Opinion

The reality is to change things, you need to get involved

It's a reality that if we don't sort things out for ourselves, things are destined to stay the same

Oil rigs

Rather than complain about the influence of big oil, we must rely less on fossil fuels. Photo: Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

I often wonder if the reason the world is too complex and difficult to handle is that we spend so much time blaming it for things that we dislike, but which we are part of. It might be a realisation that hit me because of a discussion I had last week with some people about police corruption. As I listened to them talk about this rotten reality, my mind drifted into the below line of thinking.  

The problem of what in my former parlance was called ‘bent coppers’ continues. But it’s not just rotten officers; there are many other things that earn our disdain and hatred.   

The heartlessness of small merchants and small operators, whose businesses become huge because the public supports and purchases from them, continues. As does the self-obsession of obscure actors who get big breaks in movies and on TV and stage, then throw their narcissism in our faces.  

All the above are signs of what happens in life. Bent coppers are made not just because they choose corruption, but because we place them in the front line to face off evil and deal with threats. But does a police officer’s family know for certain that they will return home that night? On too many occasions they do not, or if they do they come burdened with the wounds of fights and attacks.   

We employ coppers to face off evil and corruption, and we should realise that that task is capable of warping any human heart. It’s a kind of permanent recipe for hardening the heart.  

We back small creators and merchants who then, through our patronage and custom, become giants and then in their gated community life sift through their billions, a distortion of human life. We make the monsters we go on to loathe. We brand the diggers for the oil that we consume as immoral because they harm the world we all live in.   

Our powers of disdain for the people and things that mankind employs to supply security or convenience – our police officers or computers or instant delivery, or oil for our motor car – are immense. But it is a form of moralism that conceals the need and ability for us to change ourselves and our buying and using habits. We are not intellectually, culturally or politically challenged when we can outsource the blame to the people who have been awarded our support because we buy them or employ them.  

If we don’t want bent coppers then we have to start getting rid of evil and corruption in society, because bent coppers thrive in the undergrowth of others’ wrongdoing.   

If we don’t want oil diggers destroying our lives then we will need to reform our thirst and need for their products. If we don’t want giant wealth concentrated in the hands of people we consider inhuman and grasping then we need to change our buying patterns.

 If we don’t want the reckless production of poverty at birth developing into a career of poverty, homelessness and self-harm, then we are going to have to develop a sharper politics. Not the blunt object that we largely leave confused and dazed people to run on our behalf. 

We have to learn to soar above the minutiae of personalities and sillinesses and grasp a level of educated comprehension that none of us have ever come anywhere near before.  

In other words, we are going to have to think our way out of the shit. We cannot rely on the platitudes and promises of politicians and leaders. We must become knowledgeable ourselves. We have, for instance, to look after our own wellbeing by looking after our own bodies, so that the NHS gets some space to change and grow healthy again.  

We have to not whinge from the sidelines but get involved if the politics that are presented to us don’t smell or taste right. We have to become players in participatory democracy and not leave it all to representational democracy, where we watch as the wrong people get the wrong job of sorting out the world on our behalf.   

The world is an increasing challenge for each and every generation of us. And increasingly we will have to ‘duck and dive, bob and weave’ and not be simply a commentator from the sidelines.   

Excuse this pre-Christmas whinge at whingers, but I am always meeting people who are full of comment but do precious little other than complain. Will they improve the world by their complaints? The evidence is that the complainers are letting off steam and then going about their uninvolved lives.  

Last week, though, I met a most wonderful man who was full of brio and drive. A plumber all his life, talking about his children getting to university and excelling at their work. A different kind of poverty to the one I went through. 

A father who supported his children into getting so much out of education that, though they leave laden with debt, they get more out of life than what he went through.   

Don’t ask me what all of this means. No, I have not been drinking. It’s the early Christmas spirit that always gets me thinking about what the French call  la condition humaine.   

John Bird is the founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue. Read more of his words here.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.


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