THIS week’s Panorama programme has been about the scandal of children suffering from preventable diseases: obesity, bad teeth and other diet-related conditions as well as the effects of passive smoking. The general message has been that lazy and uncaring parents are to blame and that this is all a new phenomenon, a symptom of “broken Britain”. And Tory leader David Cameron boasts he will mend Britain with “tough love”, being hard on scroungers and making massive public sector service cuts to force these lazy workers to take responsibility for their own condition.
It all adds up to a message that the working class are innately inferior and need to be bullied for their own good. It ignores the long hours that workers have to work because their wages are too low and so many are burdened by debts they have acquired trying to make a decent life for their children. It ignores the finance companies that have pushed the workers into debt. It ignores the lack of good quality affordable childcare provision to look after the children properly while their parents are at work — so they are left to fend for themselves after school.
It ignores the selling off of school playing fields and the closures of youth clubs under the Thatcher and Major governments. It ignores the Tory policy — now fortunately being abandoned — that forced schools to privatise school dinner provision and to go for the cheapest option, resulting in millions of children being fed on little else but poisonous, cheap and tasty high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt food. This was exposed a few years ago by the TV chef Jamie Oliver but the battle to bring good quality school dinners to all schools is still continuing.
Meanwhile a generation of children fed on this muck are now parents themselves and lack the time, money and skill to give their own children a decent diet.
The Tory blame-the-parents policies also ignore the responsibility of the giant capitalist companies that reap millions in profits from marketing — under very high pressure — this poisonous muck that they would not eat themselves. And they devastate the world’s rainforests and the economies of Third World countries in the process. But they also back the Tories with big donations — as do the tobacco companies.
Passive smoking does real damage to growing children but the addiction to tobacco is reckoned to be harder to break than heroin. During the Second World War smoking was encouraged by the Government as a way of dealing with the enormous stress and anxiety that affected the whole population. And it is still used by many working people as a drug against the stress and overwork of their everyday lives. Shorter hours, more sleep, more leisure, better pay and more financial security — these are the measures that will really help people give up smoking. But capitalists make profits out of making working class people ill and the Tories are not going to change that.
And when workers break down under this burden with stress, anxiety and depression their mental health doctors tell them the problem is all down to the way they think. They must change their attitude to the way the world is run, they must police their own thoughts and suppress negative feelings and find the “positive” aspects of unemployment, poverty, global warming and the threat of nuclear war. In other words they must buck themselves up, stop snivelling and get back to the production line for the benefit of their bosses — because reality is just an idea and we can change it by thinking about it differently.
The real answer for workers is to fight back and to do this effectively we must join together, recognise that the ruling class is our enemy and fight in the short term to keep the Tories out. And then to force Labour to deliver better policies for the working class so that we can live decent, relaxed and enjoyable lives. But in the long-term we must fight together to get rid of the whole rotten capitalist system and replace it with socialism.