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The loneliness of the long-distance runner

That short story from 1959 by Alan Sillitoe, which gained fame through a film of the same name in the early sixties is still one of my favourite stories. The awakening of consciousness of class, the rebellious nature of the “anti-hero” and then that ending of the long distance race where Smith, the working-class lad who throws the race in the last few yards as a deliberate and brutal mockery and snub to the upwardly aware middle-class warden of the borstal where Smith was doing his time for petty crime, a most exquisite and obstinate passive resistance to that warden who wanted to “commodify” the running skills of the working-class youth as a badge of honour for his own aspiration with his own peers … and indeed to that whole class of degenerate opportunists … a most beautiful and fitting cut to the core of the middle-class commodifying of everything we deem most personal … from our social surroundings to our bodies to our very heart beat and soul.

“Sillitoe uses running in his story as a means of isolation. Running is a solitary action and therefore allows Smith to begin to understand and become aware of the class divisions in Britain. Smith, the narrator of the story, is also a writer and he is an allegoric version of Sillitoe and the isolation that all authors suffer from. Smith is a solitary runner who gets political clarity through running and isolation, just as an author writes alone and thinks alone. The long distance runner and the writer are both individualistic and isolated so that they are able to produce their commodities. The metaphor used to compare both the author and the runner is similar to the author losing his purity when he publishes a work just as Smith loses his purity when he enters the race” (The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, Wikipedia).

The hunger for possession that drives the psyche of the most rapacious of that class of humanity, has wrought fearful dispossession and destruction through their desire to both control and commodify without personal work or physical input of all that is necessity and valued by humanity.

From the time of the Oligarchs of ancient Greece to the Equestrian order speculators and capitalist traders of ancient Rome to the Captains of industrial revolution England and in our own day, the so-called “masters of the universe” traders in the stock exchanges of the world who constructed through ponzi-scheme creation a false boom-cycle that led to the most destructive collapse of the economies of many nations since the Great Depression of the 1930s … costing so many lives … all this damage and destruction while pleading an innocence of criminal intent. It can be deduced that the entrepreneurial/speculative middle-class is a most dangerous provocateur and saboteur of civilisation that culminates in their pièce de résistance of social control: Fascism!

There is also another short story that I treasure, and which I see as a fine, if somewhat more subtle condemnation of class distinction: “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” by James Joyce, where the young chap, a Mr O’Connor, down on his luck sits waiting in contemplation for some desperate pay to come from his employer, a scheming aspirant middle-class political wannabe. There is another player in the story who, I believe, represents the traitor to his class that can be found everywhere; the sycophantic Mr Henchy, who seeks to both appease those of his own class by siding with and slighting their employer and then beguiling his companions in an oleaginous way to embrace the coming to Ireland of the King of England … thereby betraying the revered memory of their late hero leader, Charles Stewart Parnell … betrayed, like the Irish people, by the priests and the Catholic political-class.

It has always been known that a traitor among one’s own class is the easiest of people for an opportunist to find. It is no more difficult to find the Judas here in our nation than in any other place. We are living in a time when our democracy has been sold to international corporations by one of our major political parties for no more than the legendary thirty pieces of silver. We see the nation being “governed” by a criminal gang with little more ethics than a collective Fagan, taking the wealth of the people and then denying them the services and opportunities for a decent and respectful life … the lot of a working person becoming nothing more than a beggar’s banquet of stingy wages and exhorbitant costs of living. The essential utilities; energy and water, the valuable raw materials sold-on at bargain basement prices to fellow corporate shareholders and the booty stashed, again Fagan like, in various tax havens while the citizens are made to go without because of a lack of fair-share tax collection from these high-profit, low-responsibility multi-nationals. “Just as rivers glisten in various colours, does a sewer look the same all over the world”.

What can we do?

Again, we can look to the past, since such avaricious behaviour is more a habit of a greedy mind than a genetic disposition, and we see the plebeians of ancient Rome walking away from the city in disgust at the lack of representation in a aristocratic government and threaten to start a new city over the other side of the Tiber River. We today cannot just up stakes and move to another location, so let us bring that location to us here … let us bring the mountain to Mohammed! Let us create a new society amongst the ruins of this capitalist disaster. Let us re-construct “Community” without the anal-retentive oversight of the money hungry middle-class. From small collectives, let us grow the food, make the products and educate the ones for our own needs, not for a “just in time” commodifying corporate body. We, in the working/producing body of citizens have all the skills required to re-make a society. Perhaps such a society removed from the waste of “profit motive production” can turn around the oncoming climate disaster that it seems this current collection of governing criothans has neither the capacity nor the inclination to do. Let them go to f#cking Mars, we are quite content with this paradise; Earth.

