‘Fire Next Time’ is the title of my current work in progress. The first chapter starts when Charlie a young guy in Liverpool is going to work listening to the Anfield Wrap podcast. Liverpool FC have just beaten Everton in the fourth round of the FA cup, he is happy as can be. All is good in the world, until he witnesses the arrest of a climate change protester and later learns the protester died in police custody.
What happens to my character is happening in real life to millions of people in the UK and internationally. The world as we know has changed. Economic and social relations have been upended, not changed forever or radically restructured…yet. At the moment just changing, in flux. What kind of world we will come out to, is still to be determined.
The quote “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.” From the much loved Bill Shankly has been overtaken by the death of 96 supporters at Hillsborough, but it does capture the intensity of feelings. Charlie’s life is organised and regulated by the football season- and suddenly something else comes into focus. This can also be true of music, either playing, listening or identifying with a sub culture.
These are the things that dominate our lives, but they do not represent working class culture, it’s what we do to satisfy the human need for social identification and organisation- we are not naturally loners we are a co-operative species, this is what make us different. Our ability to co-operate and control the environment around us (although capital is destroying that too, the second theme of Fire Next Time)
Capitalist society needs us as individuals looking for answers and solace alone, so we find fulfilment and satisfaction in what they sell us, a new phone, car, holiday, or alternatively in mindfulness or veganism, it doesn’t matter what, as long as it takes the focus away from how society is organised.
We don’t have a working class culture, our cultural norms are defined by the society around us- capitalist. There is a culture of resistance, of questioning, that exists in football and music and anywhere we socialise. An example of this recently was the response to two appeals for volunteers.
The NHS appeal for voluntary helpers had to be closed after it received 750,000 responses within the first month. While a government minister appealed for people to pick fruit and vegetables for commercial growers. Of 36,000 responses 112 people accepted positions. They have changed the conditions so that responders can keep furlough money, and be paid a wage for picking. So the numbers have increased, but it still shows that the appeals to nationalism – pick for Britain- meant nothing next to the human solidarity on show for the NHS.
The old certainties have been shown to be nothing more than how we did things at the time. In the UK people suffered austerity for ten years, cuts to every aspect of social care and benefits, that saw people made homeless, suffer from illness and isolation without care, and ultimately die from suicide, or lack of support. There are people who will use this crisis to argue we go back to that, and worse…national service to pick fruit?
The kind of society we come out the other side of this crisis with, depends on which force is more powerful- the individualising commercial activity, bail out the airlines, banks, the multinationals, or mobilising human solidarity to change society.
The unions should be at the centre of discussions on how to re-open society safely. Labour should be shouting from the rooftops, everyone should be unionised, unions should be involved at every level of organising to reopen, a higher minimum wage for all. Shopworkers, cleaners, care assistants -have to use this moment to organise- care homes should be nationalised.
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