The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 28 May 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Choice: the ultimate illusion

In capitalist societies, choice is the ultimate illusion. You walk into Tesco and you can choose between fifty different types of soap power, biscuits and ready meals. When you vote, you get to choose between four or five different candidates. You can decide which school your child will go to and which hospital you’ll have that boil on your arse lanced at. We live, or so in it seems, an age where choice has made us, the consumer, the ultimate tin god in our own lives. And it’s a lie.

What we need to think about is who is offering us these spurious ‘choices’ and what their agenda might be. Take being allowed to ‘choose’ a school. What it means is that children who live around the corner might not be able to get into it because parents who live miles away have ‘chosen’ that as the desired school for their child. And it is, of course, why you see cars clustering around the school gates at half three. This child has to be driven miles across the county to get home because someone at a party conference once wanted to make grandiose claims about education.

The source of this choice is, then, our political masters. They decree that we should have a choice and, much further down the line, things change accordingly. Of course, this doesn’t affect their own children, because they’re being privately educated somewhere in the Home Counties where they won’t be regularly assaulted for the crime of having a dissembling idiot as a mother or father. It’s something that happens to other people: namely, us.

We can choose schools, which should mean that the schools who don’t have many pupils close because they’re unpopular and awful while the schools who have lots of pupils thrive. Except this isn’t the case. The popular schools get loads of applications and the unpopular ones get the pupils anyway because the popular schools can’t possibly contain the numbers without teaching three quarters of the school population out on the school field. Meanwhile, cars and buses criss-cross the country with children on board, going to schools miles from where they live.

The answer, of course, is that everyone goes to their local school. Nobody can ‘choose’ to go to another school miles away, because they have a place at their local one which is non-negotiable, in which case, you take your charming child and educate it in the private sector and suck up the school fees. Anybody complaining would be told that, in this country, people are educated at the school nearest to them. That’s just how things are.

And it’s the same with hospitals. I don’t want a choice. I don’t want to have to traverse the country, or read wholly spurious stats in order to decide where my surgery should be performed.  I just want to go to my nearest hospital get it done and go home. Except the same anarchy as is happening with schools is happening with hospitals. Suddenly patients need to choose, except they can’t, because the waiting lists snare up, facilities are being closed and people who want something fairly mundane end up travelling to get it. Again, thank the politicians who said that, given the power to choose would make us powerful. We aren’t anything like powerful. We’re all prisoner of much the same circumstance as we were before.

As all roads lead, with grim inevitability, back to politicians, it follows that politics is the ultimate farcical choice. We have been told, in the EU referendum, words that I’m heartily sick of typing, that there is a democratic deficit with the EU. Nobody who points this out, however, cares to think about the democratic deficit at home. There is an unelected head of state and there is a wholly unelected second chamber stuffed full of political placemen. The only part we get to change is the lower house, in which the first past the post system effectively guarantees that the country changes with all the pace of an asthmatic glacier.

We don’t know what would happen if people were offered real choices, because the people who hold the reigns of power don’t want to offer them. What if we thought that choosing a school and a hospital was a shabby load of old cock? No idea. What do people think of being governed by a second chamber who are mainly geriatric old buffers who see it as a place to have a particularly well-remunerated nap? No idea. We’ve never been asked and the chance of us ever being asked is so low that it doesn’t even exist as a whole number. As to the idea of the people consenting to being a monarchy, the idea is hilarious. Nobody thinks to ask. And yet we have elections. Why?

The answer to this returns to my opening statement. The choice offered in elections is an illusion that everyone participates in, from the media all the way down (and it is a long way down) to the general public. You can choose between people who are no earthly threat to the status quo and who have never said anything against the establishment in their lives. They’re backed by parties who have plenty of money and the muscle to support them and who can effectively buy air-time for their candidate. Those parties don’t want the system to change because they’re doing well out of it, so what we have here is a system where ossification isn’t so much a consequence as a feature that has been designed into it from the outset.

There’s nothing I can do about it, of course, except not to participate in elections, which are a complete and utter charade. Ceding any and all control over this, even a semblance of it, reveals my impotence for what it is. Absolute. I know the system is rigged, I know it’s unfair and I know I can’t do anything about it. We are where we are.

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