Winners and Losers

May 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

Back I went, with a soulful bounding leap, to the West Yorkshire Playhouse and their new production of Death of a Salesman. And a very fine production it is, with disturbing new relevance. As the lights came up at the end I said “See what happens when you vote Tory” and earned myself a dirty look from a guy in front.

For the benefit of that gentleman, and anyone else who thinks that Dave and the ‘Big Society’ are the answer, let’s examine this further. Of course our new government don’t want the deaths of salesmen or anyone else, but their vision is of a society where hard work and ability are richly rewarded and there’s a teensy safety net for any poor schmuck who can’t cut it. In their spare time these upstanding citizens will start their own schools, run their local charity and deliver meals on wheels. Then our welfare state can be cut back till it resembles the one they have (?) in the US and our tax bills will miraculously shrink. It all sounds so lovely, doesn’t it?

What Arthur Miller shows, far more effectively than a dozen Guardian articles or green blogs, is how the flipside of this American/Etonian Dream plays out. Willy Loman doesn’t do much wrong, but he ends up totally screwed by the rules that he believes in. This reaches its apogee near the end of the play, when his need for money has become critical and his neighbour offers him a job, paying enough to get by on. For complex reasons, which Miller shows us perfectly, Willy can’t bring himself to accept the offer.  Everyone – the neighbour, the audience, and Willy himself – knows that it was his last chance and that he’s now had it. This is how unfettered capitalism destroys its “losers”. Willy has the means of material salvation, but he chooses to destroy himself (literally) in preference to loserdom.

 Life under New Labour was already pretty tough for ‘losers’ (the disabled, the chronically ill, students without rich parents, manual workers whose industries have crumbled under them – those losers). If Dave and co get a good run at it, lots of Willy Loman types will find themselves at the wrong end of the big society. Just you wait. And in the meantime pop along to the Playhouse and take plenty of tissues!

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I don’t agree with Nick Back to the Hinterland (Yipee!)

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How cold is my valley?

Who I am

This blog started during the months before the 2010 General Election, in which I was the Green candidate for Calder Valley. It's morphed into an account of green activism...and other meanderings.

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