On Living in a Time of Regression

This is not going to be a particularly cheerful post. For those looking for happiness and fun, it might be worth popping here instead and look at cute pictures of kittens.

For as long as everyone can remember, we’ve faced ongoing improvements in our quality of life. Better public services, better infrastructure, more leisure, more shiny things to buy and play with. with that has come rising expectations.

And of course, it’s all now gone to pot. Not because of resource scarcity, or climate change – though both of those may well be yet to come – but because our financial whizkids got the maths wrong.

I’m just wondering, are we psychologically prepared for this? How will we cope with accepting that our expectations are going to be very different in this period of social decline and regression?

The immediate trigger for my chain of thought was this article suggesting that womens’ rights may start to regress in our current period of austerity. But I’ve also had a tendency to read the work of so-called “doomer” authors – the likes of James Kunstler and Richard Heinberg – who argue that modern civilization is facing inevitable decline. I suspect they may have affected my mood too.

My guess is that we’re going to see lots of similar articles suggesting that it’s not just womens rights that will be going backwards. Long fought-for improvements in housing, education, social mobility, access to healthcare, protection of the vulnerable…all those are likely to be scattered to the winds.

All those issues are indicators for health, which leaves me wondering. Could we, within a short period of time, be the first generation in living memory to record a drop in average life expectancy? I’m waiting for that headline. I give it two or three years.

Whenever there’s a major health or social care scandal – say, Baby P or Stafford Hospital, the rhetoric is, “How do we stop this happening again?” The honest answer, though you won’t find many people uttering it, is, “We can’t.”

Social services departments up and down the country are making social workers redundant. Just about every NHS trust I know is doing very little recruitment, and actively encouraging people to take early retirement. There’s going to be more children battered to death. There’s going to be more of our elderly relatives lying in their own filth on hospital wards.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we as professionals should give up on our responsibilities to safeguard the vulnerable. We have a duty to our employers, our professional regulators and our consciences to keep trying. But we’re inevitably going to be at best holding the fort, at worst frantically bailing as the ship sinks.

And naturally the media will be crucifying us when the ship sinks anyway.

Are we ready to hear that message? Both individually or as a society?

Or maybe we should just try not to think about it. Shall we go back to the kitten pictures?

3 thoughts on “On Living in a Time of Regression

  1. I think you’re right, I’ve never felt this pessimistic about everything in my entire life and I feel as sorry for health & social care workers trying their level best as I do service users.
    It saddens me that in these terrible times many have been bought off, incorporated and taken over by an ever fascist establishment. This is notable within the voluntary sector and even within the survivor movement both looking increasingly like Animal Farm. I look at films like ‘V for Vendetta’ wistfully and imagine all world debt being written off and realise how deluded I am because there is so little resistance even though people out number rulers. The combination of cuts/reforms and how society has been expertly maneuvered into being quite divided has created the most toxic culture and despite the pockets of resistance the majority don’t seem ready to hear it, see it or believe it – a lot more suffering will have to occur first

  2. I try to be positive but I am inclined to agree. I feel I am not working in the way I want to due to increased workloads, staff not being replaced and just fewer services. It’s not a very happy place to be at the moment and that makes me sad because I think we’re a good team 😦

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