By the age of fifteen I began to realise the future my school and family were guiding me towards. My parents wanted me to do well and have a good career. They thought I was going to be a high flying naturalist like David Attenborough. My school were guiding me towards qualifications – O Levels followed by A Levels then on to a degree, a career and a place in society.
I was allowed a few wild years (as long as they did not interfere too much with my future career) but then I was to settle down, get married, have kids and earn lots of money.
The key to success was to earn lots of money, buy a great house, have an expensive car and bask in the benefits that a good job brought.
I was fifteen. I was into girls, Rock Music, parties, gigs and hanging out with my friends playing loud music.
I saw this pursuit of a career and money as a trap.
At sixteen I started reading Kerouac and that opened up an alternative lifestyle. I realised that I had a choice. What sort of life did I want? It made me look at what was on offer.
The society I lived in was hierarchical. The establishment ran the show. They represented the wealthy and powerful. They lived in a different world – one of privilege and superiority. At the time I played rugby to a high level and was able to glimpse into their world from the rugby club. It was elitist, arrogant and exclusive. It had its rules, codes and ethics.
I was young, idealistic and headstrong. I believed in fairness and justice. I wanted a life of discovery, pleasure and substance.
All I saw in the establishment was a lust for wealth and power, an arrogant sense of privilege and a lot of hypocrisy towards religion, patriotism and the law. They bought or bribed their way and used religion and politics. They were racist, xenophobic, tribal and lacked morality. Wealth and power were all that was important. They thought they were entitled.
They disgusted me. The society they created was destructive, exploitative and extremely unfair.
I wanted something better – something fairer – but above all something more meaningful, something deeper.
At the time I developed a strong antiestablishment stance against the warmongering, environment trashing, racism of the machine.
The sixties were in full swing. It made sense to drop out. I did not want to be a cog in this immoral machine. At the time it appeared that we might be able to live outside of society and not be part of that obscenity. I did not want to be exploited or slotted into a convenient space.
I did not want to mow the grass and wash the car on Sunday, nip down the pub for a pint and have my wife cook the Sunday roast. (Ironically I have just finished mowing the grass).
At the time I was apolitical. I believed that all the political parties represented the Establishment and were as bad as each other – lying hypocrites.
Well the sixties dream rapidly disintegrated. The establishment were firmly in control. The world went on having wars, practicing its racism and xenophobia and relentlessly trashing the planet for profit. The unity and fairness that I dreamed of was a far cry.
The only way to drop out was to adopt a creative lifestyle or live off the land. Living off creativity is not easy. I tried my hand at painting, was useless at music and settled for writing. It was then I discovered that in the publishing world (run by the establishment) it was who you were or who you knew.
I had a number of years as a student, then working in a series of jobs. But when we had kids I knew I had to make a living. I had to opt in. It was a compromise. I took up teaching and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I was a cog in the machine being exploited by the establishment.
I discovered politics. They were not all the same. The Tory party was formed by the establishment to look after the interests of the rich and powerful. The Labour party was formed out of the trade union movement to look after the interests of working people, to fight for rights and produce a fairer society.
Other parties were not ever going to form a government. Voting for them was largely a wasted vote – but then the way democracy is run votes rarely count.
I wasn’t really working class but I discovered that the Labour party did represent me more than the Tories. When the Tories were in power public services (who they regarded as parasites) were starved of money and tax cuts were given to the wealthy. When Labour got in power public servants and the poor were better funded. There was a difference.
Now I find myself choosing between parties that both represent the establishment to a greater or lesser degree. If Labour becomes too antiestablishment the Tory propaganda machine tears it to pieces so it drifts to become watered-down Toryism in order to be electable.
The life I really want is apolitical, antiestablishment. I want a fair world where people are not exploited, the planet isn’t trashed, we don’t have wars and there is equality between genders and races. I want a life of creativity, travel, friendship and meaning.
I still dream. I am much more political and still hugely antiestablishment.
The question is how to change the world and make it better. I don’t hold with the idea of simply retreating and living my own life quietly and peacefully while the relentless appalling machine trashes everyone and everything.
I don’t see a way of altering it.