I dont know about you, but Im still angry
about this fuel crisis. The news reports have left their mark on me.
All those queues and flaring tempers, grown adults being forced to forage
in the garage for long- lost bicycles. Some even having to walk.
One day last week, having heard the stories of panic buying, I stuck
my head round the door of my local Tesco, just to see what was going
on. It was like the first day of Harrods sale; except these people
were scrabbling around for every last bit of sliced bread they could
lay their mitts on, rather than fur coats. A look of the same gritty
determination that got us through the war was matched by a jokey camaraderie
at the checkouts. I half expected them to burst into a chorus of Well
Meet Again any minute.
Maybe they did, but I managed to walk the whole fifty yards up the road
to the local bakery and bought a nice fresh loaf. Buying locally, now
theres an idea. Meanwhile, the wife went panic buying chocolate
but I rumbled her. It was just an excuse to buy more than usual! Taking
her lead, I stacked the fridge up with Stella. On the odd occasion when
I used the car, it was bliss the roads were so quiet. No fat children
being ferried on the half- mile school run. No fat road- hogging lorries
that should be on the railways anyway.
So why am I angry? Ill tell you.
For eight years of my life I lived in the shadow of a dual- carriageway
flyover that towered menacingly above us. It roared day and night, cutting
through the community like a constant, obscene tidal wave, reducing
a once smart area to tatters and ruining the quality of life for its
residents. On the flyover, trying to ignore the eyesore below them,
soared the Haves; the people with jobs, money, houses and cars. When
they came to the crossroads, even when it was hot, they would wind up
their windows lest they be accosted by latter day baseball- capped highwaymen.
The Haves had all the things, in fact, that the Have Nots below hadnt.
Well under half of the households in our neighbourhood could afford
a car, because few people had jobs, and because they didnt have
jobs they had no money. Because they had no money they lived in rented
houses that fell apart round their ears. A lot of Asian families clubbed
together to buy houses and start businesses, but boy was it an uphill
struggle. All the banks moved out while I was living there, whilst loan
sharks and pawnbrokers took their place.
With no respect, job prospects or aspirations, just destructive role
models created by an amoral media to cling to, some local youths would
break into their neighbours homes. Theyd wait til
they were out, then kick their doors down and walk off with the electrical
goods in broad daylight. Just ordinary lads with no other known way
of buying their next rock of crack or Nike trainers. The police didnt
mind, as long they kept shitting on their own doorstep, so it was left
to the residents to take action. One lad got trapped in an alleyway
and was severely battered. Things calmed down for a bit after that.
There were two ways of getting over the road to get to the shopping
centre. One - the official way - was by going under. This involved negotiating
two dark, stinking, mugger- infested subways that cut under the prioritised
traffic. The other, more popular and, it was felt, safer way, was to
go over the top. Whilst this meant playing chicken with the cars, at
least it felt as if you were in charge of your own destiny. Occasionally,
the cars won. One day, an elderly Have Not lady on her way back from
the shops was too slow for the impatient commuter whose path she crossed.
She couldnt dodge it, laden down as she was with her cut- price
bargains for the week. Incredibly, she was posthumously admonished by
a Tory MP from the leafy suburbs, who berated her for not using the
Cut to a few years later, last week in fact. Im stood upstairs
in a record shop listening to two ageing hippies talking about the fuel
protests as if the peoples revolution has begun. "Yeah man,"
said one of them, "It was just like the Lennon song, Power to the
People." "Yeah right," said the other, "Zappa would
have loved it too." These noble freedom fighters now stand in absurd
solidarity with Countryside Alliance supporters, some of whom, it has
to be said, are tragically down to their last three Range Rovers. (Farmers
get tax relief anyway, so what are they complaining about?)
Im not angry because for the first time in modern history, the
population of this country has stood up en masse, and said to the government;
were not having this.
Im angry because theyre angry about the wrong thing. Why
arent these people blockading the streets in protest at poverty,
discrimination and the failings of capitalist society? So what if extra
tax is levied on petrol? Cars are directly killing thousands of people
a year, and incidentally, incrementally poisoning the rest of us to
Thatcher broke the Unions and the working class resolve of collectivism
for the common good. Self- preservation gave way to self- interest,
and those who didnt make it in the free market economy were left
to rot. New Labour has done little to change this. They deny the North/
South divide, and trumpet the Stakeholder Society in which collectivism
is for the interest of the individual. And if you have nothing to claim
your Stake with well, youre still left to rot.
In a way the government has been hoisted by its own petard, attacked
as it now is by a self- righteous, greedy majority of its own making,
and an Opposition who put up the fuel tax in the first place and could
well win its way back to power by promising to reduce it again. But
my message to Blair is; stand firm. Dont what ever you do give
into these protests. Increasing fuel tax is one of the few things youve
got right. If anything, you should double it.
© John Peters 10 2000
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