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The Wigan Pier of the Periphery


I just finished some work in the city. I was working with a pair of carpenters, men in dirty clothes with splinters in their hands. As we worked the nicely dressed office class ignored those building the world around them, the delivery drivers, the cleaners, the homeless picking tobacco from pieces of spent paper. I was among the people in the periphery, the insignificant to the important careerists of the government and corporate class who rode elevators up towers of glass to sit through a day where taxation and monopoly fees keep them paid. The conversations among us dirty men is usually on history, warfare and politics. No status quo is sacred when it comes to discussions of justice.

George Orwell noted in his book The Road to Wigan Pier, that he would find deeper conversations with intellectual nuance among the grubby faced miners than he would among the academic elites protected within the walls of insulated institutions. You see, the people in the periphery have more in common with those across the globe, they can relate to the slave workers building the sky scappers in Dubai while those in the buildings in our own capital cities ignore the dying workers as they collapse from the heat. It’s not hot in the air conditioned restaurants or shopping among the diamonds and fur coats sold in the desert dystopia. The dirty handed men talk about Gaza, about the immorality of genocide because to them the difference between right and wrong is not based on the need to retain a status quo.

It’s hard to truly hold a dissenting view when you live in relative comfort. The status quo has been good to you, it feeds you and has provided you with a degree of affluence. To be comfortable means that you tend to ignore the plight of those in the periphery or those far in yonder who are blown to pieces, sometimes in your name. To question power is hard when they are friends with, familiar to or you aspire to be among them. Politics, a sport between two similar beasts vying for control over a violent monopoly, entertaining, we will get them next time! You smile with a handshake to your rival. The issues are based on how much more money you may get from the taxpayer, or maybe tax cuts in areas that favour you while gaining subsidies elsewhere. The concoction of a mixed economy, the fascist model of liberal democracy. War and enabling genocide, that is none of your business.

So the conversation goes on while lifting heavy items, fixing them in place, making sure the measurements are correct, sweeping up the debris, outside the rulers stare at screens or sit around tables devising ways to punish the men repairing the restaurant that they will visit at lunchtime. The men with dirty hands, struggling to pay next weeks rent, waiting for invoices to be paid are more concerned with the kids dying in Gaza. To them they matter more than an unpaid invoice. To those looking for another investment property, no time to care.

Australia is a nation with socialist inclinations, the kind of socialists that sip wine, hire cleaners and want to make money. Gordon Gecko communists. Greed is good. Jealousy fuels policy. The manifest destiny is consumerism, parasitic consumption, excess, never enough to have. To climb the ladder of indifference, make more money regardless of ever earning it in a market place. That is the cultures of the civilised. The culture of destiny that defeated the Lakota, the Kaurna and now Gaza is to be colonised. Progress. Above the ruins shopping malls for middle class shoppers and tourists to plunder through, coming soon. Tomorrow in Gaza, indentured workers will build the sky scrapers just like Dubai while Westerners hire a Bugatti for a day to dine on imported Polar Bear meat. Manifest destiny.

None dare call it fascism. But the belief is that more government is the answer, and if our mates and enough inhuman angels with degrees and who look the part were in power then all will be well. It’s because over time, the fair go and Aussie Battler has become a corporate suit, a welfare junkie and another government goon. It pays better. The despised migrant are more often True Blue battler, the one seeking the fair go. And the people with grubby hands, scrubbing and fixing seldom want more government, if any at all. They want to be left alone. They want free markets, they are anti-war. They are the dissenters, the real radicals. Not the students whose idea of radicalism is to become an academic for the status quo or to work for the State or whatever corporation pays best.

Those grubby miners in Orwell’s Wigan Pier are the dissidents, who discuss and debate for peace, who crave an end to war, who hold anarchist inclinations. The grubby hands of those in the periphery would survive and thrive in a stateless world, they understand the market, they live by voluntary interactions, none of them have read Hayek or Rothbard yet they walk that path more than either man ever did. Those who ignore the wars, who pretend to care and only care when they are paid to, they may as well thrive in Orwell’s 1984 or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, because the Mockingjay’s wings flap in places like Yemen and Gaza, not your capital city. You are the over dressed deviants cheering for the deaths of children, they are the ones dying.

The Gazans are the Lakota, the Kaurna. The difference is we have smartphones now showing us the shame of our own pasts, the white washed history of colonial exceptionalism draped in a civilised narrative over the corpses of dead babies of savages. The Palestinian child weeping in hunger may as well be from Botany Bay or Wounded Knee. We know how the story ends. That is why most don’t care. The civilised drive an EV to work, plumes of coal fire from power plants far away are better than smoke from a tail pipe, the naked hands of Congolese minor miner pulling rare Earth for batteries are blurs in the periphery. Enjoy that career where men with guns extort money through taxation from those barely making ends meet, where regulations ruin small business so that bigger ones thrive, punish the grubby hands of those delivering your food and building your homes. So long as the status quo remains, then you shall live above them.

Those in the periphery, the men of Wigan Pier, the ghosts of the Kaurna and Lakota, they all cared. In years from now, when the current wars are over, forgotten. A new one will rage. Men far away will work with calloused hands, talking, discussing, upset over the death and pain. Those walking past on their way to careers inside towers of corporate and government magnificence, as always won’t care. They are too good to. Left and Right are just punches to the face to those with calloused hands. Politics is your sport, not theirs. It’s them versus us, or you versus them, maybe just you living above those in the periphery. You decide but the status quo is not for them, it never was.

April, 2024

Published inAll Articles and EssaysPhilosophy, Society and LibertyUncategorizedWar, History and Foreign Policy