“In perpetrating a revolution, there are two requirements: someone or something to revolt against and someone to actually show up and do the revolting. Dress is usually casual and both parties may be flexible about time and place, but if either faction fails to attend, the whole enterprise is likely to come off badly”
-Woody Allen, A Brief Yet Helpful Guide To Civil Disobedience (Without Feathers), 1972
As I perform my tea and toast ceremony (very zen) my mind is drawn to the state of the world today. I can hear the groans already – “oh no, Trev, not more stuff complaining about things”. To which I reply: tough. If you don’t like it then go and write your own blog. This is for me to vent my spleen, and I like my spleen well vented, I can tell you. To keep things brief: the world today has far too many people in abject poverty and squalor, not to miss out the victims of war and modern slavery. To make an emphatic point here, I am not talking about wage slavery, although that’s pernicious and life-draining enough, I’m talking about conning workers from poor countries into a rich one , then stealing their passport (I was going to say confiscating, but that dignifies it far too much), paying them barely or not at all so that they cannot get back to their homes and (unfortunately, with a huge ‘of course’ here) threatening them, and subjecting them to, violence. It goes on in the UK, probably in other parts of Europe, too, and on a huge scale in the Middle East.
We also have a world of so much stuff and money, too. I was partaking in a modest pub crawl with my fiancée and one of my many cousins the other day (I have a huge family). Being both very lucky, and yet, not as lucky as some, it was but the work of half an hour or so to get to the City of London, that well-known financial district and home of pubs that shut at the weekend. We started near LiverpoolStreet, moved to near the Tower of London and wound up in the relatively-new Saint Katherine Docks. I was both delighted and appalled. Delighted, because a former grimy, industrial district was now scrubbed clean and had become, with its marina and twee chandlers, restaurants and glossy pubs, a rich person’s playground. Appalled, because a former grim – I’m sure you can join up the dots. What would I have replaced it with? A shudderingly bleak, thrice-grey estate of tower blocks, whose blueprints I would actually have purchased from the former Soviet Union to make sure that they were really, truly from the time of Josef Stalin. Ha! Or possibly (hold onto your hats here) something not totally dissimilar to the, admittedly, pleasing low-rise flats already here, but built by… (lowers voice so as not to shock) The Council! I am fully aware that it is not de rigeur to expect one’s local municipal authority to be responsible for the crafting of one’s dwellings, but that’s how old-fashioned and out of touch I am. Basildon, in Essex, might not strike most folk as an example of architecture in harmony with its surroundings, but, from 1979 onwards the estate at Noak Bridge, to the north-west of Basildon propre was built. The houses were designed in a post-modern vernacular; not only styled after older houses without slavishly imitating them but also creating meandering roads and cul-de-sacs that positively encourage a sense of community and belonging. In effect, the best of both worlds and, for reasons to this day that I cannot fathom, almost completely unknown and untrumpeted. I would bring in architects whose work is similar to Maurice Naunton and George Garrard, the enlightened men whose work Noak Bridge is, to create my socialist Utopia on the banks of the Thames.
However (as I am wont to say), this is right off course and no mistake. Revolution. Yes. Well, a short time ago, perhaps even last year, I would have pooh-poohed such a thought. An uprising, in this day and age? What with state-of-the-art government surveillance and computerised everything? You can even be tracked by your mobile phone, so any ringleaders can be found post-haste, rounded up and thrown in the clink, thus leaving the revolutionary vanguard without a guard for its van, so to speak. Plus the fact that the rabble cannot be roused, as its constituent members far prefer X-Factor or football to the real world – and, in some ways, who can blame them? Government, for virtually all of its inception in any country, has been about serving the interests of a self-appointed élite and (big surprise, this) not about serving the needs of the majority of the hapless citizens trapped within its boundaries. Stuff like “The Pharaoh wants to be buried in a what? How big? Right, boys, get the whips”. Even when the revolutions have started out socialist, some rotter comes along and creates a gigantic dictatorship. And, unfortunately, not a dictatorship of the people (do you see a pattern here?) but of himself (for the life of me I cannot think of a female tyrant that usurped the uprising of a nation)? These are just some of the reasons that I felt that a revolution would never come about.
The Internationale, sung and interpreted by Billy Bragg
But hark – what’s this on the horizon? Crikey, if I didn’t know any better, it appears to be the sound of some grass roots – and they seem to be organising! What’s more, they’ve knocked this pesky “thanks for the revolt, people, you can go back home – I’m in charge now” issue on the head by having minimal organising and no leaders! Step forward the “We Are The 99%” movement, previously known as the Arab Spring, the British Summer (always stormy, that one) and demonstrations in Greece, Italy, Spain and so on. In one sense, the powers-that-be (but, very, very hopefully that-won’t-be-much-longer) were right. Educating the masses and then letting them communicate with each other is a no-no if you want to stay holding onto your cash cow. Especially when those who have just been educated realise that they have no shiny pot of gold and a company BMW at the end of their hard work and ridiculously huge student debt.
Obviously, it’s early days. I hope fervently, however, that the seeds have been sown. It’s one thing to have some bunch of robber barons at the top of a pile that, at least, has a reasonable amount of affluence. One can overlook the fact that some have a huge portion of the pie if the sliver you have still represents some comfort and an acceptable standard of living. It’s quite another for the political wing ofthe City to pass around more champagne and roast cherub to their mates, then tells the rest of us that there will be a mouldy crust for the rest of us to share (all of these food references – I’m getting hungry, now) because times are hard but hey “we’re all in this together”.
So I raise a glass to the future, whilst hoping and praying that, this time, we get it right. Does clenched-fist salute and exits to the strains of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.