This Other Eden
John gives us some of his views on events that affect The British at home and abroad. He is retired and lives in Epsom near London, having once lived in Canada and Australia.
Christmas is not everyones religious celebration, if in fact we can call ours a ‘religious’ celebration. Christmas for Christians is more about Santa Claus that the birth of Christ. And if most children in England know little about what the true meaning of Christmas is; a report last year said only 1 in 15 school children could relate Christmas primarily to Christ, at least the spirit of Christmas, with its gift giving and celebration of carol singing does remind us that this time of year is a year-end reminder to us all that life is not all about work, worry, and wealth.
As I said, Christmas is not everyones religious celebration, which becomes very evident when we look around our streets and towns and see the faces from other countries. Headscarves, sari’s, skull caps, turbans, these are all symbols of other beliefs, and at Christmas I always feel that these people are really missing out on something very special. My grandson attends a school where a handful of other religious beliefs are obvious and he tells me that these non-Christains are all agog at the way we celebrate our ‘religious’ Christmas festival. He says they know what our Christmas celebrations are all about, even when these non-Christains are toddlers just beginning school, which says little for us Christains who know nothing of their religious celebrations.
Our Christmas is a celebration all other religions look upon with a kind of envy. We all get involved. We give what we can to the less fortunate through the Salvation Army and other causes. We decorate our houses and towns with gaily coloured lights and trees with stars on top. We sing carols from morning to night and throughout Britain functions are held to toast our good fortune and our less than devoted belief. Being Christains allows us a little leeway, with most of us not being overly demonstrative in the religious sense, as others are, through repeated bowing, kneeling, and the rattling off of endless prayers. A trip to church on Christmas Eve is something most of us have done, which makes up for those other church visits we all make, being weddings and funerals. We might not be devout or devoted in our Christain belief, but when it comes to celebrating a religious holiday we’ve got all the other religions beat.
Even our non-Christain friends touch upon our Christmas celebrations. The Jews say, ah yes, Jesus was an important prophet so a little praise and a few lights up here and there is in order. Then there’s Mr. & Mrs. Kumar around the corner who say, ah yes, we must put a small tree up in case any of our Christain friends come to visit over Christmas. And then there are all the non-Christain children that live in Britain who remind their parents about that ‘when in Rome’ thing, and suggest a gift or two on Christmas morning would not go un-blessed! And Christmas is a 'Gift,' one we give to the world, and ourselves.
We might not go overboard on the religious aspects of Christmas in our own individual lives, but we do, whether we realise it or not celebrate this most life changing event the world has ever witnessed. It’s a Christain celebration that reaches out across every other religion and belief, and it remains the most significant. So to you all I wish you the very best this Christmas and all you wish for yourself in 2006. God Bless.
The English have always been world travellers. Curiosity first took the British explorers to every corner of the globe in search of new lands and different cultures. To some it was plunder, like Drake as he sacked the Spanish cities in North America looking for the gold they had already mined from the new world. In fact the English were the first and the best pirates there have ever been, from Kid to Morgan! There were the British explorers who did not directly seek to plunder from the earth of other lands, such as Cook and Darwin. But trading outposts were established and from these world travellers a huge empire was born, that still has to this day, influence in the world of commerce, law, and government. My point this month is to remind us that we are still going off in all directions taking our wits and culture with us and creating as usual the same old problems we did back then. As a reporter said on a recent BBC documentary about migration, ‘why can’t you British stay at home where you belong instead of traipsing around this world looking for someone to influence.’ He went on to say the Dutch, the Germans, and the Scandinavians keep themselves to themselves, but we British have got to go here, there, and everywhere!
