One way and another, it’s been a week for contemplation, assessment and reality checks. And my conclusion from all of it is that I like Abroad: mainly because it’s funny – but I’ve always liked it because it’s a change, they do things differently there, and we can benefit by adopting some of the innovations they have which we still lack in Britain.
However, as I don’t expect Abroad to grovel to me, I’m unclear as to why the Prime Minister is grovelling to them. No, that ‘s not entirely accurate: I understand his motive, I just don’t understand why he thinks doing that will get us anywhere. For his tactics are based on the idea that they’re as logical as we are – and the evidence on this matter is against him.
Because I like Abroad so much, I voted for staying in what was then the EEC in whenever it was. I was still the young side of middle-aged then, and I thought my ideals could be realised. I wanted us to cook like the Italians, live life at the pace of the French, adopt the German attitude to industrial relations, and generally learn from others….just as they could appreciate our ability to queue, have a well-mannered police force, and laugh at silly things.
The EEC became the EC and begat the EU, a monster entirely unforeseen by either Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle or even Ted Heath. What I had hoped might be a learning vehicle via which to celebrate diversity and create solidarity became the means by which to manufacture uniformity and create anarchy. This outcome – grey, fascist mayhem – may be an impossible nightmare, but it is as nothing compared to what the rest of Abroad has become.
In the Middle East, the Persia of cultured scholars and beautiful women is a Dark Age of mediaeval fundamentalism and black bin-bags renamed Iran. Next door, an Iraq where all religions muddled along once upon a time transmuted into a B’aathist alchemy and (when patience ran out) an ill-advised invasion followed by lawless insurgency. On the edge of this shocked and awed desert sits Turkey, a nation once renowned for its prison brutality and sexual decadence. Somehow, with no stage in between, it has emerged as the sponsor of terrorism, mad propaganda and Islamism. The modernism founded by Kemal Ataturk is gradually being eroded by an AK Government with ambitions to join the EU.
At the southern end of Africa, a costly World Cup is being hailed as a victory for the ANC, an increasingly intolerant, left-leaning Party lauded by the Guardian, and dominated by two murderously corrupt veterans, Winnie Mandela and Jacob Zuma. The country’s administrative infrastructure is gradually melting down, public order is such that all cars and houses have to be fitted with cutting-edge security, unemployment and poor housing have yet to be tackled, and the familiar African tribal corruption has everything from the police to the health service in its grip. Unsurprisingly, Chinese involvement and investment in the banking and gold sectors is encouraged by other ANC old-timers, in an act of worship somewhere between naivety and self-protection.
Further to the East lies India, a country which ejected the British Crown over six decades ago, and seems to have largely replaced it with the Gandhi dynasty. Rahul Gandhi is reputedly not the sharpest card in the pack – and something of a speed-junkie playboy as well as being pro the poor and virulently anti-British. An economic boom seems if anything to be widening the yawning gap between rich and poor rather than fulfilling the Congress Party’s long-stated ambition to create a more egalitarian State. David Cameron wants India to buy our exports, and India wants us to take in their human exports as the quid pro quo. Yes, I’m baffled by supposed logic of this too.
Further north lies the Russian Federation, a huge land-mass with rotting weaponry and a crumbling economy. It’s started borrowing heavily again, and getting ideas about invading people. The mafia has enormous influence, the debt is largely based on a covered-up property bust, and a sort of two-tone dictatorship seems to have been established. The RF wants to use energy with which to blackmail the rest of us, but energy needs are about to plunge; so you can expect the wheat crop to fail at some point next year, after which all bets are off.
And so on to China, where ‘managed laissez-faire’ is the latest oxymoron in a long series of failed Third Ways adopted by the more dull thinkers of the world. In China, stop-go fiscal economics has been turned into goforit-screeching brakes zoomonomcs. I think there must be two blokes in charge there: one called Gung Ho, and the other Hell No. And yes I know its childish to make fun of foreign names, but we the British laugh at foreigners and nobody ever dies of it. Laugh at the leadership in China, and your head will be detached with a blunt instrument. Chinese names are funny: get over it.
On the whole, it’s worse almost everywhere else but here. In the eurozone they have a currency nobody takes seriously, whereas we have one that is already being talked about as an interim second currency to the Yuan. We may have been paying ourselves too much and borrowing far too much for thirty years, but we have diagnosed the illness; in the States, they’re still at the “Why am I ill?” stage…and even we don’t have county councils going bust.
The one place where I strongly suspect the outlook is far better than here is Australia. So we’re off there to have a look around in October. But before anyone gets too excited about Oz, it’s vital to heed Bill Bryson’s advice: there are more things that can kill you in that island continent than all the rest of the world put together. And remember – this is the nation that gave us Neighbours. And their new Prime Minister strikes me as not very nice.
The point remains this: we very nearly lost the plot over here after 1990ish – for a while after 1979 we completely lost it – but there is a growing realisation among thinkers that things won’t get better until we grow up, face the music and start being impressively creative again. Such logic is increasingly absent abroad, where a weirdly eclectic cast of beliefs are in play:
‘Earthquakes are caused by female nakedness, prosperity lies down the road of moving the wealth around and ignoring the borrowing, women want to dress like a black pillar box, Europe needs more Islamists, America never polluted anywhere in its entire history, Aids can be prevented by washing your willy, you can tell a true radical by the power boats he owns, Vodka palaces are a sign of economic health, foreigners smell of milk, it is a French right that someone else will pay, and mining companies are really very nice when you get to know them.’
Under the Blair-Brown hegemony, we were heading with all speed towards joining the Band of Illogic that is Abroad: vetting eleven million people to catch 200 paedophiles, making the police a subsidiary of social services, basing 68% of the economy on financial services, spending £21 billion to enable gps to talk to hospitals, and insisting that half the Cabinet must be women – even if the only ones left were dead.
This Wutism (the Wishful Unthinking Tendency) is not as yet in the lead-lined coffin full of silver bullets: with 44% of the electorate paid by them, it’s hard to get an outright majority in favour of ending the madness, as self-interest tends to intervene. But once the fluffiness has been extracted from Coalition policies – and the rebel LibDems decide to shaft Slick Nick – I have little doubt that the Tories will romp home in their next exposure to the People’s verdict.
There’s a lot more waking up that Britain needs to do – and the remaining need to destroy the political Party Establishment at the ballot box one day – but at last I sense a corner being turned. Sooner or later, this Sceptred Isle will once again be that place where the slightest hint of bollocks is treated in the sort of correct manner that is not at all political: splutters, giggling, vomiting impressions, and the phrase, “Pull the other one, chummy”. Then, at last, I can retire completely.