The country I was born in has changed over recent years. It was an essentially kind, caring society. Tolerant and respectful, I have enjoyed the diversity and multiculturalism of our towns and cities, the national institutions such as the National Health Service which care for us all at a time of need, regardless of our income or ability to pay. The care and consideration shown within communities where we work and play alongside each other without judgement or fear. This may be an idealised view of life in the UK but it has largely been my experience over 50 + years.
Recently, political will has been eroding this human centred, caring ethos. Picking up the baton from Margaret Thatcher’s dehumanising work of the 80’s, Theresa May whilst serving in the Home Office slashed Police budgets and implemented a culture of hostility towards immigration which sowed the seeds for increased racism and division within our country. She went on to become an unelected Prime Minister, only to cede the way to an even more extreme right-wing version of the Tory party under Boris Johnson who spouts an ever more toxic rhetoric which even some of the party faithful find offensive.
It is no surprise to me then that I now inhabit a country which witnesses increases in hate speech, legitimised as it has been by such leaders. These individuals pretend that they do not contribute to our deteriorating anti-social ethos, they feign disbelief and trivialise reports of violent threats made to their colleagues in Parliament:
Meanwhile they have enacted over recent years a steady increase of fund raising activities to support their own agenda. University employees are regularly invited by email to participate in “Westminster Briefings” on the promise of gaining inside information on topics of concern. These are costly affairs and divert much needed financial support from our institutions. Surely if the information is so helpful and important is should be freely available? My colleagues working in HEIs and elsewhere who happen to have been born in other European countries have found themselves victims of another cash scandal – parting with their hard earned pay in order to keep their family and jobs in the UK . Such unexpected payment is not demanded of their equivalents living in other EU countries. The plot to monetise the UK has crept into every aspect of the this government’s agenda. Today I read that the UK has sold more “golden visas” this year, indeed the highest number since 2014. It seems the UK is for sale to the highest bidders, aided by the crashing pound.
This faith in capitalism is something that should be called out. If accumulation of capital is all that matters then we look to the US, long time believer in market forces, for how that principle creates a stable, fair and healthy society. It clearly doesn’t. Those who strive for unregulated capitalism want to increase their own personal gain and have no care for the plight of others. Shrinking the state by selling off state education and health systems just leaves more money for the wealthy and less choice for the rest. Does this man look bothered?
So what do we value? Where are our priorities? Economic priorities, although important, are NOT I would argue the most important in our human lives. Not even close. Talk of “value for money” needs to be replaced with talk of values.