Our boiler is bust. The implications are relatively slight: no central-heating or hot water since yesterday and (hopefully) a solution on the horizon tomorrow afternoon. But it leads me to the following thought: how awful are these relatively slight implications for those of us lucky enough to normally be oblivious of them. And how mind-destroying they must be for those of us who live them every day.
When I phoned up the housing trust, the first thing they asked me was if we had put money in the gas meter. I suddenly realised the position of privilege in which I found myself. I immediately responded: “We pay by direct debit. And we’re able to use the cooker fine right now.”
I cooked roast lamb ribs today. Not a good idea. When you don’t have plenty of running hot water to hand, the kind of fat that lamb ribs leave behind fair congeals on the scourer and sponge.
It’s really really horrible doing the washing-up in freezing cold water.
Imagine doing that in a house with no central-heating on, day after day. Not because the central-heating system doesn’t exist, mind. Simply because you don’t have the resource to pay for it.
Only the thing is that we human beings have a terrible capacity to disregard the unpleasantness of life when we are not required immediately to face up to it. That all the people now suffering due to austerity economics are being thrust into surroundings of bitter survival does, of course, upset the citizens prone to being upset, but even the latter often choose more widely to ignore the realities that bring them up sharply for a moment.
And if people like ourselves, people closer to the consequences of austerity, can often forget what it is like to truly suffer the cold winds of a virtual wage slavery in a century we were always led to believe would bring better times, how very much easier is it for people nearer the top of our societal hierarchies to simply ignore – even be unaware of (yes, I mean this with great sincerity – even be unaware of) what it’s like to be in a flat in February where the central-heating and hot water cannot operate.
Not just three days in February due to unfortunate breakdown but February after February – until one February equals a coffin lid.
I can, therefore, see the absolute benefits of undergoing such a breakdown. It should teach us, as it is teaching me today, not that we are privileged and should be grateful but – rather, more importantly – that others are poverty-stricken and should be helped.
My suggestion to resolve this dilemma of power automatically distancing itself from the very people whom it could lever support for? Obligatory on-the-job ministerial training. It would work in the following way.
As per the anti-money laundering training I used to receive annually at the bank I used to work in, Parliament could agree on a regular online virtual activity – a game, if you like, much like any simulation out there – which any ministerial hopeful would have to play in order to be considered for a portfolio. Each simulation would be designed a) to convey what it was like to be the citizens at the very bottom of the pile over which any minister might be obliged to lord and impact; and b) to assess the psychological worth and adequacy of any one particular individual who aspired to power before they were appointed.
But the training wouldn’t stop when appointment took place: repeated refresher courses would have to be taken every six months to a year, as a bulwark and counterbalance to the tendency to disconnect a minister is bound to embark upon. In much the same way, then, as we teach humble corporate workers to remember the lessons of their inductions, so we could combine both assessment and training in one accessible package to ensure that our top leaders never left their roots (nor, indeed, ever became of an inappropriate character for the tasks to hand).
As you can see, the “Life As It’s Really Lived” simulation is just waiting to be implemented.
The question now is really whether anyone cares enough to begin to create a body politic of such a nature – a body politic where politicians honestly, sincerely and properly recall the real interests of their voters.
Anyone out there who appreciates what this could achieve?