Every Era Gets The Icons It Deserves

Great Britain

I read a quote somewhere that summed up the journey difference between the UK and the US; ‘When I went from my house to my old job across Texas I realised that the same journey in Europe would have taken me to two or three different countries.’

I love the fact that most of Europe is borderless – it wasn’t when I was a child, or when Bill Bryson wrote ‘Neither Here Nor There’. Flight attendants used to keep little boxes with all their different currencies in, and keeping track of the discrepancies was a nightmare. Scale that up for businesses and you can imagine how much it braked whole economies.

Currently, the UK is still border-free. For UK residents leaving and entering means barely breaking stride as you walk through the airport – until October 31st, that is, when the shutters go up. It looks very likely that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, an incompetent egomaniac repeatedly fired from jobs for lying, will be our next Prime Minister, and he’s all for going to war with Europe.

He will also be the first openly racist PM in my living memory. Only yesterday he justified his ‘picaninnies’ and ‘letterboxes’ remarks by saying it was what everyone thought. (NB ‘picaninny’ may have been a diminutive version of the Spanish word pequeno, meaning ‘little’).

Well over half of the country believes in free movement and does not wish to become isolated. Johnson sees London as a new Singapore or Switzerland, where dodgy cash can be laundered into tower blocks and comedy monuments. Or perhaps he is considering rewarding those who voted for borders by improving their social care, housing and hospitals?

Unfortunately it takes years to reach a full understanding of politics, and when you do, you realise you’re surrounded by idiots. Johnson is a prime example of the adage that a good education doesn’t make you intelligent, but he’s still one up on Corbyn, who has the mental aptitude of a 1970s PE teacher.

And here’s the problem; thinking about this situation (and your situation, wherever you are) is apt to make you furious. The trouble is that I write books as hopefully uplifting entertainment, and don’t want this reflected in my words. But lately Britons have seen themselves used as an embarrassing punchline, and it’s hard to keep the smiles from slipping. If books completely ignore the world they become irrelevant fantasies, and if they reflect it too much they become dull polemics.

There’s one piece of hopeful data emerging; after two decades of staring at their phones and ignoring politics (cf. Rory Stewart’s Brick Lane walkabout where the local lads told him; ‘We don’t f*** with politics, man’) people’s attitudes are changing fast, and the question of migrants – which, let’s not forget, started this entire debacle – has slipped down the list of concerns until it barely registers.

Well, interesting times. Whether to reflect them or not, that’s the question.

As someone who has spent a lot of time on marches and rallies, it’s hard to pretend this is not happening. I may kill off all mention of politics for a while, if only because the future – a future that offers nothing to so many of us – is too depressing to contemplate.

8 comments on “Every Era Gets The Icons It Deserves”

  1. Adam says:

    It’s a really odd time to be alive; centralist policies dead, and increasing polarisation to the left and the right. Social media saturation means that truth no longer matters, or is no longer easy to identify (if it ever was). I’m fed up of claims, counter-claims and howling denials. My only hope is that the wheel will turn again, and the younger generations will see the sheer inane folly of the current climate. I’m off to read some good escapist fantasy (enjoying Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, good fun).

  2. John Griffin says:

    Do not underestimate the sea change in politics in the UK. Localism is on the rise, neofascism is targeting the young on the internet, the only thing that stands between Scotland and independence is the duplicity of the SNP leadership, the Troubles are looming again and Wales would be independent (thanks to the younger generation) except for the small matter of looming economic depression. Interesting times indeed.

  3. Roger says:

    “Only yesterday he justified his ‘picaninnies’ and ‘letterboxes’ remarks by saying it was what everyone thought.”
    In fairness to Johnson, his remarks were less personally offensive – or less racist – in context. The “piccaninnies” remark was a gibe at Tony Blair and his robust African diplomacy: “What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness.
    “They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”
    It’s an attack on what Johnson thinks was Blair’s attitude. This was before Blair’s enthusiasm for armed intervention abroad took him to Iraq.

    Equally, the “letterboxes” remark was a defence of the right of people to dress as they please, even if Johnson thinks they look like letterboxes as a result. Characteristically, he made an argument for toleration in intolerant and offensive terms.
    The frightening thing about Johnson is that he is intelligent, but completely irresponsible and frivolous. He seems to neither know nor care that his actions and remarks have consequences. And nor do his admirers.
    I am inclined to agree with A.D. Hope that
    “…still the Muse, who does not flatter or lie,
    Finds for our age a symbol to describe

    “The secret life of Technocratic Man,
    Abject desire, base fear that shapes his law,
    His idols of the cave, the mart, the sty –
    No lion at bay for a beleaguered clan,
    No eagle with the serpent in his claw,
    Nor dragon soter with his searing eye,

    “But the great, greedy, parasitic worm,
    Sucking the life of nations from within
    Blind and degenerate, snug in excrement.
    `Behold your dream!’ she says. `View here the form
    And mirror of Time, the Shape you trusted in
    While your world crumbled and my heavens were rent.'”

  4. Jan says:

    Rory Stewart is proving to be quite an interesting guy.

    Out of this crop of would be leaders he is the only person with any credibility of any sort of original approach. Watched him on tv a few years back walking around the middle East he almost cut a very weird modern take on Lawrence of Arabia…..But he was interesting, had a different manner to most tv travelogue talking heads. Just surprising that the man’s a Tory thought he would be Lib Dem or something…

  5. Jan says:

    Should read or any sort of original approach

  6. gkbowood says:

    Is this the Twilight Zone?!! – How could this happen!? BJ as PM is just as ugly and brutal as the DT’s the US is presently suffering. I cannot bear to think of the UK and the US both having such leaders concurrently….

  7. Ian Luck says:

    Unfortunate initials, too – B.J. for P.M. sounds like a diary entry for a sex act in the afternoon, and the twitching and shaking of the hopeless, helpless drunk are suggested by D.T.
    People are very odd. In 2016, I never saw one sign asking Americans if they wanted a Malignant Narcissist for President – but they voted for one, and got one. This year, I haven’t seen one sign asking if the U.K. wants a useless c*nt as Prime Minister, who would put all other useless c*nt Prime Ministers in the shade – but that looks exactly like what we’ll be getting.
    I heard the 1981 track ‘Fascist Groove Thang’, by Heaven 17, the other day – and, other than the mention of Ronald (The President’s Brain Is Missing!) Reagan, it’s as relevant now as it was thirty eight years ago. And that’s deeply troubling.

  8. Wayne Mook says:

    Bo Jo should give Gove a go at chancellor then they can be friends again just like Blair & Brown.

    Well at least politics at the moment isn’t boring.


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