To Thine Own Self Be True – Week 29 of the 52 week short story challenge

 

 

 

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This week’s title was actually F*** You but I thought that might be construed as being a little aggressive so I amended it a bit. This isn’t really a story as such – a bit of a rant maybe so skip on out of here if you aren’t interested in what I have to say.

I was raised in an atmosphere of mild politics. My Dad was a shop steward for the Union of Shop, Distributive, and Allied Workers (USDAW) when he worked for Sainsburys, and my Mum was secretary to her branch of the Transport and Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) when she worked for British Rail (before privatisation). At that time men working for BR had four free rail tickets per year and discounted tickets for themselves, their wives and families. Women working for BR only got these perks for themselves and not their families. My Mum fought for parity and my Mum won.

When the Social Democrat Party was formed, Mum was one of the first people to join because she didn’t like the way Labour was heading. After seven years the SDP merged with the Liberal party and Mum reverted to her Labour roots. She was very involved in social security tribunals and managed to overturn many unfair and arbitrary decisions made by other more ‘qualified’ panel members. She had a strong sense of justice and remained interested in politics all her life.

Her legacy to me was ‘To thine own self be true‘.

In my teens, my own dalliance with politics was more than a little mercenary. I joined the Southampton International Socialist group when I was fifteen. I was studying modern history and like so many other teenagers, thought that communism was the answer – for a very short while. SIS was quite glamorous; they were all older than me, bought me lager and lime in the pub and tried in vain to get me to stand in the precinct in town and sell ‘Socialist Worker’.

I had expressed a desire at the time to be a journalist – or a social worker.

By the time I had left school and started on ‘A’ levels, my interests had moved  dramatically, and to the NUS and the local students’ union. I participated in events and activities and by the time I was in my final year I was elected (unopposed) as Entertainments Secretary. Not that any of my events ever made much of a profit – some of them made an outstanding loss – but they were always entertaining.

I attended the Blackpool NUS conference in 1979. I met the Goodies and was present when Keith Joseph was discovered lurking up in the balcony. We stood up as one and hissed at him, refusing to go on until he left. It was all rather exciting at the time.

Politics were put on hold for a couple of years as I dallied with speech training and dramatic art, and a close encounter or two with my local pub.

A twist of fate and a couple of soda siphons led me back to social work and a job on the lowest rung of the ladder as a houseparent.

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On my first day at work, the deputy officer in charge stopped me as he was leaving.

‘I need to have a word with you – tomorrow.’

Panic!

What had I done wrong?

I barely slept that night and could cheerfully have thumped him when I discovered that he just wanted to ask me about joining the union – NALGO (National Union of Local Government Officers – later absorbed into Unison). I joined. More out of relief than anything else.

In 1984 we went on strike. It was almost as exciting as going to conference. We were out for three months in total and there was an atmosphere of camaraderie as we sat outside on picket lines with our tents and camping chairs. I was working in a children’s home and whilst agency staff were employed to ‘look after’ the children, in reality the children spent more time out on the picket line with us.

NALGO paid our wages and we thought we were making an impact.

We weren’t.

The strike fizzled out when the weather turned bad. We returned to work without realising how much damage had been done. Homes were closed. Junior staff like me were redeployed but senior staff found themselves passed over for promotion because of their disloyalty in going out on strike.

The cost was high; a lovely man who had been a driving force in our protests became so depressed by his demotion and lack of prospects, that he took his wife and son out for a drive in the country, drugged them both and rigged up a hosepipe to the exhaust.

All three of them died.

They weren’t the only ones who died as a consequence of the strike. I promised myself that I would never go out on strike again.

Life moved on and I managed to avoid union membership or too much political involvement bar voting in local and national elections. I usually voted Labour – except for the year when I didn’t like the candidate and was persuaded by my eldest son to vote Green. My husband has his own preferences but we decided a long time ago not to argue over politics – so we don’t.

Then I came across Jeremy Corbyn. I liked him. Compared to the glossy, posh-suited politicians he was a breath of fresh air – although he had been around for a long time apparently – quietly rebelling against the Blairite MPs who were only a step away from the tories.

My sons introduced me to social media; the eldest to Twitter and the youngest to FaceAche – although he unfriended me very quickly.

‘Mum! Stop liking my posts!’

We use FaceAche now to keep in contact with friends and family mostly. My husband and I share a page so it is an eclectic mix of both our interests.

I came off Twitter for a while because it was becoming my favourite waste of time.

I don’t always like what I see on FaceAche. I skip over or hide anything that I find unacceptable and I expect others to do the same if they see anything they don’t like amongst my posts.

It came as something of a shock when a family member disowned me because of poor Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently she saw him as the spawn of the devil and responsible for all that is bad in the world. I was given a choice. Stop putting my thoughts and opinions on FaceAche or be unfriended.

It hurts when someone you have known all your life turns their back on you.

To thine own self be true.

