A Tale of Austerity

Five years ago I found myself staring down a mounted horse back charge and like one of those clowns in a disaster movie, stood taking pictures until the bitter end, I stood fast with my camera snapping away. Thankfully my good friend Nuno was there to pull me away.

That was parliament square and the issue was tuition fees. Students had taken to the streets in their thousands over the duplicity shown by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats who back tracked on a pre-election pledge to abolish tuition fees, only to treble them after climbing into bed with the Conservatives. All for a little bit of power, or the illusion of it. Though this was not the first protest I had been on, it was the first time I went with the intention of capturing the moments that unfolded as they happened. My desire to pursue this driven by the reactions of people I worked closely with who saw only a very one sided view of proceedings on the mainstream media (MSM), Sky News and the BBC. I had been painfully aware of the issues of MSM bias before this, but being a first hand witness to the vast difference in the story being told was quite sobering for me.

The experience of being kettled by the police, charged on horse back and being questioned about my views – all because the television is God said otherwise – drove me to create this blog in the first place. 

At the same time as I created the blog I ventured into photography, well I bought a DSLR and started pointing it at things and pushing the button, taking my camera to every protest, strike or otherwise I could make. Thousands of hours of marching, climbing, crawling and scrambling around to take the pictures I wanted, literally thousands over the past five years. I racked up quite a library and with the General Election wagons rolling, I wanted to share them with people, to remind them about what exactly has gone on the past five years; I called it my ‘Tale of Austerity, told one picture at a time’. I tried a few archival stock sites but they weren’t interested because they said I wasn’t a photographer. 

I was, quite frankly, a little pissed. I had devoted much of my own free time to this, not for any gain, and not initially for this reason (to create a book) but with the words being uttered by these politicians, the lies, the fear, the rhetoric, I felt I needed to put together this pack I curated over time that asks the question “can the public afford another five years of austerity?”. 

So, after the set back, I decided to go it alone and create a book. It’s called A Tale of Austerity – told one picture at a time and I guess will be an on going project for me. With another hung parliament likely or a minority Tory government taking the lead as the politics of fear continue to grow a head of steam in the UK, I will be forced to do a Volume 2 for the 2020 election (minus the next 12 months unless my friend steps up whilst I’m away to snap some stuff!) and see what state another five years of austerity will leave us in.  It will be in an Ebook format and available on print just before the election I am told. Maybe too late to influence the decisions of those of you voting but maybe enough to help prick your interest in campaigning and fighting for your rights if it all goes south on May 7th.

  
Austerity, it hasn’t been pretty so far, one thing is for sure, five more years of the Conservatives will certainly mean the end of our NHS and the end of our emergency services – police, fire and ambo.

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Boy king, I thought he’d be taller

It is times like this that you see just what you are up against. For the last 24 hours and possibly for the foreseeable future, the news streams have been about nothing other than the Royal baby birth. Non stop coverage by Sky News’ Kay Burley led to one funny moment when a man announced to the world that the child was indeed black and meant I would be a clot closer to winning a million on the name being Trayvon, Tyler or Charmaine.

Kate was taken into labour yesterday morning, Kay Burley was relentless in her coverage and at one point I was sure we would find out just how dilated Kate was and lo and behold, Kay asked the question. The world waited with bated breath to see whether we would see the birth of a fresh prince or princess. The fact that people cared more about the gender than whether mother and child were both safe and healthy says a lot about the society we live, preoccupied as to whether or not we will get to see another Queen in our lifetime. As it stands, no, we won’t for Kate had a baby boy, who would be king. He sits third in line to the throne, born into a life of wealth and privilege but in reality, benefits.

The wait now is for a name but already the Royal spawn has a start in life that most children will never know as there has been a £1m makeover for the baby bedroom, raising the question what sort of blood diamond encrusted mobile it must have to look at at bed time. At the same time as the world waited for the news of boy or a girl, some people’s daughters were facing the very real prospect of genital mutilation. As many as 30 million (probably more) daughters on this planet will face genital mutilation according to Unicef, but do not worry about this violation of a young girls right to health, think about the Royal baby and how much joy it will bring to the nation.

Never mind that you will have to put your hand in your pocket for the rest of your life and your children’s lives to provide the child with a lifestyle and riches we can never imagine, you just worry about the benefits scroungers taking houses worth £500,000 (half as much as one baby bedroom just cost you) and get upset about that. Why? Because the media have told you to think about that and not to think about the cost of the Royals. Did you know the Queen just had a huge pay rise? It actually makes the MP pay rise scandal pale into insignificance.

Our children face a decline in their happiness as a result of this recession a study by a top charity has found, with a drop in their well-being being recorded since 2008. The Royal baby will have access to the best schools and medical care. Our children face privatised schools and education and the privatisation of the NHS.

