I’m not quite sure how December got here so quickly. It’s blimmin’ Christmas again, and usually I tend to get a bit humbuggy about the whole thing, but I think this year we all need a bit of light in our lives, and I didn’t complain at all when fairy lights started to appear at the beginning of November. It was nice. Perhaps I’m mellowing out.
A Facebook friend of mine, Jeffrey, keeps posting these wonderful images of Christmas how it used to look. He’s this lovely elderly chap, who keeps me entertained with his fantastic pictures of old buses, and historical Pembrokeshire. Now, as Christmas approaches, he’s filling my newsfeed with all sorts of images that I haven’t seen for a very long time. Old Christmas images that have been lost for what seems like forever.
There are pictures I remember from my grandad’s house, old Christmas cards, the ones you got in the packet every year. Jeffrey always writes a lovely little caption and always includes the words “happy”, “nostalgic”, “memories”, “carefree”, and he makes me feel like the last forty years didn’t happen, and that I’m still hanging out in my grandad’s garden at his red brick council house, while uncle Donny meticulously arranges marigolds and pelargoniums in neat rows, colour coded and millimetre perfect.
It’s nice to look back on those memories and let yourself feel the feelings which they evoke, but it also can leave me with this strange melancholy. Those times are gone. Those “bygone, nostalgic carefree” days will never return. We’re trapped in a nightmare of our own making, where the young people know no different, and everyone from my age up to Jeffrey’s is desperately trying to recreate the good old days. But the good old days are gone. They were fake. They were a temporary sticking plaster on a nation ravaged by war, designed to placate. That post war boom, age of appliances and comfort, council house projects, the NHS, the smashing of slums, the indoor toilets, the televisions, the welfare schemes, the sense of hope and socialism, has given way to a crass, destructive world of enemies within enemies, where no one can be trusted, where communities are dead, where doors are locked, where greed is supreme.
Every success that someone has, is countered by the failure of someone else. Every time someone acquires riches and wealth, somewhere, someone else is losing it. Like the butterfly fluttering that makes hurricane a thousand miles away, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For prosperous times in the UK, others have endured bad times, in places where the UK has been to plunder. For all our country’s wealth, somewhere we took it from someone else. For every extra cotton count someone has in the plush bedsheets, an extra person is made homeless through no fault of their own. As we enjoy our Christmas with family, there are many that have no Christmas with no family. For every present we get, there’s someone losing a loved one.
Did I say we needed some light? A bit of cheering up? Are you depressed now? I apologise. I think what I’m getting at is this. In our capitalist society, the good fortune of some, is always at the expense of others, and I think at Christmas, it’s as good as time as any to remind ourselves of that. The best way to happiness is gratitude. We need to all stop for a moment, and look at what’s happening in our country, and we have to stop ignoring it because we’re busy shopping. We have to see the homeless people, the people living in poverty, the ones about to lose their jobs and therefore everything they’ve worked for as they can’t afford their housing payments. The ones who are missing out on pensions because they were told that their money was being protected, while all along it was being gambled as recklessly as if in Vegas, and when it’s all gone, the big bosses just shrug their shoulders and say, sorry, while collecting massive dividends from share prices that were made big by the loss of your pension.
How many times have you wanted to phone a few companies during the day, but have only got to one call, because it took so long, the automated service didn’t work, you were on hold for an hour, and the person you eventually spoke to gave you poor information? That, my friend, is capitalism.
How many of you are waiting for hospital appointments? How many of you can’t get into your doctor’s surgery? That’s capitalism too. How many of you are wondering why you can no longer rely on the police when you need help? Capitalism. How many of you are losing your job? How many of you are self employed and losing your business? That’s capitalism. As the country falls apart, we have new people every day realising that the system they thought was working for them actually wasn’t. This is the point where we all need to take stock and say… “you know what’s going on here, don’t you? That’s right. Capitalism.”
And while those thoughts go through our heads, we can spare a thought at last for all those people we forgot about during our busy lives. The poor, the lonely, the elderly, the cold. Their days are spent surviving, not shopping. We are lucky. We need to show gratitude. But we also need to understand that it could be much, much better, and not just for us, but for everyone.
Because what is the point in things getting better for just ourselves, when for others, things are getting worse? If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that it’s about time we had a bit of humanity around the place. It’s teaching us what lies are, what selflessness is. It’s teaching us that capitalism was never there to save us, and that it’s too precarious to continue. It’s not protecting our key workers or our society from collapse. It’s not protecting our economy and it can’t cope with a crisis.
Now we know these things it’s time to act. Not as individuals, but as a group. A group of humans who want everyone to be ok. Capitalism taught us to be greedy, to be selfish. Let’s show it that we are human, and that we’re above that. And then let’s take steps to make sure that no one is ever left to die hungry and cold again. Let’s build a society that works. It’s possible to make it right. But first we have to accept that what we have now, is very, very wrong.