this comes as a result of a couple of throwaway comments in a thread over at dr socks’ ‘reclusive leftist’ http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/?p=542#comments
(for anyone who reads here and not there – cos that happens sohhh often – it’s a vastly superior product to this farrago of rumblings and ramblings) where tom nolan and i commented briefly on the current state of britain (see comments no. 13,15 and 16) including his description of britain thus :
“Every street, ditch and hedgerow strewn with litter, a foul-mouthed and out-of-control underclass, hopeless public services. It’s a HOLE. And I’m a Brit, so I should know.”
and i now respond in fuller length than i would want to post even at my tolerant friend violet’s site… by the way (as anyone who can read will have spotted) i miscast tom as an expat brit currently in oz – my apologies.
tom needn’t worry, my goat is not got; no goats have been got in the making of this post.
a few things: popular solidarity – i (and friends) experienced many things during the miners’ strike in the 80s that educated and impressed me about working people (ok i’m biased because as a pitman’s grandson and first generation member of the middle-class, i both love and tend to romanticise that whole world) and their attitudes. contrast that with ‘basildon man’ and the rush for material gain above all else, that still lurks ugly as a cancer, and i think it’s clear that variations in the working class in britain at that time were as prevalent as in society as a whole. i have encountered racism, sexism, homophobia and other pleasant traits just as much through the middle and upper classes (however we define them) as in the working class.
certainly in the north of england (and again i am biased as it’s where my roots lie and i love it and its people) there is still genuine warmth and humanity on offer from people who across the classes remain honest, unaffected and determined to accept, not judge, people for what they are and value human qualities above artificial social issues. kindness is alive and well there – not just to friends but to people in general and i can’t believe it’s the only part of the country where that is true.
i love france and my french friends but their utter incomprehension that the general approach to muslims and the wearing of the hijab/foulard in particular is profoundly racist makes me fear the imminent meltdown of the place. and they could stop whanging on about their railways and the alleged inability of britain to come up with any decent cheese – yep and we all wear bowler hats, boys. and if it’s mess we’re worried about, at least some of london’s streets aren’t awash with dog shit. in italy (another place i happily spend time) my CLP found it impossible to walk down the street without the simple-minded honking of scooter horns relaying the stunning news that she had breasts.
and litter doesn’t trouble me much – some years ago i walked around zurich and couldn’t quite get past the creepiness of imaculate streets with their pristine luxury goods shops with sex shops immediately behind as you turn the corner – why i would find it creepy when it’s a perfect metaphor for capitalism, i don’t know; but creepy was what it was.
as for standards of public behaviour, the barmy army aren’t my favourite bunch, but there are also the relentlessly superior aussie cricket fans with their loud and interesting views on sheilas and the problems with anyone but the proud australian male; fans who really only do sing when they’re winning and despise all aberrations but their own – a senior cricket administrator who couldn’t ‘see anything racist’ in the lame abuse of monty panesar as ‘a stupid indian’; and the unreconstructed boers that watch the south african cricket team and hurl mouthfuls of filth at any player of colour as if apartheid was still alive and well (which in my brief experience of south africa was thankfully not representative of the game at grass roots level).
i think i’m realistic (and usually pretty bloody damning) about many areas of life here, but i’ve never felt that britain is some kind of secure accomodation for neanderthals who could not be let loose on europe for fear of shaming its kind and progressive societies; rather that good things exist in all societies and close contact may blind us to them and make it all too easy to emphasise the crappy bits. anyone who gets on their high horse about how their particular homeland is the repository of all things good and true is apt to get thrown the second you scratch the surface
so not, i hope, a blind defence of my country wrong or wrong, of warm beer and cold chips and trains that never run on time but perhaps a small helping of perpsective.