Of course this is not the babies fault, he will be a product of his environment just like the rest of us, but the fact remains he will never know the suffering and struggle that far too great a number of children face in the 21st century. According to the Independent today, 1 in 3 children will be subject to poverty where parents make the choice between heating and eating, where they face the choice of eating themselves or feeding their children. It is not the babies fault but his grandmother has a £billion hat made of blood diamonds, crafted from the death and bones of countless people across the planet, a house with 78 bathrooms and 52 bedrooms. The child from a regular working family will have to worry about being able to find a job, afford rent knowing that a mortgage is beyond reach and know that they cannot go home because the state will have financially finalised their parents under the bedroom tax…The Royal babies grandmother has 52 bedrooms…

Blood-diamond-hat

Our children now also face the possibility of being conscripted back into the armed forces, but do not call it what it is, make it open to both sexes, give them bullet proof vests to keep bullets out of their chests and forget about getting their arms and legs blown off by IED’s in a foreign land in the middle of an illegal war. You couldn’t make it up.

Finally 26 more people died in Iraq yesterday at the hands of a suicide bomber, but you wold not have noticed that because the Royal naming has to take place.

If only the hundreds of people gathered to wait for a glimpse of an easel or the thousands of people on the social media sites could take the energy committed into kneeling for the Royal family and focus it on making even the smallest change to the backwards planet we live on, our society would be a much better place. This baby has meant so much to so many, now we must see every child matter as much.

Marxism and all that other stuff we are discouraged from learning

“The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” ~ Vladimir Lenin

After three years trying I finally made it this week to Marxism, the International festival held in london where people gather from across the globe to debate, learn and discuss the socioeconomic ills of the world today.

As a student of history I had a brief introduction to the teachings of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, whom I first came across when we covered Russia and it’s revolution back in 1917. I went on to read a great deal more about fascism, communism and the many other ‘isms’ that exist following this brief encounter to learn more about the world we live in today and how our history has shaped it. This week is an extension of that education and somewhere where I hope I will get to debate many of the topics being raised. Without debate information is only half the story.

Some of the issues being covered this year are:

  • the power of the media
  • fracking and the future of energy
  • apartheid
  • fascism
  • Palestine
  • Egypt
  • Brazil
  • Syria
  • human rights
  • Labour
  • and the issue of class

My first session was on the subject of the media and the question ‘Is it all powerful’ taken by Xanthe Whittaker. In a nut shell Whittaker argued that the answer was dependant on the presence of an alternative, a choice and the variation of the information they received. In the fast paced society we live in, the social media as an alternative, although it has its place, will struggle to compete with the established mainstream media (MSM) to break the cycle of those who are not already disenfranchised with the system and already disengaged from it. The problem with the social media as an alternative is the need to have to search through endless reams of it on the Internet. When you know you can suckle on the BBC news at six o’clock everyday, what would be your incentive to hear the views of someone not considered to be legitimate or an authority? We will not get into the semantics of whether the MSM repeats or reports news at this point.

As you may expect, ownership dictates content and with the MSM being monopolised by a small number of families and groups it is easy to see why certain views are overtly and sometimes covertly implied  by MSM. The Marx and Englels ‘The ideas of the ruling class’ explain this very well. Whittaker suggests that although people’s ideas are shaped by media, another key influence is their environment and this is something I have argued for quite some time now. When voting tendencies are looked at for say readers of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Sun, it suggests that when compared to the population as a whole, Sun readers are a bit more Labour and a little bit less Tory or Lib Dem, yet this should not underestimate the power of influence Murdoch has over the views of the world’s population when you multiply the content of news with his other interests. Whittaker explained the paradox of people who vote Conservative but that will still take the decision to vote for industrial action on an issue that affects them, highlighting the fickle nature of the human species. Why for example would someone complain about Murdoch’s influence via papers such as The Sun or The Times in the UK but still subscribe to Sky?

MSM does not just include the newspapers and the comedy sketches over at FOX and Sky News or the impartiality of the BBC, but also the movie and television industry and of course the music industry. When these elements are combined it makes for a large source of global influence, manipulation, coercion and we get what is called manufactured consent. This has been discussed by Noam Chomsky by both a book and a documentary and makes for a fascinating learning. The media may not be telling you what to think but they are telling you what to think about and a lie when told often enough becomes the truth.

After the session I questioned Whittaker personally about the view that if you can kill the artist you can kill the protest, which is for a whole other debate. Hopefully over the next few days I will be able to sit down and get her view on this issue in more detail but as you know there are some of us who believe that part of the problem with the apathy in society today is the lack of advocates and protest music which dominated so much of our history. The protest music that does exist today is very much underground and not in any way likely to reach Radio 1 anytime soon.

My first ever workshop at Marxism was a storming one on media, manipulation, manufactured consent and how to break the cycle and was up there with the very best seminars I have been to. Another session on this subject is scheduled for Saturday morning, at 10am with Simon Assaf at the Institute for Education, London. Nearest tube station is found at Russell Square on the Piccadilly line.

Food for thought:

neil kinnock Sun sun won it

blair SunLabour lost it Sun Cameron Hope Sun