This blog is going to be quite different. Its about tracing my perceptions of the inner workings of Britain. these thoughts have come out over the course of a year, and I have been trying to come to terms with them. I sense that I have become somewhat cynical.
Britain is so etherically beautiful. Its as if there is a guardian angel who looks after the landscape, offering gentle watering the minute the top surface dries. Things grow so well here and so quickly, grass is so green, trees are so tall. Could there be anything wrong with this Eden?
As a South African, from a country that was annexed to the Great British Ideal of the Victorian era, I have come with a different view. I thought I knew what it is to be British, as, after all, my ancestors were British, although you would never think so, judging by the difficulty in obtaining a visa longer than 3 months. Something I did resent, as I went through the tortuous and unnecessary questions and information I had to obtain to stay here for a year, a year only, and nothing but a year, so help me God. To see a really amusing take on this by Trevor Noah. Its classic, and worst of all its true. https://vimeo.com/130619176
So, having had a different upbringing and social influence to most Brits, I have been able to see a different side to this beautiful country without the British blinkers that most Brits wear. And they do wear blinkers. Not that its anyones fault. They are just so solipsistic in education, news coverage and types of books available in libraries. Its impossible to learn anything about another country unless you search hard. Most Brits dont. As a Brit you cant help thinking you are the centre of the world..or even the only world worth anything.
THE NATURAL WORLD
Although Britain is beautiful in a cultivated way..almost as if it is landscaped, and I realize that it IS Landscaped. Hardly any land is untouched by that of a human. I was struck by two things. One as I entered the country, was a wildlife photography competition, that portrayed rabbits and foxes and deer, but nothing more wild or aggressive than that. The other was what I, myself witnessed:
There are few reptiles in England, and the only “snake” you are liable to see is a slow worm or , if you are extremely lucky, a grass snake. (adders, the only other one, are rarely seen) Certainly no mammalian predators, and few wild deer. I have never heard an owl calling, although I believe they are here..somewhere. Yes, there are lots of rodents, I believe, but most are being hunted by pest control companies, or domestic cats..although I have seen few feral cats. A friend of mine, who is also South African sent me this photo of wildlife in Britain..and it kind of sums it up. Even birds don’t twitter all day as they do in Africa. The dominant bird is of the crow family. There are sweet little robins and tits that are kept quite tame by bird feeders in most peoples gardens. ..and lots of pigeons. The second photo of a stag is actually a sculpture in someones garden.
Insects are also strangely rare. I have seen one fly in a year of being here (most people would be grateful for that), and although there are many wild flowers flashing their wares, there are few bees. Many hives are empty. I have also only seen only two butterflies.
Now I don’t live in the city. I live and work in a deeply rural area, on a farm where wildlife is of concern, and some effort has been made to cultivate wild spaces. I am outside all day, most days. This is a bee hotel trying to encourage rare bumble bees.
Yes, there are animals, but these are of the domesticated kind.
There are a huge amount of dogs, but these are well trained, either indoors or on leads or even muzzled while they walk. They never bark as you walk by and there are a huge variety of special breeds..very few mongrels here.
There are also many sheep and you can smell the cows as you travel through the countryside. This is why the fields look like mown lawn, surrounded by hedgerows to keep some animals in and some animals out.
There are woodlands, these are small forests with tall trees. Very few do not get traversed daily by human beings. Very few do not end in a cluster of houses and a pub or church.
There are no night sounds, like crickets and frogs. What sounds like the sound of the sea, is only the muted sound of cars swishing over tarred roads that extend deep into the countryside. Even in the remotest places like on top of Dartmoor, you are likely to see this:
This all says something about the British soul that they have gained physical health and prosperity, but somewhere they have lost their soul..particularly their wild soul.
One lone voice in the British landscape that actually has noticed this is George Monbiot, I discovered recently. Luckily he writes for the Guardian and trawls the country speaking about this. Maybe his voice will be heard. He talks about re-wilding Britain. (see some of his lectures on youtube), and has written a book I have not yet read, called Feral on Re-wilding Britain.
Britons do realize how much of a gift their country is but only in a recent Historical sense, and spend huge amounts restoring Historical buildings and charging enormous amounts to enter these domains. (Although I have noticed, if you see previous posts, that this care does not extend to the Romans for some odd reason.) .
