Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Nobody seriously doubts that there are massively complex systems to manage and futures to contemplate in the debate about public sector pensions, working conditions and securities. How we need cool heads, deep mathematics and the kind of trust which alone makes a public sector viable in the first place. Nobody seriously doubts the difficulty of imagining, organizing and funding the kind of educational structures which will benefit society now and into the future, or the kind of essential health, welfare and maintenance provision which should characterize any mature society.
Headlines and soundbites launched against today’s strike action may distort or obfuscate these core facts; namely that good society finds ways to prioritise, organise and fund those components necessary for sustaining and developing good society. Education and training for the common good, access to essential health care, emergency response services, safe environments, adequate housing, clean water, efficient transport … and reliable, competent financial structures. We know the list. We certainly know when something necessary is missing or threatened.
Today’s strike is necessary and important. Maximum disruption should be sought, in order to bring home to the most stubborn-willed that the people we depend on to sustain the systems which make for good society should be honoured and valued. Yes, we acknowledge that the practical details are complex. The complexity is felt differently by each person impacted. Many are profoundly anxious about their futures, for one reason or another, and what seems most important about today is the fact of solidarity, of standing together, of being present and visible as societies of people who know we depend on one another.
We are realistic about the persistent temptations to selfish ambition, the dreams of access to those tiny gated societies built around ‘my fantasies, my ambition, my private welfare.’ These desperate insecurities which once would have shamed or embarrassed more of us have seeped into the mainstream to corrode even our belief that good society can flourish. If today were just taken as an unofficial day off for fitting in some Christmas shopping, it would be worse than pointless, playing into the hands of those who continually work against the very idea of society. But it isn’t that kind of day. Today’s job is the work of solidarity, presence, dignity and union.  In the relationships and mutual dependence we recognize and demonstrate on a picket line or at a rally is real power - power to confront, to construct and to re-imagine a society where trust means something.

Gary Hall