Category: society

You’ve Never Had It So Good

Harold Mcmillan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom speaking in 1957, famously said the following:

You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.

Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.

Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.

What is wrong with that? What is it that gets people’s backs up when they hear You’ve never had it so good repeated today?

What is it that gets my back up? It is this:

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, the conditions under which the workers worked were terrible. Adults and children worked in conditions that literally killed them.

Today, their descendants work in much better conditions. But to say that people have never had it so good is to miss the question that should be asked.

The question should be, how good could things be?

If those who profited from those terrible conditions had not done so, then the capitalists of today would not be where they are.

They live off and are the heirs of those terrible conditions. If they wanted to redress the wrong, they would share. They would give back what their predecessors took from the ancestors of those working people who in 1957 ‘never had it so good’.

There is a counter-argument that the Great Leap Forward of the Industrial Revolution could only have happened with the imposition of those terrible conditions.

That is the argument put by the interrogator in Darkness At Noon.

Perhaps. But while we will never know what would have been lost, we know the human cost that reverberates today.

The State promised and the State failed. The State promised to take over from the family and the community. It promised to support whenever someone needed support, and it failed.

The plunderers took control of the State, and if history teaches us anything, it is that once in power, plunderers cannot help themselves.

A Million People

sheep at Haworth Parsonage in Yorkshire

How not to mix things up in a world full of casual brushes with the truth – uncaring as to what is real and what is not. In principle it has always been the same for at least some of the population. Now, however, we have reached critical mass.

Each uncaring and unthinking person has access to weapons of war. A tweet ricochets off another tweet and spins off into another social media platform. Like a pinball machine full of pinballs, the machine gets hot and melts down.

Anger, frustration, good old-fashioned annoyance – they have nowhere they want to go except deeper into the furnace.

And the furnace spits them out. It doesn’t need them except as examples of persons. It doesn’t care about them except for whatever trace they leave behind in the the social weave.

If they all disappeared tomorrow, their loss would be calculated in loss of engagement, followers, likes, and shares.

Darkness At Noon

I was prompted to write the above to fill in some space to test a new layout in Gutenberg. The words came out and I think they in turn were prompted by Darkness At Noon that I read a few days ago. I read it over about three days in three or four sittings.

That’s unusual for me, as I often have two or three books on the go at once and take weeks, months, or longer to finish them.

That said, Darkness At Noon is a novel, so it has a pace that non-fiction books don’t have. But it is hardly much of a novel. A man is arrested, interrogated, tried, and sentenced.

But it is the arguments back and forth during the interrogation that make it memorable, wonderful and terrible, in fact.

I can’t recite it all, there is too much. But early in the back and forth, one of the characters describes a dictatorship where those in the driving seat see one person as simply one million people divided by one million.

When I say wonderful, I mean it in the sense that it homes in on essential issues. Terrible in the sense that the consequences of taking a wrong turn in these arguments can result, has resulted, in the death of millions.

When will it stop? When will the values we aspire to be carried through to the actions we take so that we, the animals, the planet, all are respected and given space to live and to breathe as befits them?

I spoke to a man yesterday who works at the university here in Cambridge. His department works on understanding the pathways of cancer. He told me that all departments in UK universities are now bottom of the list for European grant funding.

Why? Because no one in Europe wants to be involved in the unknowns of the hurdles to fund UK projects after Brexit.

His department has no idea how they are going to get the scientists to work in the department once those from the EU have to leave.

Why? Because Britain has never trained scientists to do the work.

He said that training programmes that have existed in the EU for years simply do not exist in the UK. Why? Because the UK has been able to choose from scientists from the EU who are eager to work in the UK with its front-line work.

How long will it take to train UK scientists to do the work? It will take years.

Britain is being pushed towards revolution. I don’t care whether it is Left or Right. I care that the balance of the day (to borrow a wonderful phrase from Camus) is not disturbed by deranged minds with grand scheming ideas.