A Possible Disparity
I’m having trouble articulating fully how I feel about what I’m going to write, but bear with me on this.
Last week I was presented with two google maps. One depicts all the growing privatisation in the National Health Service and this second one illustrates all the ACTA protests that happened across Europe.
Even as I read the more liberal news sources like the Guardian and the New Statesman, I wouldn’t have come across this information (though I expect to). Instead I found this information on my Twitter timeline. Thank you Twitter.
Both maps get to the point across of how large both of these events are. They were larger than I actually realised. This isn’t to say I didn’t know about these events, it’s just that the scale of what was occurring was not made apparent to me. Now I know, how do I feel and what can I do?
I feel like everything is being underestimated or downplayed. With regard to the dismantling of the NHS, I thought it was one or two hospitals in the south of England for now, with a few others under consideration (but still something I am not happy with).
But this isn’t the case at all. I didn’t realise this much ‘dismantling’ was underway and I don’t understand how this much change is happening and how this Tory/LibDem government is getting away with it. Especially when there are no planned cuts in Wales and Scotland (well one), both of those national NHS authorities are independent of NHS England and this will surely create an obvious disparity between these three countries as this privatisation grows?
When this is all finished, do those on the English side of the UK’s borders start paying for their healthcare? Do some of us jump across the Severn to Wales to avoid paying? I think many of those nipping across the Severn bridge will find much better value for their £5 soon. It’s already been the case now for a few years in Wales that prescriptions are free, while in the UK they cost a small fee.
More importantly I often read in the news about hospital waiting lines and shortage of equipment, how do these national cuts not conflict with one another? What happens when the public feel the full force of these cuts? This is what I don’t understand and I’m somebody who is trying to stay informed.
The information collected for the NHS map is from www.keepournhspublic.com. A crowd sourced effort to keep others informed on what is happening.
I went to Germany in April this year, I was in Bremen; a small city in the North. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and in the city’s centre, I saw people wearing those Anonymous masks, protesting peacefully in public. It was the first time I saw for myself people taking an interest in their digital rights and raising awareness.
Outside of large scale Occupy protests via the news, I’ve never seen any events held in this country. The link (posted above) regarding the ACTA protests seem to suggest we are a little less engaged on this very important issue.
Viewing the map, you can only see one record of a protest in the whole of the UK. Whereas on mainland Europe apart from Spain and Bulgaria our engagement on this issue is totally inadequate. One only has to think about Romania and how they were a Soviet State up until 1989 and they were more engaged on this issue than we were. I guess there is something to be said about being occupied by another nation to make one realise how important your freedoms are.
As usual, France and Germany put the UK to shame. I don’t get why we have this air of superiority towards those countries and the EU in general in this country (for those readers outside the EU, the national papers here are generally sceptical towards mainland Europe, I think it started with the EU wanting straight bananas). This feeling of superiority is not as gross as that in the US, but we are creeping towards it with.
Cyberspace vs Meatspace
Importantly for me, this made me think how disengaged this country seems offline. I feel like I live in two worlds; online there is this constant flow of information and shared awareness towards exposing corruption, hypocrisy and the day in and day out of lies by those in government and offline (in this country), none of that seems tangible. Whether that’s through a protest movement that can capture the public’s attention (though I do think the movements against banks who avoid paying their taxes is the most significant) or through active discussion.
Not to downplay the honest protests that do happen even in this city (Swansea), but as I attend them, it always seems like it’s the same people fighting for everybody else. I guess the majority of the public are not engaged enough yet to care, even though all these things affect us. I am also aware of how I’m contradicting myself because it takes those who live in meatspace to update cyberspace and inform the rest of us.
But, my perception could be inaccurate because I am more engaged online with social issues and there are different narratives being played out in these two spaces; with the more throwaway/consumerist running rampant in meatspace. This might be because I choose what I want to engage with (and so everything I’ve listed here as a concern, only exists in my mind). But it does seem that the difference between what happens online and what happens offline has never been more obvious to me.