It’s true. Go to any corner of this vast world and you’ll find an Englishman making a pot of tea. Michael Palin on all his trecks around this world (see - even he can’t stay at home!) will turn a corner in Tibet, in Africa, on a small island in the Pacific, or a remote part of China and bump into a soft spoken exPat Brit who has a picture of the Queen on the wall. ‘Milk and sugar with your tea,’ that person will ask. Another traveller is Ian Wright, that young Londoner who has made over 150 TV shows about travelling through every country on this earth, and he will meet up with someone somewhere who still flies a Union flag and still asks about ‘home’ and how many immigrants Britain has taken in. And that coming from an exPat ‘British’ immigrant living outside of Britain!
We’re on the move. We always were. We gave America its start, populated Australia (they were not all convicts you know!), put Canada on the map through commerce and communication, sent settlers to New Zealand, took on the Boers in South Africa and won, and flew our flag from one end of the world to the other. And we’re still on the move. Australia desperately needs as many as 20,000 trades people, and a special cry has gone out to Britain, where technical colleges still teach the trades the world needs. Britain’s retired people are leaving for warmer climes in their thousands every year. France is inundated with British retirees, to the point the French are making waves about so many buying up properties and bringing British culture with them. Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain, and Portugal are also seeing thousands of retiring Brits arrive with lots of money and their usual lack of how to speak the native tongue. South Africa is now a popular place for Brits to retire to, with new sub-divisions being built along the southern slopes just to accommodate the smiling, semi-rich, happy faced Brits who want the good life in old age.
So, my fellow Brits, wherever you are, remember one important thing - if you’re going to populate other peoples countries then don’t blame the new immigrants who populate ours!
The social elite, the boffins, the lecturers, the researchers, the philosphers, are forever analysing the way we live and who we really are. For a long time now we’ve had a division of the classes, not just in Britain but also in countries such as Italy, France, and that so called one-class society the USA. We can’t help it. We find our level, based on where we were born, on our upbringing, our education, and with whom we like to associate with. Your friends and your family help others to quickly label you, as does where you live, how you live, and in western society what kind of material things you own, such as vehicle, yacht, summer cottage, and club memberships. Make no mistake about it and do not fool yourself, you are projecting a ‘class level’ and you are exacting your place in society, wherever that society is. I talk mainly of those of us living in Britain, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and the US - we all know what rung on that social ladder we’re on.
But all that is about to change. There is a new viewpoint, a new discovery, a new classification that shatters the class system we so quietly and aggressively protect. As this century progresses we are going to be placed in a vastly different category to ‘class’ levels, we’re going to be seperated in to only two levels - the ‘vulnerable people’ and the ‘accomplished people.’ The place you will hold in the above societies, and many other societies like them will never more be based on such things as ‘to the manor born’ or being ‘born into money.’ All that will seperate us in the coming times is our ‘character’ and our ‘skill.’ You might argue that those things are the present criteria societies are based on. Not so. Skills have always elevated the smart from the un-smart, but character in both fields of human development has been the big drawback and the big downfall. You can be clever, smart, well-liked, good looking, and a dozen other attributes but if you’re a ‘vulnerable person’ you’re finished.
As this brilliantly, fast advancing new technical world progresses we all need to master our coping skills, our abilities to handle crisis, our stress levels, our personal habits, and our broad sense of the thrust of society. This new term ‘vulnerable people,’ that you will soon hear a lot about, is the new classification about all those people who have relied solely on society proping them up and making allowances for their lack of skills, be they work or self-coping. The researchers put out a list of the most likely types to fall into this new category. Here they are: the forever ill who complain about every ache and pain, the poorly educated who couldn’t stay the course, gamblers who can’t control their gambling, drinkers who can’t control their drinking, TV watchers who think that is real life and try to act it out, those with addictions to such things as smoking, eating, let alone soft and hard drugs. The list goes on and on.
What is frightening about this ‘new order’ is that it is scarily on target. So many of us are ‘vulnerable people’ and now our cover is blown. Shape up or get shipped out - to the lower orders! Someone is at last trying to bring our total existence together and make it make sense. We’re being forced to face reality about ourselves. It’s about time. Now, is it possible they can do something about politics and all those ‘vulnerable people!?
