Nothing’s gonna change my world
I found, quite by accident, a demo version of Across The Universe which was recorded by The Beatles.
Demos always fascinate me — they’re a song you love, but not quite the song you love. A rougher version, sometimes more raw. And Across The Universe is without doubt one of my favourite tracks from The Beatles.
But what has enthralled me about this particular track is how just after singing the line, “nothing’s gonna change my world”, John Lennon just can’t help himself and throws in “I wish it fucking would”.
That sentiment seemed to echo through 50 years, and just touch a nerve. We live in extraordinary times. For someone like me with left-leaning politics, it’s particularly terrifying ones. As a world we seem to be leaning more and more to far right politics, built around cults of personality.
Everyone got excited when France showed a dose of common sense, and chose Emmanuel Macron to be president over the extreme xenophobia of Marine Le Pen. But the trend in politics has not been good of late — whether we’re talking Britains narrow vote in favour of leaving the EU, Trump’s election as President or what looks like an upcoming landslide for the Tory Party in the General Election.
There are worrying trends — just last week my news was full of Republicans in America crowing about the success of getting through a bill which will destroy the universal healthcare that Obama struggled to get through. They crow about this being a fairer system, even though they acknowledge that many won’t be able to have cover, and essentially there being a lot of avoidable deaths because people who don’t have insurance won’t be able to get the treatments they need.
In the UK, the National Health Service has been slowly been set up to fail under the Tory government. It has been hit with one cut after another — nothing showed this more than the ransomware attacks this week which showed how the IT infrastructure had been underfunded and stretched far beyond what should be acceptable. They are still being made to make do with XP for Christ’s sake. If the Tory’s do get their predicted landslide general election, it will mean more cuts and closures that will strip the health service the country relies on to the bone.
We have a steamroller of Governments saying they need to stripmine public services. Not enough money for schools, or health, or the disabled. All actions which are fueling the giant gulf between the rich and everyone else. Under previous Tory governments it was typically miners, nurses, teachers who were villainised. Under the Tories and Trump, this has now moved onto scientists, doctors, lawyers. Who next?
The underlying unfairness which lights a fire inside us is that even as public services are being cut, more money under both the Tories and Trump is being found for massively increased spending in defence. Such are the priorities of the right wing.
I’m all too aware that John Lennon faced the unfairness of his day in his own way. I remember all too vividly the day he was shot, and the unrealness of it, watching so many reflections on his life. As a 9 year old, I only knew him for his music until that day.
I remember the coverage of his protests. He staged a couple of “bed-ins” with Yoko Ono to protest the Vietnam War. He returned his MBE to the Queen in similar protest over the British governments support of actions in Vietnam. But he received harsh criticism over these actions, with people saying “he wouldn’t change anything”. Yet he did it anyway.
I’m also painfully aware that he wasn’t perfect — he was a deeply flawed human being at times. He was estranged from his first son Julian, despite appearing devoted to Yoko Ono he did run off with another woman for a 18 months in what he called his “lost weekend”, he could be deeply cynical and sarcastic in an unlikable way. However I’m aware that his premature death to gun crime elevated him from a flawed, occasionally annoying human being into a symbol of protest.
The criticism around him is something which causes me to feel paralysed with terror when I think of signing a petition, writing to an MP or joining a march. If someone as famous as John Lennon was being ignored, what hope do I have?
Indeed that was the sense I had last week. Within New Zealand a petition on mental health was delivered to Health Minister Jonathon Coleman, one I was behind.
I’m painfully aware of the scars of mental health. I was working this year with the IT Heavy Hitters group who raise money for suicide awareness. I’ve had two friends who had severe mental health issues, and attempted to get themselves admitted for their own safety. They both told an identical tale of facing long waits in a reception, being occasionally asked “oh, are you still here”, before being told there wasn’t space for them and “y’know hope for the best”.
I know — that’s just anecdotal evidence at best … Dig around the site at Statistics New Zealand, and it’s clear that suicide is the cause of more deaths than road traffic accidents. And New Zealand roads aren’t considered the best in the world!
Still, when presented with this petition, Health Minister Jonathon Coleman dismissed it, claiming that it would have been signed by the usual suspects, “left-wing and anti-government protesters”.
What does it take to actually be heard? Hopefully with an election on the horizon in New Zealand, this seems to be the only way to make some politicians take interest, when their jobs are on the line.
Society seems to want to tell you repeatedly that your protest won’t change things, that you don’t live in the real world, that “yes, it’s unfair, but there’s nothing we can do about it”. Probably the most powerful words we’ve heard in 2017 is the rise of the phrase “nevertheless, she persisted”.
Movements like the Black Civil Rights and the push to legalise gay marriage in 2015 have shown that the world can change for the better. Even if the moment you make the world better, someone seeks to undo all you’ve done.
Even Governments will change, if you’re persistent, if you show your outrage isn’t going away.
Encourage your friends to avoid voting out of fear — the far right seem to increasingly using fear solely as a tool to manipulate voting. Theresa May in the UK is campaigning for the Tories, and refusing to discuss her policies, instead just relying on personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, and hoping if she repeats the words “strong and stable leadership”, you’ll believe it. Donald Trump likewise relied heavily on personal attacks — first demonising Hilary Clinton, and now in office, turning the blame to the press, the head of the FBI, anyone but himself.
Write to your MP, sign a petition, join a protest march — too much of politics relies on knowing that you’re unhappy with the unfairness of the status quo, but that you’re not actually going to do much about it. The more you mobilise, the more it worries politicians, especially with an election coming up (although to be fair, even though my local MP is not of my politics, he’s very good at listening to us, and championing things — but I can tell you now he’s not Jonathon Coleman). Sadly in all political parties, there are some MPs who are just very much in it for themselves. So write around, see if you can find allies on a topic who don’t share your exact politics. Build bridges.
Whatever you do, rewrite that lyric to “something’s gonna change my world”.