Familiarity: the nation’s frenemy
“Gosh, it gets dark so late at the moment, doesn’t it?” “Can you believe how much rain we’ve been having?” Every single Winter, I hear these dull and dreary phrases relentlessly. And each time our short but sweet summer comes around, although it’s the opposite, the echo of monotonous weather-talk remains the same.
Small talk and idioms rarely spice up conversation, yet we merrily repeat the same phrases, incessantly lubricating any social situation. Why? In almost all contexts, we humans crave familiarity. We go back to our exes when really we’ve moved on, we organise our rooms in that same way even though it’s not the most efficient, and we continue to elect the same political caricatures who are thoroughly unreflective of wider society, as we submit to a broken political system that’s failed us time and time again. Of the 55 prime ministers to date, 42 were educated at Oxbridge. Our current PM speaks in Latin for fuck’s sake. Is this representation? Is this a free and fair democracy?
In the US Joe Biden was offered up as the best the Democrats can offer - albeit blessing the globe with a palatable sense of relief from another Trump administration – he merely represents the continuation of a system that has failed us.
Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson. The 2008 crash, billion-pound contracts awarded without competition to wealthy Conservative cronies, underfunded councils forced to cut vital community services. Clearly, the capitalist status quo is not working. Yet, mainstream media continues to shroud any alternative economic systems either in fear or overly complex language. Politics remains an academic plight, ensuring that those most affected stay far away from the decision-making.
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, we were facing climate emergency, stagnant productivity, deepening inequalities and unemployment, a health and care system at breaking point, and harrowing rates of loneliness and suicide. Such crises call for bravery, transformation and revolution. We need a new economic system which values carers and the hidden economy, we need investment in sustainable public health – not just healthcare – interventions, we need the government and National Health Service to work with community groups and scale local innovations, we need commitment to some form of Green New Deal and increased regulation and taxation of those mammoth corporations which continue to benefit from the current system, widening the gap between extreme affluence and everyone else.
Until as a nation we’re brave enough to stand up to the status quo, invest energy and education into alternative economic models and, crucially, question the seemingly fundamental and omnipotent systems, namely capitalism, existing democratic structures, and our ‘free market’, we remain oppressed by our frenemy that is familiarity.