A past that never was
|Let's all have a nice cuppa and be civilised|
Even if you're outside the UK, I think the murder of one of our politicians yesterday might have made the news where you are. The killing of Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament, has been reported internationally. These are politically turbulent times in the UK; in a few days we'll be voted whether to stay in the EU or leave, and it's led to a lot of nastiness. The campaigning should be about the EU, pure and simple, but what it's done is uncover a nasty vein of racism and fear of others in our society. I suppose you have to expose a festering sore in order to cut it out, but I wish that sore hadn't been exposed in such a horrifying way. I wish we hadn't needed a decent woman to be shot and stabbed in order for people to sit back and say, "Hang on, we've got a problem as a nation."
AA Gill - a journalist I frequently find annoying, I must say - wrote an excellent piece in The Times about nostalgia, "that most pernicious and debilitating Little English drug", and how it's affecting people's politics, about how they're longing for a Britain that never actually existed. I guess anyone who loves vintage likes to bathe in a little nostalgia every now and then. But it's impossible to engage with things from the past for a long time without encountering reminders that it wasn't that brilliant, actually. War. Poverty. Racism. Sexism. They had all those things then too, but plenty of them just weren't talked about, and a lot of it we prefer not to recall too often.
The past is a great teacher, if you're willing to learn from it. As much as I love the fashions, films and homewares of the 1930s, I really don't like seeing its violent, divisive politics returning. If we're going to get all nostalgic about the past, let's do it by emulating the good stuff, the rejection of fascism, the acceptance into this country of child refugees (how can we be proud of having helped so many in the Kindertransports of the 1930s and refuse to give the same help today?), and a bit of common bloody decency.