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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Eastenders Goes North, UK Goes West

So, because of Covid-19, filming of Eastenders has been cancelled.
Of course, Eastenders themselves were cancelled long ago, thanks to the financialised economy that made homeowning there a bigger fantasy than the TV series, now regularly shot in Hertfordshire.
To be a Cockney, traditionally you had to have been born within sound of the church bells of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside. Our Dad was – it was in the borough of Lambeth, but the noise carried over the water; as did the 1917 munitions factory explosion in Silvertown, which his mother still remembered in the 1970s.
Mind you, it’s getting harder to find a Brummie, too. In the 1980s, Gas Street Basin was full of old narrowboats. The area was dirty and dark, the canal surface a bloom of rubbish. Warehouses rotted slowly by the water’s edge. Then the gentrification started, but even at the turn of the ‘90s I met an old woman in a house off Broad Street, still making widgets and dropping them into a bucket inside her front door. Where are the metal-bashers now?
The nation has become a museum of itself; a place where people used to manufacture, used to family-farm and make a living at it, rather than take up shepherding as a middle-class rural pastime. Our cities have been rebuilt with borrowed money, our youngsters have (mostly) been excluded from property ownership, mortgaged for their college education, denied access to final salary pension schemes, entertained with vicious TV and cinema, distracted with officially enabled alcohol abuse, (but warned ‘drink responsibly’), tacitly encouraged in substance abuse (‘don’t prosecute, help them’), given the false hope of escape via a big win in gambling (but ‘when the fun stops, stop.’)
We are governed by moneymakers who keep us subdued with sentimental reminiscences, cultural illusions and snarling drama serials vicariously acting out the confusion and desperation of a people unloved, left to their fate like the passengers in ‘Lord Jim.’
Yet the biggest fantasy is that of the captains who imagine they will escape the consequences of the socio-economic damage they have caused, fleeing to boltholes like New Zealand or some imaginary island like The Man With The Golden Gun.
In a globalised world, the crisis is universal and there will be nowhere to hide. Already the stock markets have lost a third of their value, and that is before the mass redundancies and bankruptcies have started. Shares halved in the three years post-9/11, and recovered with monetary boosting; halved again in 2008-2009, and were rescued by enormous subsidies to the sector that had caused the problem; now we are going down for the third time, and already the Masters of the Universe are hinting that perhaps the old are expendable.
The 2004 Civil Contingencies Act required the setting up of ‘local resilience forums’ to plan for emergencies; we are now finding out that the current emergency is merely a spotlight on the vast systemic vulnerability that successive governments have allowed, helped to develop, and the implications of which they have almost completely failed to address. Like the faux Cockneys of Walford, we don’t know who we are, or where we are.

1 comment:

Paddington said...

Sadly, the UK has copied many of the moves in the US: destroy unions, eliminate pensions, eliminate sick leave, etc.