Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Rewriting of History

The point that Glenda Jackson made as the motive behind her description of the Thatcher reign was that she felt a need to ensure that history was not being re-written - i.e. that the Tories would not get their wish to have a spotless description of her reign recorded for posterity.

On thinking about it, I find that we English tend to have a wonderful ability to exaggerate our history - particularly in the notion that we gave things to the world that the world didn't have before. Though that may be true in respect of things mechanical and the ability to divide and rule, the notion that our sense of civilisation was any better than what existed in all the lands that we occupied is often a completely flawed notion. This was particularly true in India, which - I am sure - will come back and show us to be the repository of true civilisation in not many years from now.

Many even think that the sciences stemmed from Isaac Newton and other European greats, until a study of history reveals that in the medieval period it was the world of Islam that provided the basis of later European knowledge. And the Muslim world derived most of their knowledge from Greece who in turn worked on knowledge from ... India. And Muslims also did quite a bit of work in developing scientific knowledge on their own bat. Spain still boasts remnants of the glory that was Islam while we think of the Crusades as that wonderful time of adventure embarked upon by marvellous knights of the garter - or some such thing. The story of the massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem is often conveniently forgotten or glossed over.

Coming back to Britain, the attempt to hide the truth of the Thatcher reign and the brutality of that period is brutal in itself, and, combined with earlier events, is the real cause of the north-south divide. On top of that, there are many who are also too ready to deride the period of the Labour administration after World War Two, when in fact it should be regarded as a remarkable piece of reconstruction in extremely difficult times.

I was very amused to hear the other evening a remark made by the Tory Ken Clark (who I normally have some time for) who gave an example of the situation in 1979 of a nationalised company called British Road Services that controlled two-thirds of the road distribution service and was losing a lot of money. It had to be privatised, he said. Well, all very good, except that British Road Services was created by the Attlee government as part of a nationalised rail and road distribution service, designed to provide seamless delivery for the nation. Well, with the return of the Tories from 1951 onwards - and particularly with the application of Beeching cuts - that philosophy of service was progressively dismantled.

It's interesting that a number of the rail services cut by Beeching are now coming back into operation. But that is by-the-by.

But what is true is that there are some in this (once) fair isle of ours that consider that Britain was so Great that they have the right to shoot and hunt like the old Norman conquerors as masters of the land ... and also put down those blackguards that disturb the peace of that reverie - the descendants of those that provided the labour to build the Great Britain the toffs remember. How dare they (they say) protest against the Poll Tax and other niceties put in front of the plebs for their dilectation. "Come and join us at Eton and Harrow and know what being a gentleman is", is the example set by the current government front bench while the disabled scramble to survive.

A classless, caring, society? Phooey. Yet another attempt at the re-writing of history.

Our (British) devotion to sport is really our way of desensitising life's reality.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Needed: More Inspiration, less Aspiration.

The death of Lady Thatcher this week has aroused (again) considerable emotion about what she did and did not do during her term of office from 1979 to 1990. It is, however, agreed by virtually everyone that in certain ways she changed the face of British politics and has left subsequent party leaders (of left and right persuasion) eager to emulate her in certain ways.

And to the British public at large she infused a sense of what we have come to term 'aspiration'. However, what does that term really mean ... and does it really take us in the direction we should be aiming for?

In fact, by bringing in this aspirational concept, Mrs. (as she was then) Thatcher had the affect of nearly burying some trends that were beginning to be popularised in the 1970s towards green concepts ... the notion that was developing among certain groups of people that Mother Earth was being hard done by, that we were steaming ahead in extracting fossil fuels and creating much dangerous waste. Greenpeace was born and the western world was beginning to realise that we had reached the post-industrial age and that we had to nurture what remaining resources the earth possessed. A report by an intellectual panel called 'The Club of Rome' (1971) enforced that view and their overall perspective has been found (in more recent years) to be correct.

