It is a very strange thing, the slave trade was abolished with the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act by the British Parliament in 1807, however it took until the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act to end slavery itself. . This was achieved by giving slave owners £20 million compensation (about £16 billion today) for the loss of their property. Ex-slaves, of course, received nothing and continued to be exploited in slavery in all but name for many years. Eventually ex-slaves became what we now call wage slaves, landless, oppressed and paid a pittance. What is astonishing is that the amount of money borrowed to buy off the slavers was not finally paid off until 2015. . Just like the damned bankers bail-out we’ve also still been paying off slavers. The people always pay, of course. In what follows I am not attempting to draw any parallels between modern day oppressed poor people and slavery, what I am seeking to point out is that the attitude of the aristocracy, the rich and powerful, has changed very little in the intervening 200 years since the abolition of slavery.
To this day patriarchy is not only alive and well, it is rising again to critical mass. It can be no coincidence that this is happening as the Internet and social media offer ordinary people a voice and a platform hitherto unimaginable. The voices of the patriarchy, government, main stream media and the interests of wealth are being rightly challenged as never before. They have had their way, virtually unchallenged, for centuries. The post war consensus was the greatest challenge to the ruling classes in the UK, when Labour actually set about creating and achieving a fairer and more socially just Britain, but it was touch and go all the way and the battle was bitter and brutal. Aneurin Bevan meant every word of his “lower than vermin” speech in Manchester in 1948. .
Britain’s crown jewels of the people is our National Health Service, no mere baubles there, but contained in the reality of our everyday lives. For 70 years it has burned in the hearts of the elites, a resentment and hatred, irrational yet vindictive, incomprehensible to those who have so little, but a raging storm in those who have so much they don’t know what to do with it. . The public, commoners, ‘stock’, are expected to pay for the aristocracy and the profits of the extremely wealthy, private enterprise and corporate interests, but for ourselves, nothing beyond a mean existence, surviving from one week to the next.
An oft used scare tactic is that if the rich are asked to contribute more to society they’ll leave the country, as if their role in society is anything other than daylight robbery anyway. There is no trickle down effect, there is, however, an upward flood of wealth. Jeff Bezos calls his $131 billion fortune, his ‘winnings’, yet his warehouses (Amazon fulfillment centers) have been described as prisons where workers piss in pots on minimum wage. . I don’t understand this insatiable desire for wealth, the pursuit of wealth doesn’t float my boat, hence choosing a career working with people as a Community and Youth Worker. I feel no resentment towards people with great wealth for its own sake, I absolutely resent and despise such wealth made on the backs of faithful, hard working, desperate people.
All might be well, were it not for the virtue signaling of wealthy people, patronising those they consider beneath them and presuming to tell them how to live. From David Cameron saying. “we’re all in this together,” to Isabel Oakeshott telling us that parents are failing in their basic duty as parents if their children go without breakfast, insisting that a bag of porridge will feed a family for a week. She was backed up by Julia Hartley-Brewer who insisted that breakfast in schools masked the problem that kids shouldn’t be left in homes where parents aren’t doing the basic job of parenting. This is the paternalistic view of poverty as moral failing by people who have no idea what they are talking about other than through the blind moral virtuousness of their own over privileged lives. .
Of course, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have taken this a whole lot further with their sanctions regime, depriving those in the greatest want of the very means of survival for up to 3 years in order to encourage them into work: ‘making work pay’, it’s called. The debate shouldn’t be about whether poor people are guilty of some moral failing or other, but the presumption of paternalists to treat people like mindless surfs that require beating into submission through economic warfare.
Anyone who watched or has seen clips of Fiona Bruce’s second outing as chair of Question Time, will have witnessed an object lesson in rampant paternalism, disdain and mockery for one of Britain’s most hard working and most attacked MP’s, Diane Abbott. . To the right of Fiona Bruce was light weight Conservative Rory Stewart (who?), grinning like an ape as Ms Abbott was trashed. It was an establishment hatchet job which the BBC had the damned gall to deny without any investigation.
Slavery may have been abolished, but the mindset of slavers survives virtually unchallenged because it is the mindset of the establishment, having nothing but contempt for the lives of ordinary people.
What ails Britain today? The thuggery of the privileged few, grunting like pigs at the trough of wealth which they regard as their exclusive right and for which the political system and the economy is designed to serve. Poverty is violence and the greatest crime of the Tories is forcing people to work to earn their poverty or be deprived entirely of the means of survival. The numbers of sanctions and the amount of punitive fines imposed by the DWP exceed those imposed by entire UK court system. .
Therein lies the heart of paternalism – abuse. Anyone who presumes to dictate the life of another is an abuser. As long as such people exist, freedom will be the language of protest, activism, resistance and civil disobedience for the many, for liberty.
KOG. 22 January 2019.