I grew up in a working-class Tory household where political activity involved simply putting a cross in the ‘right’ square at election time. That changed when, in the late 50s, I met the young man who later became my husband – a Young Socialist who had just returned from an Aldermaston march. I loved the excitement of heated political discussions late into the night and the celebration of an occasional Labour victory.
Apolitical in my middle years
In my childrearing years, when Harold MacMillan was claiming, ‘We’ve never had it so good’, political activity wasn’t on my agenda. However, as I reached middle age, I looked on aghast as a political tsunami hit the UK: Margaret Thatcher and her neoliberal programme of privatisation.
Neoliberals, Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, sold us the idea of free-market capitalism, that everything should be left to individual entrepreneurs who will create wealth which will trickle down to the general population.
Many people see the absence of government interference or regulation as the best way of harnessing our energies, creativity and enterprise to deliver a good life for all. However, its critics see many of our modern-day ills as resulting from its emphasis on short term financial speculation, opposition to taxes and regulation, total disregard of the environment and its focus on profit instead of value for money.
Reasons for political activism
It was Thatcher’s legacy which drove me back into political activity in my later years because its promise that the UK would become a ‘home-owning, share-owning democracy’ had fallen far short of delivering for the whole population:
Many of our train, energy and water companies are now owned by overseas corporations and foreign governments, who make massive profits and whose interests and priorities often do not favour UK citizens.
Our water supply is in the hands of billionaires, banks and foreign governments. Recent headlines reported that Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and waste water company, was close to collapse and turning to the government for help. That’s alongside aggressive cost-cutting, huge dividend payments and underinvestment in the infrastructure.
Right to buy
Poor old ‘Sid’, the ordinary working man to whom Thatcher offered so much, didn’t do too well when it comes to home-ownership either. By 2023, almost half of the former Council houses were in the hands of private landlords who must be feeling pretty chuffed as they anticipate even more profits to be made now that the government has promised to extend the Right to Buy scheme to Housing Associations.
The trickle down lie
Thatcher’s privatisation has become a cash cow for the wealthy. It is undermining our democracy: billionaire-owned mainstream media tells us largely what to think; property developers and fossil fuel tycoons, donors to the governing Conservative Party, expect a return on their money.
As I approached my eighties, the king of all worries hit me. Scientists almost unanimously warn us that unless we bring about change very urgently my children and grandchildren, your children and grandchildren will not have a future.
Planet Earth will become too hot to sustain human life. We, as a species, will become extinct!
Why is the government not responding?
I believe that change isn’t happening for a variety of reasons:
- Wealthy interests are working hard to maintain the status quo.
- Our primitive human psyche is wired to see danger close at hand but is less tuned into dangers far away.
- Since ancient times, fear has been used as a weapon of control. Modern day mass media, largely owned by those with a financial interest in ‘business as usual’, constantly feed us the bleakest of stories which tend to make us to feel powerless.
- In his book, The New Climate War, Michael Mann describes how fossil fuel magnates have given up on global warming denial and are now spreading ‘an array of powerful Ds: Disinformation, deceit, divisiveness, deflection, delay, despair-mongering and doomism.’
We can achieve a sustainable future
Environmental groups have had many much-needed successes but have not brought about the systemic change which we need if humanity is to have a future on planet Earth. To bring us to a sustainable future we need action on many fronts:
In my locality I’ve been involved in the Friends of the Earth Greening the Streets campaign and I’ve launched my own ‘Keep your front garden wildlife friendly campaign’.
And, in my eighty-third year, I joined in Extinction Rebellion’s BIG ONE which was attended by more than 60,000 people in London earlier this year and I’m regularly taking to the streets in protest, sharing my views on social media and writing many a letter to the papers.
Many activists and writers see Active Hope as an essential step towards taking the action which will take us to a sustainable future. I find hope from the people I meet at protests and with whom I’m in contact on social media. In spite of the gloom and doom spread by mainstream media, I’ve found that there is a worldwide groundswell of protest and action demanding change. Fortunately, there are many success stories to be told!