George Monbiot says that when Britons talk about conservation, they see only as far back as the Victorian era. He sees sheep as a curse to the countryside, creating green deserts. Farming subsidies for gentleman farmers intensify this problem, as they are only subsidized on cleared land. So they spend energy keeping their land clear.
LOSS OF THE CARING SOUL
But a further consequence of domesticated Britain is a loss of a caring soul. In Britain you do not see poverty and desperation as you do in Africa. What people call poverty and desperation in Britain, is middle class in most other countries outside it. Yes, they do care for their own kind..perhaps too well, because it is a comfortable country to live in. Nothing to worry about. The NHS takes care of health, the insurance, benefits and pensions take care of wealth, and the BBC takes care of what you should think. News and coverage, I notice, extends very rarely outside Britain, except to report British sport wins, (very rarely losses..these are glossed over very quickly), and only events that involve British citizens, (particularly if others are at fault).
There are many charities in Britain, and so I don’t think it is a lack of desire to care, but again these extend rarely outside Britain. These charities support research into various illnesses not yet cured by the NHS, like cancer and heart disease. The homeless, of which there are a small number, who nevertheless remain homeless, and animals (British animals, that are the most looked after in the world. (Robert Mugabe is absolutely right about that), and children who are also already extremely well looked after..perhaps lacking a cellphone or two. Many can hardly be called charities, as they support (British) art and culture. In a recent Telegraph article, it was shown that only 50% of charity money goes to the recipient, while the rest goes to feed fat salaries in research and administration. I know this is true because a friend of mine receives a fat salary and pension from the Gates Foundation for setting up a few mosquito nets in Bangladesh that he visits once a year.
Many charities are run as businesses or donations are tax deductible, and so don’t require much charity, and or don’t do much to alleviate the problems of the world, but remain in Britain, for British citizens that are in any case looked after by the many benefits they can claim.
In England and Wales there are 1,939 active charities focused on children; 581 charities trying to find a cure for cancer; 354 charities for birds; 255 charities for animals, 81 charities for people with alcohol problems and 69 charities fighting leukaemia.
there are three breast cancer charities and three prostate cancer charities..all doing the same thing., and, if you donate overseas, you cannot be called a charity according to charity regulations in the UK!! This is a charity that supports British soldiers during any UK conflict. Didnt they receive a salary and pension?
I did not want to look at the merits or demerits of British charities, but rather at real needs that knock on Britains door, but are ignored, or worse demonized in the media. Here I talk about the people seeking amnesty in Britain from war torn countries that Britain prefers not to believe exist, and in fact most Britons have no idea of the trauma facing these people daily. Would anyone leave their home and possessions to come to a country whose language you do not speak for an uncertain future if you were not desperate? Britain calls these people “illegal migrants”, and people who host or aid their migration “people smugglers” Both of which at the least deserve deportation, but more likely a prison sentence. This is extended to the point that Britain is prepared to send warships to aid coast control to ensure they do not land in British back yards.
Britain says that it is overpopulated already. This does not feel to be true. I have traveled extensively in Britain and found the following:
Houses are large compare to the two rooms that host entire and extended families in Africa. They all have indoor, water borne toilets..at least one per household. They all have at least 6 fresh water taps (not one per km square as is common in Africa). Roads are tarred, public transport is common, although expensive. Each house has at least one spare bedroom. Many houses are unoccupied except in holidays maybe. Many people own more than one house. In the 2011 Census, 1,570,228 people in England and Wales said they had a second address in England and Wales outside the local authority of their primary residence, that they used for 30 days or more each year.
Another 47,733 of those people had second addresses in Scotland or Northern Ireland, while 820,814 had second addresses outside the UK.
Two fifths of British landlords own more than one property.
Also there is much farm land that is not farmed, as they benefit from EU farming subsidies, and only host sheep that are not used for food or wool to prevent oversupplying the market and keeping prices high.
This farmland in turn keeps Britain environmentally domesticated, as wild land is not classed as farmland and therefore is not subsidized. And so we come full circle to the silent spring that is Britain 2016.
