Elections

With all the salmagundi about UKIP, from fascists to saviours of Britain, I’m struggling to think what the other parties actually stand for, well apart from “i’m in” from the Judas formally known as Nick Clegg. Voting has decreased in the underprivileged  due to the distance people feel from those in power and those with money. Corporations seem above the law of the land as they don’t have to pay proper taxes like we do and then there are the Bankers who get bonuses for creating a loss. It comes down to the separation known as otherness; the super-rich and the rest of us, those in power and the rest of us. Politicians have been making this clear for a long time with their inability to answer a question when asked anything in the news. They always seem to dance around it like a maniac distracting from what is actually going on. The Fraragions which seem to be spreading like a cold, have some justification in that at least they think they know what he stands for! Labour seem to be musing over things, not really sure what to do apart from appealing to people who don’t like the Tories, who, apparently only look after themselves. Though at first you wouldn’t even think they are doing a great job at that with the way things are, though occasionally you are made aware of a devastating stat that says the rich are getting richer and the rest of us getting poorer. So it’s nearly voting time again and I’ll probably vote for the usual Labour as I don’t like Conservatives’s financial limb cutting, or Liberal’s impressive reenactment of Judas. It is often said that people would tick a box that said ‘none of the above’, a vote of no confidence as it were. Maybe then they would have to re-think how they work things. Then there’s UKIP who seem distasteful to those who fear any chance of fascism. The other parties aren’t even worth mentioning as they play on extremes of green or nationalism. The anti-Farrage’s suggest his party is covertly racist and want to go back to a time when we didn’t share with the world, so we only trade with the farm next to us. To be honest it seems backward to “get out”, as we’re financially “tied in”, though I’m not really sure why either. I guess I don’t like the idea of not being part of the world, I’d rather open my doors to someone than close them. Unless they’re trying to sell me something. This is probably the dilemma that Scots are going through at the moment with England. It’s not really financially beneficial, but might do it anyway ‘cus we don’t like them’ so I heard from a radio debate. This is for something that happened a while ago in a history not based around `Braveheart’ apparently. Saying that if we all get independence, I feel sorry for Wales and the other bits of the UK as they don’t seem to have much choice. What has Scotland got against Wales?
Maybe they should join an alliance with Northern Ireland; then England can leave Europe and we all can keep to ourselves. So all these issues begin at what we are and what we’re not, from political parties to countries identity or whatever. If we are different from each other does that mean that we can’t get along or compromise? No, just put a big wall up and be done with it; walls seem to have been popular in history such as China or Berlin. I think they do the same in Israel to keep particular people out too. Comparing Britain to the other less desirable countries and ‘regimes’ we actually seem to be doing alright. Places where   it is law that women can’t walk in the street without a man, where people of other religions kill each other for believing in something different. Even America doesn’t have an NHS, though seems like ours is slowly getting sold. There was always a famous quote flying around at uni that “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) It’ll probably be a popular and therefore redundant ‘Meme’ at some point.  The point is about narrowing the gap between them and us, to eradicate the fear of the unknown, which is mostly contrived by prejudices and myth. Education, making awareness of something other than what you know is the most important quality especially in local politics. Wouldn’t it be good if there had to be an independent leaflet or webpage, mobile friendly of course, that stated, preferably in bullet points, what each of the parties choices are, in a line so we can compare. This may seem a bit simplistic though on TV voxpops people don’t know what the differences are between the parties, but then apparently they all do the same thing in the end anyway. Then again people seem to vote based on the caricature of the party; I mean the leader of party, “not sure about him he has a slightly annoying voice” or “he has a side parting so looks a bit, boring.” I’d rather vote for someone that looked like a broken Picasso who could do a good job, rather than a poster boy who only knows how to dance around questions. I guess there could be a picture of the leader with a movable piece over their face to settle any qualms if people remain undecided.

Footprints of a Strike

Based on the documentary ‘Footprints of a strike’ (2011)

(Photography by Sai Kumar)

The lift door thuds shut into darkness. “Go on” the Wakefield miner shouts. Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.46.46With a jolt and a thud, the wheel mechanisms turn descending us deep into the earth. Stephan Oxley, turns his hat light o piercing the darkness. 900 feet down we go. We turn our lights on in response. I’m operating the video camera for a friend and colleague Sai Kumar, who is also taking the photography for this documentary. The lift seems to be descending relatively quickly as we see the variable earth levels like one of those diagrams they use in school showing the progress of soil to the earth’s core. The ducking and diving begins as we reach the bottom through narrow and low archways in pitch black all apart from our headlights and the occasional wall light, which seems ominous in such blackness.

