There was a tide.

I've just watched a documentary film on TV, title: The Spirit of '45' . I would highly recommend it, not only for its clear and apolitical objectivity but because it could have a direct bearing on what is happening right here, right now.

The narrative began with the background, i.e. the years leading up to WW2 when the UK was rife with post-WW1 /  post-depression poverty and the inevitable social unrest. How close we in the UK came to taking the Hitlerian pathway! The movie then focussed on the six years of wartime shortages and other hardships. All the courage, political and military, but alongside that the spirit of civilian and uniformed joie de vivre that I so well remember. How could people be - or at least appear to be - so relaxed and happy when the daily news was of death and destruction, losing as well as winning, extreme racism (not only German), the rationing of pretty well everything, families split asunder etc etc?

Be that as it may these were the years through which I grew up. I remember being on holiday from my boarding school, at home in Pimlico, central London, watching unguided missiles everyone called buzz bombs descending on the capital, then the even more dreaded V2 rockets. I remember hunting for shrapnel and playing in the ruins of bombed out houses and before that, at home up in Lancashire, waving roadside union jacks at giagantic convoys of American soldiers; 'overpaid, over-sexed and over here' as the saying went. You learned pretty early all about the birds and the bees when you lived close to a wartime American base! I remember asking my mother what could the newspapers possibly be full of when there was no war? I mean after we've won, I added. "Oh, Bryan, they write about royalty and stocks and shares and football and so forth," she responded, which seemed to me like very dull fare. I was eleven years old at the end of World War Two. I guess like so many others I had no idea about what was to come next, although for some reason I had it in my head that we victorious Brits would then be declaring war on the USA! (Presumably Britain, after defeating America would then be a kind of world champion!)

Actually, nobody in Britain could have guessed what was to come next. Men and women who had spent five long years in uniform came home to a nation on its knees financially and morally, a nation that was to remain on ration cards for the next five years, a nation living in various degrees of poverty on international bankers' credit - actually, right up to this very day.. At the same time cinema newsreels covered the unspeakable 'discoveries' at Belsen and Auschwitz but did not until much later cover the aftermath of  the R.A.F. bombing of Dresden. Incidentally I was a big fan of Richmel Crompton's fictional hero 'Biggles' and his friend 'Ginger' - WW1 fighter pilots both. So, skipping forward, In 1951 I was to enter National Service in the R.A.F. and apply for aircrew. Early morning of my first day I was standing at attention in rank in a huge empty hanger at RAF Cardington. Enter the Group-Captain with walking stick - legacy of the Battle of Britain, it was said. He stood in front on his dais, looked us over for a silent moment, then; "Step forward any man who does not wish to kill the enemy of this country," he said. Nobody moved a muscle. None of us had thought about killing, only flying.like Biggles, but in Meteor jet fighters. (Oh those Meteors! Known as 'meat boxes' for obvious reasons of fatal unreliabilty.).

Back to 'Tthe Spirit of '45'.  Against all expectations the nation threw out the Conservatives under its wartime leader Winston Churchill in favour of a group of dry and dusty academics, or so at the time they seemed  to me, going under the flag of 'Labour'. Academics they may have been but dry and dusty? Oh no! They seized the opportunity to take into public ownership and/or consolidate all the central public services oif the UK: coal, rail, gas, electricity, water, telephones - and above all, health. This was a peaceful revolution if ever there was one. Out with the exploitative, profit driven, upper class toffs and in with the age of the help-each-other, classless Common Man. Wow, communism without tears! Anyway The Spirit of '45 documented the theoretical logic behind Labour government thinking. So simple: peace, dignity and equal shares for all! Valhalla! Wonderful! Ah yes, where had we heard that before?

Rubbish of course. The UK had simply exchanged exploitative capitalism for exploitative labour. Over the years to follow the film showed how, whichever cadre managed to lever itself into a control position, greed would very soon come to the surface. Greed for money and 'property' and greed for power over others,   Exactly the same, in other words, as happened in post revolutionary Russia. Men put in charge or putting themselves in charge start out with high ideals but almost always end up in positions beyond their capabilities and all too often with their noses in the trough. Nationalisation clearly could only work if managed by saints or extra terrestials.Pretty thin on the ground in post WW2 Britain.

Then much later came a woman called Thatcher who, seeing how it had all gone wrong, reversed the nation back into the privatisation of public services, sparing only the iconic National Health Service. Ownership by and dividends to the smartass few rather than the dullard many and their pesky Unions. Same old or similarly poor management of course. How easy is management when you are managing a State protected monopoly. And how profitable to the managers and the ownership.

As we have seen even a Margaret Thatcher would not date to touch the NHS, so what has happened / is happening to that? Well, should you be a general practitioner of medicine earning (or rather having been awarded) twice as much as your Member of Parliament and six times the national average despite having working hours reduced to those of a civil servant you will probably be quite pleased with it. But if you are a patient looking for health services you will very likely have increasingly strong reservations about it. And if you are a UK citizen bothering to look at what it is costing you, past, present and future, well, you will be panicking right now. Or should be.

So, The spirit of '45? William Shakespeare and his 16/17th century generation were of the belief that ... There is a tide in the affairs of men, / Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries ... They believed that time for Mankind came and went with the ancient Greeks. Me, I think the flood tide came in 1945. You may, and I do, have a sense that it was not taken. Will there be another chance? Yes. Whilst our much maligned Earth rotates there will be tides. But taking it will not be easy. It will not be a comfortable thing. Change; dramatic change never could be.


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