If you were a country of anglo-saxon origins where the first language was English and you desperately needed immigrants to fill the thousands of jobs going begging, to whom would you turn? To the USA. No. They have all the immigrants they can handle, and they don’t bring the English language with them. How about their neighbour, Canada. No. They need immigrants but not on the scale this other country does. Canada anyway has a very confusing points system that lets in non-white races by the thousands each year, most unable to speak much English, whilst at the same time they make it incredibly difficult for British immigrants who want to settle in Canada. The country I’m talking about is the same country that 40 to 50 years ago offered Brits a new life for just £10. Yes. It’s Australia, and, they’re asking Britain again. The Australian Department of Immigration has made it clear that when it wants reliable, well trained, skilled, and educated immigrants it falls back on its old friend Britain to come up with the goods.
There’s a new drive by Australia to get skilled British workers into Australia. They’re asking for at least 20,000 Brits. They’re even making their entry into Australia a lot easier than other immigrants desiring residence there. They’re ‘fast-tracking’ the required visa for anyone who is an electrician, carpenter, cabinet maker, engineer, bricklayer, accountant, nurse, hairdresser, and even pastry chefs! That’s just a few of the skilled jobs they need to fill. Sadly there is no more £10 passages, but a little help can be offered to British immigrants on how to get a low fare flight by their national airline Qantas. They’ll advise to on how to get immediate accommodation once the hopefuls from Britain arrive. It sounds all very good, but before anyone flies downunder to the flies and the sunshine they should read the new book that is just being released and is so timely in regards to Brits emigrating to Australia.
The book is ‘Ten Pound Poms’ by Alistair Thomson and James Hammerton - Mr. Hammerton met our editor Ken Seymour on a recent trip to western Canada to gain input for a follow-up book to Ten Pound Poms - and is a must read for every British immigrant wherever they are. It was reviewed in the August 30th copy of 'The International Express,' covering two full pages, and deals exclusively with the Brits who went downunder during the periods 1945 to 1975. The article relates to the harrowing experiences the new Brits faced in Australia from the moment they arrived upto when a good third returned to Britain. The stories are about loneliness, homesickness, heat, bugs, and the isolation many Brits felt after leaving the bustling north of England only to find themselvs on the edge of an outback that looked like a moonscape. The book is published by the Manchester University Press, costs £14.99 and can be bought on-line through Amazon.co.uk
Ken tells me he will be reviewing the book with a full web page on this website, so check here later this month. The book contains everything this newsletter and our website has talked about all these years. And as Australia calls again, this new book must be read before emigrating there, or anywhere.
You have probably heard and read all you want to hear and read about the London bombings, but from what source? Most of the readers of this newsletter live outside of Britain, so it’s what your local or national news stations and newspapers tell you that will help towards your awareness and even your opinions on the events this past July in London. And I can tell you that in some countries the reporting has lacked a certain element of fact, it has lacked honesty, and regretably some reports put out over these television and radio news stations has been grossly untrue, incredibly inaccurate, and in the case of the now infamous morning news report by that Canadian news programme, CTV’s Canada AM, several days after the bombing, leaves any British person living in Canada to wonder just what it is Canada lacks in factual and honest news reporting. How news writers and news producers can air a segment of totally incorrect and seemingly very spiteful reporting is very very hard to believe.
The report by CTV news referred to an obscure article in a sunday newspaper that no other news station bothered with that stated in part, ‘British troops will be pulling out of Iraq next year,’ with CTV failing to mention (deliberately and with malice aforethought) that the thrust of that fabricated sunday newspaper article stated clearly that US troops would pull out next year - and - that British troops would have to follow suit. It’s so sadly obvious that the people who control the news at CTV have an agenda of anti-British reporting and actually go out of their way to misinform the Canadian public. They are not responding to all the inquiries directed at them and will in ‘no way’ (as a caller was told who telephoned their main news room) apologise for ANY news item they put out. Really. It seems their philosophy, like a lot of TV and radio news reporting is that if you just shut-up and say nothing it will all eventually go away. No it won’t. Not this one. This is not the first time this Canadian station has gone out of its way to deliberately misreport news from Britain, always making it appear that the British are struggling in a world situation they can’t handle. The part about the ‘British troops pulling out’ was made to look like they were about to do that because of the London bombings. Can you imagine what spiteful and deliberate racial hatred that kind of reporting reflects on the writer.