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We are visiting the Wakefield Mining Museum to reflect on the infamous strikes, which began in 1984. The museum was an active mine and the employees were previously miners, who now provide the services of guide and experts mostly to school excursions.

 The further we ventured, the further it felt like an abolition from earth though really we were getting further into it. Stephan guides us through and says how the mine used to operate with various great drilling machines left abandoned, obsolete, yet formidable enough and are still able to break through anything in its path. The absence of light seems to be replaced by tremendous noise as he turns on the generator. In a bleak narrow path we almost have to crawl through he states, “there were 3 union boards, The NUM (National Union of Miners) was the biggest, but the problems started when some went back to work.” His words slightly echo in the narrow tunnel blindness, giving us a focus of sound barely without any vision.  “If we went for consultation, compromise with other unions, rather than conflict, I think we would have saved something of the industry.” “We burn about a million tons of coal per week, vast majority we now get in from abroad. It would only take 20-30 collieries to make that up. Of course supporting industries would also be kept employed.”

 

As we arrived that early morning the staffroom is full or numerous walls of Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.51.23keys, safety hats and a budgie. The budgie dying is an historical warning of escaping gas. Mick Green sits on the side of desk with his tea ready to put his point across.  “As for the strikes, our principles were that we were fighting for this country and when she dies, when Margret Thatcher dies, I’ve got a bottle whiskey here, and I’m going to have one good drink to celebrate that she’ll be burning somewhere. Evil horrible woman.” All the miners we interview seem to harbour strong feelings against Thatcher, though differ quite considerably when it comes to the unions of the strikes, and in particular Arthur Scargill. Mick continues, “Arthur Scargill is a fantastic brilliant bloke, the only thing wrong was that he didn’t have enough tact to deal with the Government. That’s why people didn’t like him.” This is in direct conflict with Davey Gerndt, a miner we later interview in a museum machine gallery. “There was too big a gulf between Scargill and Thatcher, but we’ve learnt after the unions members seems to have done alright after it all.”

Mick continues, “Thatcher taken out all our natural resources in export until it was gone, then we have to buy it from somewhere else. If we don’t buy locally it’s like taking the plug out. She ought to be done for treason.”  There did seem to be an intention to reduce the unions, which the Government perceived as too powerful. There were previous coal miner’s strikes though this time reserves were accumulated and a lot of home supplies were turning to gas and electric. Unions insisted that media slur campaigns were swaying public opinion. “People were persuaded it was also bad for the environment even though clean coal technology was invented yet brushed under the carpet. It was next to Grimethorpe colliery, it contained all the impurities then could recycle them for further use. Thatcher closed that just before we went on strike. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.52.47Davey argues, “Looking back we shouldn’t have gone on strike. We got led into it quite falsely. I picketed as long as I could until I got banned from leaving my home due a police curfew, 12 hours per day I had to stay home… The unions didn’t do much for us either. We lost our houses, we got food hampers from the Russian Miners.” Part of the media slur campaign aligned Scargill with Russian and Libyan terrorist groups. Davey continues, “I got married just before the crisis, then my brother went back to work, I haven’t spoken to him since.” As they think back to memories of that time they talk sombrely in decreasing tones as if in mourning for the things that have passed. My colleague Sai asks him what should they have done looking back? “We should have had a work to rule. But Scargill has done all right hasn’t he. He got paid throughout the strike and now lives in a rich area of London. Bitter pill to swallow.” The division between the miners of what happened and what should have happened is still evident though it is obvious that it was a bleak time of hardship. “I once got arrested 23 times in a week, charged with nothing… What would I change? Well, it’s easy to look back, I know.” Davey finishes.  

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 20.28.26With Stephan leading, we reach the end of the tunnels when the miners stopped digging all those years ago. We can see the coal in front and the wooden supports in place ready to venture forward. He gives me a piece of coal to take home. I found it strangely fascinating even though I’ve touched coal on the surface before. I said to Stephan that I was already forgetting about sunlight. “Yeah, its kind of peaceful isn’t it.” After a while it did feel like the sun was never going to be seen again, or down here you would never have known that it existed. A strange peace.