Let me explain.
I’ve been away for a couple of days in a hotel room. The hotel was fine but it wasn’t my home. I wrote a couple of pieces whilst I was there. The pieces were more reflective than has been my custom of late. We need more reflection.
At least, I need more reflection.
I’ve just arrived back home and sitting back in my familiar surroundings, anything but luxurious but – even so – comforting and family-underlining, the rain pitter-pattering on the sitting-room window, the recorded football on the tele, so it is that I am reminded of the great importance of familiarity in general: because for our politicians and rulers, you see, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt but – instead – too much confidence on the part of their subjects.
To feel safe in your castle as all Englishmen and women are supposed to feel is the greatest challenge to all political rulers who aim to desegregate a tapestry of national expectations. Whilst you fear losing the very soul of your life, you will be cowed into almost any kind of behaviour. But if you feel your loved ones are protectable behind the four walls of your home, then almost anything may be contemplated. I can, in this sense, understand those who argue against gun laws – not, I hastily add, because I believe in anyone bearing arms at all but, rather, essentially because I appreciate now more than ever the importance of feeling permanently in control of one’s own destiny.
Which is what I think most profoundly is behind the assertions of such a constituency.
And that sense of control is what Disability Living Allowance aimed to provide; that sense of control is what the NHS which kept the wolf from the door was looking to add; that sense of control is what many of those top-down policies of empowerment we berated New Labour for engineering simply steamed ahead and implemented, day after day, to a wider benefit of us all.
To want to eliminate all those things is, in a sense, the UK equivalent of a rampant US desire for nationwide gun control. Our “guns” – what allowed the British to protect themselves from the elements – are inventions such as the NHS, Legal Aid and the Welfare State.
As well as a wider network of social-care instincts.
Thus we come to understand that home is a shield which rightly emboldens us all – and DLA, the NHS, Sure Start and all were astonishing extensions of those shields I allude to which allowed us to believe, precisely, in better: better ways of seeing, thinking and living.
I tweeted rather sadly this morning the following sequence of ideas:
Did civilisation get too expensive for those who rule? Is that what this Coalition is all about? Reducing the costs of Western compassion?
And to me, it doesn’t half feel as if this is the case.
They can’t, of course, say that universal education has created a mass of highly intellectualised people which perhaps in many matters knows better than our governors. They can’t admit this because they are tied hand and foot to the concept of meritorious pyramidal organisation. Those at the top must be better than those at the bottom, because otherwise those at the top couldn’t be at the top. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy which, if questioned, would lead to all kinds of awful potentialities: maybe, for example, an utter and total reworking of that aforementioned – and for me, quite dreaded – pyramid of often dysfunctional relationships.
And the Lord forbid that such eventualities might take place.
Chris has a pertinent observation today, when he says:
[...] there’s a belief that the only knowledge that matters is direct experience; Tim seems to think that only the poor can truly understand poverty.This is doubtful. And what’s even more doubtful – in fact plain wrong – is that direct experience of poverty is necessary to know which policies are best to relieve poverty.
Something which I’d be inclined to agree wholeheartedly with. Being evidence-based is far more important to the justice and fairness one can bring to bear on a matter than whether one was born rich or poor. Being a person of kindly outlook – with an awareness of others, an empathetic personality and the ability to actively listen – are all far more useful to one’s ability to reach out than whether or not one has suffered personally the disadvantages of deprivation.
Such disadvantages may drive one unremittingly to help others, of course. On the other hand, they could just as easily encourage us to trample whenever the opportunity presented itself.
It is in the essence of an individual where we must judge people’s integrity – rather than in terms of the origin of the acts themselves.
And so Chris is equally interesting when he concludes with these final biting lines:
It is not the background of Cameron, Freud and Osborne that stops them making effective anti-poverty policy. It is their ignorance and ideology.
Only I wonder if it is truly ignorance and ideology. To be honest, I think it might be the biggest and most unpleasant practical joke of latterday political times. A humongous practical joke, in fact.
For them, we are simply buttons to be pressed. And if you really want my opinion, whilst I admire all that New Labour achieved, I’m going to be blaming Blairism, iPods and technological gadgets equally for this unending robotisation of how a society must function.
Social mobility means you walk the streets with your frozen hands clasping firmly a PAYG phone.
Social mobility means you can never know if your parents will ever see their grandchildren.
Social mobility means you will never live in a face-to-face community again.
Social mobility – of this kind, I mean – leads us to a desperate scrabbling for a smidgen of human warmth.
And without that warmth, we have no hearth. And without a hearth, we have no home. And without a home, we have no shield. And without a shield, above all we are as defenceless as the men and women who once occupied the caves.
Oh yes. We have running-water and central-heating, but without the wherewithal to properly purchase it, it all becomes a mirage.
Hold on to that home.
Hold on to that shield.
Embolden yourself before it’s just – infamously – too late.