It amazes me how the ruling elite are always able to turn something beautiful and good into something ugly and nasty.
I can remember back in the early 80s, radical nurses and doctors had developed an idea that come to be known as ‘care in the community’.
It was a simply gorgeous notion, that rather than looking after mentally ill people in run down, dilapidated Victorian workhouses, that we called psychiatric hospitals – there was quite a large one of these in Prestwich – we could look after people in adapted houses staffed by mental heath professionals.
It must be said that psychiatric hospitals at that time were not pleasant places to be. Long sterile ‘wards’, I’ve deliberately used quotation marks, because one would naturally assume that a hospital ward would be a place of caring and healing.
Neither of these nouns could you use to describe Prestwich psychiatric hospital wards. And I was assured at the time, by people who worked and were the unfortunate patients of these places, that the conditions that occurred at Prestwich hospital were common throughout the country.
The dirty, peeling, off-white paint, the smell of piss, the oppressive cloying atmosphere heavy with sadness, making it difficult to breathe. Row upon row of dirty cream metal beds, shouts and screams. The agony of life, death wishing. The clang of key in lock. This is a hospital?
‘Care in the community’ was a caring response to this misery.
But we forgot the duplicity of the Tories. The Thatcherite care in the community was to dump hundreds of ill-equipped, desperate people into shoddy unkept houses, in streets where the neighbours were not consulted or involved in this process.
A beautiful idea was exploited by Thatcher to carry out a despicable piece of cost-cutting.
We are now involved in yet another crime of Tory fraudulence – volunteering.
Volunteering generally is done in good faith, to help people, to do something good for others. Although volunteering can be and has been used to undermine working class struggle, I’m thinking of scabs. But as a rule people have got their hearts in the right places.
FC United of Manchester is held up as a fantastic example of volunteering. Our club is a co-operative with helping our Manchester community at its heart. Our volunteers work in schools, care centres and with individuals, as well as running our wonderful club.
On home match days, we do everything ourselves, from collecting the gate money, taking delivery of drinks and food, making food to sell at the ground, selling programmes, merchandise, raffle tickets, fanzines, sweets, putting out flags etc.
All this takes a huge amount of effort, organisation and creativity showing that working class people are capable of running and maintaining our own organisations.
Blood donors are another example of volunteers that represent everything positive about volunteering. However, our illustrious leaders have soiled all that is positive about volunteering.
Cameron’s Blimp Society is a massive tragedy, an insult to all those people that volunteer to help and support. His volunteering is used to undermine legitimate and necessary work. Tory volunteerism equates to unemployment, poverty, misery and degradation.
We don’t need the Blimp Society, we need a Social Society where work and volunteering work hand in glove for the benefit of all. Where people have the choice and opportunity to work if they want to or to volunteer or to do both. Volunteering can only work as part of a democratic structure.
We have democracy at our club; do they have democracy at their club?