Piety, as we all know, is a quality of being reverent. We usually associate it with religion. Etymologically, it comes from Latin and is related to dutifulness. It’s not often I’ve seen ideology in action. People coming to their front doors and clapping their hands and supporting the NHS. Our NHS and the support workers. Care workers and what we used to call auxiliaries. Only to find we’re all auxiliaries. A writer’s job (even a would-be writer) is when we look along the line of common humanity and listen to the cheering and the clapping to take a step back and shut our ears and look for the cross beams and the creaking of the gallows.
I’m not alone in remembering the vacant eyes and the Oxbridge braying of the Conservative elite when their backbenchers cheer when it’s announced that nurses that will not receive a pay rise. Or an invocation of the Thatcherite spirit, when the Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt branded junior doctors greedy because new contracts were even worse than the non-contracts they had — in which they agreed to work a squillion hours unpaid. Why now the halo of heroism for largest sector of the economy, largely female carers, where the minimum wage is the maximum wage and there’s no time for caring?
Humiliation after humiliation should be branded on our forehead like the tattooed numbers of the women in Auschwitz—work makes you free—those of us that dare to be poor and keep having the wrong kind of children – poor children.
We’ve retreated from politics, squabbled among ourselves and let our so called betters like Boris Johnson get on with it. After all Boris is one of us. He battered his girlfriend, the police were called, but he denied it. Got her pregnant and went on holiday when he should have been at work. Now he’s got the Covid-19 virus and is still working away in his bunker that will allow him to come away with more Winston Churchill quotes about us ‘all being in it together’.
When we’re clapping, we’re not clapping him, or his ilk. We’re clapping ourselves on the back. We’ve came through 30 years of Tory dogma and 10 years of bleeding austerity. It’s not just Covid-19 that makes us sick, but Tory promises fill us with a rich sense of foreboding. Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere. Boris recognised the business-as-usual model would lead to tens of thousands of—mainly old folk (with a higher proportion of men, for some unknown reason, unless god really is a woman)—and he rejected that model. The moron’s moron is quite willing to take that risk, but had to be pulled back from the brink of stupidity, which for him is as high as a three-year-old boy’s knees.
The business as usual model is based on taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. A increasingly widening gap between those that start their day in debt and those that finish the day in more debt and those that hold all the debts and all the cards and tell you to clap. That’s successful ideology for you, the sullen recognition you’ve been used. You’ve been dehumanised, treated as something that needs reined in. And you’ve embraced that choke collar as a necessary evil.
Keep clapping, but when the clapping stops, you’ll know what to expect. You’ll know who the enemy within will be. It’ll be you that’s being unreasonable. You that isn’t listening. You that need to be locked up. Keep clapping. But watch yourself. Look for the cross beam and listen for the creak of the gallows.