As we celebrate our tenth birthday this month we have been looking back through our files (see here), which reminded us that that the issues we highlighted from the very start have remained on the agenda right up to the current day. We were concerned about the privatisation of what used to be Worthing's publicly-owned council housing, pointing out that although privatisation had up to then been associated with the Conservatives, this was going ahead under a Labour government and a Lib Dem Worthing council. We were also concerned about the growth of what we called Big Brother society, after George Orwell's 1984 (though, of course, Big Brother now means something entirely different to a new generation of TV viewers) and about threats to our local countryside (Goring Gap, the South Downs and, later, Titnore Woods).
As well as being all-too relevant today, these issues have also converged and are more and more obviously not separate phenomena at all but all part of the one big problem. Privatisation of everything continues at an accelerating pace in the name of spiralling profits for big business (or 'economic growth' as the new inquisitors of 21st century political correctness insist on calling it). This same private sector, to which the government is so unashamedly close, also plays a leading role in developing and imposing the technology of surveillance and control on us, from car tracking to the giant police state database lined up for the introduction of compulsory ID cards.
Anyone who dares to stand up to either of the Terrible Twins of big government and big bucks is increasingly regarded as a 'terrorist'. The word 'democracy' is emptied of all meaning as the state/business Axis of Greed tramples all over public opinion over every issue from invading Iraq to siting mobile phone masts near schools, from nuclear power to destroying our precious countryside at West Durrington.
Democracy is a key word here, because nobody was ever asked whether they wanted the world to go this way. Politicians in power always claim they have a 'mandate' from the people because they have won an election. But, regardless of the fact that a majority has never voted for them (just one in five of the electorate at the last general election), the voters are not allowed to express an opinion on individual issues. You are expected to commit yourself to a huge package of policies, most of which you are never even told about, on the basis that it sounds slightly less awful than the two rival packages. And in so doing you have apparently signed away your rights to complain about anything the government does again, because you have somehow approved of it all in advance by blindly placing a cross on a piece of paper in a misguided attempt at civil responsibility.
Well, we're not buying it. This is not democracy, this can never be democracy and if we want democracy we are clearly going to have to go out and grab it for ourselves.
We know there may be somebody out there who actually wants to live in a country run by corrupt crooks, robbing the rest of us blind to feather their own nests. We know there may be somebody out there who enjoys being treated like dirt while a tiny smug elite swan around the place frittering away all the wealth they have systematically stolen from the rest of us. We know there may be somebody out there who is delighted by the felling of every tree, the silencing of every bird, the uprooting of every hedgerow and the disappearance of every small haven of leafy tranquillity and brambly timelessness. We know there may be somebody out there who positively welcomes the idea of faceless figures tracking his or her every move, every purchase, every phone call, every email, every cash withdrawal, constantly monitoring his or her behaviour for signs of non-conformity or dangerous individuality.
We know there may be people like that out there, but we also know for sure that most of us aren't like that at all and still cherish ideas of decency, fairness, justice, privacy and freedom.
You don't have to be anything special to play your part in winning back our democracy, in Worthing and beyond. Sometimes people seem to imagine that there is a professional class of 'Protesters' who will go around demonstrating about things on everyone's behalf and who are somehow in a special position that enables them do do so. But this isn't the case. The people behind The Porkbolter, the people who turn out for the events we cover and make the news we report, are not a breed apart. We are just standard people, with the usual assortment of jobs, kids, responsibilities, problems, commitments, doubts, hobby-horses, spurts of energy, off-days, regrets, excuses, failings and daydreams.
If we can do it, then so can you. We're not trying to recruit anyone, or suggest they attend the same meetings as we go to (there wouldn't be enough beer for everyone, anyway!). We just want to encourage people to do something more than have a moan among friends or make that irrelevant cross on the ballot slip once in a blue moon. We don't know what you can manage, what you are capable of - and neither do you, until you try.
But one thing that is for certain, is that if even just a few more people in Worthing, and towns like Worthing elsewhere, decided to stand up and play their part in building a better society for future generations, then finally things really could only get better.
We end this special tenth anniversary message with a quotation from The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the radical West Sussex poet whose early work was published in Worthing:
Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep has fallen on you
Ye are many - they are few.
A MASS bike ride in protest at plans to downgrade West Sussex hospitals is being held just before the crucial final public 'consultation' meeting in Worthing on Monday October 15. Cyclists Against NHS Cuts is urging Worthing folk to put a spoke in the NHS bosses' wheel by turning out in force for the big ride down from Worthing railway station to the pier. Gather at the station 5.45pm for a 6pm start and bring whistles and horns for a noisy trip through town before the crunch meeting at the Pavilion Theatre at 7pm.
We understand KWASH, the main hospital campaign, will also be holding some kind of protest on the day, although at the time of writing details had not yet been announced. Try their website at www.kwash.org.uk.
A sense of urgency has finally crept into the campaign as time runs out. In our last issue we called for major action to demonstrate the strength of local opinion and there are indications that the message has been heeded. Leaflets were handed out before a recent public meeting at the Pavilion calling for a 'citizens' take-over' of the October 15 'sham' consultation, rejecting the three useless 'options' being presented by the NHS bosses.
People are being urged to demand a simple vote on the missing option, of no cuts anywhere in West Sussex, which is being dubbed Option 4. So make your voice heard loud and clear on Monday October 15!
No sign so far of a motorists' blockade of the A27, but maybe there's someone reading this who fancies giving it a go...
Or if, for instance, local housing groups let out properties to council employees who fancied the chance to rent at a fixed low rate, perhaps cashing in on the chance to sell their own homes.
This could lead to quite intolerable situations where people with the right connections were hogging the social housing intended for local families who could not afford to get on the property ladder. You might even end up with a gross injustice, with a former council employee (an ex-benefits investigator, maybe?) occupying a three-bedroom property on her own, while a neighbouring couple with a young child struggled to cope in a one-bedroom flat clearly unsuitable for a family of three.
And if anyone making enquiries was told that the two extra rooms were so the woman could have family come and stay with her from time to time, people might begin to wonder exactly what was going on under the surface of their supposedly respectable town.
Thank heavens, this sort of stuff could never happen here in Worthing!
And in Worthing police are to start wearing head-mounted video cameras "in a bid to help them secure more convictions", reported the Worthing Herald on July 27. But will this video footage be guaranteed to remain unedited and also be made available for the use of defendants and those making complaints about police behaviour? Somehow, we suspect not!
Meanwhile, in completely unrelated news, The Observer revealed on July 29 that that "almost one in 15 of senior police officers in England and Wales are being investigated over criminal or disciplinary offences".
Published and printed by The Porkbolter, PO Box 4144, Worthing BN14 7NZ. No copyright, no libels in this newsletter.
Birthday special: Revolting Worthing - ten years of action and protest