October 19, 2010

Decline and Fall

The world has been in a bad way, to such an extent that one can only personalise the experience in order to make sense of it. People do not understand deficits, downturns, depressions. Those things are mere numbers on the news. They only understand their own unemployment; their own house’s repossession; there own dwindling savings and pensions. This personalisation of the economy does, in some places, take the form of a general reaction against government policy. The French are so adept at this. A million personal gripes – the collective selfishness of the mob – somehow gets coordinated and the country is shut down. Like it or not, you have to marvel at the effort.

Then there is the other extreme. In Britain, so it seems, the cuts are so breathtakingly universal that everyone has his own distinctive complaint, and nobody does a damn thing. A generation is being turned to face a new dark age, and we shall usher them into it without so much as a peep. The culmination of our apathy, our decadent indulgence, and our broken political system is to be their loss. For shame!

Last night I attended a lecture given by a very British man: bald, blue blazer, ill-considered tie, old-fashioned spectacles, Cambridge elocution, Knighthood, Professorship, interest in things aristocratic, interest in things past. This man, as so many of the best British men will come to do, lives and works abroad. He talked, from a flowery yet elegant script, of Churchill’s hopes and dreams for the English-speaking peoples – wistful fantasies come naïve expectations come ridiculous anachronisms – and reminded his German audience (patient, listening, laughing), of the absolutely sealed status of Britain’s decline. After the war, the nation looked inwards – it saw that its problems lay at its own doorstep, and it voted ‘charity begins at home’ – and nobody could blame it. As the nation once again confronts the wolf at the door, with what staggering lack of vision do the nation’s leaders plot to feed it?

One cannot help thinking that the whimper of dissent with regard to all of this is terrifically unmanly. We have succeeded in failing to educate our youth, so that they know not how intelligently to protest; we have succeeded in failing to safeguard our political institutions, so that there is no viable opposition; we have inculcated apathy until it became normal, and now we blink like stunned rabbits as the snares tighten around our ankles. Isn’t it time we woke up?

1 comment:

  1. All due apologies, doctor, but before I sympathize, I should like to know with what I am sympathizing: do you believe the problem or the solution or both are political? Do you believe they are economic? Or what? Let me acquaint you with an old-fashion notion of justice: people getting what they deserve - the good, the good - and you can guess the rest. If it comes to this sort of sadness, I'll take Jeremiah or Isaiah any day of the week.


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