In a recent conversation with The Blind Spot co-founder Hatty regarding my articles Imagination and Don’t Stand By, she said something that I haven’t been able to shake. Hatty said that if the British government agree to accept greater numbers of refugees, it would be a concession that either our systems, such as social services and the NHS, are better equipped than we are told, or that they can quickly become so. If either of these points proved to be true, the whole austerity argument that has been hammered into the heads of the public for years will be revealed to be deceitful – that the government wound down our public services out of choice not necessity.
There are a number of factors as to why the government doesn’t want to take in refugees (even the orphans marooned in Calais); the main simply being the public will seems not to be there right now. And as morality is not of primary concern for the government, they will continue to do what needs to be done to retain power and keep a system in place that benefits themselves and their powerful friends. Public opinion is a factor in the government’s decision to reject refugees, but what if there is more to it, as Hatty hypothesises. How could that play out?
There have been times when the government’s allocation of resources was questioned in the mainstream, such as in 2015 with the bombing in Syria. This information, however, has so far failed to stick in the public consciousness due to a vague idea that the money used for such endeavours comes from a different pot. This propaganda technique of compartmentalisation won’t cut it if thousands of people are accommodated inside Britain, and able to use its pubic services. That would be evidence of a system capable of being ramped up when needed. A system capable of giving more to its citizens. And when people across the country have struggled for years, all the while their public services were downgraded and obliterated, the indirect acknowledgement by the Conservatives that times need not have been so tough could be disastrous for the party, pushing people towards Corbyn’s Labour and its anti-austerity agenda.
It is optimistic to see events play out like this. The Tories are masters of drumming home a concise idea through repeated and consistent use. They would create a believable narrative as they frequently do that plays on people’s fears; quite possibly one in which refugees have been forced on Britain by the EU and we’re all suffering as a result – and further cuts need to be made. This is a straightforward and effective narrative that can be delivered through media headlines alone.
I also worry that people who have bought into the austerity agenda – whose families have been tightening their belts or worse the past few years – won’t psychologically be able to accept that they needed not to have done so. The realisation that one has been hoodwinked so completely year after year is possibly a self-revelation too far for many people. Yet at a certain point we need to face up to the truth; not the version of reality in which we want to live. Ignorance is an excuse no longer with social media and digital technologies having freed information from the clutches of the establishment, making it more democratic than ever before (for the moment at least).
And while it may only be a matter of time for the establishment’s sweaty palm to lose its grip on the reigns of power, the grave danger that the majority of us face is that if our current government are allowed to continue to run rough-shot over the traditions, services and institutions that were created to serve all, not the privileged few, by the time a more egalitarian party is voted in, the damage to Britain will be irreparable.