Boris Johnson is hopeless
By Phil Hall
I made a suggestion on Mariella Frostrup’s Book Programme decades ago which she broadcast with a laugh. It was my opportunity to offend the whole English nation:
Why not celebrate Saint George’s Day as they do in Spain? Give a book and a flower. This way we can defray the reputation of the English for being a nation of cold-hearted philistines.
I like Lidl. Their products are good and they pay their staff well and seem to hire all sorts of people without prejudice. In fact, some of their products can be excellent, especially the bread. But there is an odd feel to it these days. Shopping at Lidl feels slightly apocalyptic.
This is the first time, living in the UK, that I have seen certain products run out so quickly. You have to come early, or there will be no feta cheese. There is the slight smell of panic. These days, shopping in Lidl reminds me a little of living in the USSR on the eve of the great transition. People in Kiev behaved like rats when the trouble started.
Shopping at Lidl feels slightly apocalyptic.
There is a slight ratty feel to shopping in Lidl. People stand in front of you when you are about to reach for something. They bustle about and they stand too close; they brush past you. The Lidl shoppers are a little growly these days. Also, shoplifting is becoming more and more of a problem, despite all the security measures. Our local Tesco Express is a regular target and kids come through Lidl after school to shoplift. Create a society in the image of our ruling class and expect more artful dodgers.
The texture of society is changing. Now, in London, there are billboards and signs on cars asking for nurses and cleaners and drivers and cafe staff. Betting companies advertise constantly on TV and their brothers, the loan sharks, tout their poison. Rackmanism has returned- if it ever left.
Alcohol, more than ever, is presented as the path to joyous oblivion. Are you paid badly? Do you live in a tiny flat where the landlord – laughing through their nose – charges you a huge amount? Are you paying back loans you took out just to finish your education? There is a Dostoyevskian solution for that. Drink!
More and more desperate people are selling drugs openly (and the police do nothing). You want a society more like the USA? Be careful what you wish for, you Tory bastards: no-go areas in cities, incredibly high rates of criminality and drug use, mortgaging your house to pay for cancer treatments.
Be careful what you wish for, you Tory voting bastards. .
Where before when you went to the doctor you wouldn’t notice the private practice, now it is the first thing that pops up on a search engine and now instead of slipping round the back at the GPs, they come in through the front. And the more it happens and the more society changes, the more my hatred refines and deepens for the people who voted Tory knowingly, and for the people who manipulated the ignorant into doing it.
Meanwhile, the few luxuriate in high culture and fine feelings and dedicate themselves to providing those who need them with their essential class markers – the stars upon thars. But the British have always had a powerful culture of philistinism and this is their weak point; the ignorance of books of the majority and absurd faith in practical knowledge makes them vulnerable to being manipulated by forces they don’t understand – through willful ignorance.
Bully for Boris!
People were bullied when they were seen reading books at school. The forces of bullying and peer pressure were essential tools of class creation and identity in the UK. You were bullied into your class. Only a few people dropped out, or were bumped up a level from grammar school. Grammar schools were just the schools for butlers and governesses. They didn’t upset the status quo at all, the grammar school children just became better qualified servants.
The key to understanding how we got here, to understanding privilege and the whole of British society, is bullying. There was more bullying in the UK than in any other society on earth. Perhaps it’s changing now with the new generations. In the past, it was a sort of Ubermensch thing. Recent migrants haven’t got much of a chance. The best chance they would have would be to put themselves in the way of bullying; to be bullied into relevance, into participating in a specific class layer.
The British class system has many casualties. In the first place, it engenders a sort of self-hatred. You need to understand this if you are an outsider. Most people who are casualties of the British class system become artists or go travelling the world. Even the people inside the British class system hate it at all levels, but they do enjoy a certain camaraderie; the camaraderie of the prison, the army, the boarding school and the office in Slough. To an outsider, this is the admirable British sense of self-depreciation, but it is far less attractive when seen from inside.
The British class system has many casualties. In the first place it engenders a sort of self-hatred
Look at the way the Tories are acting out their inequality. While racism is alive and well in the UK, people like Priti Patel – a modern lord Haw Haw – front policies that seem blatantly racist.
Without any dignity or seeming self awareness, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak front up the policies that generate inequality. Most of these people are just Boris’s public school fags. They have been bullied into a British upper class identity. They have swallowed all the insults and learned to laugh about their childhood brutalisations.
Boris Johnson, David Cameron and John Osborne called us all Plebs in their private Eton and Oxfordian circles. But British plebeians have always benefitted historically, in the end, from sucking up to the wealthiest and most powerful. Boris Johnson is the milkless teat many of the British suck on.
While racism is alive and well in the UK, people like Priti Patel – a modern lord Haw Haw- fronts that racism.
British empiricism was always a soulless, iron, blood and treasure thing. Going along with slavery and industrialisation and everything else and avoiding bloody revolution made it all right in the end for the majority, didn’t it? The Labour aristocrats of the industrial revolution became the council house buyers. The lumpen ex-working class 1980s spivs became floor traders.
The unfortunate lesson learned by people who could have been the self-educated catalysts for positive social change in the UK was this: For Britain to weather the storms of fate, it must get behind its champion, its swashbuckling pirate captain.