I think I began to realise what was wrong with the marketisation of social information when I went back to university as a part time student. Wow! I just loved psychology, literature, word and image, american poetry, culture, learning about gender and discrimination. I really did.
I also wanted to feel at home there. A local person from a council house with a mum who had been widowed, three siblings who also lived locally as well as being a single parent with a bad experience of marriage: my ex-husband thought he should control my every move and injured me on many occasions. I’m not saying here that I wanted it to be like a council house or a council house estate but I wanted to feel that my journey was as valid as everyone else’s. I too could fly.
Education meant everything to me and my daughter. I can’t explain the joy I had in communicating, learning and beginning to understand connections between things. She came to my lectures, recorded lectures when I had a clash, chatted happily to lecturers, made Fimo earrings and jewellery and sold them to the students on open days.
Learning to me was always concrete, real, significant: I felt it should always mean something, have significance. I would wake up realising that I had abilities, knowledges, experience and that I could participate and contribute. I nearly believed what I saw at university.
I realised that I didn’t want to be with people who don’t respect your life and your boundaries, don’t want to know you. I felt that my intelligence was from a different planet, was seen as opportunistic, of the moment, grovelling. It seemed to me, even at the time that I was demanding something just by speaking that I was asking for a validation that other people didn’t need to. I felt as if I was too expensive to really be worth anything.
I saw how expensive I was to them, how I stuck out, how embarrassingly expensive my way of working and thinking and living were because I ‘wanted’ social mobility and I didn’t realise that’s what I was seen as wanting.
Nothing in the education I received was there to share. Grow up!
I wanted something because I was seen purely in deficit terms as a need, a want and I would be easier to deal with as a needy individual rather than a representative of a whole group of people who have been disenfranchised by the market. The terms and frame of reference change and collapse so swiftly that noone realised that this is really why I’ve been alienated, why I’m alienated. I’m left to think that although ‘I belong here’ ( tutor smirked, knowing that I’d be off like a shot).
I can’t belong because of a deficit in me rather than it being that the university unable to properly engage with everyone in a community, unequivocally, without fear nor favour.
What I experienced was the paradox of competition and the market. People buy into a little bit of it and for the rest of the time live within a network of sameness through which they channel their utopian dreams. They just want to be unquestioningly at the centre of things with people like themselves. I can understand that.
What was different between me and these students though was that although they were in a position of great privilege (and had worked very hard to get there), because they came from one background, that when the market came into education, because of their lack of life experience they would be quite happy to callously remove the ladder of opportunity from others on what was to me very poor evidence: on the basis on characteristics of ‘laziness, lack of discipline’ all the underclass dimensions of the demagogues and tabloids that have been used and continue to be used against anyone on a low income, in the rentier economy rather than being able, through their education to understand how privilege mitigates everything.
And it’s like what’s happened since the second world war, the never again idealism of building a welfare state being set up as a foil against the horrors of the holocausts
But as we all now know: the holocausts and end of imperialism were never dealt with properly: as though while bricks were being put in to build houses, transport, education, utilities, from the very first day
those same bricks were also from the very first day being pulled out by groups with vested interests in an elite paid for system and a charitable system for everyone else, companies and individuals who had spent the war making money, not having been affected.
Consider Austria now, an Austria that never properly remediated or compensated the victims of the holocaust and because of that, all these 72 years later, the far right can slip in at the table of democracy. Callously, they’ve forgotten because they’re in the same kind of network as the privileged students.
Because the goal of the governments after the second world war should have been to structure forgiveness into the legal, social, political and economic systems so that there would be continual learning and refreshment.
To create systems that would understand and share knowledge, skills, resources in the local, regional, national and international way we communicate and work. The South Africans got the analysis right when Truth and Reconciliation were at the top of the agenda.
And with truth and reconciliation comes a change of understanding about what life is for and whose life is important and worthy of individual status.
To realise the value of the £47 million that has been ‘found’ deep in the heart of our society from many sources for the survivors of the Grenfell fire, we need to give that money some sense of accountability and purpose. That it will realise a new generation of people who will be individuals who are responsive to the value and values of a good community and that the money won’t just be shoring up the toxic wastefulness of the rentier economy.
Because of the cruelty, the suffering, the anger, frustration, jealousy and lack of truth that structured the confusion of the welfare state, that still structures the confusion of the way we communicate with the rest of our precious planet is still here in the contracted out economy where to give the lie to an organised ‘market in everything’.
We’ve been conned. Because we trust the military, the idea of structure, the idea of a kind of military structure for business activity and a rugby football approach to recruitment and work with core and peripheral employees has been popular over the last thirty years.
But this is a sham. We’ve allowed people, organisations and individuals wearing the clothes of authority we trust to dupe us. The top down apparently trustworthy military way of structuring authority for business has been the way all kinds of rogue and exploitative practices have been adopted by dubious groups and interests.
Ironically, the contracted out economy is where extremists find purchase. They don’t care, they’re nihilist. Using the clothes of authority to destroy confidence in authority is what’s happened at Grenfell.
It’s because in the contracted out economy you fake it until you make it. At the top of these companies and new institutions such as school academies are the same kinds of concentrations of money and power. When it comes to social housing, so many ‘authorities’ step-in in and out of the revolving doors of ‘service to the underclass’ that there’s no longer any sense of enfranchisement or accountability of or to these communities which is what they are. The spin has magically created the myth of a migrant underclass in the american mould that in the service at St Paul’s we try to deconstruct and remediate.
A new and better way to live together. Grenfell survivors and everyone in the world wants justice. We need the truth for people who meant the world to each other, who would cross the world for each other.