18 October 2010

Black Stuff

BBC4 have recently been showing the whole of the devastating 1982 series Boys From The Blackstuff.

Alan Bleasdale wrote this comic-tragic commentary on what happens when an economy is not run with the ordinary working person in mind and I had forgotten just how emotionally gripping it is. Like many I watched this series when it was originally broadcast. I was just a youngster back then and politically naive but not so stupid as to not realise what a true to life depiction this drama was of what I saw around me every day. Who can forget Yosser Hughes and his catchphrases 'gizza a job' and 'I can do that' and the sorrow of seeing a man completely disintegrate and lose everything; his wife, his children, his home and his sanity.

There was dissent about this drama when it was shown; some people down south could not accept this as a true to life depiction and talked about the feckless unemployed and how they should get on their bikes and I remember wondering at the time, why would they think that, we all live in the same country, don't we? Two years later I moved to London and discovered that we didn't all live in the same country, not when it came to how Thatcher's policies affected the lives of individuals. It was different down south. Sure there were unemployed people but the ratios were vastly different. The economy was completely different. No wonder there was and still is to a certain extent, a north/south divide.

As I watched Yosser last night, my mind was drawn to what is in store for us all when the levels of budgetary cuts are announced on Wednesday. We like a little self flagellation we Brits, we take it because we know a little pain is good for us, builds our strength and character. Trouble is, it can all get out of hand and those who have the power forget how those at the bottom who don't have a voice or don't shout loud enough to be heard or have simply given up hope, can be pushed to absolute rock bottom 'for the good of the economy' and so that 'your children and children's children don't have to pay for our mess'. What happened in the late 70s and early 80s destroyed a whole way of life for some. Communities never recovered properly from virtually all of the employment in that area disappearing. We lost generations; men in their 40s and 50s that never saw paid employment again and young people for whom there was no possibility of a job until it was far too late for them to know how to work.

I don't suppose our political leaders have been watching the series. Pity really, they might have got a gentle reality check; that the decisions they make affect real people and can ruin lives. I suppose it all depends on your individual political perspective. Me? Well I don't see two and half million jobs suddenly appearing in the private sector to replace all of the jobs that will be lost in both public and private sectors because of the cuts that will be announced on Wednesday. If someone does see where they are going to come from, please tell me. I'm all for believing in miracles. I also believe in a steady and progressive action that is sustainable. A bit like losing weight; lose too much too quickly and you end up in worse trouble than before you started. After all, if you tighten your belt too much, you can't breathe.

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