Having stamped our claim with the cutlass, swing blade, the cannon and gun, we British certainly rebuked, maimed, sanctioned, and killed the inhabitants, for the tenure and spoils of their respective lands.
A BBC documentary, Empire of the Seas: How the Navy Forged the Modern World, no doubt made to justify that heritage, draws out, with detailed precision, right down to the last frame, the questionable tenure at the heart of our economic might. With pinpoint clarity, we’re told how we came to rule another’s turf, how profits from slavery fuelled the Agricultural and Industrial Revolution and set the stage for financial institutions and the body of commerce, as it is served up throughout the occident today. With Britannia’s ferocious appetite established, the tale ends as it began, at sea… our sovereign isle guarded and locked, as it had been for centuries, behind a vault of navel supremacy, a pivotal part of one of the most powerful and prolific defence systems in the modern world.
The patriotism and love of our country is giddy with power, the hard-won wealth, our part in the play for global supremacy, taken for granted, a god given birthright. We created a kingdom over which we preside, shape the law to suit a fair and democratic society, all for our benefit, then pity those who fall victim to our judicious constraints, never once considering that we might be complicit in their fall.
Nurtured in our back yards, endemic in our own homes, the loss and protection of this undoubted bounty dictates the need to beat off friends, neighbours, and every other person in the street, if they pose a threat… while the fearmongers laydown the rules, from that first day in the ring, questions, doubt and malfunctions arise… kill or be killed… news dealers and gossip junkies have a field day. Flipped over from the day we’re born, encouraged, or punished, by our well-meaning elders… tested, divided, then streamed accordingly, through the formalities of our education systems… straddled to a material horse, terrified of not passing the test, the consistent need to hit the bullseye in a career, the senses overwhelmed, the head noise, our own petard, blows out the crown of stars, with its earthly throne and leaves us dead in the water.
In the early fifties, with austerity brought on by the industrial needs of the Second World War, families embittered by the cost made certain their offspring got the message loud and clear… daily beatings underlined a constant barking of ‘you’ve never had it so good, get out of the house, in line and get a job!’ With echoes of that unprecedented War in clear ear shot, and the light of the British Empire setting on the next generation to come, serving your country, or collecting a pocket-watch bonus at the end of days, from a company you’d stood by through thick and thin, was the undisputed purpose of life. Encouraging and supporting that avid message, our school policies deliberately dictating the taxonomies of the day, dished out further penalties and thrashings, making sure the juniors were well and truly in their place.
From five years of age, to a school leaving age of sixteen that’s eleven years – some 15,400 hours (a conservative estimate); with the inclusion of further education and parental intervention it adds up. A lot of time for a child to be coerced, pushed, convinced and conditioned, into believing they are what the elders want/need them to be – a long time to become undermined and overlaid, by a stone cold, innate, truth.
The furniture may have changed, our lifestyle too, but as minions growing up under the throw of imperialism, we were tied to the same set of principles that enticed our forefathers to beat the track to the front line.
On failing the Eleven Plus, an exam born of the 1944 Education Act, you were palmed off to a ‘secondary modern school’, to prepare for a vocation of a physical nature – the factory floor, farming the land, shipbuilding, steelworks, street-cleaning, mining coal, to name some – an occupation needed to keep the dyeing embers of our imperial state stoked and ready to rise again.
The authorities had done their job to the letter. This was our lifeblood. Millions and millions of us, were led to believe we were genetically inept, second class at best, good with our hands and born to oblige.
‘Secondary modern schools’ deliberately steered away from providing GCE O Levels and gave no access to GCE A Levels; there was never any thought that you might graduate to a university. If you were marked out as reasonably bright, yet still categorised within that corporal bracket, perhaps you upped a rung, proud to take to the beat in the police force, join a typing pool, enlist in the armed forces, or manage an apprenticeship in one of the building trades.
Providence, if you stumbled upon an enlightened teacher, or your mum and dad were wise enough to pull you to heart, otherwise there seemed to be nothing else left to do but salute the union, or run. The continuum of a dog eats dog philosophy, drilled into the back boiler of our psyche during those formative years, becomes as real as the blood that runs in our veins in the adult years. Racing toward the exit, the adult to be carries the baton forward, handing it on, so the next in line can toe the line.
And so it goes on…
At the top of a hill, terrified of being pushed from the peak, is the main man/woman, with a heart like thee, a brain open to heaven and hell, who see themselves as headed enough to preside over the regime; confident, authorised, affluent enough to remain in control, untouched and unfettered, by the minions carrying the weight far below. At their discretion, they tap out the terms, a little extra given for birthdays, a magnanimous gesture, a fair and generous bonus for putting in the legwork over the winter break. All bodes well, until the key goes missing and the trooper denies the claim.
When the good intentions backfire, humiliation and annihilation drive those at the peak, in the basement, and somewhere in-between, back to a toxic wasteland of loss and fear, where the only weapon left is bittersweet revenge, driven by an enforced rage and total mistrust for the other.
The doer or the done, rule maker, rulebreaker… at home or away, rich, poor, junior, senior, private, or public, we’ve been duped… sold a set of principles… accidentally on purpose, lobbied, swayed, by habit, as in addiction, to the politic, through school, a regime, the corporation, an institution, the media; a country that goes way back and out of its way, to keep us hooked, manipulated, separated, categorised, ready to fill the shoes, of the next body of pawns in a game!
Chained to a notion of patriotism, within a family, at the heart of an elite domain, seen as a freak in turmoil, with an ever-increasing need, stamped out as a reject, contemplating a dark and terrible fear! A declaration that pinpoints an insoluble problem? That is, unless you are caught, likened to prisoners who turn time to an advantage, take another altogether different route and rumble the deal.