With palace scandals threatening the Monarchy, the Prime Minister behaving like a wannabe president, and British law, always an ass, now becoming a jackass, it is time to speak up.
It has been some 30 years since I flew off to a succession of warmer climes clutching my distinguished blue/black passport and the intention to return home one day. But now that I’ve had my fill of wadi-bashing, dune driving, and tax-free living, I find that home has turned into a cross between a yob’s paradise, a banana republic and a police state.
What the heck has happened to Britain during my absence? Even my passport has shrunk and changed colour, with the pound note probably destined to follow suit. What is worse, why aren’t the British out on the streets complaining?
Few Brits have any control over their own lives any more. Their choices have diminished except when it comes to whether to mow the lawn or defrost the freezer. Most of my compatriots exist for their two to three-weeks annual vacation, a carrot, which keeps them glued to the road to nowhere.
A good example is election time, which they are either too apathetic to bother with or take oh so seriously. They may believe that their vote will make a difference when they are actually voting for one of the same two parties over and over again. This signified a real, although still limited, choice some decades ago, but now the leaders of both are clones of one another, with the exception that one still has hair.
Worse, today’s British government is in the pocket of the US and attached at the hip to Brussels. Not only have their choices been eroded, their leaders are hamstrung as well.
As each year passes, individual freedoms diminish too. Brits can no longer drop out, hang out or disappear from the government radar screen. The computer age has meant that from cradle to grave, in true Logan’s Run style, they are registered, monitored, tracked and labelled.
They are designated numbers, which remain with them throughout their lives and soon biometric identity cards, driving licences and passports with their unique iris print and facial contours will be the norm.
There is no escape in Britain for those of us who cherish our privacy. On almost every street corner there are video cameras, monitored by law enforcement.
In Britain there are over 1.5 million closed-circuit television monitoring systems watching roads, shopping malls, schools and parking lots, yet crime is on the up and up, including armed robbery and homicide. Britain is the most monitored country on earth and yet the government plans to spend a further £70 million to buy yet more eyes in the sky.
How long will it be before Britain follows its mentor, the US, where the Patriot Act has facilitated intelligence-gathering agencies to listen-in on telephone conversations and read anyone’s mail? Across the pond, the guy who arrives to tune your piano or repair the washing machine could be a potential TIPS’ informer on the look out for suspicious characters like eccentric Brits with foreign-sounding names.
Now that the FDA has approved the implantation of electronic chips into humans, how long before every new baby will get his implant as a matter of course?
Most of us were reared on the work ethic and persuaded to believe that hard work reaps high rewards. Just ask a shop assistant in Next, or a man who stacks the shelves in Tesco just how many benefits his labour provides each week. Chances are his prospects hang on his weekly Lotto ticket.
They are constantly being fed the line that they live in lands of opportunity. What they don’t tell them is that money goes to money and the success stories featuring entrepreneurs rising up from the inner city housing estates are few. Steve Jobses and Richard Bransons are at a premium.
Those who live in urban ghettoes around London are slaves to a system. Few can afford to pay £400K for a small flat in the capital, so they have little choice but to join the nameless, faceless, not-so-merry band of commuters who populate the unreliable trains and the depressing tubes each morning and evening.
This grey-skinned, anorak-wearing mini army arrive at work already exhausted and proceed to watch the clock until lunchtime when off they go to queue for a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich. A survey showed that some commuters spend seven years of their lives on a train, most of them in silence.
Inundated with ads and offers of credit, this lonely crew wave their plastic cards in Walton-on-Thames or Chingford each Saturday in copy-cat High Streets conned by ads into purchasing such ‘high priority’ items as all-singing, all-dancing microwaves until the day looms when they cannot pay up.
Many of our family and friends ‘back home’ carry on with their daily lives believing that they actually own their own homes when, in fact, these are the property of banks and mortgage companies for much of their adult lives. They have little option but to work in boring repetitive jobs simply trying to keep a roof over their heads, the insurance companies in business and pre-cooked dinners in the refrigerator.
Although they have diligently paid their National Insurance contributions, when they fall ill they often have to wait months for a much-needed operation or a bed in one of Britain’s National Health hospitals, known to be a shambles.
I remember with nostalgia the days of my childhood wandering the hills of Monmouthshire (even that became Gwent) picking heather and berries. These days British children aren’t safe out alone, destined to a sedentary housebound existence munching on Big Macs, baked beans and chips. It’s no wonder that they suffer from obesity in ever growing numbers.
The elderly are even worse off. After paying income taxes, import duties, capital gains, gift taxes, National Insurance and VAT throughout their lives, they get a measly pittance to live out their days. Nowadays, even that is threatened. The old are the most vulnerable. Targets for criminals they often live in fear, shivering from the cold behind locked doors until the day they are carted off to care facilities when their houses are grabbed by the state.
But they already know all this and yet they put up with a sub-standard lifestyle. Why?
They have been indoctrinated to expect little and this is the problem. For them, the joys of life are merged inextricably with booze-ups down the local, the Saturday afternoon match on the telly, and the occasional cinema visit. They expect nothing more than to do the big shop on Saturday and clean their car on Sunday.
Used to paying more for their smokes, beer and petrol than their European cousins, they raise not a murmur about bad service or restaurants which slap down tinned soup, hormone-injected chicken and skinny, catering-pack fries.
If the youth who appear on the Dating Channel are anything to go by, they expect even less. Filmed in Ibiza, bottle in hand, the guys aspire to finding a partner who wants a bit of fun, a laugh, who enjoys cheesy music (what on earth is that?) and who likes a drink. The girls with their invariable butterfly tattoo put tight buns as high priority.
On the plus side they enjoy the finest judicial system in the world. Or do they? On Wednesday, the Queen’s speech to the House of Lords indicated that Double Jeopardy is being abandoned, which means that they could be tried twice or more for the same crime. And Gawd help anyone who has a criminal record. Their murky past will now be exposed to ‘impartial’ juries if a Judge so rules. No more the chance to wipe the slate clean. Once a thief, always a thief in today’s Britain.
They can always console themselves with the thought that thousands of asylum seekers are clamouring to enter their shores. Britain must have something to recommend it. Right? For an Iraqi or an Afghan it certainly does – free housing, medical and social security payments, all courtesy of the kindly British taxpayer.
As for me, I won’t be returning. I shall console myself instead with memories of days gone by and I’ll just have to put up with endless sunshine, white sandy beaches, foot massages and wonderful cuisine in Phuket. You are welcome to join me at any time. I’ll be the one with the floppy hat, sipping kir royals between toasts to Queen and country.
© Linda Heard 2002
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