The post second world war development of state funded services is often viewed as discrete, that they’re things that brought themselves into being for us, so right and just and true that we imagine that when they were established that they were achieved because we have a democracy, because everyone voted and the political and legal system responded to the franchise.
Seventy five years on though, we can see that the welfare state had never been provided through the franchise, seventy five years on in Britain we’re living in an international tax haven economy where the evidence and traces of exploitative global supply chains can be seen in every local neighbourhood and the NHS and education as well as benefits and Wefare Rights and Advice all fragmented by digital platforms terribly interested in the potential of data.
What is interesting when we wonder at the social problems, the year on year impact of refusing to extend representation, jobs, housing, education in a socially meaningful way has led, now, in 2022 to a complete over-reliance on a charity sector, it’s now a £49 billion turnover environment with expensive chief execs and expectations of honours. Charity has grown at the expense of distributed prosperities in communities and neighbourhoods.
What we need to realise is that we still need the desires, hopes and dreams of the refugees, migrants, veterans, ex prisoners of war to be properly integrated into our parliament to recognise that because our establishment spoke on our behalf all those years ago with bad faith, paying lip service to representation while sealing off access to the new infrastructures and decision making on the base of class, gender, ethnicity while demanding of those people, groups that they build these structures was a hostile act.
And it was a hostile act that continued a propaganda that led to a cultural forgetting of the kinship, friendships and connections made across the globe during the second world war, the actual experience of that place that was the war.
I think the euphoria at the end of the war and the fact that there was work, there was rebuilding, there were opportunities was an expression of the energy of human hope and potential that was itself blind to the harm of the holocaust, the harm of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
What people didn’t realise was how much that the post war newspapers, cinema, publishing, mass production wasn’t picking up on the actual experience of people in the mass observation way of the pre war period but was a form of service to the system that continued to expect obedience propaganda. The new writers of the new age had been propaganda writers during the war: the working class, the white angry young working class man in his community Saturday Night, Sunday Morning at the same time as Sam Selvon was writing Lonely Londoners, one was fiction written by a middle class man, published and becoming a film just after the Nottingham and Nottinghill riots the other a fragment of the palimpsest of the real experience of disenfranchisement, sidelined, ignored, pressed by a community press.
Above Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners and Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night Sunday Morning: just think if we could have had a more representative filmic portrayal of the aspirations of everyone in the aftermath of the second world war: instead we went back to the old colonial furniture shop view of class, gender and ethnic differences. Representative democracy was off the agenda.
If we had been able to say to privilege that all the best jobs in the new economy should have been apportioned on the basis that we were now at peace and the welfare state economy, the people in our community who had served, who wanted to serve from every class and part of the world should be the people who ran the organisations, the businesses, the services, then there would have been a neighbourhood sense of place within each of these businesses, organisations a sense of a new kind of local stakeholding. A real sense of place.
Instead, in every organisation there was a distribution to the privileged from the privileged, often the officer class, Sandhurst military elite who had no idea that in taking up these positions in health, education, civil service, telecoms, utilities, law that they were falling like a shadow on the potential of everyone else in society, taking us back in time to a notion of hierarchy and servitude rather than collaboration, service, originality, creativity and innovation for all.
The way you build, reconstruct, the way you understand the aspirations of the people who live in an area leads to every ‘now’, every ‘place’, every assumption we make and we may be wrong. The reason we have so many social problems is because we didn’t develop representation in business, in organisations, institutions, local and national government for the veterans, the prisoners of war, the refugees, the migrants in the local as the heroes.
We didn’t develop a consistent sense of belonging and place.
As when slavery was abolished, we didn’t reward the ex slaves with reparations but we did reward the slave owners. After both wars the working class and global soldiers who saved us all had to start again at the bottom, often taking orders in their new jobs, back as manual shift workers in a factory from the same people they’d taken orders from while they were serving. Working people had no say in the reconstruction of the very things they were effectively conscripted into building and working in.
The reason why this is important now is that the failure after the second world war to value and reward working class people and people from the ex colonies with an opportunity to have a career in their neighbourhood. Our system discredited and criminalised them. We needed the hierarchical genetic model of superiority to be replaced with thanks, conversation, understanding, resources to build ever greater aspirations and opportunities.
After the second world war it was really important to delegate and distribute power, influence and representation in the neighbourhoods. Instead we had a sense that the victims of the privilege before the war and the victims of the war itself were in some way responsible for their conscription, their experiences, in some way responsible for the holocaust, for their own poverty, their exclusion.
Little by little in the constructed social and economic exclusion of the new council estates and further exclusion of people from the ex colonies from these estates reconstructed a Britain that because of the social separation created a mean and parsimonious sense that this structured confusion was all there is. Political parties and unions saw themselves as machines rather than organisms with a sense of greater power the bigger the bureaucratic rule machine became.
It’s in this context that we need to discuss why the NHS, education, state support, access to employment, housing and benefit advice, addiction and mental health services are increasingly important, expensive and troubling.
The reason it’s important seventy years on to think about how and why fair representation of the community in every organisation, institution, business can change the world we think is fixed, unchanging and based on genetics and human nature when in fact it’s based on bias and arm’s length assumptions about people’s life stories that remain unimportant because we’ve got used to having an underclass now.
When we look at the year on year impact of the toxic twining since the late 1970’s of precarious employment through agencies and housing, that lead ever closer to incarceration.
The exploitation of what is now a permanent underclass by many actors makes you think that instead of alienating and monstering sections of a community for profit, gain and exploitation (then charitable renewal) we could so it better if we rewarded life with enfranchisement, acknowledgement and inclusion throughout the life cycle.
If we could have rewarded the real heroes of the second world war with the privilege that we afforded to the already privileged in giving them top jobs in the new businesses that inevitably led to honours because noone thought that there should be equity in the structure of things we’d have had a very different world now.
If we had allowed the working class and people from ex colonies to rise as far as they could, to innovate and to demonstrate what fairness, justice and equity were based on their experience and aspirations, instead of writing propaganda and expecting the poor and people from the global majority to be underserved and criminalised, if we’d had real employer/employee participation in business and the local communities around them over the last forty years we might not have the increasingly alienated, desperate and excluded underclass steered into paying through the lottery for things the professional classes benefit from.
All watched over by machines and IT experts even more desperate for hope than they are.
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