The panic as the aristocracy shrank and equality rose during the seventies was tangible- secret right wing coups were planned and strike breaking establishment armies undermined workers struggles for the real share of the wealth of the country. Country piles were leaking and the titled were clinging on for dear life to their tumbling, unprofitable estates by their knitted and patched fingerless gloves. Wealth was being shared. The hold of the exploiter was diminishing, and they knew it. Rather than the time when the country, according to academic studies, was happiest, more equal and safest, the seventies have been almost forgotten amongst the fetid shit storm of right wing propaganda that tells us about winters of discontent, unburied dead, soviet take overs, looney leftists etc.
As we walk through X-ray spec airport security, showing your bits to a minimum wage G4S guard, previously only known in trouble torn and army controlled Northern Ireland until ten years ago, or surveillance of ordinary working class communities surpassing that by the security forces in the Divis area of Belfast or the Bogside in Derry, and as workers struggle with exponentially falling wages and increasing energy and housing bills, we should use our hand held to study that era. Go on. Do it. Don't have me spoon feed you. Learn to learn. And keep your mind free by searching, by doubting and by increasing your skills.
When workers had far more money to spend on leisure and when owning a house didn't matter, rents were low- as were energy prices and professionals and unskilled workers lived side by side in council estates kept beautiful by proud, happier, safer, well paid workers. Do I exaggerate? Well do some research from the device you are reading this on, rather than playing candy crush, wankfest.com or whatever.
And when in 1979, the Thatcherites took power, workers communities, institutions, representation and education was one of their first targets.
In the glorious, big shouldered, wine bar'd, J.R. Wet dream, and loadsa moneyed eighties, one of the Thatcherite targets in our education system were courses and syllabuses that promoted critical thinking (Thatcherite politicians had many more targets of course -miners, teenagers, the Irish, the Scots, gay people, black communities, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and 2000AD to name a few). The changes they wanted to make- from a well paid, well educated and well protected industrial economy to an economy sustained by low paid workers with few rights and few roots and a proverbial (actually, no. LITERAL-) bicycle in order to ensure they could smash community and workers comradeship; needed a workforce that did not care about its rights- only where the next Lidl loaf came from.
Thatcher and the recently deceased Cecil bastard Parkinson and the rest of the vile Tory elite began to attack "Mickey Mouse degrees." They began to draw up the National Curriculum, in which famously Thatcher ensured History ended circa 1950. And it was fact laden. Pupils were tested on memory and recall and on digraphs and semi-colons. Art in Primary schools became the study of a door in many media. And any course, degree or syllabus/scheme of work that encouraged the love of learning, social sciences and critical thinking lost funding and through repeated tabloid attacks, credibility, with the working class who through the onslaught of the new right wing project, needed to learn to think critically most.
The control of the BBC and the media ensured Thatcherites and the establishment could control news in and out of Northern Ireland. They controlled what we learned about the Falklands conflict and they controlled what the country read or saw, edited in the way they wanted, news of the Miners Strike. On occasions manipulating footage so much that rather than show striking workers being attacked by baton wielding army trained police on horseback, their retreat was made to look like a charge.
Rather than me feeding you facts, use your device to find the truth. Look it up.
I want to get to the crux. My worry as a father. My worry as a worker. My worry as a human being in a world where the elite tell us, as they did in Rabbie Burns day, " Broke? Fucked off with living in the shitehole we've forced generations of you into? Want to escape the fate of your mates as a drunken drug user just trying to make the greyness, the struggle to survive, the inability to escape hell all the more bearable in a haze of dreams, fights, stomach cramps and early mortality? Join the army. We take you places we want to profit from. You might die. We won't. You fight for our freedom to rape the world for our luxury lives on Necker Island and houses across the world and our heavily armed yachts... We are alright because of our right to exploit you, keep you shovelling shit and corpses, and feeding your emaciated sugar filled bodies with cheap, rancid, chemical filled, profitable puke and giving you the pretence of escape for piddly pay that keeps you doing our bidding."
Burns wrote of a young man who had lost everything when the aristocracy fenced off the common land people lived on, grew crops on and reared livestock on- the land that made them free. Your ancestors, fenced off from stolen land ensured you now are owned. Slave wage earners. Economic conscripts.
"Oh why the deuce should I repine
And be an ill foreboder?
I'm 23 and five foot nine,
I'll go and be a sodger!
I gat some gear wi' mickle care
And held it wiel thegether.
But now it's gane and something mair,
I'll go and be a sodger!"
Now all of us have been stripped of what little we'd regained from the aristocracy post ww2, all we have is to be a soldier; a call centre slave; a fast food worker- all de unionised, powerless. Fucked.
And the mass media most of us watch, that "fourth estate" gives not a flying fuck for you. It still lies and edits and passes on fashion and business as "news." It sells you Coronation Street story lines as water cooler conversation (who has fucking time at a water cooler to talk about Coronation Street?) And it tells you Dave Cameron, Tony Blair, Ronald Reagan and multi-millionaire, many houses/cars/private planes Mrs Windsor and her God given Demi-god family are wonderful- worth dying for. Worth freezing for. Worth struggling with three jobs for. Worth killing other poor bastards, emaciated children and mothers in foreign fields for.
The Internet is ours now. But they want to fence it off. The new enclosures. Facebook, Twitter, and Google, all of them will hand over your right to know (they do in China and other places were autocratic, dictates hips and downright corrupt bastards have total control). Your children, who won't watch Al Jazeera, RT, BBC News 24 and Sky News will be caught up by the corporations, trained to buy, trained to sell themselves for low prices. The Internet, if we allow the enclosure, will leave your sons and daughters no choice but to "Go and be a Sodger." Unless our education system is made to teach them how to analyse, question and detect bullshit.
If we allow it, the right wing- the billionaires- will ensure your children will find Coronation Street (or its equivalent) the most important thing to think about outside the many hours of work, outside the killing fields and outside the plugged in world of Candy Crush or Angry Birds. Our ancestors lost the fight for their freedom to farm and live out of the factories and Corporation owned Empire armies. The Internet has given us freedom to learn, freedom to live, converse, and freedom to create community that can again fight back and help us win the world. Thegether.
Don't let them take it.
Now for episode 8 of Firefly- I do have to fit in at the water cooler.