This year it’s Black Lives Matter. Last year it was Extinction Rebellion. Before that #MeToo, GM crops and gun control. Every year it seems there’s a new cause for us to take to the streets, or, if we can’t be bothered doing that, to social media where we can make our feelings known. Of course, the common people – you and I – have a voice. We have greater means of expressing it, more platforms on which to exercise it, than have ever existed before. No-one in history has had the means we have to express our outrage, opinions and grievances.
But so what? Whether we take to the streets, vlog, blog or tweet, the result, it seems to me, is the same: things stay pretty much as they are. Hardly anything changes as the result of our outcry and protest. Maybe a few statues are demolished, a handful of sexual predators jailed, but ultimately there’s no lasting change. Perhaps a tokenistic law is created, maybe the media involve themselves for a short time in the issue of the day, but before very long everything reverts to the way it was: black lives are no more improved, the police go back to their former ways of behaving (once no-one’s looking any more), children continue to be abused, the environment is still in crisis, there’s another mass shooting by an idiot who’s bought a gun too easily and politicians carry on acting as if they’re above the law. There’ll be a new cause to excite ourselves about next summer. And another the year after that. Today’s preoccupation will disappear just as quickly as the latest fashion or pop sensation.
Why is this, and why are we largely ignored when we take to the streets or campaign on social media about the things that concern us? Why does our voice count for so little? We live in democracies don’t we, here in Europe and in the States; we have a right to be heard, to be listened to and be taken into account – don’t we?
Well, no. We don’t. No-one is obliged to listen to us. They don’t even have to pretend to, unless they’re politicians running for election and then they are only pretending. Even then we don’t really have the choice we think we do; we’re told we can vote for the candidate of our choice, but we can’t; choice is so severely restricted it’s hardly qualifies as a choice at all. We vote for whoever the parties have put up for us to vote for; for a package that dresses either to the left or the right, without nuance or balanced consideration of the issues, and very often with no long term view of what we need to survive and flourish. That’s why so many fail to vote; they know intuitively that the more things change, the more they stay the same – so why bother?
The rest of us dutifully select from an already selected few: the millionaires, billionaires, career politicians and failed businessmen who claim they have our best interests at heart, who say they can manage us and make our country great again. Once they have power they forget about us – their lives are so far removed from ours that they can’t possibly relate to the way we ordinary people live – and what the most vocal of us say we want. We think we won’t get fooled again, as the Who say in their politically astute song, but of course we will: we are fooled again, and again and again. Every time.
To be continued.