I’m feeling nostalgic! And it’s not just the pops and hisses of vinyl as one of my old cherished albums enjoys a spin once again. There is something satisfying about the ritual of getting a disk out of the sleeve, placing it carefully on the turntable lifting the arm into place and settling back to enjoy the music. The contemporary option of a few clicks that will let you hear anything that you want on Spotify just isn’t the same. Now it seems to me, that another of my youthful rituals may have been revived.
When I was younger, quite a bit younger in fact, I had number of jobs that saw me experience an variety of different workplaces. I have worked in factories, offices and shops; I have been employed, self-employed and, at times unemployed. Whilst I was a student, for example, I worked on the track at Vauxhall Motors making body shells for the infamous Vauxhall Chevette; after my studies I managed overseas aid projects for the British Council, for the last 20 years I have been a self-employed builder.
From age 18, I was a member of the Labour Party and a Trades Unionist. In my various workplaces that was always a common thread. As an active trades unionist, I was always busy with politics and never more so than in the run up to a general election. Then, I, and others, would be mobilised, we would be talking to our colleagues on the shop floor, holding meetings and reminding people of the need to vote Labour. There would, of course be dissent, there would be debate and there would also be apathy but, by and large, there was, at least, engagement with the process. We would also invite speakers along to talk to our members and anyone else who was interested. Indeed, when I was chair of NUPE at the University of London, we had none other than Jeremy Corbyn along on a number occasions. Thatcher’s destruction of the Trades Union Movement, aided and abetted, of course by Kinnock, Blair et al, put paid to most of that. From the early eighties until very recently, in my experience, talk of politics in the workplace has been almost conspicuous by its absence. I have to admit that, from the advent of Kinnock, I too lost interest and let my membership and with it my political activism lapse somewhat.
This latest election campaign has been a revelation to me. I have for the first time really engaged with social media. The debate on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is lively and it is simply wonderful to see new online outlets like The Canary, Open Democracy and even the seemingly tireless one-man band that is Another Angry Voice presenting us with a real alternative to the billionaire owned mainstream media, not to mention the Tory supporting BBC. And all of this seems to have worked, it has been instrumental in motivating, yes, certainly the youth, but even old baby boomers like me into action. It was so heartening, for the first time in decades to see friends and family of all ages debating politics and posting and sharing articles exposing the nasty and lying Tory media for what it is. I thank god political debate is alive and well and I can look forward to the long absent ritual of discussion and argument even if it is on a keyboard rather than the factory floor. Technology isn’t all bad. Perhaps, at last, the www is fulfilling the purpose that it’s founders hoped for. Fingers crossed the next election campaign is not too far over the horizon.