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25 Mar, 2020 09:04

The working class should be hailed as Covid-19 heroes for enabling all our comfy quarantines

The working class should be hailed as Covid-19 heroes for enabling all our comfy quarantines

I grew up in a working-class family and know first-hand what these people have endured for decades. With the Covid-19 pandemic, they are pillars holding up societies, and should be hailed as such – but I fear they never will be.

We now find ourselves in a new reality where the glass and chrome penises in the sky and the slick-suited penises that work in them are working from home on their laptops. Perhaps their important and highly-paid jobs, and the billions spent on their work environments, were not as crucial to our society as we were told 10 years ago when they were ‘too important to fail’ – those 50-story glistening buildings now sit empty. Covid-19 has pushed us through the looking glass.

And emerging as the unexpected heroes of this crisis is the army in brightly coloured fleeces and high-visibility jackets – the sons, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons of the working class abandoned as unnecessary, old fashioned and unable to cope in this ever-changing world. They are turning up at the supermarkets and to the warehouses when it’s still dark and filling the lorries and the shelves that are ensuring we have food in our fridges. They are cleaning our public areas at their own risk. They are serving in the chemist shops, and delivering food and medicine on mopeds.

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Since the end of the Miners’ Strike in 1985, the plight of the British working class has become very grim indeed – draconian anti-trade union laws, diminishing to nonexistent housing for social rent and the rise of the buy-to-let vulture landlord – skilled and relatively well-paid working class jobs have disappeared, our communities have been subjected to ‘managed decline’, leaving those mining communities, but also dock workers, print workers, car manufacturing, engineering and the millions of women in the rag trade that were once the vanguard of the working class, to struggle in poor health.

As a 16 year old leaving school and about to start work in the factory with my mum in 1984, my dad came out on strike – he was a Nottinghamshire miner; we knew that fight was for the future of our communities, and as the strike went on the fight was for whatever dignity and autonomy we had left amongst us, and we fought with a wider sense of solidarity for working-class people everywhere.

Now, I work from home, minding to be extra careful because the asthma my working-class childhood left me with makes Covid-19 that much more dangerous. And my relatively comfortable self-isolation is enabled by those same people our society has been neglecting time and again.

Meanwhile back in Nottinghamshire, where my family remains, and where the mines and factories have been replaced by mega warehouses – the centre of Mike Ashley’s empire sits on top of what was once Shirebrook Mine – Ashley has recently been warned by the Government to stay closed and send the staff home as he claimed that a sports warehouse was part of an emergency service. This exemplary contempt he has shown for working-class people must end.

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None of us know what will happen in the weeks and months to come – whether the changing values of the work we do will be based in the material realities of society or whether those that have lived the life of Riley on the backs of the working class will once again use their wealth and power to subjugate us into the false consciousness that we are not worthy.

My nightmare for a future away from our current nightmare of Covid-19 is one where Idris Elba is sitting on the sofa of the BBC’s One Show promoting the new blockbuster of 2024, ‘Heroes in Luminous Jackets’, the story of how the working class came to rescue our financial and social system, and talking about how he was inspired and drew upon his own experiences of contracting Covid-19 and isolating for 14 days in his luxury pad.

Let’s not make my nightmare a reality.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.