It can be tedious listening to some old fart in a fuzzy photograph pulling out the Experienced Wisdom card. I’m sure many of the radically progressive certainty merchants out there will find this piece just another bit of blah blah from a nasty Baby Boomer who stole all your benefits, and then ruined the future of your children by voting for Brexit.
For those of you with minds still open to the lessons of history and the dynamics of the future, however, you are invited for a little meander around the block of life, liberty and learning. I write tonight because, believe me, the tedium of listening to global Leftlib showboaters all day – on all media in all the colours – was infinitely more enervating than this piece is likely to be. But you must decide.
From 1977 until 1984, I lived in Brixton – in twee ‘Poets’ Corner’ if you were an estate agent – because my wife and I couldn’t afford anything else. I went back there with a chum a week ago, for an informal lunch in a Brazilian restaurant run by an Argentinian. It cost threepence and was terrific.
Brixton has changed bigtime. The place is very Jonty and Katherine these days, but around Electric Avenue and the indoor market are the same cosmopolitan characters selling good value stuff to people not yet doshed by the compromises of corporate life.
In Shakespeare Rd (where I lived, at No 17) there was a mix of Hard Left whites, agrarian Jamaican poor, liberals like us, middle class Barbadan evangelist Christians, Indians, and African professionals – mainly landlords and lawyers.
The following things happened to us in the first six months:
- We were robbed three times. We couldn’t afford a burglar alarm.
- The empty house next door was squatted, and turned into a knocking shop.
- We twice watched – at 3am in the morning – as a pimp knocked seven bells out of one of his ‘girls’.
- We – and five neighbours either side – were bombarded by the mega-decibel music of one young guy.
- The car radio was stolen twice.
- Our insurance premium doubled. We could barely afford the one we had.
The support we got from all our decent neighbours of every culture was a memory that will live with me forever. We got invited to a lot of West Indian weddings, and ate a lot of curried goat. Let me tell you, curried goat is nice.
The reaction of the Brixton Police was to ask whyTF we’d moved there in the first place.
The reaction of Lambeth Council under Ted Knight was to send along a Noise Pollution Officer, and then do nothing. Actually, the Council did do something: they expressed solidarity with Comrade Brezhnev on MayDay, and put up notices everywhere saying Lambeth was a Nuclear-free Zone. I might add that, every winter, our street was also a grit-free zone.
I went along to a couple of Labour Party meetings. I was not and never have been a Labour member, but I went along to listen. Actually, I went twice: on each occasion, they talked about issues and causes thousands of miles away in Africa, Russia, China and South America. These did not strike me as the correct concerns for officials elected to run a community riven with the problems of vice, poverty, misogynist pimps, ignorant cops and loose West Indian familial structures.
The tabloids, as you’d expect, dubbed this Looney Labour.
Without this kind of nonsense, there would never have been Thatcherism.
We lived through two riots in Brixton. My first child, aged two months, needed feeding as we returned the Sunday of the first riot after visiting friends. The police reaction was to declare Poets’ Corner a nogo Ghetto. My reaction was to drive round the road block, and studiously take the numbers of all the officers on duty. I needn’t have bothered.
That night, I walked to the end of Shakespeare Road and onto Railton Road…the much-vaunted ‘Front Line’. I saw several people throwing Molotov cocktails, almost all of whom were white. They probably vote Tory these days. I don’t: I did in 1979, and regretted it immediately. See bold, rust-coloured print above.
Throughout all this period, left-leaning bourgeois friends turned up to our house for supper to lecture me on the institutional racism that caused young black boys to underperform at school. I asked them why this racism didn’t seem to stop black girls from getting on. Radical feminists in particular reacted badly to my questions….and the conclusion I’d reached: that crap fathering was the problem.
Brixton Labour never accepted that truth. I’d imagine they still don’t. But Black community leaders in Notting Hill and south London did, because they knew young homeless boys turned to gang culture in pursuit of a father figure.
Had the issue been left to Labour, nothing would have improved.
The examples I’ve offered so far relate to my big problem with the Left in the West: its inability to look for a good governance solution from the evidence available, and its preference for staring up the dark back passage of ideology for some kind of ridiculously contrived interpretation.
But then, regulars here know that this is also my problem with the contemporary Right and its Nutty Neocon codswallop – which is, without doubt, the equal of every last bit of collective Socialist claptrap. I despise all of them, you see: they’re not so much a waste of space, as a criminal waste of intelligence given over to catechismic devotion.
