The inspiration – if you can call it that – for this poem came from two news items. One concerned the fact that the life expectancy of UK men shows a bigger range between rich and poor than at any time in 150 years. That’s 150 years of social legislation gone down the tube. The other concerned state primary schools, where 6 year olds have gone on strike to protest against the introduction of yet more new tests. The background here is that British children are amongst the unhappiest in Europe.
So the rich are living longer and their children are exempt from stressful early testing. Liberty is become licence, it seems, cut loose from equality and humanity. The changes began with the mania for deregulation back in the early 80s when our handbag-wielding leader proclaimed there was no such thing as society, only individual men and women. My question would be, was she just stating a fact of life or making a prophesy of a nasty future where survival of the fittest is the only creed and a notional afterlife is the only consolation for the losers?
The historian EP Thompson believed the 19th Century working classes desperately oscillated between politics and religion, depending on which of them offered more hope. If it is to be religion’s turn again, let’s at least make it one we can all agree on. My religion would involve a common belief in the sacredness of life itself, a fusion of freedom and equality and humanity that would stop the crazy see-saw.
A Shrine to Lazy Bones Two spectres haunt this house of humankind And stalk the hall to keep us in our room. At dead of night we wake with troubled mind To fears of open lock and closing tomb. Two spectres: one the ever-hungry ghost That shrieks for more and more, the more we give - A cuckoo in the nest, our children lost To parents much too busy just to live. The other spook's a mirage: heaven, hell - And life a dress rehearsal for their sake. When kids - all work, no play - are saved by the bell Then wonder not, but sleep till death awake. To exorcise these household demons both, Let's re-enchant the world and worship sloth.