pine: picture of big pine tree in California vineyard (Default)
pine ([personal profile] pine) wrote2010-05-05 11:06 am

Read if you're Brit - or US or Canadian or, well, anybody!

Fandom is political. Fandom is international. And politics are international: what happens in each country very much tends to follow the "trends." For all these reasons I urge you to read a UK fan's comments below on their upcoming elections. It happens here too. It happens everywhere.

Consider what privatizing society - taking away public goods so that only wealthy and powerful groups have access - has to do with "net neutrality." How secure is our fannish freedom to say and write and be who we want online? Only as secure as our voices are heard; our votes and opinions must be counted. Do you want Tory-style governments handing over big chunks of the internet to rich commercial customers only? (Think LJ. 6A. Youtube take-downs.) It's not just public parks and women's shelters such governments close down and destroy.

The scene: Britain. The crisis: freedom. Read on:


Of course, we have to hope.
[A signal-boost from Yonmei, c/p by permission; feel free to comment at her journal]

So I hope. That despite everything, we won't end up back in Tory Britain again.

Obviously, there's the pond of homophobia and transphobia lurking under the happy smiling of-course-we-like-LGBT-people face. But that we know: I don't think many LGBT people are likely to be fooled by the Tories.

Johann Hari points out that we can already see what Cameron's vision of "Big Society" looks like in real life: a Conservative council was elected in Hammersmith and Fulham, a model for Conservative government, says George Osborne, who wants to be Chancellor on Friday: they immediately sold off 12 homeless shelters, handing them to large property developers.

The horrified charity Crisis was offered premises by the BBC to house the abandoned in a shelter over the Christmas period at least. The council refused permission. They said the homeless were a "law and order issue", and a shelter would attract undesirables to the area. With this in mind, they changed the rules so that the homeless had to "prove" to a sceptical bureaucracy that they had nowhere else to go – and if they failed, they were turned away. ..... A young woman – let's called her Jane Phillips, because she wants to remain anonymous – turned up at the council's emergency housing office one night, sobbing and shaking. She was eight months pregnant. She explained she was being beaten up by her boyfriend and had finally fled because she was frightened for her unborn child. The council said they would "investigate" her situation to find "proof of homelessness" – but she told them she had nowhere to go while they carried it out. By law, they were required to provide her with emergency shelter. They refused. They suggested she try to find a flat on the private market.

Eight months pregnant, beaten, and terrified, she ended up sleeping in a park for four nights. That's what David Cameron regards as a model of good governance, and I know that I'm preaching to the converted: but that's what the Tories mean when they talk about "Big Society" and people "taking responsibility". They mean that people with a disability so severe they need 24/7 care should start paying the bills - £12.50 per hour. (You do the math. I'll cry.) [US $18.90/hour] And any disabled person assessed as having only 'lower moderate' needs would be totally cut off. Leave people who could have some quality of life with help, rotting abandoned in their homes, if that saves the rich some money.

When I was visiting London in the 1980s, at the height of Tory Britain, I just got used to the plain fact that you'd pass a teenager huddled under a blanket anywhere that was a good begging spot: kids almost my age, who had left home and found that Thatcher's pro-family policies meant they'd get no help at all from any of the agencies supposed to provide for those in need. Over 16, they were legally allowed to leave home: under 18, they weren't entitled to claim benefits of any description. There were so many of them, and I had so little money myself, I used to make formal awkward rules that I would give what I could spare to the first one I passed on any given day, and try not to feel too awful about the next one, and the next, and the next.

It's not just the children who are homeless: There's kids who have homes, but need youth clubs and parks:

Castle Youth Club. It was built in Dickens' time and bequeathed to the local council "to benefit the children of this area for perpetuity". The Conservatives shut it down two years ago to sell it off. The deal fell through, so now it sits empty while the local kids hang around on the streets outside.

Hurlingham Park was a big vibrant patch of green where kids from the local estates could play, and run on one of the few professional running tracks in the country, in a setting so classically beautiful it was used in the film Chariots of Fire. But then the Conservatives were elected. They handed the park over to a large international polo consortium that has ripped out the running track and shut the park down for a month every year – so rich people can watch polo for hundreds of pounds a day. ..... Nick Anderton, a 17-year-old from the local estate. He stares at it sadly and says: "The park is meant to be for everyone, isn't it? But we have to stop our football now so they can get it ready so these people can play polo, and we won't be able to use it for most of the summer ... My friend used to run on the track every day, he wants to be an athlete, but they got rid of it so he can't now ... It feels like we don't have the right to be here any more.


To benefit the children of this area for perpetuity.

Or until a Tory government comes along.


Send this to someone you know in Britain. Remember it for the next election, wherever you are! This signal-boost is of a post by Yonmei, c/p with her permission; feel free to comment at her journal.

ETA to fix html error mistakenly ascribing a ¶ of Yonmei's words to Hari. *facepalm*