Mobi Babble – 15th September 2017
It’s all a question of perspective
Like many others, when I look at the state of the world today, I find it truly depressing. It seems difficult to believe that there was ever a time when it was worse than it is right now.
Yet all I have to do is take a short ride from my home in rural Rutland to the timeless, magical Foxton Locks, just down the road from Market Harborough in Leicestershire. Here, it is easy to believe that the world is at peace and rural England is much the same as it ever was – beautiful and serene.
Just outside Foxton village are the grade 11 listed ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal.
Take a wander here and forget about all the troubles and tribulations of the world around us.
As I say – it’s all a question of perspective. However bad things may seem to be in 2017, there are numerous times in history when it was infinitely worse.
Almost within my own lifetime, (I was born in 1946), the Second World War was a truly terrible time for millions upon millions of people. It is estimated that 60 million people died between 1939 and 1945 – not forgetting the mass extermination of 6 million Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe.
At the conclusion of WW2 hostilities, there were countless millions of displaced peoples throughout Europe, and it took generations before many of them found themselves properly settled in new homes and lives.
25 years before WW2 broke out, WW1 saw around 37 million people slaughtered; including almost an entire generation of young men from the towns and shires of England – cannon fodder as they came to be known.
And so it goes on and on… as you dig further back in history, you will find further terrible evidence of man’s inhumanity to man, as well as countless of millions dying from natural disasters and disease, from the plague to the Black Death and God knows what else.
So although things really seem to be pretty dire in 2017, it is an undeniable fact that in the overall, we have ‘never had it so good’ – to borrow a famous phrase made by British Prime Minister Macmillan back in 1957.
Certainly, following the end of the Second World War until probably the outbreak of the first Gulf War in 1990, most of us in the west enjoyed one of the longest periods of sustained peace, growth, and prosperity the world has ever known.
Sure, sometimes it was a bit scary – what with the ‘cold war’ – and the ‘evil’ Soviet empire pitted against us. No one knew for certain whether the so-called nuclear deterrent would really work – but apart from few anxious moments, such as the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, we really did enjoy a very long period of relative peace.
So are things really that bad now?
Well, for sure they’re not good… and it seems to be getting worse.
- We have the ongoing nightmare in Syria, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and/or displaced;
- the starving millions in Yemen and other parts of the Middle East;
- the appalling atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State – in the Middle East and nearer to home in our western cities;
- the recent ethnic cleansing in Burma causing almost ½ million refugees to flee into Bangladesh;
- the rise of Putin and his brutal, authoritarian, racist, homophobic regime in Russia which illegally annexed Crimea and is fighting a bitter war of attrition against the Ukraine, as well as siding with the murderous dictator in Bagdad;
- a megalomaniac murderous leader in North Korea with his unstable finger on a viable nuclear trigger;
- an almost equally unstable, egotistical, racist, misogynist nut case in the White House who thinks he can run the free world with tweets.
And on top of all that we have the man-made climate change causing some of the worst hurricanes the world has ever seen, cutting a path of death and devastation across the Caribbean and North America.
There’s more, but I think this is sufficient to demonstrate why so many people across the world are consumed by depression and a fear for their future?
But is it really that bad? For some people, for it certainly very bad – but for most of us, there have been other times in recent history when it has been a lot worse, whether or not we like to admit it.
Those of us who were brought up in austere, post-war Britain remember a different time.
I had no hot water in my house until I was 12, there was no fridge, no TV, and bathtime was once a week when my parents heated up an old tin bath on an ancient gas range. There was no central heating and my abiding memory of childhood was feeling freezing cold for the entire winter.
Now in the UK we are enjoying our lowest level of unemployment for 42 years, while in the EU the economy and employment seems to be finally on the turn, as it also does across the pond in the USA – no thanks to Trump’s farcical attempts at talking up the economy and setting up committees of business leaders who have since disowned him.
Here, the Brits are forever complaining about their National Health Service, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor and why so few people have had a decent salary increase for many years.
- But nobody is starving;
- Everyone who wants it has a warm roof over their head and clothes on their back;
- Nearly everyone in the country has access to TV’s, fridges, microwaves and all the other accoutrements of modern day living.
- Nearly every adult and a huge number of children own a mobile phone;
- Nearly 90% of households have at least one car.
- Most adults have enough money in their pockets to make a few trips a week to their local pub, to buy a weekend takeaway meal and take a break in foreign climes at least once a year.
