Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Britain - A Country That Has Lost Its Way

Something, somewhere, appears to have gone a little wrong. Everyone knows it, indeed many of us can point exactly to where the problems are, but no one seems to be doing anything about it. Prices of food, fuel, heating, electricity, water, gas, public transport are all going up well above 10% a year, and yet the government tells us inflation is 2.1%. We go about our daily business, and more and more our activities are scrutinised, every minor infraction is criminalised and penalised: fined for spending too much time in McDonald's or supermarket car-parks; fined for putting your rubbish in the wrong bin; herded into ID cards, compulsory organ donation; cameras everywhere; almost impossible queues for even basic health services; postal services which cost the earth and which have a worse track record than 50 years ago; longer working hours, for less money; commuter trains which feel like cattle waggons, and which cost the earth and which "officially" work fine though everyone knows they don't; illegal wars in far-off places for the gain of private companies; bellicose gestures and racial and religious hatred and intolerant fascist attitudes ("string 'em up!" "bring back National Service!", "it's the only language these people understand!") in the press and on the TV; health scares, food scares, terrorists, child molesters, murderers, yobs, fraudsters; fat cats, dysfunctional celebs, binge-drinking, insane levels of debt; dumbing down of news, education, the media; glorification of ignorance, cheap docusoap TV, wall-to-wall Eastenders and football teams who earn millions whilst losing games; lack of skilled workers forcing governments to import immigrant labour to make up the shortfall; UK-born citizens leaving the country in droves - 200,000 a year at last count.

We all know this. The list above isn't even complete; any of us could go on, and on, with the unending litany of what is clearly an increasingly dysfunctional society. And now we stand on the edge of a very nasty economic collapse, and pundits tell us that the UK is the most exposed country in the world to a protracted economic crisis due to the Thatcherite dream of a ruined manufacturing base, badly-skilled workforce, and almost entirely service-based economy - indeed, financial services-based.

So, what is next? What happens when you have to make the choice between eating or heating? When you can't afford to keep a roof over your head, and the bank wants it back and leaves it empty 'cos no one can afford to buy? Where do you go? It's happened before - although hardly within living memory, and not in this country for a while. It's going to come as a bit of a shock to the complacent and blase British public. But what does happen then? Increasing oppression and authoritarianism? It looks that way, in the US and the UK at least. We are fast returning to the Good Old Days of the 19th century, when the rich were rich and the poor and needy doffed their caps and were grateful for the workhouse. The gap between rich and poor has not been this severe since 1914; our coal production levels have fallen to pre-industrial levels; and decent food is once again becoming a scarce luxury for the new British poor.

Splendid job. It looks like Britain had a chance to make it out of its backward, class-ridden mire, and in the post-war years seemed to be managing, for a while. But nothing but nostalgia ties us to those days any more; look around, at 30 years of retrenchment and redistribution of wealth from the hands of the poor to the pockets of the rich, and tell us we're wrong.

The time is fast becoming ripe for a Brave New World, with a Great Leader to restore our lost pride, make the trains run on time, and purge England of its lefties, intellectuals, and funny foreigners and their funny foreign ways. Just remember, when the time comes, that we once had a chance to stop this happening...

You may think Manuscripts Don't Burn holds out little hope for the regeneration of good old Blighty. You would be right. Unless you're in the Inner Party, with loads of cash to back you up, the UK is stuffed.

Manuscripts Don't Burn shakes its head in disbelief. Does nobody read history any more? Do we forget, so easily? If so, perhaps we deserve no better.

God Bless Britain. Cos nobody else will.

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