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This article was written on 09 Sep 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Protest is pointless redux

I said in another blog that protest was pointless. And I stand by it. Going on a march, shouting slogans and listening to speakers might feel great for the people there, it might be a balm to the ego and it might hold out the illusion of being relevant, but that’s all those things are. Illusory. The Government likes marchers, because the show that the pressure valve fitted to society works very well. While people are marching and feeling virtuous, there’s no need to worry.

There’s even less need now that Corbyn is doing what he can to make sure that we’re a one party state and that party is the Tories. Any protest which has the avowed intention of overturning a policy of the Government will fail, purely because they don’t need to listen.Recent examples include the well-intentioned but savagely misguided ‘March for Europe’ that gave UKIP voters something to laugh at and the online petition which sought to overturn the referendum result. We’d just had an election to tell us that there were huge numbers of stupid people in the country, and the few sane people signing a petition was irrelevant.

What this is not, however, is an argument for withdrawal. Protest may be pointless, but helping people isn’t, and that’s what is needed more than ever. With the social safety net more full of holes than ever before, we need people who are prepared to care for others in whatever way they can, because the Government aren’t going to. You could probably mount an argument to say that people should force central or local Government to care, but as true as this may be, it doesn’t help the individuals who are in need because some state-appointed inspector working for one of the companies that said state always uses have said they can’t have benefits.

Instead of going on a protest and getting your fleeting moment in the sun, marching past some bored TV cameras in central London, do the thing that is much, much harder. Find a place that needs volunteers and volunteer with them. You won’t be doing it because you want a nice day out and a chance to wave a placard in public, and the chances are that your efforts will never be noticed by anyone much, but you’ll also stand a significantly higher chance of making a difference to someone’s life, in a small way. The first thing I ever did was talk to a homeless bloke and then, as I got to know him better, sitting with him and learning more about his life and sharing the food that I’d bought. Suggesting that this made a difference to his life in a huge way would be arrogant, but it felt right and it felt like something important was happening.

That made me push out and think about how else I could help people and that, in turn, made me qualify as a Street Pastor. These aren’t huge things, at all, mainly because I’m hugely cautious about what I do and who I do it with and also because I suffer from depression and have to be careful about how much I commit. The point, though, is that you fit volunteering around your life, around your commitments and what you’re capable of, whether it’s once in a blue moon or every other day. You do what you can, when you can do it.

What buttresses this is that if we don’t do it, our society ceases to function as a cohesive entity and rapidly becomes impossible for all but the richest and most insulated. Government doesn’t care, because its voters are people who have never been unlucky and never needed state help or, rather, needed it once and forgot what it felt like. For the rest, the great mass of people who still need kindness, who still need help, we need to help each other. Our Government is now irrelevant because it had made itself so. It may not like that, in fact, I’m almost sure it doesn’t, but this is where we are and, if we don’t care for each other as never before, we really are all lost. What warms the cockles of my heart, albeit guiltily, is Tories wondering why they don’t get invited to things because people just don’t need to ask them, but I suppose that’s not really the primary motivation. More of an agreeable adjunct.

So. Don’t bother going on the protest. It won’t achieve anything but fluff your ego. Instead, we need to care and care radically, with abandon. Cameron’s failed ‘Big Society’ was based on a politicised vision of a place in which state provision was replaced by well-meaning ladies who were doing it for a hobby. This is based on a politicised vision in which people who believe in the essentially left-of-centre power of community and interpersonal relations care for each other and leave the well-intentioned middle classes to work in the RSPCA charity shop of an afternoon and the rest of the country gets on with it. Tories need not apply, at least until they’ve realised that they’ve been had, but everyone else is welcome.

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