Sure there are food banks; the numbers of homeless are increasing, and people are dying because the government refuses to cough up the cash for prohibitively expensive drugs. There are people crying out for mental health care or to be put into drug abuse programmes, and innocent citizens are the victims of endemic crime and gang violence in depressed, inner-city areas.
Things are not perfect – they never have been and never will be.
Our elected government – be they Labour, Conservative or even Coalition have to perform a never-ending a balancing act to decide on priorities – to decide who are those who are most in need of help, and who are the ones who will have to wait in line.
One thing is for sure, our country is still reeling from the astronomical national debt incurred during the ‘noughties’ financial meltdown. We borrowed hugely and now it’s payback time, and whether you like it or not there simply isn’t enough cash to keep everyone happy.
The Conservatives tell us there is no magic money tree; the Labour party tell us we can spend our way out of our economic woes. Who is right?
Do you honestly believe that Corbin can give all public service employees large salary increases, hire more policemen, teachers, doctors, nurses and prison guards, increase unemployment and disability benefits, restore all the trimmed back local council services, abolish student university fees, re-nationalise the railways, cap the utility bills and still pay off the debts and balance the country’s books? Hasn’t the Greek debacle taught us anything?
Then there’s the dreaded Brexit. The ‘remainers’ tell us it will be a total disaster to leave the EU, the ‘Brexiteers’ tell us it will be the best thing that has ever happened to Britain.
Who is right?
So is the world really in the biggest mess it has ever seen?
Is it really all doom and gloom for the future of mankind?
Surely it’s all a question of perspective.
I’m not saying things aren’t bad – because they certainly are, but as long as we are continuing to enjoy the basic necessities of life, there is always hope.
A cry in the wilderness!
As for me, Mobi, I sit here in England, day after day, hoping and dreaming for the day I can be reunited with my family – still stuck in far away Thailand, waiting for all the unbelievably complex UK visa requirements to fall into place.
In spite of the fact that I believe I can meet all the conditions, there is no doubt that the system is stacked against me. Those who oversee the granting of visas are forever searching for the tiniest fault line in family visa applications so they can happily throw them out and condemn the applicants to a life of separation.
I have been back in the UK since mid-May and it will be November at the earliest before I can hope for my family’s visas to be finally granted. If the visas are refused, it will still have cost me thousands of pounds in non-refundable visa fee applications, (including a large National Health Service surcharge in case they are ill).
If I re-apply, I will have to pay all over again. On top of all this, I have to keep a very large sum of money in my bank account to prove that I have sufficient financial resources to take care of them
The whole situation is very worrying and causes me endless sleepless nights. Every day, I chat to my wife and stepdaughter on Skype. We talk for about 15 minutes, but I can see the pain and worry in their eyes, and they can see the same in mine. Every day, I reassure them that it will all work out in the end – but to be honest, I can never be completely sure of this. There are so many ways that the visa process can collapse in disarray.
I am not the only one in this situation. There are literally thousands of families living apart for years – desperately trying to beg, borrow or steal enough money to process their visas. Some succeed, but a great many do not, and are thus condemned to spend the rest of their lives apart.
But I have to keep a sense of perspective. Getting my family into the UK is the only thing that matters in my life. If I fail, then my life will be …sort of over…
But where does my problem sit in the great scheme of things? Is reuniting my family more important than giving the teachers and doctors a salary increase? Or stopping the war in Syria or feeding a starving refugee in Burma?
Not many people really care whether or not my family eventually joins me here. Most people in the UK are pretty much against immigration – that’s why they voted for Brexit.
Yet Britain has always needed immigrants – people who come here and shake up the gene pool and take on the jobs that the Brits no longer wish to do. It has ever been thus.
If my wife eventually comes here, she will get a job the next day. The country is crying out for factory workers, cleaners, healthcare workers, agricultural workers and so on. She will be spoilt for choice.
There are so many jobs here that the average Brit doesn’t want to do, but are absolutely perfect for all those ‘bloody foreigners’ who come here and steal our jobs – the jobs that nobody wants. She will never, ever be a drain on the state. She is too diligent and hard working. She wants to make a new life for herself and daughter.
Please, God, she is allowed to, in this brave new world where everything is falling apart – or is it?
My wife is someone who would really appreciate the unabashed glory that is Foxton Locks on an English summer’s day, in the heart of olde England.