I am now officially retired and although I have been sickness retired for some years now, I am experiencing high levels of what is called cognitive dissonance – “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.”
Reflecting on my life, I feel my generation was arguably one of the most fortunate generations in history. Born in 1951, I emerged, all unsuspecting, into an emerging cultural revolution, one that, in my teens, I was to grab onto like a drowning lad needing air.
I was educated in a Secondary Modern school which was essentially a school that generated factory fodder and my personal experience was that I felt, as a 16 year old teenager, I was sucked into a yawning pit of alienation and despondency in which I saw, for the first time, my life spread before me with all the glamour and attraction of a tomb. I was, to say the least, not a happy bunny.
Documentarian Matt Wolf described teenagers as ‘a “wartime invention.” They chose to define themselves, rather than let adults do it for them.’
Nothing represented that more than the emergence (cultural explosion), in the 60s, of Hippies, a youth revolution, music revolution and drug revolution all rolled into one and encapsulated by Timothy Leary, talking to a ‘Human Be-In, a gathering of 30,000 hippies in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco’, as, ” “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
Naturally, in the small, greater London, leafy suburb of Eastcote, it was a little more restrained, but, thank goodness, a revolution, none the less, and I was in it, and smoked my first joint at 14 (far out!). So far out, in fact, that I once had the inspired idea of hiding my meagre dope stash in our cutlery drawer at home, thus creating a situation in which ‘mother’ and ballistic’ neatly fitted in the same sentence. I don’t recall, but I really hope, I was stoned when I did that, it makes the ‘stupid’ easier to swallow.
Looking back it is clear, now, that what the cultural revolution created, ideologically and in reality, was choice. The post Victorian world my mother grew up in was dying, the duties she inherited and which dominated her life were being challenged by a generation growing up in a world for which her generation paid a horrific price to win for us, in which liberty and freedom and choice were real, tangible, life experiences, even whilst, inevitably, poorly understood, chaotically explored and hedonistically enjoyed. And how not, nothing like it had ever happened before?
My personal reality was that I was probably more than half insane. I didn’t get it at the time, my understanding of anything could have been comfortably written on the point of a pin in large handwriting, but I was in it, half swimming, half drowning, in an ocean of music, which dominated everything.
I was in a band for a time, and we were perhaps not as rubbish as I recall, because everyone was rocking, getting high, and even, on one occasion, destroying my cherished 30 watt Selmer Amp when someone literally dived head first into it, completely off his face.
I wandered for years and gravitated into community and youth work, driven by the desire for a meaningful existence. I had my first, personal, understood, thought at 33, in my first year as a mature student at Durham University when I realised that the Sun Newspaper had a political agenda. It was the first time the light of understanding had switched on in my life, and it took more than a year to have my next eureka moment, but they increased slowly until they became a veritable flood and nothing before or since has given me the same pleasure as the joy of understanding.
The years since, from Thatcher onwards, have seen us going backwards, slowly but steadily unravelling the gains of ordinary people, in work and leisure. Thatcher declared war on working class people, and in Britain, for me, two events stand out above all others, the destruction of the miners and the Unions and the Battle of the Beanfield, Thatcher, as Andy Worthington, writer, investigative journalist and commentator, put it, “metaphorically, razed the country to the ground like a medieval conqueror.”
New Labour and Tony Blair, Thatchers child, were not all bad and saw the greatest fall in death rates in UK history, now rising again under the Conservatives, but Iraq was ultimately his undoing when he climbed in bed with George Bush and launched the supreme crime of a war of aggression against Iraq that continues to this day.
However, no one, but no one, could ever have predicted the devastation that has been inflicted upon us since 2010 from Cameron’s coalition with the treacherous Liberal Democrats to the mayhem of Theresa May.
For me, reflecting on the 60’s and now, the Conservatives have ripped the soul out of Britain. What might have been my declining years of peaceful retirement, pursuing whatever interests might take my fancy, are dominated by a new war, without mercy, The War on the Poor. Relentless, inexcusable, brutally vicious, malicious and vindictively sadistic, the Britain I was born into, the first generation to enjoy universal healthcare under the towering post war achievement of the NHS, is being culturally and economically destroyed for ordinary people, as we face the biggest rise in death rates (a genocide) since WWII.
And that cognitive dissonance I mentioned. I do not resent the years I have spent opposing the Conservatives for a moment, but inside, internally, I struggle with gob smacked disbelief that this could ever have happened to the Britain I grew up in. I see it, I believe it, I have written extensively about it and continue to bitterly oppose it, but really, what kind of inhuman bastards could ever do such a thing to us or congratulate themselves and consider it right and their right to do so?
That’s where words fail but determination must never fail, until every last one of them is gone and we bury them in the memory book of history, never to darken our lives ever again. Maybe that is wishful thinking, we, humans, are very good at repeating our mistakes, but right now, the Conservatives must go for all our sakes, that is carved in stone in my heart and I hope I live to see the day, and even if I don’t, I will never give up the fight.
KOG. 05 February 2018.