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ACF Podcast: British Decadence for Christmas
It’s not the greatest gift, but it’s a good discussion–my friend Ben Sixsmith joins me for a discussion of his first volume of short stories, Noughties: Eleven Echoes of a Dismal Decade. We talk about the strange times at the beginning of the 21st century when it seemed like there would be a cultural rebirth in England. This proved not only short-lived but a deception–a self-deception for the English.
The most obvious sign is Tony Blair, who won three consecutive elections. He seemed first to resurrect Labour after Thatcher; and then to make Labour the only acceptable political party for cool, modern, intelligent Britons looking forward to a bright, global future. Yet, Blair has ended up loathed almost universally, Labour has collapsed, Brexit has happened, Britain’s Middle Eastern war-making alongside America was a catastrophe, and it’s harder and harder to say what the future might be, much less who can lead and who is inclined to follow in which direction.
Much the same is true of literature, music, cinema, the visual arts–Britain has turned into a cultural wasteland, after perhaps centuries of various assorted glories. This fantastic enthusiasm and subsequent despair is the background for these short stories, so we talked about it at length. The book will give you Ben’s visions of ordinary people reminiscing about their brush with fame, their chance at success, or merely their youthful mistakes and how they were blown out of proportion by TV scandal, social media, etc. Politicians, comics, musicians, reality TV celebrities, 15-minutes of fame on the news guys–such people show up in these comical, occasionally poignant stories, which you can read in an afternoon and wonder what was happening in Britain that has led to the current confusion.
Here’s the book, you can buy it on Amazon, Kindle, or paperback. Here’s our podcast! Happy Christmas!
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Some towns never recover from a tornado or hurricane.
The British people rejected Corbyn, by a margin which left no room for doubt. That’s a pretty good start. They are maligned all over Europe for Brexit, but if similar referendums were held in many other countries, the EU would fall apart. I’m as sceptical of jeremiads about the collapse of British culture as I an of predictions of the death of democracy in the USA.
Some EU countries would leave; most wouldn’t. Britain is an unusual case–it’s never quite Europe. The English people have voted for Brexit & have kept voting for the party more or less committed to Brexit. The problem is, five years later, it’s not yet clear what the people want or what Brexit means, or where the country is going. Five years afterward, people should know what they want.
If you add to your skepticism some examples of the thriving or hopeful parts of British culture, I’m all ears. Skepticism without any evidence, on the other hand, is not quite reasonable.
It can take some great conflict, often violent, for people to decide what they want. Maybe better not to decide?
The majority didn’t want a European Superstate. The Eurocrats made clear that that was and remains their goal. The Brits like to be able to vote their own bums out every once in a while.
I remember being assured that Sterling would collapse and bring the British economy down with it. That hasn’t happened-
I won’t claim to be clued in to British culture to any great extent. My interests are sport, and politics. Britain is unusual in that the component parts- England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland – have their own teams in many international sports. The continuing failure of the England soccer team to win any tournament since the World Cup in 1966 generates vast amounts of schadenfreude in the other countries (and in Ireland). The politics are interesting and often nasty, but never boring .
My point really is about the eagerness of people on the losing side of a political process to trash their own country for voting the “wrong” way.
You’re right that the people who thought it would be miserable for Britain were not only wrong, but somewhat mad. They should have preferred their country to ruin even if their political preferences failed, because they were neither all that important nor permanent.
But that’s the way it went, predictably enough; afterward, it becomes therefore important for people who got what they wanted to realize what it is they want, what they’re getting, & make something worthwhile of that victory. This hasn’t happened; partly, because of the epidemic.
We’ll see whether the changes really amount to much-
P.S. The English national soccer team is itself part of the madness Ben & I talked about. As you say, they have a 60s nostalgia; they ended up a glossy magazine / televised celebrity show / tabloid kind of business. They didn’t really improve when it comes to playing, however.
Also, Italy beat them this latest time around!
In this case, I think that would mean return to the EU. You are of course right about great conflict-