It feels like a long time ago, that election. It was (here on the Isle of Thanet) a frantic, hard and furious time. Everyone was getting stuck in, on one side or the other. Insults were hurled and punches were thrown.
And coming out of it, I started thinking about what we do next. Yes, our democracy is well and truly buggered, but it’s the democracy we chose. We really can’t argue.
So I called for a British Resistance. We’re in an occupied country, with a government most of us didn’t vote for, doing things most of us don’t agree with. The French Resistance knew what to do, a network of groups building systems that lived in but under a society occupied by the German Army. The Home Guard Auxiliary Units were ready to do the same.
Now it’s our turn. So we need to go underground in plain sight, get ready and support each other while we chalk V for Victory on walls. With the threats to free speech this government are proposing, chalk on walls might be all we have that’s safe, free and untapped. The morse for V is dot dot dot dash and the hashtag’s #dotdotdotdash. It’s the opening of beethoven’s Fifth, too, of course – ‘duh-duh-duh-duuur’. So use it as a reminder, use it as a shibboleth, use it as your red line (and what happened to all of them, now we have a Conservative majority government?).
Find five, then ten, then twenty people you like and trust. Form a resistance cell. Share a pot of tea, break bread. Find small acts. Don’t blow up bridges, cut down telegraph wires, dynamite roads. Use that energy to build new things, new ways to help each other, new structures to support others. Communicate with other cells. Don’t be angry. We’re all in this together. We really are.
#dotdotdotdash or V chalked on walls is a visible sign that we’re here and fighting back. Underneath that public statement, though, we have big things to do. We need to house each other, feed each other, clothe each other, help each other wherever and however we can. Every little bit helps, to borrow a phrase from the occupiers.
I grew up on a council estate in Worthing. I wasn’t poor; we didn’t have a particularly tragic upbringing, even though my mum left and my dad brought us up. Single parent family. We had a council house, so my dad could save and eventually buy it. We went to a childminder, before and after school, so he could work as a schoolteacher, a step up from his earlier job as a record store manager. We had a holiday every year, with PGL, so got to experience amazing things in beautiful places. We didn’t have a car, but lived in a town that was flat and easy to move around, so by the age of 12 I was cycling freely. We had a playing field behind the house, and fields and streams nearby at the foot of the South Downs (now housing, and offices – Southern Water’s HQ is on the stream where I caught Sticklebacks).
And we had a sense of place. I lived on the Maybridge Estate and in many ways, still do. In a society still as class-based as ours, growing up on a council estate means you know your place. It was a mark; people from the posher parts of town very much looked down on it. But we lived together, and I still have friends who grew up on the estate. I’m oddly proud of the ones that went to John Selden School with me and did well. No crab bucket, Maybridge, but something else entirely.
Mr Woods lived over the road from us. He’s a millionaire now, I believe, an early Lottery winner. But I remember one act of his that I think the British Resistance can copy. He was a binman. He’d collect all the tokens from cereal boxes on his rounds, and send off for the free toys. Enough for all of us in the street. So let’s start there.
Let’s collect all the tokens from cereal boxes, send off for the free stuff, and give it to people who can use it.
Let’s buy Two-For-One whenever we can, and bag the spares for redistribution.
Let’s find little ways to redistribute the ample wealth our society has, and make that the first act of our resistance.
Let’s use the skills and the spaces we have for the common good. If you can sew; help people patch their clothes well. If you can grow; share your crops. If you can teach; share your knowledge. If you can act or sing or dance; help people to keep smiling.
That belief in kindness, sharing and helping others is the only reason that the Welfare State was built, and it came out of a long period of austerity. Real austerity, born of a need to fight fascism, an austerity that continued because we helped the countries devastated by war to rebuild. Austerity as a proper sacrifice, not just for our own nation but to help the world become a safer, better, kinder place.
That’s of course very different to the austerity being forced on us now at the rough end of 35 years of Thatcherite hatred of helping others (the whole of my conscious life lived under one political ideology!).
So resist, redistribute, remember, and write V on walls.