Dear Guillermo, Gonzalo and Elia
I hope you won’t think this is an indiscretion on my part. But, selfishly perhaps, I do need to be able to say something about what your elders are doing to this world. And I, as one of those elders, must share ultimate responsibility for what’s happening.
The world is a wonderful place as long as you learn how to ignore its underbelly. The underbelly is never far, of course: it’s tempting at first, too. I once almost collapsed because of its temptations. I survived, though; mainly because both you and your mother existed.
However, the problem we have right now is quite different. Whereas before it was a question of resisting at an individual level an underbelly which was not always apparent, it’s now all too clear that this underbelly has brazenly uncovered itself. We’re now in the grip of powerful men and women who operate without morals or qualms: the sacred liberal bond between rights and responsibilities has been finally hijacked and broken.
So it is that the rich appear to have all the rights; the poor all the responsibilities.
It’s no longer an individual battle of strength between personal conscience and private opportunity. Far more it’s become a case of vulture-like centres of power which operate in a bankrupting socioeconomic system – their actions becoming manifest and brazen; their shamelessness becoming apparent.
And their strategy is as follows: escape one’s own corporate ruin by identifying and ultimately pillaging those remaining resources of public-sector excellence. From health services to legal aid to social care and housing, the welfare system (once called more neutrally “social security”) is progressively falling apart; is progressively being deliberately detonated even.
Yet, in the meantime, these sad organisations look to their short-term survival above any other responsibility they might be encouraged to take onboard. Even education is not beyond their ability to reinvent a world in their image. Even our children are not beyond their grasping and selfishly focussed fingers.
What is so terrifying, what terrifies me as a member of the generation which is doing these frightening things, is that none of this was unavoidable. Inevitably, however, the corruption of liberal values I mentioned and described yesterday is passing its very capitalist invoice onto the next generation.
I don’t think our generation, those of us who despise what we are doing to the future, really has the energy, the necessary ingenuity, to re-engineer this catastrophe in time. But you, my dear children, if you ever understand these words, if you ever are able to bear accurate witness to the casual cruelty and injustice of our times, will be in a marvellous position to reconstruct a world from a war which has been waged just as permanently and persistently as any literal killing-field.
No blood-spattered walls. No genocidal gas chambers. No gut-wrenching trenches.
Just bedroom taxes, pension cuts, savings levies, bankers bonuses, trillion-dollar bailouts, disability crimes, government-induced prejudice, millionaire tax breaks – and everywhere you look, everywhere you watch, everywhere you observe and finally understand, the progressive and regressive monetisation of life itself.
Five things, then, I need to say to you before I finish this post:
- I love you, and your capacity for wonder even in these circumstances.
- What I’ve done, I’ve done for you – even as I’ve done it rather poorly.
- You deserve far more out of this life than the owners of societal narrative ever care to let on.
- I look forward to still being around when your beautifully educated abilities to fight for a better world bear the fruit we all deserve.
- And in last but not least important place, don’t forget the underbelly – which is now the body we all see – can be vanquished; can be beaten back; can be returned to the lair where it once sprang from.
So anyhow, I don’t really expect you to understand this letter right now. I’m not a very emotional person, and can often only see structure where I should see people and unintentionality. But if any of this letter does strike a chord one day, let it be the most harmonious chord you can play.
The world is a wonderful place.
And life is a wonderful thing.
Paul writes eruditely as is his wont on the subject of belonging, being loyal and speaking out. This paragraph in particular I like:
I think the essential dilemma that faces people in the context of an organisation about which they have concerns – whether to leave it or whether to have one’s say about those concerns, and how organisational loyalty plays its part – crystallises well the choices many rank and file political activists feel.
The article is worth reading in its entirety. Simply to add that I’ve always felt that Paul’s loyalty lies precisely in that voice, unerring and true. And as he points out in his reply to his local newspaper, which I republish in part below:
I have never made any secret of the fact that Ed Miliband was my least favoured candidate. To me he appeared to be the candidate most prey to the self-perpetuating trend, in the postmodern body politic, to seek electoral victory by saying to each section of voters what it is felt they would most like to hear, rather than entering into a proper dialogue rooted in economic and political values and analysis.
Conversely, I supported Ed Balls because he came closest to this genuine dialogue, and proper challenge to dominant vested interests, including the media.
Certainly I used some fairly colourful language in the context of the then ongoing leadership contest, but then I am not a political ‘yes man’; I often comment on Labour policy and its senior politicians when I think they are wrong; my blog is full of examples of this, and my forthcoming book focuses a lot on why and how the rank and file of the Labour party should seek to influence its leadership as it sees fit.
That is healthy for the Labour party, and I think Ed Miliband, if he were at all interested in how I described him a month ago, would appreciate that the language I used was simply reflective of that healthy internal debate, which went on within the party throughout the leadership campaign, and which will continue as we develop in opposition.
For this is the crux of the matter: how to develop without disintegrating, how to renew without rejecting everything that goes before, how to be true to oneself and yet at the same time useful to a greater cause – how to hold on to one’s voice and yet offer the comfort to others that a sincerely felt loyalty endows.
Loyalty means nothing if it is blind. That’s why, however imperfectly, I count myself as a member of the progressive side of British politics. We may criticise each other too often – but at least we reserve the right to do so.