It was Plato who said, “This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.”

So when you look at the empty Kentucky Fried Chicken bag hanging on a hedge in the middle of the countryside, it’s pretty obvious why it’s there. Our citizens are what they are. Whoever ate the meal had a car, because if they’d walked it would have been cold and uneatable long before they got here, and if they’d used public transport, they’d never have got here.

Perhaps a hundred yards further on somebody left two boxes of Christmas junk plus a lot of empty bottles tipped out in a gateway. Then somebody put photographs of this on facebook. Those who did the tipping saw the photos; realised one of the boxes had old wrapping paper in it, and drove back down and took that box away. (But not the other box or the pile of empty bottles.) Alas for them they did it too late, somebody had already been through the box, found the Christmas card envelope with the address on it and had phoned the police. The police passed this on to the local council (which is determined to stamp out on this sort of thing,) and twenty-four hours after the rubbish was reported, the council had cleaned it up and those who did the fly tipping are expected in court in February.

One problem we have in our society is that a lot of people don’t care about others, don’t give a damn about what they think, the conditions they live in, or what they believe.

We’ve got a lot of epithets, such as ‘chavs’, ‘Essex girl’, and for our American friends ‘White Trash’ and talk about the ‘Fly over states’, which are all insults based on a perceived opinion amongst ‘nice people like us’ about how these lesser breeds without the law actually live. Some of the insults tell us more about the one doing the insulting. For example, the term ‘redneck’ just means somebody who works outside in the sun, because the back of their neck gets sunburned. A redneck is a farm-worker, a builder, somebody who actually does the important stuff, that feeds people, builds homes for them. But obviously they’re not nice people like us.

And then we had the bile that spewed forth after Trump and Brexit. Now I’m supposed to be talking about renewal. How are we going to get renewal after those little episodes?
Well I’ll tell you how we won’t get renewal. We won’t get renewal if we keep treating a large proportion of the electorate with contempt. We won’t get renewal if we continue to dump the children of the poor in bog standard schools that aren’t good enough for the children of nice people. We won’t get renewal if we spend every waking hour working out ways to thwart the will of the voters.

In those cases what we’ll get is growing anger. The people who voted for Trump might send him back in four years with a larger majority. In eight years if they’re still angry, still sick of being treated with contempt and mocked, they might send somebody worse. If in this country they don’t get Brexit then we might see the destruction of the Labour party and UKIP as the official opposition.

So nice people like us are going to have to think really carefully. You see, we’ve had a cosy prosperous elite doing very nicely thank-you very much. How do you know whether you’re one of the prosperous elite doing very nicely? Well the average UK salary for 2016 was about £28,000. So anybody earning more than twice that is doing very nicely indeed. As a rule of thumb, if in the UK you’re paying higher rate of tax (earning over £43,000) you’re doing pretty damned well.

So the cosy ones, the ones doing rather nicely, are going to have to see things change. Let’s take the money spent on educating children. In Kensington and Chelsea, that notoriously run down and marginalised area, the money per pupil paid by the state was £7,036. In Cumbria which has some of the worst areas of deprivation in the country it was £4,828.

But then it makes sense I suppose. The children of a bunch of Cumbrian red-necks are never going to appreciate education anyway. Far better spend the money where it will do some good.

But unfortunately for nice people like us, Cumbrian red-necks still vote. I know, I know, a universal adult franchise was always going to end in tears, but still, unless you want the people of Cumbria, and the North-East and other areas where they feel they’ve been getting a pretty poor crack of the whip to continue to feel alienated, then you’re going to have to do something positive about it. Spreading the money about a bit more fairly would be a good start. Doing something about too many ‘bog standard comprehensive schools’ would be another.

Otherwise Brexit is only going to be the start of it, for Americans Trump isn’t the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse all rolled into one, he’s a warning shot fired across your bows. You can doubtless screw him over, but you really won’t like what comes next.

Oh yes, and the rubbish that was tipped. I know the address where it came from. Given this town I can make a fair stab at their income. In local terms they’re doing OK really, nothing to grumble at, embarrassingly close to being nice people like us to be honest.


But then what do I know, I’m just a farm-worker, a red-neck.


Speak to the experts

As a reviewer commented, “I always love Jim’s farm tales, I may as well be home talking with my Dad. His sharp witted observations are a joy.”

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15 thoughts on “Renewal?

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 1, 2017 at 9:21 am Reply

    I think we should put our best teachers and our best schools where the poorest and most disadvantaged children live – because that’s the only way things will get better, as you’ve said.

    There are idiots who dump garbage at all income levels; most of the time, they don’t get caught.

    • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 9:45 am Reply

      The problem is, it’s the only way for things to get better, but the first result will be that they’ll get worse for the prosperous and influential

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 1, 2017 at 11:42 am

        Rome wasn’t built in a day.

        Right now, disadvantages of birth are compounded by lack of a proper education to dig yourself out of the hole you’re in – if you have the guts and make the effort.

      • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        And in this country the labour party kicked away the ladder of grammar schools that had allowed a lot of people to dig themselves out

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 1, 2017 at 5:31 pm

        Lovely. Why? To save money?

      • Roy Boss January 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm

        Killing the grammar schools did not save money (if that is what is being suggested) If anything it was a cost neutral roposal. It was done for ideological purposes from the point of view of the oerpetrator, Shirley Williams, I think, However, it was widely popular, with ‘aspirational voters’ , so we could see the crude politics of electoral advantage as the motive.

