Saturday, 21 May 2016

Am I Being Radicalised?

Since moving to the UK, I feel more and more as though I am having to fight for survival. This isn't to say that I didn't agree with government policies and directions in New Zealand. It is simply here that I feel the working class are enslaved and oppressed. They need a champion who understands and works for their plight.

In the coming week, I will join a union picket line possibly for the first time in my life. Even voluntarily joining a union was something I hadn't done before coming to the UK. Maybe it was the organisations that I worked for but I always felt they had genuine desire to reward me for my work and ensure that I also had access to the rewards of being a successful business. I felt that I wanted to help them to succeed. That has all changed an now I struggle with my beliefs for an equitable society and for genuine peace.

What has led me to join the union? I initially signed up because I was concerned about the increasing workload expectations and what I am increasingly calling the enslavement of the workforce. There seemed to be no way to say to management that you had too much work and that it wasn't possible to achieve what was being asked in the time available. At that point and up until recently, I would have worked all out to achieve what was asked of me but now, I find myself being willing to let things not be done. Time doesn't expand simply because there are more demands for it so I have to accept the limitations on the time that I have available and if I want to ensure my life away from work continues to be worthwhile, I have to say work can only take up a limited amount of the time of each day. Management and the institution may want me to give more but I have to fight back and say there has to be limits to the demands placed on workers. They cannot become slaves to their workplaces.

I see this process also causing me to allow my standards to slip. I feel that I am enforced to take the option that takes the shortest time for a task rather than the option that delivers the best result. Under time constraints the tradeoff is either scope or quality or both. That is what I now feel enforced to do. I feel forced to shrink the task by taking shortcuts and consequentially allowing the quality to slip. Everything within me wants to fight back.

Now, I find myself joining a picket line about pay because the management are being rewarded with a 6.3% pay rise while we, the frontline staff, are being offered a 1.1% pay rise. I don't see us getting 6.3% but this isn't rewarding the hardworking families. This is about enslaving them. It is a war started by the government on the workers of the UK. It is a battle that the workers have to stand up to and say enough is enough.

Yes, I am being radicalised but not by some preacher calling for me to take up a terrorist stance against the west. I am being radicalised by a system that repressing the worker in favour of the 1% and the corporations. I am being radicalised by a prime minister who says he is for the hard working family while he ensures that they have less to live on and that the wealth rushes up to the wealthy. I am being radicalised by the false messages of a system that endeavours to hold the workers down rather than work in their best interests.

But I don't want to be radicalised to become a terrorist but I do want to be someone who stands up for real peace os shalom. I read books on peace making and what peace means and I see in these books a radical message. It is such a radical message that some of the authors were forced to flee for their lives, not from radicals but from the governments of their day. The more visible leaders of these peace movements had to stand up against their political leaders pointing out the failings of the government. They sought peace but realised to get peace, they needed to make a nonviolent stand against the political leadership. This is now where I increasingly feel that I stand.

True peace isn't the absence of war as that cannot happen as long as some of the population is suppressed (Arnold, 2013, pp 11-12). True peace comes from within but it changes the way that we relate with others. It is about building relationships and establishing true equity. These are radical ideas that are rejected by the individualistic society in which we live. Radicalisation doesn't need to lead to violence. It can lead to another alternative that still stands up against injustice and inequality. It seeks out a radical alternative for society. One built on different principles to the self serving principles of current capitalist, neoliberal western society and maybe even the socialistic principles of what is seen as the traditional opposition.

Yes, I am being radicalised by the system that marginalises the workers and that transfers wealth from those who do not have to those who already have. I am being radicalised by injustice in the system and by the writings of those who see a peaceful alternative. There needs to be a stronger voice that stands up against this injustice and challenges the assumed norms of our society, that puts forth a real alternative that addresses the real issues of our society and world. This isn't a battle of guns or violence but this is a revolution of the mind, the philosophy, and the approach to life. It is a challenge to the framing story, the story by which we live. It is a challenge that asks whether there is another way. I believe there is but it will be a long struggle.


Arnold, J. C. (2013). Seeking peace: Notes and conversations along the way. New York: Plough Publishing House.


Bob said...

Hi Errol - thoughtful as ever.
FWIW I don't think that it is much better over here in many respects. Kiwi society is, I think, less fragmented than the UK and there is generally a stronger sense of community. OTOH wages are also very depressed here, for most people, and given how tight things are for us (on my above average salary) I really have no idea how families on below average household incomes even make ends meet. I strongly suspect, though I don't know, that as in the UK many carry a large burden of debt secured against virtual gains in property prices. Of course, those chickens will come home to roost at some stage.
Like you I find current policies that favour the wealthy and demonize the poor particularly invidious - the prospect of 100% employment is a myth which is still (at least implicitly) being touted to justify these policies, when we should really be deciding how to cope with a world where unemployment is the norm rather than the exception, since that is where technology and population growth are arguably taking us. Those who say we are returning to feudalism have it wrong - the feudal system in practice seems to have had more checks and boundaries than where we are heading to now. Slavery is, indeed, more like where the current model seems to be taking us.
How to arrive at a humane society where many people get - in some sense - a free (or very cheap) ride is a difficult challenge, but it will have to be tackled one day.
Incidentally I don't think it is a bad thing that technology, medical advances, and so on are leading to less work to do per person on average. The quality of life for most people now is still better than it was a hundred years ago by pretty much any sensible measure. The question is, how to maintain and improve on that situation when consumerism inevitably stalls?

Errol Thompson said...

Thanks for your feedback. I have been doing some work with a group where we are looking at positive alternatives to the neoliberal approach that dominates our economic thinking. I am hoping to put a blog together soon that lays down our principles and possibly some policies that we see being applied. I find it interesting that we talk about relationships and equity rather than equality. It gives me hope to see the number of people who want to see a different type of system in place.