Where has the England I grew up in gone?
There is so much I deplore about modern Britain. Where has the England I grew up in gone? No more Guy Crouchback and all that reticent English decency, Mrs Dalloway walking in the park, the woods full of primroses, the glorious stroke play of May and Cowdrey, and Macmillan in his gaiters on the grouse moors. How I loathe the screaming tabloids, the factory farms, the dying bees and butterflies, the vulgarity, the coarsened sensibility, the hate crimes, the materialism, the cynicism, the vicious abuse on twitter.
When I was a boy a monk used to come down to school assembly just before we broke up the for the Christmas holidays every year, and urge us to bring back our old Christmas cards, as the Kikuyu who iived in kraals on the slopes of snow capped Kilimanjaro liked to decorate the said kraals with them. How we cheered the enthusiasm of the old man and brought back our cards in van loads. But then about ten years ago I read Caroline Elkin’s Britain’s Gulag. At that very time during the Mau Mau emergency hundreds of thousands of Kikuyu were being tortured, raped and castrated in British detention camps. How can we have been so naïve? Macmillan knew all about it. Of course the Mau Mau were doing dreadful things too. But it was not the outburst of primitive savagery as it was presented in the British press, it was a rebellion to take back their stolen land. But none of that justifies the savagery of the colonial reprisal. We were supposed to be the civilized ones after all, tutoring the natives into all that civilization and English reticent decency. Now Elkins has been justified in the High Court, the atrocity admitted and at least some of the victims compensated, even if with derisory amounts.
Bad as modern Britain now is anything is better than that old hypocrisy. It’s better now, it’s better.