Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Future Holds The Most Terrible Adventure Of All


The first volume of Dominic Sandbrook's social history of Britain in the Sixties references a July 1963 collection of essays on British society entitled Suicide of a Nation. Hungarian-born editor Arthur Koestler - who would in fact commit suicide with his wife in the early Eighties - noted in the introduction that "the cult of amateurishness and the contempt in which proficiency and expertise are held, breed mediocrats by natural selection: the too-keen, the too-clever-by-half, are unfit for survival and eliminated from the race to which the last to pass the post is the winner."

Nearly 20 years later, in April 1982, the Alan Clark diaries include the following observation with regard to the approaching conflict in the South Atlantic: "If we are going to go, I feel let us go out in a blaze - then we can all sit back and comfortably become a nation of pimps and ponces, a sort of Macao to the European continent". Most Britons over the age of forty will no doubt feel the burning acidic pain of both statements keenly with regard to all that has come to pass and the lack of any organic balance remaining in our country.

I recently have seen pictures of conurbations in the English home counties that were stunningly picturesque up to the late Sixties but now resemble the remains of a visitation from fleets of aggressive Martian town planners. Armed with blockbuster bombs of hellfire and shit. Yesterday in London I walked through an area studded with the blue plaques of intellectual giants of global reknown such as Plath, Yeats and Engels but where the uniquely British Class War has now descended to local hostelries to the extent that ordering a pint feels like begging for a scrap of gristle from his Lordship's table.

We have a world of work now where most employment websites contain nothing but internships and the only natural way to circumvent this madness would apparently be by becoming an internship co-ordinator. We live in a country where upper middle class broadsheet commentators endlessly discuss the way the word "chav" denigrates the working class whereas the entire construct of working class identity has actually been beyond classification for well over a decade in the United Kingdom anyway. As any person born in a British working class community from the Forties to the Seventies knows full well. Today too we have under-13-year-old females being pampered in an Essex beauty salon specifically geared to this demographic whereas when I was in primary school in the mid-Seventies the wee girls were still singing skipping songs about Diana Dors whose cinematic career had peaked two decades previously.

And then last week we had Germaine Greer reflecting from her academic Shangri La on the fact that the last solitary and residual piece of national pride we have left - our armed forces - are constituted of course by thousands of potential rapists.

I wonder if anybody is in Brussels, Bruges or Antwerp tonight pondering over similar kinds of downright lunatic reflections about post-war Belgium?

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