Many people in Canada are up in arms over this dreadful misrepresentation of the news and several letters have gone to two controlling organisations in Canada that look into such things. Other people have pointed out that Global TV and CBC TV have skewed the news to make it look unfavourable towards the British. A professor friend of Ken, our editor and publisher, who is not British has taken up the cry for some control of this anti-British racism which he says lurks just below the surface in many taught disciplines at the universty he lectures at, the University of British Columbia. You may recall a report on a Ph.D. named Susan Butt several years ago who lectured in her psychology classes there that Britain was a boil on the backside of life! Yes. All in all there is one good thing that comes out of all this - I left Canada years ago, and I’m glad I did. How sad it is I have to say that.
This last month there has been a lot of discussion in the media about what the Royal family costs the British taxpayer. The Royals cost Britain £37 million in 2004, or to put it more simpler, 61p per person per YEAR. John Chandler has the privilege of living in a world class country with a world class Royal family and all it costs me is 61p a year! I’d say that is great value for money.
But sadly the cries are going out from every uptight and every upright corner of our society, bemoaning such a waste of money. Several British charities; and there are more cropping up every year with their tax relief on income and distribution, say the 61p per person could be better spent helping the worlds poor. So could the saving on petrol they pay by upgrading to petrol guzzlers instead of staying with an older vehicle for several years. A charity worker I know recently took over a relatively new Range Rover to use for charity work and said to me, ‘you know the petrol for the use of a vehicle has gone from £200 a month for the previous vehicle to over £400 a month now.’ Really. That’s over £6 pound PER DAY compared to 61p PER YEAR for the Royals.
‘But what do the Royals do for Britain?’ scoff a great number of people. They travel the world as representatives of this country promoting business and tourism, that’s what they do. And Britain has a lot of friends around the world where the culture is based on our early settlers, and visits of recognition by our proud and regal representatives are still very welcome and very much enjoyed. Except Canada that is, where the Queen’s recent visit was hardly mentioned in the Canadian media as she braved the rain under her Canadian see-through plastic umbrella (I was informed it cost the Canadian government $1.49 (wholesale) whilst on a visit to Sasketchewan.
Let’s face it, 61p a year is peanuts, in fact a packet of good roasted salted peanuts costs twice that! No, it’s not the cost that bothers our younger generations, it’s the Royals themselves. Society has been dumb-downed to where it’s okay to show up at weddings and funerals in blue jeans (which I have witnessed in the last few years) and those same blue jean bums don’t know how to act or behave around Royals.
To come to terms with this great big new burgeoning world of curtailed culture and soft societies - I have a plan. Get rid of the Royals. Sell off all their estates and palaces. Distribute the wealth gained to the poor countries in Africa. Just hand it over to them. And in five years when it has all filtered away somewhere let’s sell off the stately homes and send them that money. Let’s allow dumb-downed students to leave school void of the ‘pressure’ of having to really study and learn something. While we’re at it let’s allow the British army, the navy, and the air force wear any kind of clothes they like - like blue jeans. Yes, come on Britain, the last thing we ever want to do is make these half educated, half baked do-righters feel uncomfortable. Hey, we’ve let our nurses shuffle around hospitals dressed how they like, and we accept school teachers showing up in tight blue jeans and a T shirt that says Dallas Cowboys. It all makes that 61p just too much to handle!