I do, however, have far more to offer than excoriating dislike. Believe it or not, I can actually be very nice indeed to the open-minded, the genuinely vulnerable, the legally wronged, and the sensibly kind. The proper application of love really does solve every community problem in the end.
Sadly, what gets in the way of everyone trying to practice just that is religious and ideological bigotry.
I’m taking here about those people who beeleeeve. Those who knew evereeething. The people who are always right, until it all goes wrong. After which they creep quietly away to some bunker while we the People deal with the mayhem. Then they reappear afterwards – often slightly rebranded as ‘ecconomic deregulators’ or Greenpeace – to start telling us again why they’re right.
Let me outline some reality again.
- They don’t know about CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere, whether it’s a good or a bad thing, or even what the root cause of its elevation is. Nobody does.
- There will not be 77 Virgins waiting in Heaven, and beheading folks is not the fast lane towards a US Green Card.
- Wealth does not trickle down, it gushes up.
- Socialist ideas of equality do not produce real equality because they are not based on social anthropology.
- Devil take the hindmost is not the ‘natural order of things’. Senior apes in the wild do not behave like neocons do. (Go on a safari, and see for yourself)
- Superstates and globalism are unlikely to be the future, because Homo sapiens – in both a citizen and administrative role – cannot cope with the numbers and complexity involved. This is why small communities are better run and less criminal than large urban conglomerates.
- We cannot ask politicians to be more accountable – and then sign Opposition petitions allowing them to ignore the responsibilities of government.
- In that context, an expert is only worth listening to if he or she has a track record suggesting discernment of the sky/floor difference thing. Gordon Brown became known as our Greatest Ever Chancellor. But only Gordon Brown ever propagated that conclusion.
Nevertheless, no matter how often religious, ideological and other Groupthink cult mania turn out to be wrong, there is no correlation between that reality and the lemming-like willingness of the wide-eyed to buy their snake-oil over and over again. This is because we are livings things: we die, and our wisdom is not (often) collected and passed on. The Oldies can write stuff down, but the internet will put them down. The internet, my friends, really is profoundly ageist.
We learn from mistakes. Leave everything to the Young, and life will never get better.
So these are some historical learnings to consider. I don’t present them as Golden Rules, merely as a personal record:
- Politicians with a likeable image usually achieve nothing, and die young.
- Churchill was a misogynist arsehole, but without him Hitler would’ve won.
- Fifty years after every war to end all wars, there’s still plenty to fight about.
- Minority issues rarely solve majority problems.
- Gender, ethnicity and sexuality count for little if the problem is planetary.
- Fiddling with the central heating thermostat will not make a hole in the roof go away.
- With responsibility for lives comes compromise. The alternative is Pol Pot.
- The raw material here is people. We’re as far from perfect as ever.
- Technology can kill Truth and expose it. The choice is ours.
- Systems are fine but people are finer. One size never fits all.
- Those with double standards always want double helpings.
- Ideologists present their values as absolute. They are not: they are passing mores.
- Philosophy opens minds. Ideology closes ranks.
- The greatest fulfillment of the greatest number is as good as it gets.
- The search for Utopia produces Dystopia.
- Never let the sun go down on a day without learning.
- Be nice to everyone until they prove you wrong.
Now there is a reason for all this tonight. I planned (as much as I ever plan anything) my recent UK trip around the birth of 2nd granddaughter Rosa; but during that trip I spent time with most of my real friends and family to gather opinion about what I should do next. The best friends are those who tell you the unvarnished truth. And what came back – having pitched an idea for a novel to some of them – was “Stop farting around and write the bloody thing”.
What appears above – and in the 6,360 posts since January 2010 -is everything I want to say to all those who value the individual citizen’s lifespan quality and social contribution above any system, construct, space, belief thing or other bollocks likely to rule or even ruin their lives. There’s nothing of any real substance to add. From here on, I want to try another route likely to be more successful in persuading people that it can be much better. Persuasion has, after all, been the driving force of my adult life.
Blogs will be more infrequent, and Twitter presence diluted. I’m not deserting anyone, just looking for something that works better. I don’t know how many of you like the work of Ritchie Havens, but this is part of the lyric of his song When. It seems pertinent:
My dreams have all been raided/by every kind of greed
my liberties were traded/for nothing that I need
So won’t you tell me when you’re gonna go
Been living here so long, I Just might wanna know.