I was at a political meeting earlier this week. The first one I’ve been to in years. It was about the announcement by Newcastle Council that they are planning to close at least ten branch libraries over the next year. David Almond and others spoke well about how these cuts are unnecessary, indeed how the vast majority of the austerity cuts are unnecessary but are ideologically driven, and the importance of easy access to libraries. Furthermore, the council have announced that all arts funding is going to be cut entirely within the next few years.
It’s interesting what sets you off in the end. As anyone unfortunate enough to be a facebook friend of mine will have been aware of the number of articles etc about ATOS I’ve been posting/sharing if they haven’t already hidden me. But it is this one that has really bitten. This time it’s personal.
I have a simple question. The Government tells us: lose the libraries or lose care for children/elderly. Is this really what we have come to? Is this really the stark and only choice? We could afford the Olympics, we can afford police commissioners, we can afford to keep our soldiers dying in an unnecessary and already lost war, we can afford to give tax breaks to the rich. But we can’t afford libraries, or can only do so at the expense of the vulnerable. Libraries as reckless luxuries?
Of course this is nonsense. The cuts are political, not economic. This is an attempt to return us to a pre-War country, which, thanks to Evelyn Waugh and others, many Tories view as a lost paradise. Coupled with this is the truly disgusting belief that our only purpose in this life is to make money for someone else. Nothing else matters. An entire country as a workhouse with overseers born to the purple stalking the land sneering at those who made the morally incorrect choice to be born poor. It’s like a version of Mad Max written by Oscar Wilde, but not nearly as witty.
And just to add to the poisoned punch, we have a government made up of billionaires breathtakingly out of touch with anything outside their gilded circles. This has been building for a while, from Thatcher’s adoration of the finance sector to the corruption of the Major years and finally the betrayal by Tony Blair and his crony capitalism. Now we have people who appear to have no concept of what it is to live under a certain income level. People who believe that poverty is a lifestyle choice and, because of their own diseased morality, believe that everyone must be on the fiddle, like them. I really could weep.
So, do I exaggerate when I say that these cuts are the most destructive thing to happen to our culture since the Puritan destruction of mediaeval art in the 17th century? I truly hope so. But I fear not.