Are We Still The Good Guys?

This has been hurriedly written from the gut. Like most of my posts recently, it is an attempt to work out how I feel about something by writing it down. 

The Road is not a good pre-gig film. I watched it once on the journey to The Glasgow Stand. Walking on stage that night I explained, “I’ve just watched The Road, it might take me a few minutes to get into jazz hands funny mode.” They understood, they had seen it too. 

The bleakness of the landscape and the morality stays in sight long after the film has ended, but there was one line that keeps coming back to me, “are we still the good guys?”.

On those foolish occasions I pick up a newspaper, it comes back to me as I read about foreign policy and domestic issues, I think, “are we still the good guys?” I am not so naive that I think we ever were the good guys. A little scratching below the pageantry and myths of kindly Brits dowsing the empire with grace, good will, and gladioli and the horrors cane be found. After reading about the Anti Charitable contributions act of 1877 in this article, I was surprised at how little I could find on it in history books lying around my house. 

I don’t know much about foreign policy and its history, but what I have read is disconcerting. It is the ugly feeling I would prefer to suppress, could it be we are not the good guys, perhaps we are not the bad guys either, but much like the universe’s attitude to our pain and suffering, we may just be indifferent. Governments are not about compassion, empathy and moral decisions, they are businesses that hide behind a curtain saying “we are doing it all for you” and very occasionally a dog tugs at the covering and the odd minister hides comfortably in disgrace. 

If only when a politician said, “we need to face facts”, we then were faced with some facts. Instead it’s spiced propaganda and emotive, hollow gestures that come from whatever training camp has ensured that all frontline politicians intone and move in the same way that their gesture choreographer has told them would be presumed to be the most sincere. 

How long before a string section is allowed into the House of Commons so each dubious call for action and change, each backstage deal for the money men sold as a treat for you, is accompanied by an impassioned surge of cello, policy persuasion by Elgar. 

Oh to see a political leader stand up and declare, “we have to admit, we are not the best nation in the world. We have made mistakes, and guess what, we’ll make plenty more, but we are really going to try this time and we might even hide less stuff. Sorry about the mix up”. 

Or you can have Tony Blair’s words, “This country is a blessed nation. The British are special, the world knows it, in our innermost thoughts, we know it. This is the greatest nation on Earth.”

I don’t wish to “knock Britain”, I am happy to live here. I like the seasons, the landscape and a lot of the people I meet. I like bookshops and castles and wandering around stately home gardens. I sunburn quickly, I grouch with aplomb, I am British. But there is a difference between knocking Britain and knocking the greedy shysters, conmen and lickspittles who make it much uglier and more difficult than it needs to be for the majority. I would like a political world that was not one of circus sideshow huckstering and smarm that makes the face of politics resemble that of door to door Arizona ornamental Bible salesman. 

I cringe and shrivel whenever I hear phrases like “British values”. “British values” are so frequently what we aspire to rather than what we achieve, a projection on the graph not the current market result. And British values are not peculiar to Britain, they are values held by many humans across the world, though they can be hampered and distorted by oppression, dictatorship and poverties. Our values improve with the greater dignity we are treated with and respect we are given. Treat people as collateral damage to your economic dreams and your Morlocks may come back to eat you or, at the least, vomit on your mercedes and piss in your fountain.

Yesterday, I read of Tony Blair’s son’s wedding in a newspaper column. The writer talked of the dehumanising condition of being a statesman and the humanising moment when Blair “was seen outside the chapel holding his son’s face in his hands and kissing him on the cheek”. As if now we see the real man, and how bad can he be? He kissed his son rather than firebombing him, what a lovely gesture. People talk of meeting their villains and then being surprised that they were “really nice face to face”. Of course they were, most people are nice face to face, Ted Bundy had a lovely way about him. 

“I’ll tell you what, I met that Pol Pot and he was a gentleman. Offered me tea and just wanted to talk about the greenfly on his rose bushes, he didn’t year zero me once. I don’t know what they are on about”.

