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All posts for the day January 28th, 2012

The Big Society: Are We Really All In It Together?

Published 28/01/2012 by damselwithadulcimer

At least Stephen Hester and his huge bonus are not on the front pages again today.  My other half tried to convince me that the RBS boss is worth all those shares and explained how much money Mr Hester has saved his bank.  Sorry, I’m still not entirely convince and need somebody to explain to me, very slowly, why bankers are so highly valued.  In my opinion there are many people working in far less high profile jobs and professions and who contribute to society in much more beneficial ways.  From where I’m standing it appears that our cabinet of millionaires, and multi-millionaires are far more closely allied to the ‘fat cats’ of industry and big business, than they are connected to the majority of people in Britain.

Although I’m jobless, I’m lucky that I don’t need to apply for benefits, although I would love to work. However I use some of my spare time to volunteer and help out others and I believe I have I much more balanced and sympathetic view of those who are far less well off than I am.  Today I put money in a collection box for Alzheimers and Dementia, simply because I’ve often stood in the same spot and collected for my local branch of Mencap.  Life is not fair these days, and can even be extremely cruel, but I usually feel pretty good in myself after a couple of hours holding out a collecting tin and feeling it getting heavier and heavier.  I know what I take in an hour or two would be a mere drop in the ocean compared to the earnings and bonuses of the big bank bosses.   I often feel incensed when people smile at me and walk away without putting a penny in my tin, but I feel more of a connection to those less fortunate than I would do if I carried on living my own self-centred life.

I think those of us further down the heap have more of a connection than those who preach to us.  Would they really want to donate spare time to help people learn the internet for nothing at their local library (assuming that they have one that is still open)?  I will expand this to teaching computing and internet to elderly carers in my area next month.  These are the unsung heroes of our society.  Those people who have no option but to care for friends and family with disabilities.  The people they care for are not scroungers, but people who are afflicted with problems, difficulties and illnesses that prevent them from working.  In spite of these handicaps, I know of men and women with learning disabilities who work to a certain extent and do the best they can.  And I haven’t heard one of them moan or grumble about their situation.  They just get on with it and carry on as best they can.

We are definitely not all in it together.  In Animal Farm George Orwell famously stated that ‘all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’  It was ever thus and will never change, unless those who are more equal roll up their sleeves to help those who are less equal.

Book Review: An Experiment in Love by Hilary Mantel

Published 28/01/2012 by damselwithadulcimer

An Experiment in Love is Carmel’s story of her childhood somewhere near Manchester. She is educated at Catholic schools, earns a scholarship as a passport out of her working class background, and fetches up at university in London. Here she makes new friends from different classes and parts of the country, but fails to sever her ties with her school friends, who have joined her at the same hall of residence.

Carmel reflects back on her life, prompted by a newspaper article about a friend and former co-student, but it is only when we approach the novel’s end that we realise how her story, and her friend’s profession, are linked, and can understand what has prompted Carmel’s reminiscences.

This is a coming of age biographical novel, told against a background of the 1960s and early 1970s, of girls leaving home for the first time and trying to live independently in London. We are vaguely aware of the wave of feminism that underpins the era, although these girls are having to work it out for themselves. As someone who was born in the same year as Hilary Mantel, I was also touched by the memories that are so relevant to the 1960s, especially the ritual of buying the first school uniform, and encountering school teachers who are quick to lash out with a ruler.

T S Eliot famously stated that his past was part of his present, and this is acutely true of Carmel and her tale. She may have risen above her working class background, but she can never leave her former self behind.