I am in my 50s now and have many years of social work under my belt. It’s a shame if others are upset because I won’t do as I’m told just to make them happy, but I think I have earned the right to know my own mind by now.

Then came the Referendum.

My eldest son is a Master of Science and a PhD student. He spoke very eloquently in defence of staying in the EU, knowing that EU funding is responsible for most of the research carried out in this country. He showed me where to find information on the possible effects of leaving the EU and I posted them on my page – with the proviso that no one HAD to read it if they didn’t want to.

Scroll – scroll on.

Most of our friends and family were of the same mind. There were more casualties though; a friend who felt that it was her role in life to put opposing posts on my page in order to give more ‘balance’. The posts were totally subjective and not well researched so they were deleted. And reposted. And deleted. I had to block and unfriend in the end to save my sanity. It was not a decision I took lightly.

To thine own self be true.

The murder of Jo Cox MP was shocking and showed so clearly how easy it is for political hatred to influence the most vulnerable in society so that they can commit such heinous crimes and believe that they are doing the right thing.

Such a waste of a life.

The Brexiteers won.

There was an increase in racist attacks almost immediately – as if the outcome was an excuse to persecute and harass anyone with a different skin colour, accent or surname.

I was accused by another family member of being a bad loser because I wasn’t happy about the outcome. I didn’t feel that those who had voted to leave on the grounds that it would stop us being ‘over run’ by immigrants and ruled by the EU had really looked into the possible economic and environmental impact.

I was getting very fed up with being told to ‘get over it’ by people who had caused chaos without knowing fully what they had done.

Said family member stated that ALL remain campaigners were being horrible (by pointing out that leaving the EU wasn’t going to happen overnight and that there were going to be a lot of casualties). I dared to argue and was told that I should stop playing the victim and that I was full of hatred.

To thine own self be true.

Block and unfriend.

I have never felt myself to be a victim of anyone or anything. My Mum taught me to stand up for myself and the things that matter to me.

There have been times in my life when the strength of opposition has been huge – but never totally overwhelming – due largely to the support of my husband, friends and family.

I don’t hate anyone or anything – except maybe spiders. And Brussels’ sprouts.

To hate you have to want to kill – it takes quite an effort for me to exterminate a spider so I couldn’t kill a fellow human being however repellent their behaviour is. I certainly don’t hate anyone just because we see things differently.

The current Labour situation angers me. I despise bullying and the abuse of power. Liars and arrogant politicians who ignore their electorate are equally despicable.

The behaviour of certain Labour MPs, the Parliamentary Labour Party  and Labour NEC goes beyond despicable.

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t bitch about his fellow MPs or about the opposition. It drives them mad and they do their best to goad him into a response that can be spread around the media like wildfire.

I’m back on Twitter.

I joined Labour to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC changed the rules.

I joined Unite so I could vote as an affiliated member and vote for Jeremy Corbyn.  Labour NEC changed the rules. I will stay with Unite though, I like their policies.

I joined Labour as a registered member and paid my twenty-five quid so that I could vote for Jeremy Corbyn. Labour NEC set a timescale of forty-eight hours to register and used a woefully inadequate website that constantly crashed due to the huge numbers of people trying to register.

It took me eight goes but I got through in the end and I have the email to prove it.

Many of the people who became registered voters are on low incomes and are having to go without to pay their twenty-five quids.

I feel humbled by those who have made this sacrifice in order to see that justice is done.

A nice woman set up a crowdfunding site to for those who couldn’t afford it. She raised over fourteen thousand pounds but the NEC have told her that she has to shut it down because it is ‘buying’ memberships and against the rules.

Not sure how you can buy memberships for people who have already joined the Labour party but needed to stump up and extra twenty-five quid in order to vote.

I have learnt much from Twitter.

I have learnt that it is better to block than to bicker with people who are out to cause trouble. Using the ‘Mute’ option on Twitter is also very satisfying.

I now know the truth about the Blairites who are doing their damnedest to distract people from the Chilcot Report – and who are behind the whole ‘get rid of Jeremy Corbyn‘ campaign because they know that he will not defend the part they played in the Iraq war.

I have witnessed the arrogance of people who spread lies about death threats, bricks through windows, homophobia and anti-semitism – without realising that they will get found out in the end.

The media (most of which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch) has forgotten the meaning of impartial reporting – especially the BBC.

The total lack of compassion shown by those who will vote for nuclear missiles that cost billions of pounds but jeer at the poor and the disabled.

I hope that Jeremy Corbyn overcomes the obstacles; that he remains leader of the  Labour party, that the NEC and PLP finally realise that it is the members that they answer to – not to the media, big business or Blair and his acolytes.

I hope that those who choose to support Jeremy Corbyn have the opportunity to serve their constituents well. There are many more bright stars waiting in the wings.

Jeremy Corbyn is an honest man; a man of integrity, a rare thing in a world of lies and political spin.

To thine own self be true.

 

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