THE SILENT VOICE
Britons have also lost the voice of protest. Perhaps because they have become too comfortable and domesticated. What has happened to the Hippies that protested about war? (They are now in their seventies, old and pensioners. They don’t fight anymore.). What happened to the punks, the rebels who lived in squats? They are verging on retirement. Their hair is now grey rather than dyed black and pink. What about the workers unions, that used to fight capitalistic practices? They are now claiming pensions. If a Briton does anything more than hold up a poster, they are arrested or fined and then followed by the special branch.
Britain has become a country with one of the most CCTV cameras.
It has high consequences for breaking any law. Monetary fines are usually the most effective and are heavy for relatively small offences. (I was fined R 2000 for exceeding the speed limit by 8 miles an hour…(still only going 60km an hour in a 45km an hour zone. ) Anti social behaviour law (ASBO), brought in in 1998, now called a criminal behaviour order (CBO) is defined as: conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person or conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises, or conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person. Now this is very broad. Consequences are:
You can be fined up to £250 (R5000)if you’re aged 10 to 14 or up to £1,000 (R20 000)if you’re aged 15 to 17. The fine may have to be paid by your parents if you’re under 16. You might also get a community sentence or, if you’re over 12, a detention and training order (DTO) for up to 24 months. Adult offenders can be fined up to £5,000 or sentenced to 5 years in prison, or both. Many ordinary people have prison records for small offences.
An extensive special branch based in Cheltenham, housed in a huge building, monitors any slightly suspicious organisation. It is not too dissimilar to South Africa under apartheid rule. Police state? Well very close. All companies had to do a government sponsored “prevent” training to prevent radicalization. I would not have been surprised at the questions asked if I was in South Africa under the apartheit government. It was a bit like Big brother in the book 1984.
The result of this “muzzling” is that Britons are as tame as their wildlife. At least outwardly so.
WHERE DOES THE WILD SIDE GO?
There two ways that Britons get rid of excessive frustration. One is in the pub, where drinking is something hard not to do. It is seen as the answer to all conditions. Many young people are on drugs. The other is football and gambling. Gambling and drug addiction is an everyday problem, and is the main cause of poverty of any kind. Just watch the Jeremy Kyle show for a short while.
WAR AND PUNISHMENT AND BRITAIN
Britons value war and punishment too much and see this as a first solution to problems. Hence the call to place warships in service to prevent migration and agreement to fund wars in other countries. They venerate war veterans to a huge degree, judging by all the memorials and medals and knighting of war veterans and annual ceremonies. They also spend huge sums glorifying war history by restoring naval dockyards. I always wonder what parents say to their children when they take them around these killing machines that required so much to restore.
They have now converted desperate human issues into something to be fought against to prevent them from really helping someone.
Britons forget their own sins of war (colonial invasions, stealing of wealth and other and natural resources), far too quickly yet are quick to point out that of others. No Briton will apologize for these or seek to return stolen goods and wealth and in fact still thrive from it. (see Trevor Noahs take on returning stolen gold in the video above) In fact most Britons don’t even know of the devastation left after colonization as little is taught in schools on any history outside Britain.
Britain has a victim mentality. The news rarely has reports on forgiveness, but often “the seeking of justice”. Part of it is the litigious nature of Britain. Although I have been heartened to hear people apologizing for breaches on TV news. I have been told that its because of a recent legal injunction that apologies do not amount to an admission of liability. This something positive we can do with in South Africa where people fear legal liability. In Britain, champerty, which is where a third party finances a legal argument in order to partake in the profits used to be crime, but is now an incredibly lucrative business. This makes everyone a victim.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
As a result of this, every company has Health and safety precautions that border on the ridiculous.
There is a very active health and safety executive that monitors everything. They are much more insidious than the special branch as they invade EVERY institution. Breach of conditions is considered a crime. Children cant be children because the risks are too high. Notices of precaution are everywhere. they are cautioned at every turn and become domesticated before they even reach the end of school.
The Brexit campaign to separate Britain from the responsibilities of being part of the EU in the light of the migrant crisis has revealed much of the British attitude to the rest of the world. There is arrogance and insularity hiding under the outer politeness. There is great fear that the past may finally catch up. Unsurprisingly, the Brexit campaign won. Denial is a good strategy.