As part of the What’s Next series of events and discussions, KK Outlet tonight hosts a debate between some of today’s brightest political commentators, including freelance journalist and protestor Ellie Mae O’Hagan, journalist Sam Wolfson and Occupied Times collective, Tzortzis Rallis, Mike Sabbagh and Michael Richmond. The subject is equality and the aim is to elucidate issues affecting us, the generation journalists continually refer to as ‘lost’. Dazed Digital catch up with O’Hagan ahead of the event to discuss the issues at stake.
Describe Theresa May? Christ, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be offensive to the thing I’d compare her to. She’s a Poundland Margaret Thatcher
Dazed Digital: Which topics will you be covering in tomorrow’s debate at KK Gallery?
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: We’ll be talking about age-old British social issues that have gained particular prominence over the past year: protest, social class, generational difference, civil liberties, riots.
DD: In case any of us weren’t aware, what are the main issues facing young people today?
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: Having outgrown a young person’s railcard I’m not sure I qualify as young anymore. However I think it has to be joblessness. New Labour encouraged young people to view university as the only respectable option. So now we have a generation of young people who are spending extortionate sums of money on getting a degree, and emerging from university to find there are no jobs. So, joblessness and debt has to be the biggest issue facing young people. I often think young people must look ahead to their futures and see nothing but blank space.
DD: Who’s to blame?
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: Well, obviously this government’s policies have made everything significantly worse. But tragically, a lot of their actions (like privatising the NHS) have been possible because the previous government laid the foundations. Really though, I think, the problem is the capitalist system. It’s a system where the pursuit of profit outweighs any other interest – including the wellbeing of the people. So the needs of the population conflict with the ability to make money, the people always lose.
Owen Jones wrote that a Conservative MP once told him that the purpose of the Tory party is the protection of wealth, which is done by giving ‘just enough to just enough people.’ So the fact that we have a Conservative government is extremely fortuitous for capitalism because their interests are aligned. But I think if we ever want to solve the problems that exist at the moment, we have to look beyond government to the system itself, how it is organised, and who it benefits.
DD: What can we do to help?
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: People have power but capitalist organisations have more power. So people need to organise together to increase their power. I think that’s the key – taking power back. We need to challenge the accepted wisdom of the day: that cuts are necessary and that there is no alternative to capitalism. That means getting out on the streets and building relationships in our communities. I’m a big fan of direct action.
DD: Describe Theresa May, metaphorically.
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: Christ, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be offensive to the thing I’d compare her to. She’s a Poundland Margaret Thatcher.
DD: Who can we look to now? Who are our new leaders?
Ellie Mae O’Hagan: This sounds terribly trite, but I’d like people to look to themselves. You can’t ask for power and wait for it to be given to you. You have to stand up and take it.
The equality debate will be taking place tonight at 7pm at KK Outlet in Hoxton Square - the event is now sold out.