I used to believe in politics. I even joined a political party once - for a year, until the subscription ran out and it became 'The Liberal Democrats.' Today I'm a Fabian, and I like being one of those. Having my opinion heard and my vote count. Of no earthly use, of course. We Fabians are idealistic, we believe in causes whose time has both 'past' and 'not arrived' simultaneously. A 'Quantum Party'. I like that.
It's not a question of belief, you realise that, it's a question of Hope. Which well-meaning group of do-me-gooders will clear up whatever coloured mess (blue or red) that the last lot of do-me-gooders of the other persuasion left behind. Sit on the see-saw Tweeledum, and let's see what difference it makes.
None, of course. But that's OK, both ends of the spectrum have managed, through God knows what slice of good luck, despite indifferent management, to keep the wagons heading roughly west. I know this, because I have been a political animal since the sixties, and I have become riled and elated in turns: caught up in the eternal disappointment that awaits us if we think that Westminster, Washington or Brussels will make much of a difference to our lives. We soldier on. We become disillusioned. We opt out.
I am worried though, right now. I think the the Wagons are about to enter the Donner Pass, and some of us will only survive through devouring others.
(Sorry. That was a piece of self-indulgent metaphor-bending. I go too far.)
I thought we Brits would be OK because there was a consensus on both sides of the Rockies (Stop it! This is serious!) that whichever Party held power, the weakest and most vulnerable would be cared for.
Perhaps you think they are. Government ministers will quote you statistics that prove it. Trouble is, I see what they don't.
I have written appeals for really, really sick people who have had their benefit taken away by an agency doctor paid to do just that. I have listened to despair, unbelief, desperation...
I have served meals on a Monday to people who have eaten nothing all weekend because their benefit was stopped because they missed a pointless interview at a Job Centre that has no jobs, or because they failed to turn up at a Training Course because the public official at the Job Centre gave them the wrong time.
I wouldn't believe this if I hadn't experienced it, but it's true - our benefits system uses starvation as a tool to make the unconform-able conform. What else would you call it?
Nobody intends this. I don't believe for one minute that any mainstream politician would advocate or approve such a policy, but it's here. It happens.
Funnily enough, I'm not going to rant about it. ( I haven't have ? I - checks - No.) I'm thinking about how the unsolvable becomes manageable only when it becomes apolitical. We ALL have to think beyond our pet ideologies - as long, of course, that they don't embrace letting people who can't cope, go hungry.
I'm really going to have to stop there because I have no answers. When I do, you can be sure I'll let you know.