Certainly it will be an embracing of hard times … but has it ever been otherwise for the vast majority of us. Let there be a joining of the many multicultural peoples, the indigenous peoples, the unions and those of the middle-class who would join the “exodus” … let us place the first words on the page for a new story, Let us write; “In the beginning … “ for new hope, new life … and we could, perhaps, indeed demand that with the rejection of all that a degenerate profiteering-class stands for, we hereby proclaim ourselves with a collective of the many we become a union of one: one voice, one mind, one body, one goal; to proclaim independence from the non-producing, worthless bigots, racists and thieves … to proclaim that we are standing together against any storm that is thrown against us … for ours and our children’s future with not one … not two … but thrice cry of united defiance:



  1. Freethinker

    I am sharing your views but not your hope, but admire your enthusiasms.
    I have expressed my views back in this article:The Bitter-Sweet Art of Politics,
    AKA greed.

    There is more, not only people lost that freedom, but also poor nations have lost their sovereign state due to actions by their governments. Regretfully the Australian people also have become victims of greed by mortgaging the power to defending their rights, to care for the poor, the sick and the one in a disadvantaged situation. Neo-liberalism and consumerism have become like a tumour in society that it is expanding and diving us more into debt.

    We lost the conditions that the previous union movement has achieved for us after considerable struggle, and in many cases also what previous political visionary leaders fought for. People do not recognise or respect any more what the union movement has achieved for them and are not prepared to lose one single day to defend a working condition. Furthermore unions are spoken of as bad for many, are accused of the cause of all the troubles that we have. End of quote

    I cannot see any drastic changes, those in the opposition within the party are now fighting between themselves like hyenas to see which faction is going to take controls of sets available due to resignations and others are trying hard to remove those in the party that are against neoliberalism.
    But the problem it is not only with the members but also the supporters that concentrate in attacking the Coalition which is not going to change instead of encourage the party that they support to come with good policies and solutions.
    They are well aware that the party it is controlled by the right faction and only very mild changes will be in place if they win the next election and they are happy with that.
    Joseph, IMHO there is not in the character of the Australian people to stand up, to be prepared to lose their material things in a struggle to recuperate what they have lost.

  2. Joseph Carli

    freethinker…You come too late! article has managed to pass down through the “gauntlet of free speech” without one comment!…quite an achievement in a political blog that many comments boast of “original, innovative and liberating thinking”… I noticed also my piece on “The Gender Contract” elicited little comment from those most vociferous in defence of the “tender gender”.. I suspect, and indeed see on Twitter and elsewhere that most commentary in Aust’ has gone the route more of agreeable acquiescence of whining complaint rather than robust attack of legitimate social need!..A reflection, perhaps on those very points you raise in your above post..

    Ahh!..But then..perhaps it is just a weariness of “the fight”..after all, when feelings of vulnerability and situations of financial and social deprivation are, at the worst, only a temporary or part-time must get rather tiresome having to continuously call people’s attention to one’s personal experience…

  3. Freethinker

    My apologies due to my late comment, I still indulging on my wonderful time interacting with nature and swapping the the political noise by the melody of the seas breaking the waves on the sandy beach and the song of the Green Rosellas.
    The more time that I spend time in nature the more inclination that I am experience in retreat and forget about politics and seeing people keep “dancing in the same tile” instead to stop doing it and looking for new ideas.
    I read, enjoyed and commented on the article “The Gender Contract” it seems to me that when the topic is a bit controversial or people do not agree with it they refrain to express their views.
    Oh well, that’s life Joe,we have to dance alone.

  4. Leah or the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon

    The book by Alan Sillitoe was featured in this prophetic essay on the Looting of Planet Earth as a response to the election of the village idiot from Texas
    Meanwhile 20 years later the situation has gotten much much worse, and of course is now being revved up by the looter in chief

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