The Morning After

A conversation.

Society: "Wait a minute. You missed the whole show last night?"

Me: "Yup."

Society: "Why? What was wrong with your television set?"

Me: "Nothing. I never switched it on."

Society: "Why did you never switch it on?"

Me: "Because I don't have any Babylon 5 DVDs in the flat today: I left them in the folks' place."

Society: "Why didn't you watch the show?"

Me: "Because it was a manmade thing."

Society: "So's the television. So's your computer."

Me: "No, you don't get it. The nationalism, the noise, the spectacle ... you were meant to sit and watch and emote and feel pride and all of that. As you were being told to do."

Society: "But ... but I wanted to feel pride."

Me: "I do."

Society: "But why didn't you feel pride at the show?"

Me: "Because life's more than just an agglomeration of random brand names. Is the storm overhead, or the wind in the sky, any different because it happens to pass over Britain? Is the rain any different to rain falling anywhere else, just because it happens to fall on Manchester or London?"

Society: "We don't understand."

Me: "A good start. But getting you to understand is not my problem."

Society: "Aren't you proud to be British?"

Me: "I am. But you forget the bits which were left out of the show."

Society: "Such as?"

Me: "The invasions, which we fought off. The invasions which were won, and we failed to fight off, and which altered our lives forever. The Romans. The Vikings. The Angles. The Saxons. The Normans, which gave us a language where honour and colour are spelled with a u.

"The plagues, which destroyed so many people. The Great Fire of London. The Blitz, which nearly did the same thing.

"And the wars. And the conquests. And the castles, perched jauntily on hills everywhere to remind the Welsh that they were a conquered race.

"And the cane, in schools. And schools. And Dickens' commentary on the evils of his society, which we are attempting to ignore. And the social upheavals of our civil rights movements. Votes for women. Wolfenden, making homosexuality legal at long last.

"And the HUGE injustices. Oscar Wilde. Life pre-Wolfenden for homosexuals and lesbians. Mosley's Fascists. Why wasn't there a Cable Street fight staged, where Mosley's crowd were beaten and broken by the real people of Britain? *Stefan Kiszko, jailed for eighteen years for a crime he did not commit, dying himself not long after his release because he couldn't cope?

"And the racism, and the hatred. Poles who fought with us during WWII, only to see their grandkids spat on by our grandkids with not a thought that, if not for them, we'd all be speaking German or dead. The ugly, savage nicknames they gave the bright-eyed men and women, little more than kids some of them, who stepped off the Windrush to begin Britain's third multicultural society - the first under the Romans, the second under Elizabeth I. What of the society which overcame that. only to see it dashed left and right by a succession of dickhead Prime Ministers starting with Thatcher?

"And the inventions we came up with. The steam engine. Tea. Muskets. Rifles. Machine guns. Chlorine gas used in warfare. The idea we borrowed from the Spanish in Cuba and made our own - an invention the Germans and later the Russians and Americans borrowed - the concentration camp.

"And let's not forget the world-shaking achievements. Modern constitutional democracy was born here. The middle class, fighting its way out of feudalism. Evolution was discovered and codified here. Calculus was partly discovered here. The World Wide Web was invented by a countryman.

"So many other different things that we can be proud of. So much we must be ashamed of. And so much more that we must learn from, for good or for ill.

"So you see, I never needed to waste my time watching some pageant to remind me of the history of this country. I have needed no impresario and armies of dancing girls to try and make my chest swell to bursting as some voice bellows out "Great Britain!" as if it were some magic mantra to make people suddenly happy with the wave of a magic autocue.

"Because if they didn't show you all of our history, good and bad, there was not much point. It was only ever going to be noise and lights, a gaudy show, that ignored that other Great British quality that you tend to ignore unless it serves your purposes."

Society: "And what's that?"

Me: "Dissent. Balls to the wall, two fingers, up yours, fuck the world and the horse you came in on, dissent."

* Correction supplied by The Judge, and amendments made accordingly, with thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Erm...'Kiszko', not 'Kinski'. And he predeceased his mother by a few months. Apart from that, spot on as ever.


"And if we have unearned luck, now to scape the serpent's tongue, we will make amends ere long. Else the Puck a liar call ..."

So speak.