Here’s a confession: I don’t really know what to do in a strike. When my children’s teachers walked out earlier this year, their classes closed, so I kept them at home and told the teachers I backed them. Easy. But this Wednesday, the school stayed open, so I took them in, and then worried all day that I’d accidentally gone against my principles.
As I watched the rally passed through the centre of Bath on Wednesday, the faces of passers-by said that this was all new on most of them too. There were supportive beeps and friendly waves from the trapped cars around Queen Anne’s Square, but I saw some people refuse leaflets with a looks of stumped embarrassment – is this to do with me? is there a way to make sure it isn’t? – and one frustrated shopper gather up her bags and plunge through the march like a furious bull, White Company carrier forward in place of horns.
We’ve had decades of placid, vacuous, atomised “aspiration” to help erase the idea of protest. Politics has insisted that all any of us want it to do a little better: get our kids into the good school, flog our house on a profit, get an appointment at the hospital doing well in the league tables. This protest was about something else – not the politics of envy but the politics of solidarity, flags waving against the pale stone of the millionaires’ homes in objection to economic decisions that are taking the most from the worst off.
What do I do in a strike? I support it, and am grateful to everyone who walked out on Wednesday.
Text and photograph © Sarah Ditum, 2011