22 Dec 2012. 190 separate flood warnings dot the map of rain saturated Britain. In Dorset, a hill dissolves on film, caught by Coast Guard cameras. A dismal wet grey covers Britain’s green and pleasant land. Nor is today the end of it. A land already saturated to flooding in dozens of communities faces days more intense rain.
It is as if the land itself is locked in a paroxysm of grief
Indeed, it could be. Across this once prosperous and proud nation former bankers, young people with no where to go, mothers who have no money or benefits all seek shelter in parks, culverts and door stops. Legal "loan sharks" hound parents who borrowed at over 4,000% interest to feed their families or forestall eviction. Somewhere Dickens weeps.
It is not that Britain is more or less distressed than the United States -- or Greece or Spain or Ireland. It is a hard time. History will decide how much of it is due to external factors, how much self inflicted wounds, how much ideology's self fulfilling prophecy, and how much government by the obsessed inflicting the punishingly irrelevant on the vulnerable.
In the meantime ...
It is Christmas and children go hungry. It is Christmas and the Food Banks have grown geometrically since last year. It is Christmas and the poor no longer can count on the safety net the government once provided, of which Britain was once justly proud.
But the latest attack submarine will be built. Trident will be built. High Speed Rail will be built. Guns will be hawked by the Prime Minister. Bankers will receive bonuses which, however diminished this year due to public pressure, will nevertheless be more money than the homeless need to provide them with basic food and shelter for an entire year. The elite will holiday in Tuscany, hunt from horseback in the Cotswolds, sip Claret and laugh in the warm. Then there are those tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations socked into the budget. And so on.
Dress it up however one may -- the government has done its best to do so -- the Coalition has plenty of money to spend for what the Coalition wants to buy. The Coalition has its priorities straight. Those priorities are neo liberal. They take care of the 1%. No one is fooled about it, I suspect not even the Coalition. The Liberal Democrats purse their lips and grimly talk about rebalancing the economy. But I doubt even they are fooled.
That is, of course, not necessarily more true of Britain than the United States. But it isn’t less what it is, either.
Christmas is a time of hope, of promise full and rare. It is the time when many of us actually do try to be the quality of person we ought to be. But not this Christmas. Not in Britain. Not, at least, among the political elite. They are channeling Scrooge.
And the land weeps.
It is very hard under these circumstances to do what the Season demands -- turn on the warm, hopeful Christmas cheer.
But there is this hope -- all across Britain more of the British who Tony Blair famously described as “all Middle Class now” appear to realize that their “being middle class” is a delusion. Like the Titantic, when the Ship called Britannia hit the ice berg of the financial crash the Captain directed, “First Class to the life rafts, everyone else, listen to the band.” There is hope in that realization, because there is every chance that in that knowledge the British will rediscover their mojo. Having rediscovered their mojo, there is the hope they will say “enough.” Having said “enough,” they will discover that the people really do have the power to shape their own lives. The elite govern only by bluff.
I dearly wish tonight I could write a warm and fuzzy seasonal piece. Maybe something about someone who helped someone. I have picked up figurative pen and pencil many times to do it over the past several days, but found I just couldn’t. I have to be honest. This Christmas, like the very land itself, I weep for Britain and the British.
I weep for the United States and the children of “the leaders of the 21st Century” who led the United States into yet another massive economic contraction.
May 2013 bring a loud and ringing “enough, enough, enough” both sides of the pond.