Saturday, 1 January 2011

Back with a vengeance

I've been quiet for a very long time.
There are excuses galore. And they are all good.
But there is only one reason. And it's all bad.

I got sidetracked by work and travel and missed a week and then another. And by the time I had the opportunity to write there was so much to say. Too much to say. And I choked on my own anger

But really, I've had so much to say that I have been virtually silenced.
But as ever, something happens that is too much to bear. Too funny. Too ridiculous. Too bad.
In my case, it was a televised debate on pension reform on American TV.
The TV was on in the back ground while I was unpacking my bags during yet another business trip (and let me tell you, the glamour wears off fast).

Now normal people start dozing when pension reform is mentioned but not I. The geek within pricked its ears and I kept it on, half listening as I was settling in. The debate was civilised, considering, but I was struck by the single-sidedness of it all. 'no democrat on the panel' I thought to myself 'that's just ridiculous'. So clutching a pack of jumpers to my chest I stood trying to figure out how they could get away with having no democrat on the panel.

It is preposterous to expect to retire before the age of 75, said one panelist.
Republican, thought I, and put the jumpers away.
We should tax unearned income at the same rates as earned income, says another panelist. Ah finally, I think to myself as I pull out skirts and jackets, speaking of taxation as redistribution, not punishment.
Oh how wrong I was.
The unearned income the lady was referring to was not inherited millions and trust fund security. It was pocket money given to children for helping grandparents with the groceries and baby sitting money handed to a young cousin on a Saturday night.

I stopped dead on my tracks, shoe bags in hand.
Income? Did we really just refer to pocket money and an pretext for a bit of help being passed around families as 'income'?
Republican, I thought. Of the worst kind.
Assuming all money is fair game. As if money for bread and money for diamonds has the same value. As if 'taxing unearned income' in this context didn't just mean double taxing the poor. And the Mexicans.
Bloody racist, right wing, self-righteous pigs who always think that poverty and misery are diseases afflicting other people, I thought to myself.
Not my finest hour. Rather uncharitble. Not all that nuanced.
But give me a break. I was jet lagged. I was tired. I get all worked up about social policy. And things were only going to get worse.

As anger is bad for my karma, I decided I had had enough but as I reached out to turn the TV off I heard the offending panelist extolling the virtues of President Obama.
Oh the horror.
She is a democrat.
A. Democrat.
Unapologetic. Unaware.
I felt cheated. I got angry. Seething. And I stayed angry.
That was fun for my colleagues, let me tell you. But they got over it, whereas I didn't.

When exactly was it that we stopped believing that things can change? When was it that we, the human race, collectively resigned ourselves to the fact that the way things are is the way things will always be, apart from the times when they just get worse?
'We need to be realistic' said the panelists. And what they meant was: we need to give little, care little, change little.
'We need to be realistic' say the coalition of the damned in the UK. And what they mean is dare little, probe little, concede little.
'We need to be realistic' say the Greek authorities. And what they mean is we refuse to take responsibility for the violence that ravages our society and the misery that has come to define us.

Well sod that.
If realistic means resigned, cowardly, settled then count me out.
If realism entails ditching all your dreams and just sitting out the game then realism is the enemy.

I've said it before and I will say it again: citizenship is not a spectator sport.
Society is not other people.
The future is not written.
Citizenship is made up of caring, acting and turning up.
Society is you.
And the future is what you make of it.
And if we are to stand a chance, people, 2011 had better be the year of unrealism.

We need not be realistic any more – let's face it, we've been realistic for so long now and look where that got us? We need to dream, we need to hope, we need to dare.
2011. Brand new year. As good a time to start as any.