Saturday, 21 January 2017

Demoralised by the political process

You might think, in light of the inauguration of (to my mind) the most terrifyingly inept, probably criminal, potentially blackmailed and astoundingly ill-informed president of the United States, this might be a post about Trump.

It's not.

You might think, considering our own government's insistence that "we" voted for a total crackdown on immigration, despite the fact that we weren't actually, explicitly asked anything at all about immigration in our recent referendum, I might be writing about Brexit.

I'm not.

I'm writing about something small, possibly insignificant, that almost certainly won't cause very many people, if any, a problem at all. It might not even have any significant impact on my own life, in the long run. But I'm writing about it anyway.

Because it's my blog.

I'm feeling deeply disheartened by yet another example of our bureaucratic overlords putting on a show of consulting the people. Of listening. Of providing us with choice. Disheartened by the realisation that, once again, it was a sham. Our bureaucratic overlords were always going to do exactly what they wanted to do, and we were merely asked some carefully phrased questions to ensure their decision was rubber-stamped as "the will of the people".

This is about a recent consultation on the future of the provision of primary education in our village. Primary education for LittleBear.

Before I go any further, I know that some of you reading this are also parents of children at LittleBear's school. I know that some of you are happy with the outcome, and some are not. I know that not all of you will agree with my assessment of the situation. I'll say again: this is my blog; these are my feelings; this is how I see the world. I don't think your feelings are wrong, or your opinions, since I know this is all very subjective. If you don't happen to agree with me, I'm not looking for an argument, or reasons why I'm wrong, I'm just putting my feelings out there. I'm certainly not criticising the school, which I think is brilliant.

So, for those not local to our school, what exactly is going on?

Well... there are more small children in the village than there used to be, and there isn't room for them all in the school, so Something Needs To Be Done. And we have a rather unusual arrangement in the village - we have an "infant" school for the first three years of primary education, and a "junior" school for the next four years. So actually, we have two schools, but all the children currently go to both, and both are at capacity, with temporary classrooms in use, and no capacity to take the number of children known to be coming through in the next few years. As I said, Something Needs To Be Done.

So, as is the way these days, a consultation was held. And actually, for the purposes of my views on the subject, the options in the consultation are irrelevant, as is the outcome. It's the process that has irked me. Because in essence, the options were:

1. Something that sounds really sensible, preserves the status quo but can't actually be done.

2. Something contrived and absurd.

3. What the council wants to do and is in line with current government dogma.

4. Something else contrived and absurd.

To nobody's surprise, the option that received most support was Option 1. And then, (and who could see this coming?) it turns out Option 1 simply can't be achieved, so sadly the choice that received the second highest levels of support will be pursued. And what was that? Of course it was. You know it was. It was Option 3, the council's preferred option. The option that received no support from any school governors in the consultation, no support from any teachers in the consultation, and the lowest level of support from parents of school-aged children in the consultation.

Because that's democracy in action for you.

Give the people what you want, while pretending you're giving them what they want, even though you've rigged the questions to ensure they don't choose something you don't want, but they do. I might have to go back and watch Yes, Minister again, just to remind myself, 'twas always thus and always thus will be.

But, because I'm turning into a bolshy cow in my middle age, I wrote to the bureaucratic overlord in charge of this consultation, expressing my disappointment and dissatisfaction, and asking questions about how they intended to implement their Grand Plan. And I received no reply. So I wrote again, to enquire if my first letter had been received. And I received an apology for the absence of reply, and an assurance it would be "followed up". It wasn't.

Because that's accountability and responsiveness for you.

And while I'm not happy with the outcome of the consultation, that's almost beside the point at the moment. It is what it is. Mostly, here and now, I'm just pissed off about the pretense of it all. The illusion that governments, local and national, try to weave to make us believe we have a say. The bare-faced gall of pretending to give a damn about what we, the people who elect them, think. Either give us a say, or do what you want, but don't cynically slink around pretending you care, pretending it's not already a fait accompli, pretending that "consultations" are anything but a sop to keep the people believing they have some sort of say in things. You might as well just start running circuses and giving out bread.

Footnote: I'll probably write about my fears and worries and anxieties that are being triggered by the plans for schooling in the village another time. Because I have just about enough self-awareness to know that a lot of my current feelings about what is planned are rooted in my own anxiety issues, and until I've started to deal with stabilising my own feelings I might just "go off on one", which could be entertaining for some, but not necessarily a Good Thing.

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