Harry recalls when he “did a lot of work around community development” and the impact of the last recession on communities, on families – including his own – and he worries for his future. The internet tells him we may be heading into extreme poverty where those not strong enough to fend for themselves die in droves on the streets. “Neo-liberalism on crack,” is how he describes it. He prays for a new politics led by just and imaginative people:
I wouldn’t be a great one for looking in the mirror or maintaining my physical appearance. Just ask Ed.* Seeing what I look like is sort of unavoidable though, when I’m constantly on Zoom meetings looking at myself staring back.
The recent sun has bleached my hair blonder than its winter shade and the lack of open barbers means it’s starting to look rather unruly. I’ve also picked up a bit of a suntan on my river strolls.
I’m beginning to look like a Boris Trump hybrid. If I put on any more lockdown weight, the metamorphosis might be complete. What is more frightening is that I might be beginning to think like them too.
I always considered myself a bit of a socialist, sometimes an extreme anarchist in my more imaginative moments. Definitely, certainly, ‘eat the rich’.
Possibly because I’m always poor and always hungry. In retrospect it might actually be more pragmatism than any sense of social justice.
Practicalities aside, I’m a bit worried that I might be lurching to the right in more ways than simply looking like a populist despot.
The good people of the world tell me I should be more worried about life than economic collapse, but my fears seem to be focused on financial implications.
Do I lack something in the morality department? Why am I so concerned about fiscal matters?
Of course I’m concerned about people’s physical condition. I wouldn’t put myself through the anxiety-inducing unknowns of firemanship if I wasn’t. There are far better paid, more consistent ways to earn a crust that require less commitment.
Part of the appeal for me was the very Marxist ideal of being directly connected with the fruits of my labour. In this case, helping people in their most vulnerable times.
Of course I want people to live. I’ve thought it through. Yes, I’d risk myself to help another.
But, I also remember the recession. I did a lot of work around community development and have dipped in and out of social activism. Not as much as others, but without revealing my identity I would be familiar with the sector.
As such, I saw austerity:
I saw the bust after the boom.
I saw what it did to already marginalised communities.
I saw it in my own communities, in my own family.
I know what it did to me. Working hard and then being thrown on the unemployment scrapheap. All these years later, I still haven’t fully recovered my mental health 100%.
I am not interested in the investors and the landlords and the balance books of corporations – so long as it doesn’t lay more hardship on the people who have suffered so much since 2008.
Maybe I’m too disillusioned after the last ten years to hope for much, but I envisage a cruel post-Covid world – one without healthcare systems or State pensions for my generation and below. A world without basic social care.
I’m almost expecting a dog-eat-dog era where we will likely die on the streets the day we’re not strong enough to fend for ourselves. A 1930’s style US depression where the people who missed out on property will shelter in corrugated shanty towns in parks in city centres.
I’m talking neo-liberalism on crack.
I’m basing this on my own experience and the experience of others I have seen. It seems that things have got progressively harder over my adult life. People working two jobs just to pay the rent. Forgoing family time to keep them housed. And now, even that has all gone bang.
Is my lack of imagination the problem? Maybe – after all this – a new and equitable economic system will spring from the Covid ruins. I had hoped that’s what the General Election’s surge to the left would represent.
Maybe, new and revolutionary politics will be conceived by just and imaginative people to help us avoid the quagmire predicted on the front page of my internet browser. I pray that happens.
I don’t know. All I know for sure is that I really need a haircut.
* Harry’s a fashion icon – he can wear anything and carry it off. – Ed.