It took a long time for me to get to sleep last night. That’s not unusual. I have a fizzy brain that gets particularly loud when the lights go off. But instead of churning over personal worries or the plot of my current work in progress, I was lying awake worrying about the fact that a man has the power to dictate which books are studied – and more importantly NOT studied – by children in UK schools.
I don’t need to say that one of the texts he is removing from the syllabus is one of the most important books of the 20th century about racism and bigotry told from a child’s perspective, do I? Because it’s so fucking obvious, given the state of things, that a government run by wealthy, privileged white men would want to stop kids reading a book like that.
But I’m getting angry again. Back to last night.
I lay there wondering how it could be that one over-privileged man belonging to a political party that the vast majority of the people in this country did not vote for (either by not voting at all or voting for another party) could dictate what should and shouldn’t be read in schools.
Then I wondered if he really does have that power. The media certainly portrays it that way but is there in fact a committee that makes this kind of policy and he is the sap that stands up and takes the abuse/credit for it? Is this the work of lobbyists – or considering this government, one of their rich mates – saying “Hey, Govey boy, I own the company that owns the rights to these British works. If you change the syllabus, we make more money.”
Then I realised the only thing I could be sure of in all of this is: I don’t know. And that worried me.
This morning I woke up to an overwhelmingly disappointing set of European election results. A feature on BBC news that I tuned in to watch was bumped last minute. The item bumped: Matt Haig talking about how idiotic Gove’s new curriculum is. What it was replaced by: A “journalist” walking around a car boot sale in Worksop asking members of the public about the European election results. That is not news. It is not journalism. And it is certainly not higher priority than a hugely successful writer challenging Government education policy.
But I digress. I felt more than depressed by the successes of the far right, I felt frightened. Surely this sort of bullshit couldn’t happen in 2014? Did no-one remember anything from recent history?
But of course, it’s not that simple. And whilst the temptation is to launch into a tirade against the media, I won’t. Because one woman writing about that on a little blog is not going to achieve anything.
I didn’t want to face a day in a country where right-wing idiots receive the lion’s share of coverage by the BBC. I don’t want to live in a country where rich people have managed to tap into the ignorance and fears of a public unwilling to question the shit being fed to them on the media spoon. I don’t want to consume a broader narrative focused on irrelevancies such as the size of some celebrity’s arse instead of the underlying causes of the mess we’re in.
But I also didn’t feel comfortable with switching it all off and spending the day with my family with bursts of writing in between. It felt wrong to run off to a fantastical world of my making.
I realised I was at a crossroads. I could either ignore this for my own emotional wellbeing or I could do something.
It’s been a long, long time since I believed I could have any impact by voting. Actually, I don’t think I ever really have. But I have voted every single time because women fought so hard for that right. Who am I to squander the rights they earned for me?
Then it occurred to me that I live in country with a political system that feels so totally borked and corrupt and distant from my everyday life but which is also a country where nothing is stopping me from participating. I can join a political party. I have the right to do that. And the only things stopping me from being active in that party (assuming I find one I feel I can support) are my energy levels, my priorities and my need to earn money. People have died – are dying – right now, fighting for that very right to participate and I was there, reading Twitter, feeling upset.
I made a commitment today to research the two parties I think align with my personal political opinions. I’m going to join one of them. Being anxiety prone, conflict averse and very stressed about money, I’m uncertain how far I will be able to participate. But I’m going to do all I can. If only to answer the question I can’t stop asking myself:
What if all the people who feel as disillusioned with politics and mass media as I do actually stepped up and entered the system to change it?