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The Rudderless Raft of Despair
Britain Floating Aimlessly to the Abyss
Britain is a nation adrift, lost at sea in a raft of its own making.
Rudderless, leaderless, and becoming ever more hopeless.
There are no adults on the raft. Just a group of petulant rich children, engaging in that desperately British class ridicule where kids who went to £45,000 per year schools try to convince us they’re just one of the plebs, ruling the country on nothing more than merit, on their toil, tears, and sweat.
The petulant children broke into the booze cabinet in 2010, and have been drunk at the helm for over a decade. Drunk on their own delusions of past glory and empire, still waving the Union Jack in the faces of the plebs and hoping they don't notice their own boarded-up, hopeless streets. Corking bottles with the cabal of City financiers who boarded up those very streets, celebrating because Big Daddy government wrote them a cheque. Intoxicated on the lies of their vision of “sovereignty”; little more than a floating kleptocratic bank account for Russian oligarchs. Inebriated while a virus ripped unrelentingly through the population, vomiting champagne while people sat in hospital carparks shut out from their loved ones locked in ICU to die.
The moral bankruptcy of it all. This is the modern British Conservative Party. In an age of political polarisation, we're supposed to be softening the divide and reaching across the Commons. But there is little quarter if Britain is to have a future; it is existential. This is a country led by a Conservative political class without remorse, conscience, intelligence, or common sense. Devoid of ideas, offering nothing but ideology. Thatcher starved miners; the neo-Thatcherites starve children. Salvaging the ship of State and steering a new course will require keeping the Tory party out of power for the better part of a generation, or at least in opposition long enough for it to rediscover basic decency and undergo an ideological refit.
And now comes the wave to sink the raft, known by the euphemism of the “cost of living crisis”. There is no such thing as a “cost of living crisis” in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. There is a crisis of leadership, of priorities, a crisis of economic ideology, a crisis of social conscience. And yet, the inebriated babies purporting to rule the raft have abandoned their posts. They are not even pretending to be in charge anymore; there is de facto no functioning government, no pretence of leadership. And in lieu of an actual functioning government of adults, we are instead subjected to the noxious spectacle of a regicidal party of intoxicated infants vie for their crown.
Just as a toddler learns to drool their first words “dada” and “mama” and repeats them ad infinitum, so we watch as our cabal of drunk babies dribble out the only words they know: “small State”, “low taxes”, “personal responsibility”. The British equivalent to “thoughts and prayers” in the U.S., a prepackaged excuse for the disregard of the wealthy and powerful. Yet one thing we can be certain of is that no one in the Tory party is thinking; they don't even know how to, only how to paw the grubby pages of their hand-me-down manual of Thatcherism in search of answers to questions they can't comprehend. Just as someone searches for an answer in a bible, the Conservative congregation offer up their faith-based mantras of “small State” and “low taxes” as prayers to be answered by the Iron Lady watching down from on high.
Numerous damaging factors are converging. The 2008 crash, Brexit, Covid-19, the Tory gamble to swallow UKIP and embrace the hard-right, the war in Ukraine, the hubris and arrogance of a party too long in power, the sheer impotence of Labour and abdication of the opposition. And now the bell of economic despair is tolling for those who were already deafened by the ringing in their ears from austerity, and sounding in the ears of many who may have avoided the worst excesses of post-2008 economic injustice, but now are no longer out of earshot.
And yet we watch as two callous sociopaths verbally duel over braindead jingoism and economic jargon, the winner to be crowned by a cartel of ~180,000 UK citizens so devoid of a moral compass that they’re members of the Conservative Party. It would be one thing if there was a sense of a party trying to steer itself back from the abyss, of a membership base seeking to hold its party accountable to some standard of decency. But no, because they are the disciples of the braindead jingoism and drooling economic faith. The Conservative leadership race is a projection of the membership, an emanation of the pathological fantasies of the British upper class. An indifference to mass suffering.
Britain's working class is, unfortunately, used to being brutalised, from the Industrial Revolution to the crushing of organised labour under the fist of the Iron Lady. Austerity measures in the UK have included a 20% reduction in government spending per capita, a decline in the real value of unemployment benefits, a shortening of the support period, the elimination of the Social Fund, and aggressive means-testing criteria that has led to disengagement with the benefits system. Even for those in employment, there is forty years of losing ground under the belt, a downward spiral in the value of real wages.
Support for single families, parents of disabled children, essentially anyone in a position of need, has been gutted. The ‘Small State’ ensures that corporations get big profits and fat bonuses. Outside of that rarified City atmosphere, the UK has an economy built on a house of cards of vulnerable employment, low-skill and gig economy jobs. £20 a week in Universal Credit was taken out of peoples pockets by a man who brags about reversing funding for deprived urban areas. It's all so vile. How much more can people take before they snap?
Now, when all of these factors converge to the crest of the tidal wave heading for the raft, there is no one even pretending to navigate or steer. The sheer level of disconnect of the ruling class from reality is frightening, if entirely unsurprising. In a 2002 essay on the September 11th attacks by Slavoj Žižek entitled, ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’, Žižek wrote:
“Is this not yet further proof of how, even in this tragic moment, the distance which separates Us from Them, from their reality, is maintained: the real horror happens there, not here?”
This is Britain, now. The ruling class maintains a complete buffer against reality, indulging in their own fantasy narratives. Poverty doesn’t happen to Them. Meanwhile, the Rest try and stock food banks and blankets for winter. A nation without leadership, without any moral framework in its ruling elite, has been cast adrift without any hope for a meaningful future.
My sense of it is that this, here and now, is the wave that sinks the rudderless raft. And I ponder what comes next. If we take our cue from history - of what course is charted when a nation exists in imposed isolation, wallowing in its own delusions of greatness, mired in economic depravation, and ruled by a cruel and vindictive politics - then it is likely that something dangerous and ugly will emerge, spat forth from the deep ocean of resentment and anger.