Tory individualism and lack of community care breed a toxic mentality in the people. I know this because I’m one of them, and so are you. It’s time to actually do something about it.
Without fail, every single time Just Stop Oil or Extinction Rebellion pulls another (soon-to-be-prosecuted) stunt, I am impressed. I don’t particularly care about traffic jams or interrupted snooker matched. But taking action about the climate crisis – I should be backing them, right? I should be joining them.
But here I am, not doing that. Because if I got prosecuted, I could lose my job. If I lost my job, I wouldn’t survive in this fucking economy, and if I’m not around to see the world burn then surely I should just mind my business and live out my days with what I’ve got.
But (thankfully), everyone isn’t me. People like NHS staff, working a priceless job for shite wages, presumably due to some belief in the future, shut down this argument. It’s a radical act to care for your community under a government that dares you not to.
Still, healthcare workers are moving to the private sector. Despite the government’s “hero” rhetoric, they are not actually angels, but people who need enough money to live. The individualist, ‘up by the bootstraps’ values that this government goes absolutely bonkers for force these doctors to consider the foundation their future is built on. They want to enable free healthcare for people, of course. But at the cost of their pensions, safe retirement, and kids’ opportunities? No one would risk that.
That survival mentality that we all seem to have doesn’t just make you work to keep your stability. It makes you put that supposed stability before everything else, which indicates a massive problem. It has a trickle-down effect, from the very top of government to – well, whatever the opposite of that is. And the victims are those who now lack essential community care.
I saw a man this week, wheelchair-bound, missing a leg, and visibly unwell on the pavement. Literally on the pavement too, trying to pull himself up onto an electric wheelchair that seemed not to be working. I thought about not doing anything – since he’d probably be fine right? See, that shitty individualism in action – then asked if he needed a hand.
It quickly became apparent that he could not communicate verbally, so I went for closed questions – “Do you need me to pick you up?” to which he shook his head. “Do you want me to wait here?”, and he nodded.
While I was waiting, I stood back on a nearby railing in case me standing right over him was causing him stress. To an onlooker, he looked alone, and I watched five people walk past him. One looked at him with pity, which was about as helpful as looking at someone ever is.
After he was back in his wheelchair, he nodded when I asked if I should push him. I pointed to the entrance to a block of flats about ten metres away. He nodded that he lived there. I was quickly humbled at not being able to move a broken electric wheelchair with an adult man in it, so tried to get some help. The first person who passed, headphones on, looked at me but quickly cast his eyes down.
The second agreed to help, pushed him just inside the door, and then left, saying he was happy to trust the security guards to help. In an ideal world, I would have felt the same way, but he proved my pessimism right. Yippee.
I have a back-and-forth conversation with the people on the desk, who must have been security or admin. The highlight of which was me asking if they had a lift he could get to, and one shrugging and saying, “It’s not our responsibility to help him.”
Arguing with two male strangers, in a place I don’t know, about a person I don’t know and couldn’t communicate with, was surprisingly not a situation I knew how to handle. In the confusion, the man climbed down to the ground.
Balanced on his hands, which were covered in broken grazes and callouses, he dragged himself through the second set of doors. I watched in disbelief and asked the two men if they would do anything at all.
One of them shook his head. He said, like I was a complete idiot for even suggesting it, “They should know not to go that far.”
The shampoo on the wheelchair suggested he had gone 50 metres to the shop.
I looked at the walls in the security lobby, where a pinboard notice confirmed the tower block was social housing. Third time lucky, I asked if someone would call his social worker.
He shook his head.
As I turned to walk out, I saw a CCTV feed above the door. It pointed exactly at where the man had been hunched over on the concrete.
The two men had been watching and, much like everyone, did fuck all.
Outside, I called the council to ask someone to check on him. The woman on the phone said she would check he got to his room, but without his name wouldn’t be able to do much.
Bizarre, since she knew his room number and name of the block, but, at least she was going to try and help. In any sane society, that would have happened already when staff instead watched him struggling on the CCTV for god knows how long.
My point being, a caring, community-focused society seems like an absolute pipe dream in this political climate. Not at the fault of individuals necessarily, but because of the mentality we’ve all been forced into. The same mentality that makes people with stable-ish lives feel comfortable sitting back and letting everyone else try to save the entire planet.
The UK’s welfare state – benefits, pensions, the NHS, social support, education, and just about everything that decent leaders should look after – is fucked. It is the foundation that so many people’s well-being relies on, and the government has been chipping away at it for years with only a minority telling them to stop.
A socialist government (yeah, dream on, I know) that provides livable wages, less-than-horrific working conditions, and a welfare state that protects everyone in the country from cradle to grave would free us from this depressing survival mentality the collective has at the minute.
Evolutionarily, if your survival is at risk, you don’t have the capacity to think about anything else. You take away the safety net, and good people stop being able to do good things. To build a society that lets us be good is not too much to ask.