An interesting piece on tonight’s BBC Countryfile programme discussed the SNP’s plans to provide better access to the lands of Scotland for Scotland’s inhabitants. What was once common land was grabbed by the wealthy and shut off by fences and walls, and was turned into private property. Around 50% of land in Scotland lies in the hands of just 452 individuals (according to BBC sources).
At the time of such change from common land to private property, much violence was used to subjugate Scotland’s people. My great-great-great grandfather, James ‘Elshender’ Alexander, lived at around this time and was subjected to terrible punishment for attempting to feed his family by living off the land. Living off the land becomes a difficult proposition when you cease to have access to the land. Good luck to the SNP, and good luck to the working class people of Scotland who may soon be free to use their land as they see fit.
A news item on tonight’s BBC’s 6 O’clock News featured New York and the new skyscrapers that are beginning to dominate Manhattan’s skyline. The buildings are some of the most expensive examples of real estate anywhere in the world, with one apartment reportedly selling for $100M. The interesting thing about the news item was the allegation that very few of these super-expensive properties are ever likely to be occupied by actual people. It is odd to think that in a city where 50% of working class people live on or below the poverty line (according to BBC sources) that buildings are being crammed into an already over developed site, only to be left to stand empty – all whilst feathering the nests of the very wealthy individuals and collectives buying said properties.
New York’s poor and working classes were turfed off the land that eventually became the landscaped Central Park, and ever since, people have been forced to move farther out because of spiralling real estate prices. This latest example is only the most ridiculous manifestation of the gap that exists, and that continues to widen, between the rich and the working classes. Perhaps the Occupy Movement should extend its remit to include a form of squatting in buildings where people could be housed comfortably instead of being forced to live in poverty? What violence might today’s establishment mete out in the face of such peaceful protest?
This post, and the short ones that follow, are a way of paying respect to those who lost their lives at St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester on this day in 1819. Losing one’s life is a heavy price to pay for standing up and having one’s voice heard, but many of us must be thankful for the bravery shown in the face of violence meted out by the establishment almost two centuries ago. Working class rights were first established as a direct result of the intended peaceful protest of the 60,000 people attending St. Peter’s Fields, and so the following posts ponder some significant issues facing working class people at this very moment. It remains to be seen whether today’s generation is able to achieve similar levels of cultural change.
For more information on the Peterloo Massacre visit The People’s Museum, Manchester.