Welcome to Issue 40
‘It never rains it pours’ and the news of the latest closure in one of our public services – the bus station – has prompted me to reflect on the underlying causes of this apparent assault on our community. It is tempting to direct our anger towards the managers of these public services or politicians who allow it but, while they undoubtedly play their part, I am convinced that much more powerful forces are at play. We now live in a world in which real power lies in the hands of multinational corporations who are easily able to manipulate regional and national governments to create the conditions which favour their agenda. As a result their wealth and power is growing at a frightening rate.
The World Inequality Report recently published data showing that the richest 0.1 per cent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth so much that they currently have as much as the poorest 50 per cent, or 3.8 billion people. Ironically, while we are supposedly fighting to regain our sovereignty by leaving the EU, huge portions of our land, property and public assets are being sold off to rich investors from around the world. So the Bus Station, for example, will most probably be destined for the major property developers who will no doubt be turning it into yet more housing. Similarly our supposedly crash strapped Council has found £10 million to provide us with something we already have in a different location so that handsome profits can be made by a giant construction company and our library and Community Service Centre can be sold off to developers. Another example is that of the Wakefield School on Hull Road- a fabulous facility bequeathed to Wakefield City Council for the benefits of inner city children which was sold off to property developers who promptly demolished the lovely buildings (the woodland will also be a casualty I’m sure) and waited for planning permission for housing to be granted before selling it on to the tune of millions of pounds.
Meanwhile supermarkets continue to be built on the outskirts of towns, destroying local independent traders and with them the local economy while creating clone towns where only chain stores can survive. So far the independent traders of Hornsea have put up some remarkable resistance but one wonders for how much longer willing replacements will step in to fill the vacancies left by failed shops.
At national level, since the collapse of Carillion and the problems with the railways it appears that the tide of opinion may be turning against the contracting out of our public services and the sale of our public assets. However, it would take great political courage to stand in the way of the corporations on their march to global dominance.
Faced with this scenario it is easy to become paralysed by a feeling of powerlessness but I believe that there is cause for hope. Research shows that societies with extreme inequalities in wealth and power are highly unhappy and unstable ones that, sooner or later, will crumble under their own weight. Although things are likely to get worse before they get better, we have seen time and again how adversity can bring out the best in humanity and there are many actions we can take to create positive change and prepare our communities to become masters of their own destiny.
Firstly, the corporations depend upon our custom in order to continue expanding. We can resist by choosing to support small independent local businesses instead. When we put our minds to it, it’s amazing how many of our needs can be met by our local and ethical traders. By helping local businesses to survive and thrive we not only boost the local economy but also reduce the dependency on the corporations which they crave.
Secondly, we can give some of our spare time to supporting the local organisations which are trying to fill the gaps left by the drive for corporate profits and make sure the needs of our children, elderly and vulnerable are met. We can demand to councils and government that they fulfil their obligations but if we can manage to cover some of the needs of our community ourselves then we will gain in resilience and a sense of empowerment.
Thirdly, we can rediscover true democracy by coming together to discuss and debate the issues that concern us and pool our resources and energy. Whilst as individuals we are easy prey to the predatory corporations, united we are strong and can speak with a powerful voice to those in office. Even the power of the corporate lobbyists can be defeated by a determined community that acts in unison and demands its rights.
Hopefully the gathering at the Floral Hall cafe this month to discuss the closure and look for ways forward will be the first of many and mark the beginning of a new era of communication, community cohesion, activism and resistance. Are you up for the challenge?