It could be said that in her own way Mrs. Thatcher took the country towards a greener philosophy in her stand against the coalminers, but I doubt that any analysis of those times would reveal that Mrs. Thatcher took that line on the basis of green issues. Nor did green issues play much of a part in the government's general policies of the time.

But what her terms of office did infuse in the working populations of the north was a sense of both hate and fear and a survival lifestyle. They did not have the luxury of considering the green issues and what was spiritually or materially a good philosophy ... they became perpetually concerned in how to feed their children and put shoes on their feet.

The message put out from Number 10 was to get on yer bike, and for those who were prepared to give up their place of upbringing and community it could be said that material improvement could be found elsewhere. But the north had been maltreated by the Tories in decades still in living memory, and there was not too much willingness to obey Number 10's advice. The northerners felt that yet again they had been betrayed - and independent observers could understand why.

The south - given the stimulus of a changed financial sector enterprise culture - took on the challenge of aspiration, and largely discarded the concerns of environment. Making money was the issue of the day, and it led to the creation of pyramid businesses and other scams of a dubious nature. And an attitude in the banking sector that ultimately led to the collapse of 2008. A detailed history of the enterprise culture from 1983 to 2008 would make interesting (and, perhaps, appalling) reading.

What is it that aspiration has brought us to (in the main, I add)? Essentially greed and the want of more than the person next door, and a government that has been willing to move a disabled person to smaller accommodation even though the third bedroom is used for the storage of essential equipment for the disabled person. Other disabled people have been told that they are elligible to work - even though they are clearly not, while Remploy was dismantled. And the notion is being put out that it is perfectly OK in this aspiration-led deficit era to treat the innocent in such a way.

The Tories blame the previous government for the deficit, yet it was the Tory notion of aspiration that started the trend towards a predictable end.

The following of 'aspiration' has done what kind of good for civilisation? Precious little. It has reduced us closer to the level of animals in our perception of life and it has taken away dignity. The numbers seeking help for stress seem to increase by the dozens every day. Increasingly it would seem, the rich seek which country to live in to pay the least amount of tax.

Perhaps we should have taken the Club of Rome's report more seriously and properly thought through what was to be done to develop in a sustainable way. But it is not too late to change and perhaps change has to start with each of us - individually - towards a worthwhile sense of what is really important: towards an intelligent all-for-one-and-one-for-all philosophy of sustainability.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Passing of a Notable Prime Minister

The upshot of Maggie's era (having misquoted St. Francis' prayer to start off the process!) is to leave us with professional politicians whose leaders have hardly ever experienced another line of work and an attitude that has left behind those days when at least there was a semblance of genuine experience in public life. And the morals of business - which were always suspect - have been let loose big style.

And - yes - Tony Blair capitalised on the era he inherited.

It's not to say that everyone's 'at it', but what has been uncovered these last few years makes us realise that the era in which us oldies were brought up (for me the late 40s and the 50s) was the best era in terms of decency, when a TV with 2 b & w channels and 2 weeks' holiday was perfectly all right thanks. And also when most of us ate decent wholesome food.

No, of course the society of the 50s couldn't stay where it was, but our leaders (in politics and of trades unions) of the 1960s and 1970s just didn't have the wisdom to know how to deal with the wave of social and economic issues that were by then developing, and it had to be left to a woman to sort something out - the men got bogged down! Well, sort it out she mostly did ... and we all have to be blamed for the manner in which she acted, creating the framework for today's debacle.

The real political answer to the country's needs is via the middle ground. But I couldn't trust the Liberals to fry an egg. When it comes down to it, the answer really lies with ourselves - individually. If we were to make a better effort at being really responsible for ourselves and behave in accord with the teachings of Jesus and all the great spiritual masters, then the world might just change for the better. That idea smacks of idealism - but what's a real alternative?

So - in a nutshell - no form of politics is anywhere near ideal. And democracy is showing its weakness. I suppose that Maggie thought she was doing the best for the country, and for her honesty and integrity I respect her and mourn her parting.

At least she had guts.