The French have voted ‘Non’ to the European Union Constitution in what is believed to be the turning point in European politics. Their referendum asked a simple question to a complicated 325 page constitution, that went like this, ‘do we French want to ratify this constitution that will join all member nations into a binding contract for economic tariffs and shared wealth.’ - or words to that affect. What the French rejected was yet another agreement to minimize their economy at the expense of the other less successful economies, because if this vote was about anything it was about the interests of the French and not the interests of a union of European countries that would end up sharing everything, not just their wealth but their poverty. The results of this French referendum sits well with the UK’s ideas of a European union.
The Europeans, especially Tony Blair and Britain’s labour government have looked across the ‘pond’ and witnessed just how this homogenization of countries economies have affected the well off against the not so well off. In North America there is the NAFTA agreement, (North American Free Trade Agreement) that has seen all the basic working class jobs in the US and Canada disappear across the border to Mexico where workers are paid less than $2 an hour to do the same job Americans and Canadians had done for $10 an hour. Merging countries together sounds good, particularly to those of liberal ilk, the ‘we’re all humans sharing this world’ type that in reality doesn’t gel. It’s like asking the owner of a Rolls Royce to come down to a Ford whilst the poorer member gets off his bike and gleefully climbs into his Ford. It’s good for have-nots but it’s no good for the haves. There’s also that loss of indentity. I know a few French expats who live and work in London and they never accepted the loss of their identity when the franc went out the window. It was just a small point in the overall issue of a united Europe but it still irks. And that’s our problem, we don’t want to see our £ symbol relegated to history, or feel that we, on this ‘sceptered isle, this other Eden’ become just ‘one of the crowd.’ With countries fighting and dying for their own culture and society it seems really odd that Europe wants to go ahead and join everyone into a ‘ring-a-ring of roses’ (in reality it’s a ring of stars!) and dump individual rights, and homogenize individual economies that stand and fall on your neighbour’s economy, and worst of all eliminate a country’s personal identity. It surprised me when the French and Germans joined this union, but not when Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain did who see great advantages in being ‘signed up.’
So what happens now, particularly in Britain? I don’t think Blair will hold a referendum on accepting the constitution. I think also that by the time you read this the Dutch will have voted no as well. I think that all Europe needs is an economic policy on trade among its countries that helps the poorer ones and protects the better off ones. I think borders should come down but individual countries retain their own laws, their own economies, and their own identities. I think Europe should stop trying to out-do Uncle Sam. The latter, I think, is on its own slippery slope to big problems.
The only people who take an election seriously are the people who are running for office. That may sound a little too harsh, but do you really care who gets in? And if you do care about who gets in, what if the party that got in was not your choice? Britain is not the Ukraine where the election was rigged and the people protested until they ran the election again, and ran it fairly, and got the result they the people wanted. We don’t have those kind of problems here in Britain, or those kind of choices, being, ‘play it again Sam.’ Our elections are boringly fair and boringly correct, and most times very predictable.
By the time you read this I’m certain Tony Blair will be back in power with his extra New Labour party and the country will continue to be politically what it is - a country that is run about as fair aa any country can be run, by a bunch or here-today & gone-tomorrow politicians who are in it for the game, the money, and their lucrative pensions.. Politicians in power don’t stay around too long. Re-elections, cabinet shuffles, firings and resignations keep our representatives on their toes, so to speak. It is hardly a career job. A four year stretch is the norm. An eight year stretch rare. With most of the rest of their time as politicians being spent arguing from the benches in parliament about anything and everything the party in power and the opposition care to bring up.
But ask yourself this, are elections that meaningful anymore? Does the majority really car? Let’s look at some facts. In America, that bastion of freedom and free enterprise less than half of the population bother to vote anymore. In other words only half of the people are responsible for electing the governing government. Only half. That’s half of those that are allowed to vote. Forget the 22% children and teens. Forget America’s nine million plus illegal aliens. And forget over half of the aged and retired who are too old and too uninterested to bother to vote. That leaves about half of the population as being eligible, and only half of them bother to vote, so in truth only one quarter of America’s population vote in their governments. Makes you wonder eh!
