Friday, 11 November 2016
Thoughts on Trump & Brexit
Whenever I go back to London on visits to The Daughter, I am compelled to take unavoidable stop overs in the riverside towns of North Kent, now very nearly part of Greater London itself, where I grew up all those decades ago. Catching up with former friends and schoolmates is imperative. So many of them still live in or close to the towns where they were born but in circumstances that are greatly changed from those we knew in the nineteen forties and fifties. Milly and I became friends when I was three and she was four, both of us from families at the very bottom of the social heap, crammed in like sardines in a row of Victorian workers’ cottages where the overall sanitation remained largely unchanged from a century before. Milly still believes theirs was the poorest family in the street and I remain in fierce competition with her for that particular accolade. Now in our declining years we take pleasure in analysing the social ills of the past and are astonished at how far we have catapulted into prosperity. `Who would have imagined we would ever own a car?’ Milly marvels as she selects from a list of available Whites By The Glass on Sunday lunchtime at The Three Daws, `Or a telephone……or an inside toilet!’ There is no doubting the fact that the majority of that post war underclass from those estuary towns have somehow or other emerged from the quagmire of dire poverty that seemed to be their lot. And not on account of educational opportunity either because most of us abandoned school at the age of fifteen and school seemed content to let us go. As Eleven Plus Failures what the local Grammar School might have offered was not even the slightest whim of a fanciful notion. If we had been American citizens we would have most definitely been considered to be Poor Whites and in my case, with so many of the family emanating from half breed gypsy stock, perhaps Trailer Trash. Our knowledge of the United States was confined largely to Doris Day musicals so we didn’t understand that People Like Us existed there as well as in our little bit of the home counties. You mustn’t think that girls like Milly and I grew up devoid of moral and ethical boundaries; our parents had instilled into us what was Right – well, they even enrolled us in Church Schools and if we didn’t get them at home we certainly had a surfeit of the Right kind of stories at school. We knew that Daniel was being enormously brave when he entered the lions’ den and we turned the other cheek when people called us names. Well we did most of the time. We didn’t steal from local shops very much because we knew what would happen if we were caught. We told lies occasionally but not as often as you might think and we could be surprisingly kind to one another. As we grew older we understood that sex before marriage was forbidden and that getting pregnant as a result was possibly a catastrophe. Sometimes it happened to a teenage sister and then your Dad would first threaten to throw her out onto the street and she would do a lot of crying. Then either she would quietly marry her current boyfriend or suddenly your Mum had a new baby and nobody talked about it a great deal afterwards. By the time we were eighteen we were completely aware that homosexuality was totally abnormal and should we be marginally religious we knew God was going to hand out a mighty punishment at some stage. The occasional homosexual in our midst was at the same time, largely accepted. If anyone had told us that one day Gay Marriage would become an almost run of the mill event we would have had trouble believing it and our parents would have simply laughed and asked us who on earth put such stupid bloody ideas into our heads. We were naturally racist and we couldn’t tolerate the Welsh let alone the Lascar Seamen who occasionally settled in towns nearby and talked about opening Indian restaurants. By today’s standards we were ignorant, uninformed and unaware – yes and our parents were red-necks and bigots. Since the nineteen fifties poor whites growing up like Milly and myself have lovingly embraced indoor toilets and telephones, learned to drive cars and been advised how to choose one white wine over another. We are sophisticated beyond our wildest childhood imaginings. We have also learned that women are not only equal but probably better than men, that homosexuality in men is perfectly acceptable and in women is close to being a sacred state. We are thrilled to be invited to Gay Weddings and discuss such upcoming nuptials as loudly as possible in coffee shops to demonstrate how thoroughly modern we are and that we have the Right Kind of Friends. We support in vitro fertilisation and adoption for gay couples. Recently we have begun to support gender change for under tens who so desire it. As I said, we have come a very long way from the ignorance of our beginnings. Something of those uninformed socially illiterate parameters still linger in many of us though. In corners of our consciousness vestiges of our parents’ outmoded and dangerous ideas can slumber unnoticed. Overlooked completely perhaps until sections of the world’s media, with taunts and jibes, begin to challenge the beliefs of our parents and grandparents. Then from the security of our present social position we reflect upon the fact that a short time ago we were one of the ignorant rabble, now being disparaged and degraded. It is our parents’ values that are now being vilified so vociferously and perhaps a small flame of anger is ignited. Maybe it is simply because we come from a generation who underneath it all, largely still respected our parents. We are not always content to stand by and witness what they held dear to be so publicly reviled. And should this combination of circumstances by chance coincide with an opportunity to redress the balance – such as with Brexit or Trump – we, the Great Unwashed suddenly have no hesitation in doing so. You can never truly trust the hoi polio!