Friday night saw a WAG contingent head down to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, with modest expectations. A couple hundred people had turned out to protest David Cameron’s moronic vision for restructuring the NHS, whereby local community groups will somehow be able to compete with ruthless private sector firms and take over their neighbourhood heath services. What a fucking joke. It becomes pretty clear that the cuts are about much more than the “Big Society” or local management of services, however, with the announcement that hundreds of thousands of frontline staff may lose their jobs.
Sensing the affair might turn into the usual bout of ineffectual placard waving, a few of us distributed WAG literature and were ready to head home when the crowd did the unexpected. When the opportunity arose, people moved over the crosswalk and blocked off the high street to car traffic. Police were reduced to running around wringing their hands and sulking, pleading with the mob to clear the road and generally behaving like children who’d had their Nintendo privileges taken away. It was embarrassing to watch and we would have felt sorry for them had we seen real human beings acting so pathetic.
In a remarkable and spontaneous display of solidarity, however, a van driven by a pair of very confused looking pigs took off the wrong way down Whitechapel road and arrived at the scene five minutes after everyone had departed, carrying on where the protesters had left off and shutting it down to traffic yet again.
While the events were hardly Tahir square, they were an important foreshadowing of the kind of political environment we are now entering. Without realising it, the Royal Hospital protesters replicated the behaviour of we see time and time again in periods of systemic change. To radically transform society, the people of Britain will have to shut down the city and the economy and refuse to return to their everyday lives.
With our most essential services now under threat, it now seems less a question of if this will happen but when.