I love social media. Particularly when it turns unsocial. Now I’m being scolded for not being ‘on message’ with the UK Government and its (mis)handling of the COVID-19 pandemic within the UK. I’m being told I shouldn’t be being ‘political’…
Don’t tell me this is not the time to be political. Difficult times are the exactly correct times for being political. Everything is political. Especially in times like this pandemic. When is the appropriate time and place for “being political”? When there are no crises facing the population? Do we only challenge our politicians retrospectively when any potential damage has long since become history? Are we to just address them once every five years when they want the affirmation of our votes, then nod and congratulate them when things are running calmly and without problem… and if you do raise your voice any other time it’s just politically motivated opportunism is it? Telling people to not be political right now is itself a political position and action. So, I won’t shut up.
I won’t ignore the damage that a decade of UK government cuts and mismanagement have inflicted on the NHS.
I won’t ignore that the UK government delayed implementing effective actions to curb the spread of the virus for two months.
I won’t ignore that the UK government refused help from the EU to get medical equipment more cost effectively.
I won’t ignore the blatant offering of medical machinery contracts to favoured Conservative Party members and donors whose company have no experience building such machinery at the expense of other established manufacturers who have had their offers of help refused.
I won’t ignore that the UK government priorities have been supporting their economic agenda ahead of the country’s population’s health.
I won’t ignore that the UK government refused senior medical purchasing advice three years ago concerning such epidemics/pandemics on the basis of cost.
And I specifically won’t ignore the cynical hypocrisy of politicians joining a public call for communal applause in support for NHS workers only a few years after cheering loudly in Parliament for successfully defeating a call to raise those same workers’ pay.
If government failings and inadequacies aren’t taken to task on their discovery then complacency sets in. The appropriate government minister will make the appropriate tick-box apology, then trot out their usual platitudes of “learning from mistakes” or “getting the message” or “accepting there’s a lot more to do” and then just carrying on as if it’s business as usual.
I get told that I should shut up and we should all pull together to beat this pandemic crisis. Because I’ve currently got so much political agency haven’t I! Pull together? When it’s the wealthy that can afford to self-isolate and the rest of the working population that fear for their jobs, their accommodation and their capacity to feed themselves and their families.
I get told that my opinion is ‘void’ because I left the UK. Well – like it or not I’m still a British citizen, even if my vote at all future elections in the UK, France and Europe has recently been taken away by the government of my country of birth.
Don’t tell me to not question politicians’ actions, words and motivations. I’ve been questioning, protesting, campaigning and addressing politics in all the workplaces and social spaces I’ve ever been in. I’ve been political all my life and I will be political now. I won’t tug my forelock. I wont know my place. I won’t bend my knee, doff my cap or bow my head. I’ll keep mouthing off disrespectfully because disrespect is currently what is due. Respect is earned and not assigned by dint of perceived social ‘rank’.
The singular politic first attested in English 1430 comes from Middle French politique, in turn from Latin politicus, the Latinization of the Greek πολιτικός (politikos), meaning amongst other definitions “of, for, or relating to citizens”