Then there’s the pollsters, those over-rated and over-paid and very often totally wrong opinion formers, (Canada's last election the polls had completely wrong) whom the political parties pay to help get the fence- sitting public to vote, and hopefully vote for them. Polls have long been recognized as little more than a smidgen of help in an election run-up, especially when you find out they polled all of 795 people and then tell us that their findings are ‘representative’ of how the country votes, give or take 4.5% - whatever that means! But the trouble is that when it comes to casting our vote we truly don’t know who and what to vote for. In the end we mix our own ‘party’ preference with our like or dislike for the one person running each party, our local representative, and a glance at what the polls say. And who gets in really doesn’t bother us that much.
Which makes what is happening throughout Britain in this current election all the more interesting. The ‘postal vote’ is taking over. Stay home and send in a postal vote. It’s the way of the future. Birmingham has increased its postal vote from 16,000 in 2001 to over 55,000 for this election. And it’s the same everywhere. Seems we’re too busy, or simply had it up to here with politics! Let's face it, whoever gets in will run things their way, and on party lines, and we'll replace them next time - or not. Trouble is - who cares!
END OF EMPIRE. April's essay by John Chandler.
Another great tradition is ending. In the coming years those outposts of Old Empire, the remote residencies of The British High Commission will be closing down. Gone will be the pith helmet, the crisply starched khaki pants, the smiling wife in a cotton print dress, and those afternoon teas where the locals sat uncomfortably in suits and shirts making acceptable conversation.
The first three to haul down the Union flag, amid a grove of palm trees in front of an immaculate white residency will be Tonga, Vanuatu, and Kiribati. These places of refuge and refind autocracy will be handed over to some local dignitary who will become, as the whole nation of India has become since the days of the Raj, an outpost of old colonialism with the visiable trappings of elegance and potentcy.
The residency in Tonga has been there 126 years. The building, an old four square timber bungalow is surrounded by old canons brought ashore by a British privateer after subduing the local Tongans way back in 1806. From the later arrival of the British High Commissioner the Tongans have always felt a special link to all things British. Who can forget the delightful Queen of Tonga in her open coach on that rainy day back in June 1953 when our Queen was crowned. And as they now say quite openly and honestly, not all autonomy is a good thing. There are places in the Old Empire and there will always be places where the ordinary citizen would prefer the British remained.
But as we enlightened world thinkers might smugly say, ‘ah yes it’s time we gave these people their countries back,’ we might want to note that the French have no plans to ever close their High Commissions in French Polynesia being New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna. They keep a friendly link with the islanders and they keep an eye on the fact there is value in having a global presence. We British might learn something from that.
Whilst ‘old style colonialism’ is frowned upon by the worlds leading power America, consider for a moment what their tactics are right now. They are in an instructive mode of ‘democracy is good for you, and if you don’t think so, we’ll whack a few locals to prove our point.’ Isn’t that like the old style colonialism? You know those days when Britain, France, Italy and Germany were occupying other peoples countries, forcing their own ideas on them, then whacking them good and hard when they failed to see the good in it all? What goes around, comes around, and quite often it’s simply in a different package.
It might seem that the sun is truly setting on a once proud British empire - but it isn’t, to be precise. We will still remain in Fiji if only to look after the winnings of Vijay Singh! We fought for The Falklands and won our right to remain. And from Mauritius to Mandalay you’ll still find a neat white residency where flies the proud Union flag. No, the sun, the actual sun itself has never set on the British Empire, and never will. We have a presence in the world, a world we gave style and character to. We’re not whacking the uninformed with a form of democracy, we’ve already done a form of that, and to this day, wherever you go you’ll see some reminder of our proud Old Empire.
MARCH ESSAY. Why Are Drugs So Popular?
