Catalogue of Catastrophe III: Our Fragile State

Catalogue of Catastrophe: Part I

Catalogue of Catastrophe: Part II

“Some of you may die, but it is a sacrifice I am willing to make.” Lord Farquaad , Shrek, 2002.

I don’t know about you, but I can always see a similarity between this line from the first fictional Shrek film and the callousness of the position taken by Our, very real, Beloved Leader and his cabinet this time last year.

Boris Johnson making clear his position on Covid-19 vs the economy, 3rd February 2020

To think that we have a Prime Minister who would be so willing to allow so many of us to die and to suffer, got us thinking about what kind of state we are becoming (or have already become) where this is permitted, and indeed, accepted by us.

Having seen the decline of the country over the last 10 or so years with our own eyes, we began to wonder if our position – at least as ordinary citizens – has been compromised. One of us was born in the late 1970s, the other in the early 1980s, and we began to talk of our experiences of growing up in England. We agreed that there was the feeling once that, if a disaster happened  – if your health declined or if you lost your job, or your home – the state would be there as a safety net to catch you and help support you get back to where you needed to be. In our youth, neither of us remember seeing many homeless people. There would be a few in and around the large city near where we live, but not very many, and not often. We can both remember day trips to London where homelessness was more evident and we’d see people bedding down in doorways and such. Back then, it was an unusual and striking phenomenon. We now see homelessness on that scale everywhere. 

Food banks were also very few and far between but they have become a fixture of most high streets within the past five years or so. The people who run food banks represent the very best of us, but the concept of a food bank is shameful. Poverty and the precariousness of everyday life is real for many people in one of the richest countries in the world. Sadly, we now seem to accept food banks, rather than seeing every single one of them as a symbol of how our country is failing some of it’s inhabitants. 

People queuing in freezing conditions for Kindness Homeless Street Team’s soup kitchen in Glasgow, Monday 8th February 2021

Neither of us had particularly prestigious upbringings: both are from working class backgrounds. However, those securities that we recognised were there whilst we were children and young(er) people just don’t exist anymore. With hindsight, we can see that they were being eroded at that time, too. Many of those support networks that the state once provided, honestly feel like they’ve been weaponised and turned against the same people they were once meant to help, for example, sanctions and The Bedroom Tax. The DWP (Department for Works and Pensions) increasingly feels like a gatekeeper preventing people having access to benefits, rather than enabling them to get the support they need. It feels also like the services have been made deliberately harder to access (such as Universal Credit). All of these things have slowly disintegrated to the point where falling into destitution is quite easy. 

And that is terrifying. 

We have been wondering for a long time now about what has been going wrong here, and if Plague Island is on the journey to meeting a definition of a fragile state. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) defines a fragile state as:

‘[One that] has weak capacity to carry out basic governance functions, and lacks the ability to develop mutually constructive relations with society. Fragile regions or states are also more vulnerable to internal or external shocks such as economic crisis or natural disaster.’

There is currently a big difference to this definition which makes Plague Island distinctive from a typical fragile state. As one of the richest countries in the world, we definitely possess the means to develop ‘mutually constructive relations with society’ and to plan well for internal and external shocks. It is just that our government do not possess the will to do it, largely for ideological reasons.

We have been gaslighted by the government and a complicit mainstream media into blaming each other for what has gone wrong, rather than looking a damaging government policies which always puts the needs of business and the economy ahead of people’s lives – everything from being told that the NHS is being ruined because of immigrants, or pensions are stretched because people are living too long.

We have lived through, and are living through, a brutal era of generation-defining Tory policies, which isn’t quite over yet. Profit over people. Always. After ten years of austerity, people’s tolerance for such policies – and the government’s legitimacy to continue them – were waning. However, Covid offers the government the perfect cover as to why such policies are still necessary. It also offers those in power the ideal excuse to pare back the services that have already been cut to the bone, for example, the NHS. As we have mentioned throughout our writings, our healthcare services have been deliberately and systematically underfunded since the Tories came to power in 2010. We are the ones who have felt the full consequences of that underfunding with this pandemic. Now there are growing rumours that the NHS faces reforms, which means streamlining hospitals. This will be done under the guise of making hospitals more able to cope with any future pandemics, but the reality for the everyday lives of real people is that large areas won’t have a local hospital. People will have to travel further to access essential healthcare and emergency services. 

Perhaps the government will try and manipulate us further by saying due to the damaged economy, we won’t have enough money to finance all the hospitals we have. Remember that the failed, outsourced, Track and Trace system has cost around £22 billion so far.

Twenty-two-BILLION pounds for something that doesn’t even work properly.

Incidentally, we continue to fund the HS2 railway – another Tory vanity project – that looks like it will be redundant before completion because more business are looking at the feasibility of long-term working from home. Current estimates run between it costing £80.7 billion and £88.7 billion. That’s saying nothing about the environmental damage: the loss of ancient woodlands, habitats and green spaces, so much of it already razed and lost forever. And let’s face it, when HS2 is completed, it will not be a subsidised service, offering ordinary people an affordable ticket to ride. 

It would be too convenient to say that things have begun to fall apart due to the onset of Covid, as clearly our problems started long before this virus came to our shores. Covid has merely exposed how unacceptable things have become; the response to the disease is almost as bad as the virus itself. We have been having waves of crises and disasters for a long time: working poverty, the explosion of homeless people, the increasing need for and use of food banks, declining health services, disappearing community services, defunded education services, the growing climate emergency, Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’, Grenfell, Windrush and most currently, a mismanaged pandemic. All of these issues are symptoms of a fragile state of a very specific kind: one that has all of the necessary powers and mechanisms at it’s disposal to be a place where it can enrich the lives of its inhabitants, and be an example to the rest of the world. However, the government of this island doesn’t want to do that. They only ever do anything for us under pressure. And even then, what they do often isn’t enough.

After we emerge from the Covid crisis, the government will try to impose more austerity. Remember that these are Eternity politicians who thrive on crises to control people and the economy for their benefit. 

~ L&A 10.2.21 ~

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

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