Sunday, 13 November 2011

Social conscience

Amazingly, I find myself in possession of a reasonable social life at the moment. Last week I caught up with the lovely Diane and her hubby Jeff in Glasgow, next week I've got a gig in Glasgow with the awesome Just Frances, and tonight we're off to see Billy Bragg.

But that's not quite the point of this post, although it is prompted by an article the aforesaid Billy posted on Facebook last week. It made me think back to my days as a student, when I was much more politically active than I am now. I always thought I was quite thoughtful and someone who didn't just comply, who didn't just accept the status quo. Someone who was a bit 'right-on'.

But when I think back on it now, it feels a bit like we were just playing. What did I actually do to make a difference, to stake my claim, to prove my point? Did I ever go out of my way to protest? Or did I just sit around pontificating about it? We debated a lot, I remember. And we passed motions comdemning or supporting this, that and the next thing. We set up petitions, and we wrote letters. We wrote lots of letters. But was it in the slightest bit meaningful?

Maybe not as much as some of the great protests we've seen in the last year or so - the students, the anti-war/anti-capitalism marches, the Arab Spring, and further back, the Berlin Wall breakthrough. But I think it probably did do something. I may not have stopped the cuts in education by marching through various Scottish cities, but it kept the issue in the spotlight. Writing letters may not have changed the world, but I now understand that it can make a difference, and at the very least, does give hope to the people about whom the letters are written. Even just keeping the debate alive, railing against the inevitable, is worth something.

And now, what do I do now? Is my social conscience still intact? Well, yes it is. I have very deep values and principles. My job doesn't always allow me to express them, but they're still there all the same. In my private life, I can still support (including financially) my own personal campaigns. In my working life, I can make sure that what I do and how I behave is true to my value base. I may not have much spare time but I like to think I do what I can. My marathon in October was a personal challenge, and a personal triumph, but it also allowed me to raise just under £800 for Epilepsy UK. And, of course, I vote whenever I get the opportunity.

Do I do enough? Probably not. Is there more that I could do? Absolutely. Now, there's some food for thought for me...

And for now, I'm off to see Billy getting that Leftfield back in Motion.

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