This last week has been Budget, Budget, Budget in the news — and the fallout over it. I’m a political news junkie, but the more hits I’ve taken, the sicker and more disconnected from real life I’ve felt.
This is my detox.
It’s all rotten from the very core. What is this thing they call the economy – why does it suck all the attention? It’s an imaginary thing, a creation of minds to supposedly measure our wealth as a society. I do not recognise it.
For me, what matters is how I feel, what’s it like to live here and now? I can count the digits in my bank account, and that matters, but that’s not a measure of life. I want to give some airtime to the real thing.
Trying to earn enough, to pay the rent, to live, it feels like a treadmill — where the only button is “faster” and no “stop”, rarely even a “pause”. All I want to do is get off. But I can’t, we can’t.
It’s like we’re in sick gameshow, Running Man in an X Factor era. We post constant thoughts and images of our meant-to-be-amazing lives every day to our audience — and some of it is amazing — but we daren’t talk about the gameshow itself or how hard it is, or the trapdoor might open for us.
Objectively, I’m not poor. Relative to the rest of the world, relative to the UK, I’m one of the ones who’s meant to be doing quite well. And I’m white, male, British, southern, educated, experienced… I can get jobs at salaries most of the world would yearn for.
So how do I feel poor? Or maybe poorly is the better word? Ill with trying to work and live and live up to the way “the economy” is meant to work today.
As I travel through London on any given day it’s easy to see right in front of my face: so much screams “scarcity!” The crowds 100 deep and 20 wide crushing to get into the tube station at Victoria (“Don’t use this station at peak times” was the headline the other day… what the actual f**k? what is it there for then?!) The house prices shooting higher and higher into the night, ordinary semis going for Sotheby’s sums. The jostling for space, for position. A jobs market I look at and want to run from, where the higher the salary the more of your soul you have cut off and staple to your application form.
Playing the game I feel… Tired in my bones. Exhausted by relentlessness, the inevitability of its eternal repeat. My inspiration vaccuumed up by the hoover branded Anxiety™. Hopes and dreams are in the Notes app on my phone and in the slogans on the tube posters I stare at, but they’re always on a to-do list not a today list.
And I’m meant to be one of the lucky ones.
What I missed more than anything as commentators and politicians dissected the Budget and all that followed, was any deep telling of what it’s really all about, what’s gone wrong and needs to change. Won’t someone step outside of the gameshow to lift the curtain? (Maybe they did and I just missed it.)
The cuts to disabled people’s support were a terrible proposal, I’m glad to finally see politicians up in arms about it. (Would have been useful earlier when Conservatives and Labour voted through massive welfare cuts after the 2010 election…) But why could they even contemplate it?
Because it’s all about whether they think you’re good enough for the gameshow.
Many, many disabled people do work, and many more could work if employers and jobs were more flexible and accommodating – but the gameshow isn’t for the players, it’s for the audience and the advertisers. Some can’t work, and if you can’t play the gameshow, where do you fit?
If we lifted the curtain we’d see the treadmill we’re on is also a conveyor belt, we’re in a mass production factory of our times. Only the perfect looking fruit make it through, if you look a bit different or taste a bit different, you’re bargain bucket at best.
If we lifted the curtain, we’d have to change the very words we used. “Hardworking” sticks in my throat like few other political buzzwords today. It’s used as a badge of honour by the Conservatives – but why does work have to be hard? Labour are stuck in a similar mindset, sticky to get out of for them as it’s baked into their very name – like “hard labour”, it sounds tough from the start. What happened to the ideals of living rewarding, fulfilling lives with time and real freedom and great choices?
Too often “hardworking” is used to imply the opposite: that there are people getting away with being dossers while you scratch out your long hours. Why should they get away with it? Just like in Running Man, people are pitted against each other in this gruesome gameshow.
But amongst all this, I feel chinks of light.
(Partly inspired by rereading the plot of Running Man… spoiler: the good guys win out!)
Even calling out the gameshow for what it is feels like a start, bringing light to the truth as we live it.
And as I walk around London, a place of such enormous wealth, I feel that wealth. Sure, I know of it, I can see it. But more than that I feel the flow of power and possibility.
More importantly, I feel the possibilities within me. The truth is we are each so much more than the roles we play, we each have a much bigger hand up our sleeves than the narrow cards we’re dealt.
Every day people choose to break with the choices in front of them and live their own lives in different ways. Trust me, I longingly follow some of them on my Instagram feed! And closer to home, I’m inspired by friends and relatives setting up businesses they’re passionate about, moving to beautiful mountainsides to be happy, and more.
Most of what’s above was more of a rant than I usually let myself. I felt it needed to come out.
Hope I’ve left you on more of a high than a low. Thanks for reading.