Every Era Gets The Icons It Deserves
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 thatÂ 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 beenÂ 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.