Monday, 1 January 2018

A fresh start?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so goes the old trope, as true now as at any time before. A new year is traditionally when we entertain delusions of reform; we’ll lose some weight, quit something, start something, begin anew. But as we tread through the wintry months ahead, waiting for the light, our own epiphanies fade as the days lengthen. Each day we get a bit more light shone on our weakness. But I like food. I hate exercise. I really enjoyed doing that... and I can start that maybe next year.

But what if we really could change? We are all – absolutely all of us – in thrall to a set of beliefs. Some are pure; hard left, far right, religious fundamentalists, committed vegans – formal convictions come as a package - but most are a hotch-potch of often conflicting values. I have no problems admitting I am a bit of a political mongrel, simultaneously believing we should act in our own self-interest but that we should also help others. I do this by earning as much money as I can and paying tax. (Oh, and I do a lot for charity; on a rollover week I buy two tickets!)

I’ll go further: I think it is wrong that foreign interests control much of our utilities and infrastructure to the extent that I think some of these things really should be in public ownership. But I also grew up when that was the case and partly because of cronyism, partly because of all-powerful unions it didn’t work well at all. Maybe it’s time to rethink and – just possibly – start to imagine that we could actually run public utilities as a public good and not for profit... except we could never afford to buy them back.

As for education, health and housing I see no reason why both public and private sector shouldn’t have a stake. And I think we should build millions more local authority houses, but heavily vet those who get to occupy them. I would far prefer to have the NHS than not to have it, but I am sick to the back teeth of it being used as a political football and recognise that is long overdue for radical reform. State education should be rigorous, excellent and never, ever used for the indoctrination of children to think in an approved way; the NUT needs a massive kick in the nuts. But in saying any of this I am exactly like Jeremy Corbyn – ideas, maybe, but no idea how to make them happen.

Diversity absolutely has to mean what it says; actual diversity, not conformity to a set of eternally left wing ideals, which is what it means now. Diversity should always come second to competence and a good working environment and if that means mostly male or mostly female occupations, so be it. Let it happen organically, not by applying quotas and certainly never by government edict.

But things won’t really change, will they? No matter how tolerant a society we are, some will always be intolerant. No matter how orderly we are some will always use violence to achieve their aims. And no matter how rich a society we become, we will always have poor people and the poor will always get the shittiest end of the stick. So, if you really want change, forget about waging the big wars and focus instead on the little battles; sort out your own life and the chances are everything else will follow. Have a happy 2018.