It is not the kindness or kisses to your family that mark you out as a decent human, it is whether you can imagine the families and children that may suffer due to your policies, whether you can empathise with people who you don’t share blood and nose shape with, whether you can see beyond a set of figures and stately desires, or whether the sacrifices are passed off as “necessary” and that must be that. 

But is it possible to be human and not proceed by illusion, delusion and sleight of hand, so that we eventually believe our tricks mean we must really be magic? is that the only way to be the good guys?

Importance of Being Interested is on tour – Bristol, Radlett, Manchester, Birmingham and Aldershot coming up, 50 others from Edinburgh to Exeter via Manchester and Leeds. Details of that and many other things HERE 

 

 

 

 

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10 Responses to Are We Still The Good Guys?

  1. You are expressing the fears and loathings of those who are turning to UKIP, I wonder if you realise that yet?

    The answer is never more politics as those who would have you vote for them would have you believe. I have written a little about how people should be in control of their lives instead of having their lives controlled, I provide an apolitical solution that in many ways is gaining ground.

    It’s still work in progress, I’ve fled the UK for better opportunities elsewhere and so don’t have the time to finish it but I hope you’d give it a once over and draw your own parallels to the calls of an increasing number of groups and individuals.

    http://non-sequitur.co.uk/images/Smallismv5.pdf

    Best regards, I look forward to seeing how your thoughts progress as the cancer that is government destroys the Britain the world thinks of as Britain.

  2. robinince says:

    not exactly sure what sentiments in the post match UKIP, can you be more specific?

  3. Scurra says:

    May I recommend last Friday’s Radio4 6.30pm slot (it should still be on iPlayer.) In the middle of some good Rupert Murdoch jokes, there’s a segment where Deborah Orr and Peter Oborne succinctly diagnose the problem – that nobody actually “runs” Britain, and hasn’t done for thirty years. The reason small parties have a certain appeal is that they can stand up and say “vote for us and we’ll do X and Y” because they know full well that they won’t get into power; that’s what Nigel Farage and UKIP are trading off. As the Liberal Democrats have discovered to their cost, once you do get into power however, you find that you can’t do anything much at all, but everyone blames you for failing to do it.

  4. Liam Mullone says:

    All things are relative. We’re not sure about much, but we’re certain that our empire was a bit less shitty, and dismantled itself a bit more humanely, than that of the stinky French or the Spanish or the Dutch or the Portuguese (citation needed).

  5. This reminds me of this quote from The Newsroom:

    Will: And yeah, you, sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there’s some things you should know, and one of them is, there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only 3 categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined. 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20 year old college student. But you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst period generation period ever period. So when you ask, “what makes us the greatest country in the world?” I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite? [Pause] We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn’t… we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore. [Pause] Enough?

  6. I share your sentiments, but I’m left with the question ‘What can I DO about it?’

  7. lanceleuven says:

    “This country is a blessed nation. The British are special, the world knows it, in our innermost thoughts, we know it. This is the greatest nation on Earth.”

    Thank Zeus I missed these words when he first said them. Reading them made me feel queasy. Urghhh [I shudder]. I’m British, but I don’t see any value in such blind patriotism. It’s patronising and insulting. To quote Bill Hicks “I hate patriotism. It’s a round world last time I checked.”

    Great post by the way.

  8. Ann Sheppard says:

    Great post Robin. Recently had to attempt an answer to my 16 yr old son’s question “why are people so corrupt” His prompt was the Qatar world cup nonsense but, he readily admitted, could have been about anything from Syrian civil war, Millionaire cabinet helping bwanker friends, Russian homophobic laws, Ukip leaders et depressingly cetera. Found it hard to frame an answer beyond “human nature innit’ but heartened by his growing awareness and ability to look beyond banal media led BS. Shows why we must defend education system from idealogically led distortion.
    Also reminded me of the Mitchell &Webb SS sketch “I’m beginning to think we’re not the good guys”.

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