A New England

On previous occasions I have written posts about the changes I have witnessed in Poland(e.g. I Love Warsaw, 7 Years On) without writing a single word about England.  Now I can’t help but wonder why?  Perhaps my reticence is due to the claim that people should only write about what they know(After all I haven’t lived in England for nearly 8 years).  I suspect it has something to do with the motherly maxim ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’

One of the strangest things about growing up in England was the importance of television. The most striking thing about English soaps and films was how fucking miserable they were compared to other countries.  It appears that very little has changed.  If soaps are to be believed England is full of po-faced cunts sitting around drinking tea and moaning.  Our film industry has reached such a low ebb that our biggest money-spinner is a blond James Bond with manners better suited to the Elizabethan era.  Our only saving grace is comedy.  Sitcoms, comedy dramas, mockumentaries, sketch shows and stand ups all prove that comedy is alive and well in England.  It has even hijacked the quiz show genre.  The question the overabundance of comedy on our tv screens poses is why do we possess such an insatiable appetite for humour?

Is England depressed?  How on earth do you go about diagnosing a country with depression?  Are we witnessing the emergence of a new 21st century mentality?  Is this what the Latin scholars christened Couldn’tgiveafuckitus?  A quick look at www.mentalhealth.org.uk was enough to convince me that something is definitely wrong.

Is this the result of a nation which feels obliged to answer fine when someone asks how are you?  Is our stiff upper lip affecting our happiness?  What does it really mean when we say mustn’t grumble in response to a personal question despite the fact we are obsessed with grumbling about the weather?  Are we witnessing the implosion of English stolidity? Are we all destined to end up on the Jeremy Kyle show?

On a recent visit to England I was stunned by the amount of times I heard someone utter the magnificently British phrase ‘I can’t be bothered.’  Initially it left me wondering where such a crippling inertia stems from.  I was convinced that the vast majority of English people think that Carpe Diem is some kind of fish.  Now I suspect that it is merely a symptom of something more.  After all there was a reason the financial recession of the 1920’s was known as the Great Depression.  Or maybe I am wrong.  Maybe England has always been that way.

The times they aren’t a-changing –
Yeah, England’s still shit and it’s still raining,
And everybody’s jaded and tired and bored
And no one lifts a finger because
It’s just not in our culture.
Our culture is carrion and we’re all vultures,
And no one seems bothered by this state of play –
It seems that the stench is with us to stay.

Frank Turner – Once We Were Anarchists

Reclaiming The Streets

By now anyone and everyone has heard about the bouts of civic disorder which have struck all over England in recent times.  There has been a rash of commentaries on all forms of social media ranging from messages of support to messages declaring the rioters as the rotten dregs of our society.  What has been lacking in all of these critiques is basic impartiality.  What used to be one of the cornerstones of good journalism is now often replaced with fiery rhetoric.  Despite all the media’s claims of a broken divided society what are they doing to help mend it?  Rather than trying to bridge gaps they are trying to widen the cracks even further.  And that doesn’t help anyone.

The spark which fueled the flames was the death of an alleged drug dealer in Tottenham.  The initial protest was an example of people exercising their democratic rights.  For whatever reasons the protest turned violent and the rest they say is history.  The most important fact to remember is that at the beginning it was not a crime  wave.  It was not droves of young gangs on a robbery rampage.  It was a perfectly legal protest which somehow went wrong.

Over the course of a few days the trouble spread to Ponders End, Hackney,Enfield, Croydon and many other areas of London.  It also spread to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Leeds.  The likelihood that Mark Duggan was held in such high esteem in so many of these cities is massively unlikely.  It is more likely that the initial protests were either hijacked or acted as an inspiration to youths up and down the country.  I have a hard time believing that there was a Faganesque character running up and down the country ordering his new aged Oliver Twists to go and steal him twenty-six new pairs of hush puppies from Top Man.  In all honesty it sounds absolutely preposterous.  Fucking ridiculous even.

If there wasn’t a conductor.  If these riots weren’t hijacked.  Then what could be the cause?  The first thing to consider is whether there are any common denominators between these people.  If you look at the news footage it looks as if every rioter was a teenager.  However how easy is it to identify someones age when they are wearing a cap, with a hoodie and a scarf covering the bottom half of their faces.  Do only young people wear sports clothes?  Of course not.  The rioters are of mixed age, of mixed races, of mixed intelligence.   They are a sample of us.  They are representative of our society.  They are what we have created.

The common factors between these places are absolutely clear.  They all contain exceptionally more neighborhood’s where prospects are bleak.  Where there isn’t an abundance of work but there is a high rate of crime.  Most people in this areas will never have the opportunity to go to university.  Many of their parents living in a credit hole in a mere effort to survive.  Many of them will end up in prison.  Or dead.  And all the while they never see the significance of their choices.  We are one of the only nations in the world where unemployed people stroll around with iPhones and Nike trainers.  We give precedence to helping people from other nations before our own.  We sponsor people to have babies and not work when our island is overcrowded as it is.  We have a generation who have grown up knowing that they do not need to work to gain.  And this is where our society fails.

Our country has failed several generations and we are now witnessing its legacy.  The scenes we are witnessing should serve as a wake up call.  I am not supporting the rioters.  Nor am I trying to make excuses.  The destruction caused by these mindless groups is an absolute abomination.  All I am trying to do is highlight the fact that our liberalism is our downfall.  When the flames go out and only the ashes remain, be mindful of the fact that the ashes will always remain as a reminder of what once was.