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Space, Time, Change and The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Space is important. I don’t mean space, as in, that place inhabited by planets, asteroids and satellites. I mean that thing that we occupy, our surroundings.

Consider an aeroplane. You sit by a window peering out. The distance between you and the other side is a few centimetres, but it’s safe to say that you are not in the same space as the cabin’s exterior. Inside and outside here are vastly different. If you were no longer sat in your seat and were instead suspended on the aircraft’s wing at 30,000 feet, you’d notice the change. You might still be by that window, but now you’d be looking in rather than peering out, and it’d probably be a lot colder and windier. 

At times, me and my father talk about places and the historical figures that might have been there. I’ve recently been fortunate enough to visit Athens, a place that holds numerous sites that could warrant such a conversation. The Ancient Agora was one such place. While there, I spent time in front of the remains of a building Socrates apparently visited. And while many buildings no longer exist as they once did, there is the chance that I stood where he stood, or walked some paths he walked. I did not see him there though. We might have shared a geographical space, but we did not share the same time. Thousands of years sit between me and him. Time then too is important to us and the world.

The Labour Party says it’s  ‘Time for a Change’. For transparency's sake, I should say that I am a member of the Labour Party, I support Labour in this election and I’ve been trying to help Labour candidates get elected. Likewise, I believe it is ‘Time for a Change’. Ronald Reagan famoulsy asked, ‘are you better off now than you were four years ago?’. Time is at the heart of that question.

With the Conservative Party we can extend that time frame a bit. Rather than four we've had fourteen years. Of course, they were in a coalition for the first part of that and there had been a financial crisis before they entered office, and there has since been Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to name but a few things. So maybe their time in government hasn’t been easy, but things in the country don’t seem great do they? Harold Wilson said ‘a week is a long time in politics’. I suspect that he didn’t mean this to promote the potential to achieve things in short amounts of time. But there are a lot of weeks in fourteen years, so I’m willing to say that there’s been enough time for the country to be in a better state then it is. 

Time though, as we have seen, is not alone, space is important too. That’s why, with all due respect to the Labour Party, I would say it is not only important that it be ‘Time for a Change’, but also ‘a place or space for a change’. The spaces we live in are important here. Constituencies see one person elected to represent an area. As such, rather than being viewed as one election, I would encourage the 4th of July to be viewed as hundreds of elections happening simultaneously. I would also encourage us to look around our communities and ask if this is a place for change? Are there things that could be better here? Perhaps unsurprisingly, I believe the UK is a place where change is needed, both nationally and in locals across the country. Whether you share this outlook, or whether you believe that an affirmative answer warrants a Labour representative or one from another party is obviously up to you.

Over the coming articles I hope to make clear that this argument is a space for change. Of course, I cannot speak about every constituency, but I can try and address some things on the national level. Whether you feel my argument is valid and  applies to your constituency, or not, is for you to decide.

The mode I’ve chosen to do this? A comparison of the UK to Harry McClintock’s 1928 song, The Big Rock Candy Mountain. According to Sevier County, the lyrics describe a travelling hobo who comes down the tracks to find the peace and perfection of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. For my part, it seems to be an example of idealistic world-building by its author or narrator. We might find some of the things included odd or outdated. Its use of the term ‘hobo’ is far from ideal now. But as a source for contrast it could provide an interesting, if admittedly satirical, insight into the country’s current state. It should be said that much of what will follow is critical, and concerns serious matters.

While aspects may not bear a comedic comment, there is something satirical about some comparisons that I shall be making. That being said, I do not write with any intent to reduce serious and consequential matters to being solely the punchline of a joke. I should also note that I will not address every aspect of the song nor every issue facing the country. What I intend is to focus on a snapshot. If a discussion results from the points I wish to raise, regarding matters, arguments or counter arguments that I did not address, I would deem that a success.

So please join me in visiting The Big rock Candy Mountain, and let’s see if the UK and your constituency is a space for change. As prelude and introduction to our comparison, I’ll leave you with the song’s opening verse:

One evening as the sun went down. And the jungle fire was burning. Down the track came a hobo hikin’. And he said, “Boys, I’m not turning. I’m headed for a land that’s far away. Beside the crystal fountains. So come with me, we’ll go and see. The Big Rock Candy Mountains.


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