I have to declare an interest here, I have no idea what equal opportunity is meant to mean in Britain, in fact it irritates me to my bones because the government is hell bent on driving the poorest people in Britain into early graves.
As a Community and Youth Worker I’ve heard it and discussed it a lot over the years, long before it was wheeled out to generally fill the vacuum of inequality, trumpeted by people with big ideas on what to do with poor, vulnerable and deprived people. Preferably without doing anything about poverty, vulnerability and deprivation.
The narrative goes, ‘what we need is equal opportunity and then if anyone fails it is their failure to engage, failure of imagination, failure to strive and succeed’.
Anyone left behind is no longer just poor, vulnerable and deprived, they are also useless and hopeless, incorrigible losers who wilfully refuse to get with the programme and want to spend their days sleeping off a life on benefits, as George Osborne put it. People are reduced to what the Nazis called ‘Untermensch’, subhuman, “inferior people”.
Growing up in a multi tiered education system (little has changed), all my expectations of a working adult life were, unbeknownst to me, drummed into me via education. I got nothing from home, my mother was too busy ‘making ends meet’. As a single parent she had to be all things to all people, yet her life was dictated around making every last penny in her purse count for our survival as a family. I knew it because I lived with it, but what I did not know, even to this day, was how she did it. I saw her worry herself to an early death, but she strove to protect us from the consequences of poverty as much as she possibly could, yet I grew up with a poverty mentality which I learnt by osmosis. It is still with me doing what it has always done, scoping my life, focusing like a lens on what seems realistic or possible to me. It’s an internal ceiling beyond which I cannot reach. To this day, £100 is a lot of money, £1000 is a great deal of money and a million quid is, ‘fuck off, you must be joking’. A million pounds has no point of reference in my life, it’s an entirely abstract concept of which I have absolutely no experience or expectation.
That’s a very different education from formal education. Put simplistically, it’s the difference between learning from life and learning by rote. On the one hand, no one is trying to teach you anything, it’s learning by absorption, by immersion, osmosis, whilst the other is gained by instillation, repetition and application to the mental task of learning ‘stuff’. There is a world of separation between actual lived life and education. Education is meant to be a protected space in which children can be economically inactive in order to gain an education for the life they will eventually lead. But here’s the problem, children are not blank sheets to be written on, they are already full of the lived experience of their life and circumstances with few, if any, references outside of that experience and children are only too aware of differences in status and upbringing (on which so much bullying is based). They know where they fit and where they don’t. What they lack is an understanding of the structuring and processes of how they know their place within a given social environment. Every classroom is a tiered environment, all unwritten, but it is an environment of social and economic inequality which makes a nonsense of equality of opportunity.
Equal opportunity might work, though I doubt it, if it was accepted that it is going to be very expensive to deliver for the most deprived people and least expensive for those for whom opportunity is already a given according to their lived circumstances. Trying to educate a child about equal opportunity who has no expectation of going home to a meal, or heating, or even a family home, is a task that stretches far beyond the classroom and which the education system cannot address. In fact, many teachers and schools are voluntarily attempting to address deprivation, and having to dip into their own pockets to do it, but that is a long way from ideas of equality, it’s about survival. And the reality of that survival is the need for money and resources, survival costs physically, emotionally and psychologically, and no amount of poor bashing and blaming or political double speak can obviate the facts. As one head teacher observed on the effect of poverty on education, “You will go through so many behaviour barriers before you’ll get to the real truth. It’s unbelievably embarrassing for that child.” I know, I was that child.
The cost of equal opportunity is a political hot potato because the government have made it so, demonising and penalising those most in need. Research by Oxford University Professor, Danny Dorling, found that the UK is the most unequal country in Europe, small wonder given that austerity was a meticulously orchestrated attack on the poorest people in Britain whist giving handouts and tax breaks to the very richest.
Equal opportunity in modern Tory Orwellian Britain is a myth and a smokescreen for genocide, a genocide which is, as Mike Sivier of Vox Political correctly described it, ‘happening in plain sight’. It is the most cowardly of genocides, by depriving the most vulnerable people of the means of survival and blaming them for the hardship imposed upon them and denying them access to justice.
I have fought against injustice all my adult life but it is not injustice, per se, that I have a problem with. There will always be inequality and injustice, to a greater or lesser extent, and I cannot imagine a world without them. The problem isn’t injustice, it is the lack of access to justice, wilfully and intentionally denied those who most need access to justice by those who serve injustice and inequality as state policy. In all the rhetoric on equal opportunity, who talks about equal opportunity in justice? Not many. The government has, as a matter of policy, closed down access to justice for ordinary people as a cost cutting measure. Equality of opportunity costs as does equal access to law and justice. That’s just common sense. To deny such opportunities is wilfully evil.
There is no political will within the Conservative party for equality of anything, this is a government dedicated to inequality and injustice. They are the people who are hounding people to death and it falls to us to not just oppose them, but to make their lives as difficult as we are each, together and individually, capable of doing.
I am currently fighting the DWP for the second time on the basis of fraudulent claims against me. I won the first time and I intend to win this time, but this time winning is not enough. Winning doesn’t get their attention, they just carry on regardless and I know that no hard won victory on my part will dissuade or prevent them from doing exactly the same thing again at some point in the future.
This time I shall be pursuing a five figure claim for damages and compensation. It’s about consequences in a system they’ve rigged against us. I am angry, pissed off, I’ve been up and down like a yo-yo and the pressure they exert is immense because they are attacking my means of survival and now I want vengeance. Revenge. There’s a good word. It’s a word worth putting at the front of what we can and should be fighting for. They attack us without mercy and without justification driving us to despair and suicide. It’s time to take the fight up a level, for our rightful vengeance.
I am beyond caring that the system is rigged against us, that’s a given, it is time for doing something about the rage that accumulates and rips away at us and to remember that revenge is a dish best served cold, exacted with cold blooded intent.
But don’t lose yourself. Love and peace.
KOG. 29 May 2018