Living in Britain is getting to be a moderately scary proposal. At least from where I’m sitting, it would seem that both the past and the future are now weighing too heavily on the present. Two examples tonight which may set you thinking as they have done me.
Last night, I was revising History with my daughter. She was preparing for a mock exam she thought she had today – an exam, which in the event, won’t take place until Wednesday. She loves doing mind maps to help her remember stuff: the mind maps we used yesterday were beautifully neat, cogent and well-structured. Two items jumped out at me and made me wonder – whilst I asked her pertinent questions – whether here, right in front of us, we had the ultimate explanations for the Coalition’s incessant referencing of British history.
The first went as follows, in relation to Political Change:
In 1800 Parliament believed it should not interfere in people’s lives. If people were unhealthy it was their business.
By 1900 Parliament was making laws to improve people’s health e.g. forcing towns to install sewers.
The second, meanwhile, said this on Entrepreneurs:
Medicine became big business. Some entrepreneurs made millions of pounds from almost useless remedies. However others put money into scientific research to find drugs which would help to cure disease.
My daughter is not yet fifteen, and yet, unknowingly to her, though perhaps not to her father, in these few words of hers – snatched and garnered from this book or that class – we have all we need to understand the historical drivers behind the past three years of political upheaval.
For the Coalition knows exactly where it wants to take us: for them, it’s pretty clear, the future means the past. Not any old past, though. Instead, the beginning of the century which arguably brought about an astonishing renaissance of persistent legacy.
Not a European renaissance couched in linguistic dissonance but a very British renaissance of a singularly English-speaking colonialism.
A singularly English-speaking colonialism which knew all too well how to traffic in the trade of death and infirmity, both abroad and at home.
Whilst British parliamentarians vote to introduce the concept of secret courts (more here), and everyone seems increasingly to see the virtues of spies-in-the-skies, and even privacy seems to be a concept from very forgotten times indeed, I am minded to wonder why the establishment is so very fearful. As I tweeted this evening:
My question as follows: what have the establishment seen in the future that terrifies them into so much repression in the present?
All these moves around the edges to control and target and define. And in a century where computing powers and predictive tools have multiplied their perspicacities in an almost terrifyingly exponential way.
So what have they seen – these lords and masters of ours – which leads them to scurry about in such unseemly and unremitting ways?
Why have our brave and powerful eagles suddenly become rabbits in the headlights of the future?
What, in the future, really awaits us?