Tag Archives: politics

Love and pride

It’s a strange thing these days to watch a Pride march pass by.

I always cry, but increasingly these are tears of nostalgia.

Soon I suspect I won’t cry at all, and after that, most likely I’ll feel peeved.

On Saturday (11th July, Bristol) I cried at those sections of the march occupied by folks who, I suspect, still face some hardships because of their sexuality – the uniformed police officers still feeling it necessary to cleverly disguise their epaulettes with rainbow flags, the few straggling and forlorn teachers who brave the social media ridicule of their colleagues and pre-pubescent pupils, the ambulance workers.

And I cried for the older marchers – the flagging drag queens who have fought all the long, bitter battles and proudly bear the scars of their victories.

But they have won.

So how long will such celebrations last?

I remember broaching the tender topic of sexuality with my young children, suggesting that they be true to themselves and promising their family would honour and cherish them whatever their sexual identity.

They laughed at my old-fashioned sensibilities. My children – and many of their (Western) generation – no longer do sexuality. It’s a little passé.

They do sex and intimacy. They genuinely don’t care whether they find their joy with another or others of the same sex, the opposite sex, or both, or neither. They care about the joy.

Those Pride warriors have given this generation all the tools they need to rewrite societal norms. They are changing the code.

And that’s worth a party, for sure.

Not that our youth are escaping controversy- even within their own ranks – but one can’t help feeling that joy will slowly and gently conquer the backwashes of misogyny, conservatism, and oppressive masculinism that currently swirl like effluent dispersing into a clear, fast flowing stream.

Already this generation is navigating its internet porn-fuelled, image-bombed, hyper-connected milieu; knowing it for what it is, absorbing it, emerging beyond it.

I have high hopes that in some future far from my knowing they’ll have deconstructed and reordered the dominant model of monogamy (gay, straight or other, obv), and child-rearing too.

So at what point do the drag queens start to do just that, to drag?

Already such large-scale, public displays of ‘deviant’ sexuality are no longer ‘deviant’. I used to cry at the sight of two men or two women holding hands on a Pride march because it was the only space in which they could safely do so. Now, thankfully, it’s a common sight on the high street.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, whatever- these are all mainstream now.

And that’s still something to be proud of; it’s still something new.

But how long might it be before such loud, proud, glorious displays will be likened to similarly loud displays of heterosexuality – to the stag night and the hen do? In generational terms it isn’t long since women reclaimed the right to wear minimal outfits and get leary in the streets. Yet now coming across a gaggle of women invoking that right is invariably simply tiresome.

What do we march for now?

All aboard the Tory budget train…

When I was younger I made promises to my future self. Many have been left tattered by life; ‘never allow yourself to become too cynical’ has fared particularly badly.

Developments like George Osborne’s recent budget don’t help (UK, Wednesday, 8th July 2015). I can’t stop my mind returning to the image of an overcrowded train carriage. Instead of supplying more trains, passengers are asked to move further down into the carriage to accommodate more people in the limited space. It’s a risk to everyone on board, of course, but it’s the more profitable solution.

In this first fully Conservative budget since the General Election in May, Osborne led with the introduction of a new national living wage of £7.20 an hour for those over 25. There are a number of obvious and some less obvious problems with this superficially liberal sleight of hand. The first is the conundrum of just who would actually be able to ‘live’ (and where) on £7.20 an hour. And whilst Osborne estimates that 2.5 million people will benefit by some £5,000 over the coming five years, he is surely balancing the budget in his favour with the unspoken calculation of just how many will find their incomes reduced by employers who can relax their standards to the level of this new bar.

The question of what happens to those under 25 is thornier…. If they are unfortunate enough to be born to parents earning the national living wage, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to stay at home long beyond working age; they’ll soon be pushed out of the meager nest by the benefits cap (£20,000 per household outside of London).

They’re unlikely to be able to educate themselves out of poverty, as they will no longer be able to access student grants (now abolished). The deal offered by student loans is not attractive – look at their parents’ impossible debts, now exacerbated by the reduction of working tax credits.

Anyway, given the national living wage and the new alignment of Employment and Support Allowance with Jobseeker’s Allowance, they are unlikely to be able to work enough hours to sufficiently supplement a student loan. The rents demanded by the private landlords will be unattainable now that there is a limited and stagnant supply of social housing. And 18 to 21 year olds will no longer be entitled to housing benefit (you’ve got to ‘earn to learn’ now, fam).

Don’t worry though, this new undereducated, undernourished and homeless underclass won’t be encouraged to reproduce (assuming they can find a park bench somewhere on which to entertain such a possibility) – restricting tax credits and Universal Credits to only two children will ensure the feckless and the lowly won’t be able to occupy their time breeding.

But they won’t have to pay tax, so that’s a positive isn’t it? The personal allowance for tax will rise to £11,000 next year. You’ve got to be pretty lucky to hit that target on a £7.20 zero hours contract.

But don’t be fooled into thinking this is some sort of new Tory benevolence. No, look instead to the simultaneous trial of a fresh approach to non-dom taxpayers. The new rules are that if you’ve lived in the UK for over 15 years, then you have to cough up your taxes like a good old boy. The flaw is that, as we all know, good old boys don’t pay tax. This will be a popular but ineffective fundraiser – if you’re rich enough to qualify for non-dom, then you’ve got a second home to move to when the deadline approaches.

But this is not just a sop to Middle England (where the hobbits live). The real significance of this new bit of legislation is that it sets a precedent. Once established, it will be much easier to suggest that anyone will have had to be resident in the UK for more than 15 years before they can benefit from its welfare provision.

Or that benefits are restricted to UK taxpayers.

Who’s paying tax again? Ah.

So, there you have it. The great divide. The creation of an underclass of non-unionised, disposable, internationally exchangeable, cheap and non-dependent migrant workers.

And what will happen as the underclass ages? While state pensions will be triple locked (dying old people being a tabloid hit any government would wish to avoid), the threshold for tax-free pension contributions has just been reduced, so if you want to stay out of the miasma you’re going to have to pay.

But that’s ok because if you’re already established in salaried, pensioned employment chances are that you’ll benefit from this budget by some small but smugly comforting margin.

So that’s alright, isn’t it?

You won’t mind when the government announces that the train is moving more slowly than scheduled, but if we just uncouple that heavily overcrowded carriage at the back that’s weighing us down…..

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