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.