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