At the risk of being a bit nostalgic, I downloaded an old album I used to own back in the 80’s (just) – Streetfighting years by Simple Minds. There’s a song on there that just hit a nerve with me, its called Soul crying out
This album came out in 1989. I have been noticing some trends recently at work, and in my personal life that take me right back there. So why blog about it ?
As austerity bites, I have been shocked at how many people I see day to day who are absolutely in the gutter. I’m not talking sowetto poor, but its a disgrace of our age.
I’m not even talking about our criminal friends – I’ve noticed perfectly decent people, who have been victims of crime, say they have had property damaged or stolen – they are beside themselves as they cant afford to replace things. There has been a sharp spike in first time shoplifters too – normally honest folk who have become so desperate that they have had to steal food. Yes, food. Not luxury goods.
The connection to the song I’ve linked to is this – its a protest song, from a protest album. Soul Crying out is about the introduction of the famous ‘poll tax’ and how it hit the poor the hardest. As a teenager in work, I was hammered by the poll tax. I lived at home and suddenly my guardian went from paying rates to the poll tax (an increase) and just to make it fair, they taxed me the same amount as well. Our household outgoings doubled overnight.
When you earn £50 a week thats not a slap in the face, its a hammer blow.
There was no recourse, no appeal, no internet to gather support, nothing. Some went on to riot in London – All I had was a little salvation in my music. Despite working all my life, I’ve never had a well paid job. As a police Sgt I finally managed to push my earnings up a bit, however even that has now been slashed to bits thanks to the ‘independent’ Winsor report on policing.
I have pointed out huge similarities between the 80’s and now – People are poor again, savage cuts to all public sector jobs and services. Privatisation, Belfast in flames, the world concerned over Mandela, the hot/cold weather, Hillsborough, The miners strike, teachers strikes over pay and pensions.
There is a stunningly chilling lyric on the song ;
‘I feel them coming
So close behind
Sister says, we’re next in line
The man he says, that’s OK
And the Government says you’re gonna pay, pay, pay
And you pay
Still you pay’
All around me I see people struggling with the bedroom tax, and cuts to benefits, the cost of living – its heartbreaking, but familiar. I last felt it in 1989.