Some random thoughts on a fearful day

By Bernadette Meaden
December 13, 2019

This morning many of us are feeling sick with disappointment and fear. Fear of what the coming months and years will bring. We may also be feeling a fair amount of disbelief – I know I am. Having spent a decade writing about the evils and the lethal harms of welfare reform and austerity, it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that voters seem to have actually chosen the oppression of Universal Credit, child poverty, foodbanks and homelessness, in order to obtain some kind of illusory liberation via Brexit. It is tempting to turn away and just look at pictures of cats on Twitter, or retreat into our own personal domains.

But for some people, this election result really is a matter of life and death. For people sleeping on the streets, people in acute mental health crisis who can’t get the support they desperately need, seriously ill people waiting on trolleys in A&E, people unable to heat or eat. The gravity of the situation for so many of our neighbours means that for those of us who know we can survive, giving up now would be a self-indulgent luxury. And around the world countless people risk life and liberty to resist bad governments. Just because we are weary or disappointed we can’t roll over and let a cruel, dishonest and divisive brand of politics completely dominate our public discourse.

We will need to think long and hard over the coming weeks and months, as we try to find the best way forward. Perhaps the most obvious and difficult problem is how we restore truth, accuracy and fairness to the information we consume. Facebook has been a squalid mess of misinformation and fact-free memes, which inflame and pander to people’s darkest fears and prejudices. Billionaire-owned newspapers have pumped out blatantly dishonest propaganda, and national public service broadcasters have been (willingly or unwillingly) played and manipulated by devious political operators. The one bright spot in all of this was our regional press and broadcasters, which were far more rigorous and impartial – perhaps because they aren’t part of the same social circles as the politicians they are meant to be holding to account. 

We’ve also been badly let down, yet again, by our electoral system, which is glaringly unfit for purpose. Having crunched the numbers the Electoral Reform Society found that the Conservatives won one seat per 38,000 votes yesterday, whilst Labour needed 50,000 votes to win a seat, and the Greens got just one seat for their 864,000 votes. This is no way to run a democracy.

Also disastrous was the public’s acceptance of the idea that a government is like a household, and so must organise its finances accordingly. People impoverished by austerity just could not believe that the country could afford for them to have a decent life. “Where will the money come from?” was a constant refrain. Somehow, we must counteract this corrosive belief which creates automatic resistance to progressive policies.

But most importantly now, we must look after each other, particularly those who are most afraid and most at risk from the continuation of cruel policies. We must redouble our efforts and our solidarity, and we must keep hope alive. As Saint Francis said, ‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one single candle.” So on this day when we may feel like darkness has descended, let us look to bring some light in whatever way we can, and perhaps undertake #SmallActsOf Hope. And may God bless us, every one.

#SmallActsOfHope - things we can all do http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/29031

* Samaritans: call free on 116 123

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden 

 

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