The son of a very good friend of mine recently died of an overdose of heroin. He was in his forties and had been a drug addict in varying degrees for well over twenty years. We’d all known about his habit and there was little anyone could do for him, if indeed he ever wanted any help. His father Justin and I have been friends since I returned from Canada some twentyfive years ago, and whilst Justin has had an on and off problem with liquor through all the past years I’ve known him, it’s his son Brandon that seemed to deal with his own addiction problem so much better than his father. Drunkenness is a much more visual problem than that of sniffing cocaine or shooting up heroin. Drunks are loud and obnoxious, whilst drug addicts are usually quiet and spaced out. Drunks drive and kill thousands every year whilst drugs quietly kills millions. Drunkenness is an obvious crime but the taking of drugs is something very personal and quietly destructive.
His son Brandon told his father many times that whilst he (his father) gets loud, clumsy, and offensive on his habit, he himself is elevated to a level of utter peace and acceptance. Brandon said sniffing cocaine and the taking of the more potent injected heroin gave him the release he needed to overcome ‘the wanton waste of living his life in the rat race of humanity’ and those drug induced trips he makes are ‘trips into the world that exists above the common and mindless existence that life has to offer us all, and that drugs was the only way he could survive the life experience. Brandon nearly got through on drugs. His father gets through on drink. To some degree we all have some kind of ‘habit’ or ‘fix’ that we need to get us through life. The vast majority of us are happy to settle for huge mugs of morning coffee or endless cups of tea to get us going, with more of the same throughout the day to keep us going. I firmly believe we all have many ‘habits’ that are ‘drugs’ in one way or another and are in place in our lives to ‘get us through.’ I still know many people who smoke. Smoking has long been recognized as a crutch upon which we rely to bolster our courage and at the same time settle us down. I once smoked, when I entered a room of strangers, or when I took my morning break away from my desk and endlessly ringing telephone.
Today I see tension everywhere. I see people walking along streets talking on little mobile phones almost oblivious to the world around them. I see traffic that is bumper to bumper from one end of London to the other. I pass through railway stations and underground stations that are a mass of moving people that have been like that since I can remember, way back in the 1950’s. Life is a race, a people race, and it wears us out and wears us down. We all have our escapes. I enjoy a drink: it soothes me. I enjoy the odd cigar: it soothes me. I enjoy the peace and quiet of my garden in summer and autumn: it soothes me. I am perhaps easily pleased, or should I say easily rested. Not so with so many people today. There is a tension, a new kind of tension everywhere. It’s aggressive, it’s explosive, and it’s getting a lot of people uptight. Drugs are a death sentence, and a crime, but I often wish there was something, akin to aspirin, that we could take to ease the pain.
FEBRUARY: EMIGRATING: DO IT IN HASTE REPENT IT AT LEISURE.
People leave this country in their thousands every year. Last year the figures show that over 150,000 British citizens left Britain to live in other countries. These are not all emigrants the reports say, mostly being the older folk looking to retire in the sun somewhere. South Africa is a popular destination where sunshine is guaranteed and the cost of buying a property is far below the prices seen even in the more rustic and rural parts of England. Obviously the fact South Africa is a country where blacks outnumber whites 11 to 1, and the murder rate of about 22,000 homicides every year being the highest in the world, doesn’t bother these Brits bound for retirement.
Now let’s look at that other section within that group of emigrating Brits, which comprises about 5,000 to 6,000 each year to Australia alone. Why are they emigrating you might ask. Most will tell you it’s to get away from exactly what the retirees are finding, and accepting, in South Africa, being too many non-whites and high crime figures. So one group wants out for sun and economy, and to hell with racial mix and crime, whilst the other wants out from too much racial mix and too many crimes. Puzzling you might ask. Confusing is another word. So, what is it all about, this emigrating thing, and why are so many people leaving Britain prepared to turn the other cheek abroad, but not at home.
