It was an interesting day for me in the blogosphere yesterday. I got angry at my country being accused of banning the Holocaust when it was untrue. I was really surprised by how upset I got and considering my recent post on what life like an expat is like, I suppose I am still very much patriotic for home in spite of all New Labours bungling and Blair's obedience to his master Bush. I still believe in the integrity of the country I grew up in. I believe in the justice system and the press (excluding the Daily Mail!!) to keep that same system in check.
However as I also wrote in my last post, I was taught in History lessons, in Scotland, all about the causes for the First and Second World Wars. Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by certain factors all lining up. It wasn't that Germany suddenly woke up and decided to persecute the Jews. It was a long build up of perception that the Jews were causing or aggravating the plight of the "german" people. And whilst the UK has not banned the holocaust from the class room, what I learnt in history tells me to be extra vigilant in looking for the signs that resentment is building in a civilised nation to where it could tip into uncivilised thinking and actions.
July 7th 2005 began murmurings in the press and society in general in Britain about Muslims. I remember talking with my friends about it. It was awkward. How do you address fanaticism in the Muslim community? How do you address a group of people who like to create their own community within a society and do not necessarily want to assimilate? How do you address the growing feeling that immigrants are changing the country from how it has always been perceived?
The UK is still very much a class based society. The recent split between Prince William and Kate Middleton has allowed the aristocracy to reveal their distaste for Kate because of her aspiring upper middle class mother and return William to the fold and set about finding him a true blue blood for the future throne. Oxford and Cambridge are still bastions of privilege and old boys clubs. Yahs still frequent the trendy bars in Edinburgh. Which school you went to and who your father is can still get you further in the UK than ability alone.
The difference now is that this class based society does not want to be seen as such. David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, has gone out of his way to prevent a photograph of himself being published. Is he nude? No. Is he drunk? No. Is he wearing women's clothes? No. He is photographed as part of an elitist old boys club in Cambridge. He is in short, photographed as a toff!! He knows this is not the image to win votes. You have to be young cool, green and hip with none of the stuffiness of Oxford dons or polo matches.
The UK is a country of spin, thanks to New Labour. This is a country where perceptions are spun to hide the truth beneath. So we elected a party and prime minister in 1997, who was young cool and hip (alas not green enough..) and who seemed to care for people and making a difference in a way the population was starved of after so much thatcherite incompetency. That election was incredible. The whole country was on a high. It was like the good guys had finally triumphed over the forces of darkness and were riding home in victory. It was infectious.
Finally rid of the Tories, the UK seemed like it may modernise and shake off the class ridden power basis. We may find that the UK could become one of those trendy socialist countries that everyone is envious of - Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland. That was the perception. That was the spin.
Underneath it all everything was the same. We were made to feel one thing when the reality was something different. So I suppose we did "modernise" into the ultimate "postmodern" country of Baudrillard's "Simulacra" where we are always spun away from reality. I did not know of Tony Blair's righteous Christian beliefs. I did not for a moment think that He and George Bush would have anything in common. New Labour might have had a face lift but surely they were supposed to be somewhat close to the left? Blair's beliefs had me thinking he was one of those Christians who truly care about the poor and helping people and to be fair I think some of that is true. But I was totally unaware that that would morph into a "holier than thou" attitude that invading foreign lands to liberate suffering people was OK. I suppose the high he got upon being first elected must have lasted too long.
Britain is a country of two faces. One is the outward modern one that has a diverse multicultural society that welcomes immigrants (I personally believe that after taking over half the world its only right that those people we colonised should be able to come and live in the UK too - although I can guarantee they won't like the weather). The other is a conservative class structure that wishes to preserve power and influence. I fear what would happen if the conservative elite ever felt truly threatened. I fear they would hold onto power at all costs. The compromise right now is that through the spinning of the simulacra everyone can feel hip and cool and modern and open and free whilst the mechanism doing the spinning is the same fixed structure that its always been.