A shrug as good as a wink

Posted: June 14, 2012 in Opinion piece
Tags: , , ,

There was a time when a young woman could dream of little beyond meeting a wealthy young bachelor to whisk her away from a life of drudgery and lament. We now live in wonderful times, where any woman can achieve anything she dreams of…right?

Back before suffrage helped force change for the better, people would inevitably shrug the issue of women’s oppression off with: “that’s just the system”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that particular ‘system’ was not inscribed in tablet since mankind’s inception. When emancipation was proposed in America, even some more liberal folk would shy away from the idea of tearing down part of the ‘system’, buying into the notion that business could not recover from loss of labour, until it actually happened. And, amazingly, things progressed and life got better for a large number of people. So tearing down an apparently integral facet of the ‘system’, though daunting in prospect, progressed civilisation immeasurably. Despite being officially bankrupt, the welfare state and National Health Service were founded in Britain by 1948, and, again despite huge concerns from some, it proved a massive leap forward in societal progress. It took the aftermaths of a Civil War and a World War to enact these huge structural changes to the ‘systems’ that were in place, so what excuse do we have for not changing much more apparently trivial aspects of our current flawed ‘system’?

The mantra of “that’s just the system” is so ingrained in us, we often don’t realise how we shrug off even the most justified dissent. Public officials falsifying expenses claims was met with a torrent of complaint, which petered out to a wearied shrug of ‘they’re all in it together’. Big businesses laying off workers left, right and centre whilst indulging in industrial scale tax evasion is tutted at, but bypassed by the majority. Former editor of the country’s biggest-selling national newspaper admits they styled themselves as little more than a party promotional tool, amid widespread powerless groans. The world banking system used feather-light regulation to enrich a few individuals at the expense of world economies, and vested interests ensure the ‘system’ remains essentially as it was.

These may be the most serious flaws in our overarching ‘system’, but what about other things that affect our everyday lives? The Bank CEO who earns one hundred times the salary of his cashier. The supermarket that runs local businesses into the ground, and employs some of the staff made redundant from its competitors on a wage so pitiful, the taxpayer must subsidise it. The passionate and able job-seeker rejected before interview on grounds of hairstyle or body art. The young couple who find themselves tolerating a flat riddled with damp, that ruins their clothes and health, yet consumes most of their income. The rape victim who only exacerbates her humiliation by attempting prosecution for a crime with a farcical conviction rate. The falsely accused ‘rapist’ disabled by vigilantes unable to determine fact from irresponsible media exposure. The successful but naïve University graduate disconsolate at lack of replies to hundreds of job applications seeing his friend who dropped out pursuing the career he dreams of, by virtue of parental connections. These injustices are not irrevocable whims of an unalterable structure of being. They are merely flawed parts of the current ‘system’. A ‘system’ that should be challenged, with all our might, until it once again moves forward, progressing to a higher state of civilisation.

We must stop shrugging our shoulders, and assuming things will never change, when the only vehicle for change is one person refusing to take it any more, and drawing others to their cause. Negative assumptions only serve to legitimise a flawed ‘system’ that vested interests will potentially ensure becomes more skewed against the majority.

We can all be the catalyst for positive change, one battle at a time.


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