I went on the anti-austerity demonstration yesterday through London and have consequently spent today not doing all that much at all. I did about 14,000 steps according to the hugely unreliable counter on my phone that I base most of dietary and exercise requirements on and will probably someday regret. Until then I’ll continue to feel pleased that things like yesterday’s activism meant I could have a mint choc chip ice cream. I’m pleased I went yesterday. I wasn’t entirely sure of the point of something so soon after an election result. In my head I still feel like everything is too soon and it’ll take time to work out how to combat all the cuts the government is putting through. I also often wonder if in a digital age where media chooses very specifically how to report things, and police kettling or previous ‘acts of vandalism’ turn people off attending. Having to get permission to have a march from the police feels like it’s against the entire point of it anyway. Fighting the system but only if the system says ‘yeah ok, we don’t mind this time’. Oh and walking. You have to walk. Even if at the end you’ve definitely burned enough calories to have an ice cream.
Despite these doubts, yesterday felt good. I marched with the charity Arts Emergency who are doing wonderful things to help young people get into the creative world, and it was soothing to the soul to talk to and walk with so many people who are also angry and scared about the next 5 years in the UK. After an election like the last one you can wonder if it’s just you seeing the Emperor’s new clothes and that perhaps you’ve gone slightly mad after all. But depending on which report you read there were either tens of thousands (BBC, angry people on Twitter) or hundreds of thousands (police estimate, organiser estimate) of people there and you could definitely feel it in the atmosphere as well as how bloody long it took to get anywhere. It felt good to agree with people for once.
Getting home I stupidly checked online media. I wanted to see pictures other people took, other accounts of the day, any witty banners I may have missed. Instead I saw so much vitriol at those who had marched. I’ve grown so bored of it now, assuming that the reason many of these do it on social media is because people pay so little attention to them in the real world. One thing that bothered, or rather confused me though, was all the anger at the celebrities that attended. Particularly Charlotte Church. Pictures of her on a yacht or wearing expensive things. All saying what a hypocrite she is speaking against austerity when she has money as though these things somehow equate. A picture of a woman with a gold iPhone (or possible just a gold case) and a banner did the rounds too, laughing at how can this be anti-austerity, when they own things?
The whole notion of champagne socialism being a slur is beyond me. If you have money and you use it to help others, somehow that makes you a person to be mocked? I assume it’s a way of saying ‘how dare you make other wealthy people look selfish for avoiding tax and not having any humanity?’ A sense of outrage from those who prefer selfishness and feel affronted by someone openly choosing to do what they like with their time and their money, and using that to be selfless. Perhaps it is more preferable to those against champagne socialism that people in poverty just donate to each other in a continuous cycle of self defeating debt? Because anyone who actually has a voice, or might gain coverage for their opinion, is just going to ruin it for everyone else.
I’ve not experienced terrible poverty, but I have been in some scary situations before. I can’t pretend to understand how those who’ve been forced into homelessness or stuck on workfare schemes have had to live. But I’ve been on the dole before, albeit briefly, and it helped me a lot. I’ve had months where I’ve been worried if I can afford rent and I’ve been to a cash machine countless times and found I couldn’t take money out, despite being hungry and in need of food. Part of this was due to my choice in my self employed career. A lot of it was due to owed money not arriving in time. Some of it was due to cost increases, rent rises and the like. In the last two to three years I’ve been ok. Probably better than ok to be honest. So I’ve made a point of donating to charities like Arts Emergency, sparing change where I can, helping Kickstarters for care homes and things like that. I’m not for one minute pretending to be some sort of charitable legend or hero, nor am I hoping that you’ll read this and bang on about how great I am. I do it simply because I’m ok, and I can, and the I can’t bare the thought of others suffering when I can spare a quid or two to make things a bit better. I honestly don’t think doing that makes me special or that sort of action is special in anyway.
Yet ‘champagne socialism’ is somehow now a bad thing. And I honestly can’t work out why. ‘Lefties feel, right wingers think’ I saw posted yesterday and again, can’t understand why having emotions is lower than being a robot. Maybe that’s my problem and I’m sure someone could easily explain to me that it’s because I’m thick that I don’t understand it. In which case I’d much prefer to remain stupid and not feel dead inside, thanks. Yesterday’s march made me feel very alive and a little bit better about the next five years knowing that others do too. So I feel I can definitely say there is still a point in demonstrations to oppose a regime you don’t agree with. A feeling of solidarity, confidence in possible hope, and of course, earning some mint choc chip ice cream.
Extra thing 1: Whilst I will ignore any pointlessly aggressive comments, I do, as always, welcome any coherent arguments that you might want to make to prove me wrong. Always, always happy to hear both sides of the argument.
Extra thing 2: A lot of other comments I read were people saying that austerity is still the way forward for the UK. I found this essay useful on that: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n04/simon-wren-lewis/the-austerity-con It’s a lengthy read but worth it. Also this much shorter article: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/23/opinion/paul-krugman-britains-terrible-no-good-economic-discourse.html?referrer=&_r=0 Again, happy to hear counter arguments but please read these ones first in order to counter them.
Extra thing 3: This is Arts Emergency. They are brilliant: http://arts-emergency.org
For more thoughts but also live me and not live me things (which isn’t dead me things btw) head to: www.tiernandouieb.co.uk