Tradition and Artifice
Fight the giant mutant vegetables!
15th July, 2003
We all had our part to play. The soldiers, dressed in red, had to stand in the sun and, very carefully, do nothing.
We, the tourists, dressed in shorts and baseball caps, had to stand in heaped masses behind the soldiers, in the sun, and
do nothing. Time passed. Some horses and a little carriage went by, carrying a kind old lady all in blue. More time passed. The
soldiers stood. We stood. Everyone played their part. Everyone stared at the empty road. The carriage came back again. Then we all went home.
I had been to see the Queen on her birthday. It's traditional.
It was 37 degrees Celcius in the London Underground the other day. If we were cattle the EU would have shut down the trains
at once and demanded angry meetings with the authorities. As we are merely people, we stood in the carriages,
trying not to touch anything or breathe the air that had passed through too many lungs before.
We grumble about it, but not too much. This too is traditional.
Die Hard, 57th
Tradition. There's a lot of that here. It's a strange force that makes thousands of people wait
for hours in the sun for a three second glance at the Queen, and allows us endure the heat of a dusty tube. Because... it is the way
things are done.
Is this foolish? Not always. A while ago, my train had to discharge all 5000 passengers in Hemel Hempstead,
an hour short of London. There was a coach relay to take us on. Unfortunately there were only three
coaches. So, in our thousands, we had to wait. There was noone to to direct us, noone to keep
order. No need. English tradition. We formed a queue. Instinct, and generations of discipline. In the carpark, under
the blazing sun, we formed a great winding snake of bodies and bags, and waited our turn. At some points, the great 'S' bend
of the queue brought us within agonizing feet of the end, and the next coach. But noone crossed the line. Noone
jumped the queue. Tradition: it wouldn't be the right thing to do.
In a scene like I am sometimes reminded of the
who refused to retreat from overwhelming odds. Not because they were any braver than
anyone else, but because it simply wasn't the thing to do.
Invasion of the Giant Mutant Aubergines
Someone isn't happy with our food. It's old-fashioned. Not sexy. Not space age.
An old fashioned potato or grain of rice or baked bean isn't good enough any more:
we have to bung in a bunch of scorpion genes, just to sexy it up a little. It's big money for some company in America.
Don't worry: a scientist says it's OK. Who pays for the scientist? Some company in America.
The government are all for it. They're very pro-future. You'd think they'd hesitate a little. After all, every
time the British government involves itself in food, half the farm animals in England end up slaughtered and burnt on
huge retching fires. This time tough, they reckon they've got it right. They want to stampede us straight
into scorpion burger heaven.
We are not so sure. We foolish people of Britain and Europe resist the mutant canteloupes, not
knowing why maybe, but feeling in our bones that this just isn't right. It's not natural. The
corporate scientists and the government propaganda machines call us backward or irrational.
They tell us that they want to cure hunger when we know they only want to fill their own pockets.
Still the voices in to our collective consciousness tell us to resist. Tell us that toying with the genetics of our food
simply isn't the right thing to do.
I wonder how many will have to be slaughtered at the end of all this?
Who Did You Say You Are?
Having rid us of most of the cows in Britain, the government has now banned fox hunting. I'm not sure that those city-bred
politicians care any more about bushy-tailed rats than anyone else, but they know that pestering fat men on horseback is a sure vote
Distraction, that's the key to innovation. They want to introduce a compulsory identity card and a national database containing
personal details on every citizen. For centuries, a Briton's most prized possesion has been his personal liberty, his freedom
to be himself without state interference. Now that will be removed. If you don't have a ID card (that you must pay for yourself, ha ha)
you're a criminal. Your freedom just to exist peaceably without any permission from the State will evaporate
in a second. The national database will add to the fun. The personal data of everyone in the country will only be available to the government,
their friends, whoever they sell it to, direct marketeers, anyone who wants a laugh, and twelve year olds
with a computer and a modem.
How to do it? How to force down the door of ancient liberty? Use distraction. Blame the immigrants. Blame the welfare state.
Blame the asylum seekers. I believe at other times it was fashionable to blame the Jews.
The Wind of Change
Where is the voice to resist artifice? To resist scorpion burgers and government busybodies?
To resist anyone who thinks he knows better how we
should live than we ourselves? A voice from nowhere, welling up in everyone, binding us together, in a sudden urge to say No.
The quiet voice that says: this isn't the right thing to do.
What is tradition?
It is the wind, said a Japanese swordsman, blowing from the past to the future, strong and weak.
It passes through the narrow hallway of our individual lifes, carrying a scent of other times.
It reminds us that we are not alone in time. There were people before us, and there
will be people after us. We have a duty not only to our own lives, but to theirs.
To hold on to the feelings that make us proud.
It's hot in London.