his father is a banker, so that's all right then.

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  19. Since I ran out of space, let me put the converse argument to you - would you continue to wish to protest if it put your liberty, your life, the life of your family and children at considerable risk? Protest isn't as safe as people think it is - witness the kettling tactics and the way the police dragged the young man with CP out of his chair. Witness the man beaten at protests a year earlier who died from injuries. A lot of people have died over the major protests of the past...unless you're willing to be one of them, protest does very little. I know a lot of people claim they would, but look at your children, look at your surgery site and then strongly reconsider whether or not you'd be willing to take that risk. Because that is what it is going to take, not internet debates. As I said...I can't. Maybe when I've got nothing to lose, I'll send my son to his father and then I'll put on a V mask and Shake It Up but until then?

    Not a chance.

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  20. Good Lord you two.

    Dino-nurse - I have no idea what this means :
    "I'd quit while you're ahead with trying to second guess peoples motivations."

    Oya's daughter - You post as though you're very angry, but I'm not entirely sure who or what the anger is directed at. I'm not sure why you think direct action will only be effective if it's dangerous.

    I also think it ignores years of progress to be so defeated. Obviously, you have every right to feel how you want to, but surely it doesn't matter if I still think it's worth fighting?

    I feel pretty confident that if the suffragettes, fighters for race equality, Victorian poor and early union founders could see us today, they would be speechless at the progress we've made. 2010 and 1910 are different worlds in almost every way. We're relatively wealthy, too well fed, less oppressed and more equal.

    It's easy to forget that just 100 years ago a typical working family probably lived in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions with no access to healthcare or education. Workers were expected to work endless shifts, got no time off and often died using dangerous machinery.
    Blacks and whites were totally segregated in many places and women had almost no rights at all.

    To look back on all of that and say that protest and democracy have made no difference just does not make sense to me.

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  21. You asked, I gave you an answer. I'm a writer, not a journalist so making words breathe is what I do. If you didn't want the answer I was to give, why did you ask it?

    Anyway, I'm not one for debates, I find them about as useful as...well, see above. The only reason I responded to this post is I've heard it before, sometimes out of my own mouth, and I cringed. But so it goes, forever more, like singing "give peace a chance" to the generation who was singing it 20 years before and should KNOW better.

    Anyway...off I go.

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  22. "if you didn't want the answer I was going to give why did you ask it?

    Again, why so aggressive? How on earth could I possibly know what answer you would give? Surely that's the whole point of questions?

    Everyone will decide for themselves if they want to stand and be counted. I hope optimism overcomes cynicism.

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  23. There seems to be a lot of bitterness and hurt here. All of us hurt. My ancestors living in the back to backs in unsanitary conditions, down dangerous mines, working dangerous machinery, living with TB and small pox all hurt. Chipdren in poverty hurt.

    If we are going to make a difference we have to do it together.

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  24. I am all for democracy. What I find frustrating is the assumptions that all is right with the world because of this. Some very sorry events have taken place under the flag of democracy. Whilst I do not dispute that we are better off than our Victorian counterparts, I think they would be pretty sad that despite the NHS and all the advances in social care we still have people living below the breadline and suffering from preventable diseases due to the state of some housing. Plus the gap between rich and poor is even wider. Nothing happens overnight but I think this time no amount of protests/strikes will make any difference. The rich want to hang onto their money and most people who are living comfortably (but are only one paycheck away from poverty) do not want to be squeezed anymore. Most NHS staff are facing a payfreeze for 2 years plus the threat of redundancy, along with many other public sector workers. My husband is in the private sector and they are not much better off. Tax rates are out of control and this is why we are leaving the UK. I may still work as a nurse when we do but right now its not looking that appealing.

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  25. Tax rates out of control? Widening gaps between rich and poor? We need to tax the rich and redistribute the wealth.
    The bankers have taken more than their fair share.

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  26. I might have been treated like dirt at times, I might have fought frustrating un-necessary battles, but I'd be the first to say that I've had nine operations, arguably all life saving on the NHS.
    70 years ago, I'd have died from tonsillitis long before I even developed crohn's.
    Progress.

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  27. Oh and I don't believe that democracy has made everything right. But I believe that it could.

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  28. Taxing the rich merely makes them up sticks and move to warmer climes. Tax havens have been alive and well for centuries and will continue long into the future I'm araid. The rich stay rich by being canny with thier money...whether by marrying more of it or hiding it in secret bank accounts. Its a system that has served them well for a very long time. No government system is going to fix this problem as many in governments benefit from it themselves. The level of money that I'm talking about has no need for the public sector either, so if they do sod off the small contributions that they do make will be missed.

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  29. Actually Dino-nurse, statistically that's not true. It's just the threat they use they hardly ever actually go.

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  30. Individuals might stay put Sue but many corporations move their headquarters to avoid paying taxes. There is also the issue of "outsourcing" to the third world to reduce labour costs with the implications on the health of those in Africa and Asia, for example. There is also the tendancy for wealthy individuals (sports people in particular) to up sticks and move to Switzerland or Monaco. They can still come back to the UK but are then "non domiciled". More to the point, no one has ever really called their bluff. Lets think about it for a moment. If you have enough money to own your own island/jet then why on earth would you stay in a country that wants to take your money away at a higher rate than another country? I am not in this catagory but we are leaving the UK for a better standard of living for our kids and overall we will be paid more in wages and pay less tax up front (although some other things will cost more). On the whole we will be better off outside the UK. Many middle income families are starting to feel the same way. Its not just the super rich that are getting out and this is a bigger problem for the government. At this rate they will have no one left to work in the public sector anyway. I have friends who are teachers who are off to Oz, nurses and doctors who are going to US and Oz, others who are in the university and pharmaceutical sectors who are off to Canada and France...thats just me. Other colleagues that I work with have similar stories of family and friends who are leaving...

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  31. Well, obviously I would argue they are leaving cos they know full well the Tories are about to rip the arse out of them. As for companies, Britain has a long way to go before it's uncompetitive to business. Making them pay the money they actually owe would be a fairly painless start.
    It's just rot to say they'll all go if we make our tax system a little more equitable. They know they're onto a good thing here.
    What did they cry over the minimum wage? Didn't hurt a thing. What did they cry over the bankers tax? No change in the financial sector actually.
    I can't believe how much propaganda you believe ;)

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