And part of me feels a little silly for letting it get to me that much. But then I remembered, politicians make decisions that affect our daily lives; much as people love to say ‘don’t bring politics into this’ the truth is politics affects our daily existence and tonight, it all got a bit too much.
Tonight, as I do at the end of most days, I was in a time of contemplative prayer and I prayed for a Government U-Turn. Not a usual feature of my prayer list, it has to be said, but this evening 322 people who are meant to work for the collective benefit of the people of this country voted down a motion to provide free school meals to over 1 million children for the school holidays and as I prayed my mind wandered to thinking about this in more detail and in the end emotions got the better of me.
I cried because I am tired, frustrated and angry at the myriad of strange decisions that the Government have been making over recent months, the confusing and incoherent way they have been handling the pandemic, the insistence of lying about everything and continuing to proceed with those lies even when they have been exposed, the refusal to listen to experts predictions on a range of topics and above all, the feeling that the government thinks I am monumentally thick and will just eat up their every word without question.
I am in no doubt at all that running a Country is hard, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do understand that people don’t want to be treated with the utter contempt that the current Government seem to have for anyone who isn’t part of the upper elite. I understand the need for honesty, especially in the most challenging times and the need to apologise for mistakes, something the Government is lacking at the moment and I feel that people would be a lot more understanding of their decisions if we were given clear, honest information as to why those decisions were being made and sincere apologies when they got decisions wrong.
I am under no illusions that I would have the knowledge and skill to lead me to do a better job, but that doesn’t take away my ability to ask questions, to demand clarity and integrity from the people who represent me and to demand better when they are doing a bad job. As someone on Twitter said the other day, I’m not great at making my own pizza, but that doesn’t take away my right to demand better of Dominos if they do a bad job of it, since their main aim is to make good pizza.
As well as feeling tired, frustrated and angry, I am feeling very overwhelmed by the sense of hopelessness and helplessness in all of this. I don’t feel like there is much I can do to try and change the situation, and not because I don’t want to. I vote whenever we have elections, I sign petitions when I can, I donate to organisations and causes when I can and volunteer/get involved where I can too. I am not saying this to portray myself as a model citizen, but to show that I am trying to do my bit but feeling like that’s not making any impact.
The next logical step would be going into the world of politics to try and make a boots on the ground difference, but I am going to be totally honest, I possess none of the skills of being a good politician and skin as thin as clingfilm. Two minutes being told unkind things by people and I would be a crying puddle on the floor, much as I would like to be able to lead from the front and stand up for what I believe in, I would not be any good, and I am happy to accept that slightly crushing reality.
Having said that, and also accepting I am just one person in a sea of millions, I am not special, I am not asking for things to be handed to me on a plate, I do matter and my voice and actions should be able to make an impact. I will always vote, it’s an important right that I have and one of the few chances I get to even try and enact change, but since I have never yet been on the winning side of a vote, it is hard to keep having faith that the ballot box is where I make my biggest impact.
In two weeks time, I have to teach 24 young girls that voting is important as part of UK Parliament Week t Brownies, but right now, I feel like I will be a fraud, because never yet has voting really got me anywhere (except the one time my favourite Country singer won an award I voted in, but somehow that doesn’t really help my feelings here).
I am not sure how to tell them that voting is important with integrity and honesty, when at the moment it feels like nothing of the sort. As part of that same role, I am teaching these girls to be good citizens, to help those around them, to lead by example and to always look out for others who are less fortunate, but again, it is hard to do this when the people who are meant to do this on behalf of the nation don’t do so.
It’s hard not to feel how I am when a Government has just denied children food during the holidays. And I am fully aware that, as the Government says ‘it is not a school’s responsibility to feed children’ but saying it out loud doesn’t magically stop it from being the reality for thousands of families. Their tired, peddled out and narrow-minded view of reality that parents should always be able to support their children, no exceptions, doesn’t ever take into account the myriad of reasons why parents aren’t able to do so.
Yes, there will be the ones they like to scapegoat, the ones who don’t work and rely on Government subsidies etc., I cannot deny that, but even in that situation, that is not the fault of the child, nor has it ever been. Since the free school meals are only for the child, trying to use this as a way to penalise those parents doesn’t work because it’s the child losing out in this situation. Even if this wasn’t the case, it’s been proven time and again that an attitude of penalising and punishing doesn’t produce the long term, sustainable changes that people need to make to break that cycle. Compassion, help and unwavering, non-judgmental support is what breaks the cycle and at the moment, there are very few places where people can get that support if they need it.
And anyway, the vast majority of these children come from families that are either out of work due to economic downturn or are from low income families who are trying their hardest to provide and just aren’t able to make low wages stretch across ever increasing costs of living. Their parents aren’t the layabouts the Government tries to convince us to believe, they are hard working individuals who are trying their best, and they don’t deserve the contempt and vilifying they are receiving from people who are meant to work to help them, and from those who are supporting this Government’s view of these people. They don’t deserve this and neither do the children who it directly affects.
It makes me mad that some people can stand there in Parliament, spouting this outdated, untrue and hurtful rhetoric, telling us there is no money available for such a scheme, whilst handing out millions and millions of pounds worth of contracts in untendered, underhand processes to dubious companies owned by people who have probably never, or possibly not for a long time had to worry about where their next meal is coming from, because they are already members of the top few %, earning more money in a month that most people earn in a year.
And I think that’s what led to my tears of frustration, the imbalance, the corruption and the greed. I would be sad that these children are going unfed if not having enough money as a country to support such a scheme was true, but if there is so much money that can be given to underhand companies, saying there isn’t money for the scheme is just another lie that the Government expect me (and everyone else) not to see through. And it’s that expectation to just going along with their lies, to never question them and to be accepting of that situation that frustrates me most. I’m not embarrassed about crying over this, I cry when I’m frustrated and with everything going on in the political climate at the moment it is a frustrating time, but if I wasn’t frustrated, I would be apathetic and ambivalent to what’s going on around me, which is just a selfish and insular attitude to my fellow citizens and something I will never support.
And although I really feel like there is no way to make a difference in the political landscape, there are ways we can help those who are being so badly let down by our Government. We shouldn’t have to, but again saying we shouldn’t have to doesn’t change the reality of the situation, so if you have anything spare at the moment, I urge you to donate to your local foodbank, or the Trussell Trust who run a network of foodbanks across the country who will be busier in the next week or so as October half term looms.