Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Politics, ripples and reflections

click photo to enlarge
The present British coalition government is the most inept that I have known in my lifetime, a period lest I forget, that includes the woeful Conservative government led by John Major. Today we are governed by people who have the best education that money can buy but promote policies that display little evidence of commonplace, basic intelligence, an elite drawn almost exclusively from the rich, with a background of public (i.e. private) schools and Oxbridge, a majority of whom are millionaires. They exhibit a dearth of experience of the people they govern, have an air that suggests they think they are born to rule, and manifest few deep political beliefs or understanding beyond a "private sector good, public sector bad", "the market knows best" dogma.

In the two years they have been in power the coalition has made, at the last count, 29 policy U-turns, converted a modest recovery into a double-dip recession, mis-read the steps necessary to stimulate the economy, made the poor shoulder the the cost of the economic mistakes of the rich, and actively promoted legislation that has increased inequality. Moreover, their policies have reversed the reduction in child poverty achieved by the previous government. Following the inverse Damascene conversion of the Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan-Smith, they now assert that there is no link between poverty and low wages, that it results from either a conscious choice, fecklessness, or is the consequence of too generous state benefits! Today I read that Duncan-Smith's Centre for Social Justice admits that in arriving at these conclusions it "missed in-work poverty" i.e. didn't take account of the fact that 62% of children living in poverty (under the current definition, that the government wants to change!) are in families where one or more parent is working. What kind of society is it that is unable to pay someone a living wage for a full week's work? Inept doesn't begin to describe people who don't notice this and can't appreciate its consequences.

It seems to me that one of the problems of politics today is that too many politicians are responding to the dominance of consumerism, one of the areas of people's lives over which individuals think they have real control. So, instead of offering us, for example, a national education system, organised, standardised and quality controlled across the country, politicians seek to give us a selection of school types, managed by different bodies, in quasi-competition with each other. In recent years they have imposed this consumerist/market ethic on virtually every public institution, from the utilities of gas, electric, water and telephones to aspects of defence and the civil service. The result has been baleful. Now they want the individual's contract with the health service to resemble buying a can of baked beans - "Would you like Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda or Morrisons to replace your hip sir?" The motivation behind all this is to remove community enterprise and provision and replace it with market-driven, self-serving individuality, to make every social transaction financial, to bring to fruition Margaret Thatcher's pernicious claim that there is no such thing as society. What we must never forget is that when that moment is achieved every government we elect will look like today's, our lives will be ruled by financial transactions, and the inequalities within our society will have returned to Victorian levels.

Isn't it odd what thoughts can be prompted by staring at the colours, reflections and ripples in the water of Lincolnshire's South Forty Foot drain?

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -1.00 EV
Image Stabilisation: On