By I Am Séamus Fierce
Well hello there party people of 2013. My name’s Peter Capaldi and I’m an aspiring actor. The year is 1983 and I’m at a fellow thespian’s dinner party. We each brought a bottle of wine (as you do) but I proceeded to inhale mine before the main course had been served, in order to evade my crushing social anxiety. After prawn cocktails and well-done steak, we gave dessert a miss in favour of puffing the magic dragon (as we call smoking cannabis).
Feeling free and easy, I perhaps should have declined when Julian, whom I worked with on Othello, offered me a powerful tropical hallucinogen, the name of which already escapes me. Fuck me did it work. After an hour of watching a cascade of lava where the curtains once were, I discovered that I had the ability to travel through time.
Shifting 30 years into the future, I am amazed by how different things are. To me, trays that allow you to watch TV with dinner on your lap are like something off Star Trek; so the fact that I can type this on a laptop computer is very strange – almost as weird as the time at drama school my mate Oliver lost a bet and had to fit two ping-pong balls in his foreskin.
But even more remarkable is how familiar some of it is. As a time-traveller with a keen interest in history, I feel it is my duty to alert you to these alarming overlaps, and I’ve picked the greatest blog of all time to present my observations. By the way. thanks very much for giving my future self the Doctor Who job. Although it’s an honour, I’m pretty disappointed your culture became so stagnant that you started churning out inferior counterfeits of old stuff.
This is the first of several examples of history repeating itself (“…second time as farce” and all that.)
Back when Queen Victoria ruled, Britain was a far simpler place. A property-owning minority possessed the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth, with the country’s leaders trained at Eton and Oxbridge (much like today). Most people eked out a living on sub-subsistence wages and had lots of children who were doomed to lives full of disease, misery and filth. There was no such thing as benefit-scrounging as there was no such thing as benefits. It was work or starve, and if you were struggling for a wage or owed money you couldn’t pay back, you were forced into the workhouse (effectively prison slavery).
…Ideal fucking society, according to the likes of Gideon “George” Osborne, David Cameron (whose ancestors were heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade) and Eric Pickles, who’s a dead ringer for a bullying workhouse foreman. Media and politics in 2013 are full of recycled notions of the workshy ‘undeserving poor’ who choose to sit idle rather than engaging in economic activity. According to this discourse, the only effective motivator for such layabouts is the whip of absolute poverty. Withdraw their pittance (they’re probably getting drunk and watching Sky with it anyway) and they’ll be forced out of slumber.
While the government might not be chucking folk in jail for being skint just yet, they have been forcing people to work for nothing through workfare schemes. Meanwhile, plans are being developed to emulate America’s prison-industrial complex, where billions are made off the back of inmates’ labour. Being sick or disabled won’t save you from harsh treatment, as the thousands of people declared fit-for-work by Atos can testify. While the average person thinks 24% of claimants are lying, the real figure is less than 1% – proof of the power the press and TV still possess in the digital age.
Having abolished slavery in the colonies, Victorian landowners relied instead on indentured labour, whereby folk worked for nothing to pay off debts. In 2013, with UK consumer debt sitting at over £1trillion and average student debt set to top £50,000 per person, many face a lifetime of debt repayments, made all the more burdensome by the unrelenting downward pressure on wages.
Humans are social animals though, and few would watch their neighbours starve. 150 years ago, the rich always made a a big deal about donating some of their loot as ‘alms for the poor’, giving succour to the wretched masses. Millions of people relied on charity for food, education and healthcare. Nowadays, foodbank use has multiplied in just a couple of years. Cameron may only have been in power since 2010, but he’s halfway to turning the clock back a century, as schools and hospitals are increasingly run as ‘independent’ charitable enterprises, with standards dictated by the whims of their benefactors.
Overseas, colonialism was spreading its ugly tentacles into every corner of the earth by the late 19th Century. European powers used trickery, division and sheer brute force to carve up most of the ‘3rd world’ as their own property. Nowhere was this more obvious than the Victorian Scramble for Africa, when the wealth of entire nations was pillaged. Since the mid-20th Century, Africa has been drained by impossible-to-repay compound-interest loans, like Wonga on a continental scale. However, capitalist states’ need to ensure access to evermore scarce natural resources – particularly water – has caused a spike in foreign companies (often state-owned) buying huge tracts of African land. The guilty parties include the White-majority states of Europe & North America (no surprise there) but also rising powers such as Saudi Arabia & China. Bear in mind the inter-imperialist conflicts of the 1800-1900s culminated in 2 World Wars. Something to look forward to.
Finally, there’s Cameron’s sick plan to turn the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 into a patriotic ‘celebration’. I’ll return to the theme of bullshit nation-distracting spectacles in future communiqués from my drug-induced transtemporal zone, but we can safely predict that out of all of them, rebranding the Great War – in which millions of conscripted working-class soldiers slaughtered each other in fields – is the most offensive.
Every auld bore in the country seems to have a soggy gusset for Downton Abbey. Even the Yanks are lapping it up. Apparently they love all that ‘chivalry’ shit. Personally I’d rather sook jaggy nettles than watch 5 minutes of it, but each to their own. However, when one of the nation’s most famous actors is named Benedict fucking Cumberbatch, the shark has truly been jumped.
WATCH OUT FOR:
Death of a monarch? Queen Victoria died in 1901, after 63 years on the throne. Her great-great-granddaughter QE2 can’t have long left, having reigned for 61 years. Could her demise and the coronation of King Chuckles signal the end for the medieval relic that is the monarchy? Who knows – Britain has a great capacity for maintaining zombie institutions, after all. But can anyone really imagine talking about the Charlesian era or the Williamic age? Sounds too daft, sorry. Off with their heads, just to be safe.