Here we are again – as I write this we are on the cusp of a New Year. As 2011 slips between our fingers, leaving, as all outgoing years seem to, that vague feeling that we it is ending too soon, that we never really got to grips with it, 2012 stretches ahead, a blank canvas waiting for our first tentative brush strokes of activity. Of course, this is the time of year when we feel we should look back on the old year and somehow assess everything that has happened, and try to put it into some kind of context. Well, if there’s one thing you can’t accuse 2011 of being, that’s uneventful. Indeed, it seemed to have been suffering from the old Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’, with so much having happened that it is hard to believe that it could all have been encompassed in just twelve months. The most striking thing about 2011, for me at least, is the way in which, through the phone hacking scandal in the UK and the various financial crises around the world, a veil seems to have been drawn aside and the true workings of our world exposed. Power lies with multinational corporations and financial institutions, not national governments, sovereignty is a meaningless concept in the face of these behemoths – they pull the strings that operate our elected leaders, democracy is just a sham designed to make us think we control our own destinies. Moreover, as the phone hacking scandal has made overt, the media – owned and controlled by the same 1% who control the multinationals – doesn’t just report the news, it makes the news, deciding what will and what won’t make the headlines and manipulating the news agenda to their own ends.
Obviously, none of this should come as a surprise to any intelligent person – it’s what we’ve suspected all along. But the difference in 2011 was that it was exposed for everyone to see. People should have been out on the streets, overthrowing their governments and wresting control of their economies and political establishments back from the faceless corporations and financiers. And in some places there were protests, in some places governments did fall, but by and large, people seemed to remain complacent, swallowing every lie fed to them by the media, which quickly tried to reframe protests as riots and equate protesters with criminals. The masses were placated with a steady diet of ‘news’ stories about pandas and ‘structured reality’ TV programmes, where supposedly real life is scripted, restaged and edited for the benefit of the cameras. A fitting analogy for what was going on in the wider world, as every situation is ‘reimagined’ as a cosy soap opera where everything will turn out OK in the end – the message is clear: the financial pain and economic deprivation we all have to suffer because of the recession created by the banks and financial sector, is ultimately no worse than the tribulations the average soap opera character has to go through before finally bedding that hot girl from across the street.
Under cover of the distraction of all this pap, our unelected, illegitimate government continues its assault on every aspect of our civil society, justifying it all with the supposed need to ‘cut the deficit left by the last Labour government’. If you disagree, you are labelled a ‘deficit denier’. Never mind that the only way to create the growth needed to reverse this recession is by creating manufacturing jobs and getting people back to work so that they can start paying tax rather than claiming benefits, all Cameron and his public school cronies are interested in is protecting the City and the financial sector. This, despite the fact that they are more than capable of looking after themselves – usually by taking our tax money in the form of government bail-outs and stealing our pension funds. There’s another sub-text to all this: ensuring that the lower classes are simply unquestioning drones who will complacently accept low-paid, dead end, casual employment instead of secure jobs and careers. According to Che Guevara, people who can read and write are less easy for oppressive governments to fool, which is why he championed education and spreading literacy as much as training guerrillas. But our rulers are wise to that now – just look at the way they’re undermining the education system, making out sure that only ‘vocational’ courses are funded and favouring indoctrination rather than learning in the remaining academic subjects. With education no longer able to help people develop their critical faculties, is it any wonder that they buy all that pap in the papers and on TV hook, line and sinker?
I’d call for a revolution, but the levels of public apathy, in the UK at least, are astounding. Even when people acknowledge that there’s something wrong, they just shrug their shoulders and shuffle off to the nearest bargain basement supermarket in search of some past-their-sell-by-date bargains. By contrast, I’ve found myself more radicalised than I’ve been for many years. Only a few weeks ago I found myself on a picket line for the first time in an age, defending public sector pensions. Actually it was during that strike that the depths of public apathy were brought home to me – there seemed to be real antipathy amongst some members of the public to the very idea that we should try to defend ourselves in the face of an onslaught on our pay, pensions and public services by the government. We should just roll over and take the kicking like all those other gutless bastards had, apparently. The propaganda seems to have worked: resistance is futile.
But I’m not completely despairing. As I’ve written elsewhere, for a few glorious days in August this country seemed to be teetering on the edge of a real revolution, as mass civil insurrection left our leaders needing a change of underwear. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the looting, arson and other criminality, but, despite what the government and media will have you believe, the August riots had their roots in the deep seated anger felt by many people at the bottom as they see the government making them pay for the bankers’ excesses. With virtually every legitimate form of protest denied them, violence and destruction were ultimately the only means of articulating this anger left open to them. Then there’s the ‘occupy’ movement. Now, these are the kind of middle-class part-time radicals I’d usually treat with contempt. However, in the face of establishment smears and bullying, they have done a magnificent job of keeping the issues of bankers’ excesses and financial mismanagement in the news, defying all attempts by the media to bury these issues.
I’m hoping that these glimmers of hope might develop into something more significant in 2012, that people might start to actually wake up to what is going on and get off their arses and do something about it. That said, the government has plenty of distractions lined up, most notably the London Olympics, which might prove an even bigger distraction than this year’s Royal Wedding, although I doubt winning a few rowing medals will produce as much in the way of media commentary as Pippa Middleton’s arse did. Time for a quick digression here, what’s the deal with her backside? Just because she’s some kind of posh totty doesn’t mean that it is any good, why all the fuss? To be perfectly frank, I’ve seen much better. Indeed, I have a friend with a far superior behind. (You know who you are, Andrea). OK, digression over, back to business. Let’s make 2012 the year when we start fighting back. There’s no point in waiting for any opposition politicians to lead the fight for us – they’re just as scared of upsetting the City as the Tories, so we’ve got to do it for ourselves. I’ll see you on the barricades, brothers and sisters – until then: keep it sleazy!