on the edge

Conference season makes me borderline.  If I don’t see another man on a high-inherited-income attempt authenticity again I’ll be absolutely fine, thanks.


Speaking without notes, grinning in pubs and defending mental health’s  equal status to physical health, my boxes should have been ticked. Thing is, this has been government policy since 2011 but since then mental health services have officially fallen into crisis through the systematic dismantling of public services.


Political emos  struck down with a dose of verbalism.


2014 has been the year of political ping pong lobbing a load of balls across ideological borders. Decent working people versus useless folk. Those who are fit for work or a lost cause. Viruses becoming a concrete metaphor for social contamination between different tribes and our deep anxieties about being overtaken by the other. Add the introduction of regressive new policies on visas and migrant workers and the UK’s major airports will become our ethical battle lines.


In the context of crisis we are easily seduced by the politics of the boundary. Head for the bunker and man the barricades. A defensive mechanism which attempts to draw a hard line between inside and out. Problem is that like most rigid defences it wont work unless you’re OK with checking out from your humanity.


Most of us are already living on what the sociologist Richard Sennett calls the ‘edges’.  The uncomfortable geography of an ordinary human life where you have to rub along with other people who are not like you under circumstances of scarce resources.


The only way to survive on the edge is to have skin. Whether you’re made of the thick or the thin stuff, skin is the kind of boundary that has to be porous enough to let in some of the good and keep out most of the bad. This is an inexact science of balance, with pain the warning sign when we’re about to go over the line.


In the context of recession its tempting to avoid anxiety by building up your armour, won over by an idea that vulnerability can be placed outside your borders. But when you live on the geographical, financial or emotional edges one thing is clear that at some point you will need something from someone.


When we are vulnerable we understand profoundly that to survive we need to deepen our ties with people, not sever them. Whether its raising the number of doctors to three figure numbers in Sierra Leone or defending the democratic right of people to determine their own governments, our best chance is to stay in contact.


So be borderline about the politicians who promise a world of them and us and stay on the edges with the hundreds of thousands of human beings fighting for our right to live together. This is not the stuff of religious martyrs or posturing from a podium, it’s ordinary people from Hong Kong to the Ukraine doing the business of democracy.


This Saturday #18Oct join the rest of the human race and take liberties with each other britainneedsapayrise.org

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