Politically, I should be a conservative. I grew up in a traditional middle class nuclear family. I was brought up to value and respect people and tradition. I have a sentimental attachment to a paternalistic society, whereby you learn about, then adopt the system you grow up with, following a broadly linear path. To work hard and be rewarded with a comfortable existence and a modicum of quality leisure time where people are free to do what they want, earning responsibility by conforming to a set of principles, then adapting those principles to the needs of the time and ones generation. This is essentially what is described as one-nation conservatism. That everyone lives in a society and everyone who is able to, should pull their weight and look after the rest of society, each individual has a responsibility to society in general. an analogy for this system is that of a train, everyone travels on the same train, as you mature you gain responsibility leading towards driving the train and ultimately managing the direction of the train.
When I was very little I enjoyed reading the Railway Series books of the Rev. W.V. Awdry, now popularly known as the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ books. The tales are essentially a classical analog of the idealised traditional one nation conservative British class system, the world of the author. The ‘troublesome’ trucks represent the working classes or proletariat. The passenger carriages represent middle class women, who are demure and subservient to the engines, the male middle classes, All paternalistically managed by the Fat Controller, representing the ruling class. The stories centre on the characters of the engines, each engine learning to control their personalities, with often strict control by the fat controller, to achieve the aim of becoming ‘really useful engines’, or conformed contributing members of society.
The thing is, I didn’t fit in, despite being male and middle class, I was an outsider. I tried to conform and do what I felt was expected of me, but I couldn’t force myself to be something that I wasn’t, I wasted so much time trying, feeling plastic and fake, so ‘failing’ to commit to the system as it wasn’t rewarding me and putting up barriers to the world, which made the attempt harder and harder to be happy, until I eventually stopped trying being this way, I decided to be me and do what I wanted to do, to trust myself and not be what ‘society’ wanted me to be. The system had failed me.
Except, really, the system hadn’t failed me, it had changed, radically. Conservatism changed and politically hasn’t been properly challenged, and I vehemently opposed this change from a young teenager. One nation conservatism dissappeared with the adoption by the Conservative party of monetarist capitalism by the Thatcher government at the time when I was becoming aware politically. I objected to it because it rejected the concept of society that I had grown up to believe in and one which continued to exist in Wales. Instead of working towards a fair egalitarian society, the concept of society was ditched in favour of a more individualistic model where each individual aims should be to maximise their individual wealth at the expense of the rest of society. An anathema to a close knit rural community, where people were always ready to muck in and help out those in need for nothing in return.
Of course the ruling classes required the support of the middle classes to make such changes. The middle classes were kept on board by the lie of expanding the middle class, the lie of ever increasing house prices so people felt that things were getting better (they weren’t as the cost of a home went up from three times average earnings in my parents time to ten times average earnings now), merely the market was distorted by restricting supply. By selling off the assets of the nation on the cheap, the nationalised monopoly industries, to the middle classes who could afford to buy the shares who could sell them for a tidy unearnt profit. Growing up in Wales, it was obvious that wealth and power were being drawn to the South East of England. Wales saw rising unemployment and social deprivation as my country went from being a net contributor to the UK economy, to a net beneficiary, requiring ‘handouts’ from central government to keep services running and benefits to the unemployed. I find this so sickening, It amazes me that people don’t see through the Tory party and still vote for them!
To me it seems that capitalism has failed. True markets, are a lot less common nowadays. By true markets I mean an industry growing through innovation and efficiency. New technologies enable things to be produced more efficiently and the work is organised better so each worker is more productive, an ‘organic’ natural system. Due to this growth less people are needed for production in any specific area and are thus freed to develop new arenas or work in the arts. Real world markets no longer function through real growth, they develop through exploitation, by making people pay more for the same product or a worsening service and this is achieved by the lie of selling the products as a lifestyle choice. Instead of making new products or improving old ones, Britain has become a nation of getting better at financial services, or getting better at selling rubbish. People in such a system no longer feel a sense of pride in their work in doing a good job. Such a system is surely doomed to collapse at some point. The costs of maintaining a high standard of living in Britain now require ever longer working hours to pay off ever more imposed debt. I object to it because it is anti-social. I don’t get a ‘thrill’ out of selling something to people that they don’t really want, and I have met many people in my generation who seem to enjoy this, because they are not selling to ‘people like them’. This is such a divisive force and against every principle I grew up with, I didn’t want to compromise.
Anyway, I have found myself and a way to be me and exist in such a society without ripping anyone off. i no longer am constrained by any perception of what I ‘should’ do. Doing this involved, ‘getting off the train’ (which was changing from ‘caring’ steam trains to modern ‘abominations’ of diesel and electric, or from traditional conservatism to neo-conservatism) and finding my own path. The freedom to do this is, for each individual to discover themselves is itself inefficient, but the only way for true individualism to continue and not be forced from the path by the corporate lie is to do this, but it is inefficient. This inefficiency in an overcrowded world of climate change challenges will not continue. We face growing older in a world where the quality of life is in decline. I wish I knew the solution, but I am working on it!