It's the 21st Century. Where's my flying car?
As a kid, we had one of those new-fangled tellyvidium sets. I was seven, I think, when it made its appearance in the house - before that, it was the wonderful world of wireless that entertained and informed us. The BBC World Service news. Listen with Mother, in the days when you did listen with Mother. Round the Horne. Good stuff.
I remember Kennedy's death and Churchill's funeral. I remember The Jetsons.
Like so many of that generation, brought up after the depravations of World War II rationing, I had a sense of hope and wonder concerning this bright and glowing future, an optimism fuelled by Tomorrow's World and lasers and medical advances and all that wonderful science. So what of their promises? Where is this brave, new world of which they spoke so highly?
Now watch the film, Oliver Twist. Or read the book. So many people don't read - recent statistics suggest that around half of people in the USA (and probably Europe, too) have never read any serious work of literature. But I digress. Back to the film. London. Dirty, filled with crime and heartless bureaucracy and poverty and hate. Now look around you. Do you see anything different?
Oh, the dirt is different. Instead of open sewers, we pollute the air with the effluent from a thousand thousand cars. Instead of pickpockets we have the muggers and corporate thieves and their parasites. Is there hate? Are there still cold bureaucrats? Yes and yes. Is there poverty? Oh yes, or so they would have us believe. Let me tell you a story.
I was in a Post Office one afternoon. Behind me, two young mothers, towing barely-cherished babies in brand-new pushchairs.
First Voice: It's terrible, my dishwasher broke, and the Social won't buy me a new one.
Second Voice: Yeah, terrible, they don't care!
My Thoughts: I'm working, and I come home, and cook and put my hands in hot water and wash the damn' pots myself
Yes, there is poverty. But rarely in the UK. Not poverty like the street children of South America. Not like the cardboard cities of poor Asia. Not people living on rubbish tips, on the castouts of the decadent classes. Don't come crying to me with your tales, my ears are closed now.
Look around you. My city is noiser than ever, dirtier than ever, and has the highest rate of gun crime per capita of any city outside Manchester. The statistics don't interest me, or even worry me. I reserve that for the old folk who dare not venture onto the streets for fear of the heartless. The streets are full of kids making those strange noises and hand signals they see on gangsta rap videos, kids with the attention span of MTV addicts. Everything has to be FAST, now - they will grow up to expect their first home to be filled to the brim with new things, the best of things, things only available through the magic of the credit card and the global economy.
Motorists who would kill to get that parking space, shoppers who barge their way down the aisles with their piled-high trolleys of fast food, all sugar, salt and preservatives, to beat you to the cashier so they can rush home in their cars, carelessly cutting corners and swearing at the slowpokes, to watch their mind-numbing soaps and reality TV, punctuated by adverts which support their beliefs that they are right, and that this lifestyle is acceptable.
Everything we consume is wrapped to death. Razor blades are set in plastic, mounted in plastic boxes, shrinkwrapped to plastic-backed cards, paid for by plastic, dropped into a plastic carrier bag. All of which go to landfill with the plastic trays (potatoes sold in plastic trays?) and last year's toys and the vinyl records
(so outdated now we have CDs) and the MFI suppository furniture (so called because you put it up yourself) that only lasted two years because you had to buy something new, and of course it was cheap, you didn't have the time to save your money.
Plastic. Disposable. Consumed without a thought. Thrown away without a thought.
Everything has to make a noise. Everyone carries their music. On the buses, on the tram, I am bombarded by the pollution of impersonal stereos. Every household appliance has to beep. Every car with its poorly-adjusted alarm going off at 2am. Mobile phones. Chavs in their ridiculous cars with sound systems that cost more than the car, blasting their tribal music to an uncaring street, vying with their specially-loud exhausts. Children's toys.
Never. The US of A declines to sign agreements to reduce world pollution, fills its huge car with cheap fuel and turns up its air conditioning. Consumers demand hyperclean vegetables, perfect in their symmetry, cleansed from the befouling earth that nurtured it, to prepare on their antiseptic surfaces in their gleaming, this-years-fashion kitchens. The new rich with their cosmetically-enhanced bodies eat their supermarket sushi with their perfect teeth. The new poor eat out at McDonald's "restaurants" and watch their kids grow fat and unhealthy, ready to begin the cycle again.
accept the alternative - quit