Many of you reading this are emigrants. You left Britain as long ago as the 1950’s and as recent as last year. You all made your decisive and determined exodus based on some very solid reasoning. Do you remember what your reasons were? Did you leave Britain because of the influx of non-whites - now be honest. If you did are you now living in a country void of non-whites? Or are they just as dominant, or more so, than here in Britain? Did you leave Britain because the less than 70 (seventy) murders a year in a population of 60 million was too hard to take? If you did are you now living in South Africa, 22,000 murders a year, the US, 11,000 murders a year, or Australia where they have as many as Britain but in a population of only 18 million. Can’t be for any of the reasons above, because that’s not logical. You don’t emigrate on a whim of fancy because some non-white moved into the corner store, or some old man got robbed by a gang of thugs. If you did you won’t last long in your new country.
There are plenty of other reasons for chucking it all in and flying off to a foreign country to spend the rest of your life. The big cop-out for a lot of people is that, ‘we did it for the children.’ Don’t you get fed up with hearing that. The education system is much the same wherever you go - it’s your kids that’ll be inner-smart or not. In fact teaching has been so dumb-downed from the UK to Canada, OZ, US, NZ, and RSA, that it’s lucky kids leaving school come out at all ready for the great big world.
Look, we all have our reasons for up and leaving, I did years ago, but once I realised how much I missed my roots, my heritage, and my way of life I soon came back home. I left because I thought there were better opportunities abroad. There weren’t. In the final analysis it’s the individual, yourself, that’ll make it - no matter where you are, be it Wagga Wagga or Middle Wallop.
JANUARY ESSAY. WAR IS OLD HAT.
Last month I wrote about war, and how it has truly become passé, or should I say ‘unfashionable.’ As our minds take in the newer prospects of life, with worldwide education reaching almost everyone on the planet, and the race for technology in everything from world communications to break-throughs in medicine, we become it is hoped, wiser and more tolerant of those in other cultures and in other religions. Or do we? You and I live in a democracy, where we all get to vote on what is happening, yet in other parts of this world as many people as us are not in a democracy, and for a lot of those people the very idea of ‘equality for the masses’ is not their cup of tea.
This past year has seen revolts against democracy, specially in Argentina where over half the people asked in a national poll would prefer the return of a military dictatorship. For them the freedom that democracy brings was just too much for them to handle. In a country, any country, where over half the population cannot read or write properly, the idea of handing these people lots of ‘rights,’ that they cannot use or understand, is like giving them a ten page form and asking them to fill it out. How can anyone truly comprehend democracy if they have no education and no understanding of what it means - in the long run. Dictators are often scorned for ‘dictating’ policy to their expanding population of illiterates, yet on the other hand they achieve very little by giving these people ‘rights,’ some of which we, in our own societies do not understand.
That’s why the ‘war’ in Iraq will never achieve the ‘dreams’ of an American President, that he hopes will bring peace and democracy to that very troubled land. In Iraq there are very few ‘educated’ and democracy minded people. Those that are in that group are trying to form a new democratic government. Below them there is a large middle class, most being traders, and lacking in a full education, and not caring whether they’re educated or not, just as long as they can trade and make good money. The old Arab/Jew way of life that is all about buying and selling. Underneath these two layers of possible democratic recruits lies the real challenge, the millions of uneducated, under-privileged, and often un-interested population that makes up the heart of the country. To them all they want is peace - not democracy. Democracy of late; Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and throughout a dozen African countries, does not in any way shape or form - represent peace. It represents war, an imposed war from the west that represents an iron fist of ‘do it our way because in the long run you’ll be better for it.’ Trouble is, how long a run is that.
I won’t say democracy is passé, but I will say it’s misguided in todays ‘cultural’ world, and while democracy works for us, it does not always work for everyone. In a year or so the US & Britain will be leaving Iraq, leaving it to a fractured, flawed, and tenuos ruling body that will face endless confrontation with the powers that do not want democracy. Maybe democracy isn’t suited to Iraq, and the other half of the world. Maybe we should leave them alone. Maybe it’s time we backed off and admitted, it isn’t working for everyone. When they all want democracy they’ll ask for it, but until then let us not ram it down their throats.