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt January 1, 2017 at 6:09 pm

        Please excuse me for not being up-to-date on your educational policies. And detailed politics.

        It seems anti-democratic to keep some kids from getting the education they need to move up in life.

        The system in the States, which I know a bit about since my husband retired from teaching physics and chemistry in an advanced high school as soon as he could, because the paperwork was getting ridiculous.

        And no, I have no idea how to fix anything. I homeschooled ours; they got into top colleges.

      • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 6:59 pm

        it’s bad enough keeping up with education in your own country 😦

      • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 6:58 pm

        I think you’ve summed it up

  2. M T McGuire January 1, 2017 at 2:46 pm Reply

    I think I’m probably supposed to be one of the ‘nice people’. The trouble is, well … to be honest, I feel far more at home with the rednecks. I don’t like the nice people because, frankly, a lot of them aren’t very nice. The fact is, if you want people to be kind to one another you can’t pay lip service to this shit. You have to BELIEVE it and DO it. And where a lot of the folks in power seem to have gone wrong, to me, is that they wax lyrical about one way of acting and … well … act another.

    Also, if you want people to be nice to one another I do understand that they have to be happy, or at least, feel secure, valued and as if they have a future. So, yes, as I grow older, it seems I’m becoming a socialist, not a tax the rich at 95% socialist (or how can they pay their care fees over those 15 years they take to fade away) but one who believes in fair tax rates, and believes that if people and companies owe tax – I’m looking at you google etc – they should be made to pay it.

    But I confess, I do find it very hard to be patient with any of my fellow human beings who turn to intolerance, bigotry or racism in hard times. Then again, swings and roundabouts. If only they had better schools perhaps they wouldn’t fall for that shit!

    BTW, my ambition is to earn enough in a year to make me eligible to pay mandatory National Insurance… becoming eligible to pay tax is a distant dream!



    • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 4:12 pm Reply

      don’t worry mtm, we share a common dream 🙂
      As I was reading your comment, another quote came to mind, “Aren’t shepherds supposed to feed sheep? You drink the milk, you make clothes from the wool, you roast the lambs, but you don’t feed the sheep. You don’t build up the weak ones, don’t heal the sick, don’t doctor the injured, don’t go after the strays, don’t look for the lost. You bully and badger them. And now they’re scattered every which way because there was no shepherd—scattered and easy pickings for wolves and coyotes. “

      • M T McGuire January 1, 2017 at 4:50 pm

        Yeh, that’s pretty apt. There’s no compassion. Being ‘fair’ is just a case of kicking people on benefits. Oh we’ll just let Google walk away because we’re so busy doing the fiscal equivalent of chiselling off a £1 coin that someone’s glued to the pavement for a joke.

      • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 4:59 pm

        I love the analogy 🙂

  3. Roy Boss January 1, 2017 at 3:55 pm Reply

    I agree with Jim about grammar schools, having gone up that ladder myself. Where I disagree, I think, with Alicia, is that I am not at all sure that just spending more money on education for those in relative poverty is going to do much good without there being a revolution in the way that the parents of ‘disadvantaged’ youngsters think and act. Likely the reason for poor academic performance in the North is complex, but it ties in with the end of the mass working class and the rise of a sub proletariat which is no longer deferential, no longer fears disapproval when it dumps litter or lets its kids play truant.
    The Labour party has lost touch with the workers because the peopke who head it are remote metropolitan lefties who spend their time at meetings about the Spanish Civil War and suppirt politically motivated railway strikes. Their leader’s attitude on immigration is that its just fine to have a million increase in the population in three years, whatever that does to wage rates and demand for public services. The patriotic, socially conservative working class is actually loathsome to its own leadership. If one went back to ‘traditional’ Labour views then they would have been most disparaging about people who live on benefits earned by the sweat of others, but the leadership of the Labour party sees these people as oart of its rainbow coalition. The cooption of Labour leadership en masse into the elite deprives real workers of representation.
    Back to grammar schools, their real downfall was that after the war the number of white collar jobs increased exponentially, but the number of Grammar places did not. Thus large numbers of ‘aspirational’ voters faced the problem of their kids not getting a place at the local Grammar. They voted fir a Labour party that promised equality of oppirtunity,which was motivated by their desire for equality of outcome..which is a bit of a disaster, but not a disaster for top Labour, Liberal or Tory politicians who sent and send their children to private schools. So the swing voters voted Labour and removed the threat that competitive examination would result in their kids losing out. These voters , by the way, have decided most elections, its not shipyard workers in Barrow or commuters in Kingston who decide elections, but that swathe of Middle England seats that are decided by lower middle class swing voters,
    Oh and the number of rednecks in England is tiny. Not that many people work on the land. Its the large numbers of urban people who do not see that they live in society and that they have duties as well as rights, that are the problem and for that I would mainly blame the politicians , mostly Labour, who have broken the link between what you pay in to an insurance scheme and what you take out. We are about to drown in a tidal wave of old people who have made little provision for themselves, whose families often care mainly for hanging on to any assets they own and who have a set of ‘rights’ they have ‘earned’ that will put those young enough to pay tax into debt servitude.

    • jwebster2 January 1, 2017 at 4:16 pm Reply

      I saw a northern industrial grammar school take the sons of tradesmen and let them become doctors, lawyers, teachers and engineers.
      But yes somehow everything seems to be about taking, not giving. JFK’s inaugural speech, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” would have little traction with a modern audience

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