Bending Towards Justice.

MLK paraphrased Theodore Parker when he said “The arc of the Moral Universe Is long, but It bends toward Justice”

Parker’s whole quote feels a little more fitting now, a little more shaky, a little less certain, but full of faith that good will out. He was talking about the abolishionist cause, still in the age of slavery…

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

I see little movement towards Justice in the election of the Tories for a 2nd term. Justice is about as far from their desire to ‘redefine the word fair’ [Cameron: 2012] as it can be.

But I DO see a deep anger at injustice in the reaction to their getting in. It’s way, way more than just tribalism and a sense that ‘we’ lost. After all, LOADS of us on the left were wholly uninspired by the Labour Party, and disgusted by some of the UKIP-pandering rhetoric. But we’re under no illusion that a Tory majority is pretty much the worst of the range of bad scenarios on offer.

But the electoral injustice, that allows the wider social injustice is also raw – 36.9% of the vote, and they decimate the institutions of the post-war consensus on the NHS and the Welfare State. We’re angry about what, and we’re angry about how. We’re struggling to understand why. I still don’t get who would look at what we’ve had for five years and go ‘yes, more of that, please. That was excellent’. When a relative told me on Facebook that he and his mates have been doing well for the last 5 years, I was confronted not only by his confirmation bias, but by mine.

Who looks at the destruction of the NHS (in case you were wondering, the NHS isn’t ‘about to be sold off because the Tories got in again’ – the Health And Social Care bill of 2012 already did that. Everything else is just billionaires forming an orderly queue…) the howl of anguish from already overstretched teachers dealing with the fucked-up ramifications of Gove-ism and its sociopathy, the nearly one MILLION people using food-banks in 2013-14… who looks at that and thinks ‘well, I’m doing OK…’?

36.9% of the electorate – sorry, those who voted – that’s who [as pointed out in the comments, it’s 24% of the eligible voting population…]. They read about the undeserving poor in the newspapers, they see stories of fat-cats in the public funded NHS, with the implication that the scrutiny of ‘the marketplace’ will bring efficiency. We know that’s horseshit. We know it. We see it and we ‘divine it by conscience’.

We look at the Railways, we see what’s happened.

We look at the BBC, we see what’s happened.

But our confirmation bias is as strong as theirs. We don’t understand the justifications for what to us just looks like naked selfishness. And it IS selfishness. In the truest sense. It’s me and mine, but it’s me and mine because the message about ‘them’ is that they are work-shy scroungers with 26 kids making £200K a year in benefits… The mis-reported exceptions that become the imagined rule. The freak cases that Osborne is happy to point to as evidence of the abuse of the welfare state, when he dismisses questions about suicides in direct response to benefit sanctions with some bullshit about ‘not commenting on individual cases’. Unless that case serves his cause, of course.

If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. But if you’re not paying attention, there’s plenty of bias-confirming propaganda to help you feel better about a system that cuts a few taxes and takes away those wasteful 2nd bedrooms from families in council houses who really don’t “deserve” anything… Don’t be angry at us, be angry and at the scroungers, right?

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” – Malcolm X.

However, back to our original point… The upside is that that anger is the weathervane of us bending towards justice.

  • Towards equality, diversity, kindness, generosity
  • Towards a safety net without holes
  • Towards a way out of debt
  • Towards workers rights
  • Towards continued free healthcare, for ALL
  • Towards a nation grateful for the overwhelmingly positive influence of immigration on our lives and culture
  • Towards an education system that truly educates, rather than programs automatons, that lets teachers teach without endless testing and pointless scrutiny, and doesn’t make the access to a decent education contingent on wealth or postcode
  • Towards a world where art is more than the X-Factor and the Turner Prize, where we look to the arts to elevate our humanity, to entertain and educate, to participate in, rather than as a percentage of the nation’s GDP that’s being threatened by pirates on the high seas of the internet
  • Towards a world where renewing Trident wouldn’t even be a discussion that sensible people had, because it’s fucking insane…

So yes, the moral universe bends towards justice, but the precise, sociopathic, numbing bureaucratic machine of privilege and power won’t be dismantled without a fight.

Let’s get active.

We’ve got 5 years of this shit.

Resistance is no longer an occasional action, it’s a way of life.



IMPORTANT: Things to read: 

This piece by Dougald Hine is probably the best thing I’ve seen on what to do post-election. He’s asking the best questions:

This by Liam Barrington-Bush is excellent on the hope and life in grassroots activism:

And a couple of things about Scotland (we REALLY need to talk about Scotland… and stop blaming them, FFS!!)

Irvine Welsh:

And Keiran Hurley:

And just in case you’re under any illusions about the scale of the violence being wrought on disabled people, this:

3 replies on “Bending Towards Justice.”

  1. Thank you for this Steve. I feel one of the big issues in UK politics that affected the election is that the Tories are a clear tent for the right to stand in. There is no real clear banner for people who believe in socialism to rally to. The closest thing we had were the SNP and most of us couldn’t vote for them.

    Commercialism is infecting so much of our society now. The election campaign felt like all the parties were trying to sell me something rather than tell me what they believe. It all came across as disingenuous to me.

    Democracy has failed me this time, and I don’t want to wait five years to have another go. I hope that people can come together and build a leftist consensus large enough that it cannot be ignored before the next election.

  2. It is 36.9% of the people who voted. Tories are back in parliament with only 24% of all eligible voters. I’m one of the 76% who did not vote for a tories.

    1. thanks for that – ‘the electorate’ was the wrong term. I mentioned it being ‘of the vote’ in the first use, but it’s important to make it clear just how few people in the country voted for them. Much appreciated – have edited the post to reflect it…

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