Re-creating utopia

Was there once a better time to be British? A time when life was sweet and untroubled? When we were a more moral nation? In other words, was there a Golden Age for Britain, which we have now squandered with our descent into crime, aggression, family breakdown and ethical laxity? Many think there was, others claim such an age was a myth, while yet others claim that it is this myth of a Golden Age that is the myth.

But what would it be like if we could recreate a lost moral order? How much sweeter would life really be? Let me send a fairy godmother to an average British street. Let her fly down a fictional Acacia Avenue, working her magic to re-establish our lost Golden Age. Let’s observe the results.

A problem of definitions

Of course, our first problem is to tell this fairy godmother what precise Golden Age we are talking about. Its advocates are pretty vague when it comes to specific dates. So let me stick my neck out and say that what I mean here is a time before 1960, before the pill, Lady Chatterley and the Beatles. It is, perhaps, a mixture of the 1950s and the 1930s with a hefty pinch of late Victoriana.

Another major caveat is that I won’t really deal with economic and technological change. These are far from negligible – in his book, The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens argues, rightly, that double-glazing and central heating had an impact on the structure of family life of a similar magnitude to any liberal legislation. So, of course, recreating a past age would require no more foreign holidays, no computer games, no Internet, no television, lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher mortality overall. The list goes on, but for the sake of this posting, I will limit myself purely to changes in attitudes to moral and social issues. I’m not claiming to be exhaustive – the comments box is open for readers to add their own thoughts.

All agreed? Well, let the transformation begin.

Spreading joy..

Our fairy godmother spends her first few minutes with a big smile on her face. She takes down all the burglar alarms, movement-sensitive lights and neighbourhood watch signs. No need for those. She also relieves the inhabitants of Acacia Avenue of that nagging worry that crime is just around the corner, that doors need to be locked against lurking villains and that the walk home from the bus stop will be menaced by ‘hoodies’.

Graffiti disappears from the walls, beer cans no longer roll noisily along the tarmac. At No 42, the fairy godmother is explaining to little John and Sarah Watson that their parents are not, in fact, getting divorced. Family break-up in the Golden Age is a rare occurrence (except, of course, when caused by the far more frequent death of a family member).

The Watson children are also not alone in welcoming the fact that their grandparents now live just round the corner. In Golden Age Britain, extended families are much more likely to live in the same neighbourhoods.

…but joy not unalloyed

Some of those visited by the fairy godmother, however, are a bit more disconcerted by what they hear.

She hands Mrs Smith at No 15 a rather surprising letter. Mrs Smith, you see, is a consultant at the local hospital. The letter, from the local NHS trust, informs her of her immediate dismissal. It explains that, now that the Golden Age has been re-established, there is no place for women in such demanding roles. It is a well known Golden Age fact that women are prone to hysterics and that, once every month, this problem increases. It would be irresponsible of the Trust to keep her in its employ in such a risky area (although she may re-apply as a part-time receptionist). Mrs Smith is not the only one to be a bit miffed. Her patients might also be a bit surprised.

Women up and down Acacia Avenue receive similar letters. Those that aren’t immediately dismissed for being married or being female are told that their wages will be docked. It would be dangerous for society for them to be paid anything like their menfolk.

At No 12, little Jimmy and Susie Henderson are a bit upset that no-one wants to play with them anymore. They are not invited to any birthday parties, they are shunned in the playground and laughed at in the street. The fairy godmother explains to them that it is all for their own good: their mummy and daddy weren’t married when they were born, so, as bastards, they can’t expect society to treat them nicely, now can they?

The Singhs at No 43 are also in for a shock in the form of an eviction notice from their landlord: he simply doesn’t like having non-white tenants. Of course, in the Golden Age, we don’t believe in giving people like the Singhs legal protections.

Over at No 67, the Johnsons and the Pritchards are having dinner together when the fairy godmother arrives. She needs to set them right on a few things. The Johnsons have a daughter, Megan, with Down syndrome, while the Pritchards’ son, Josh, has cerebral palsy. First things first – we don’t like namby-pamby politically correct terms in the morally-superior Golden Age. We call spades spades. Megan is a mongol and Josh is a spastic, okay? Live with it.

And the Johnsons will have to stop these complaints that doctors are not giving Megan the full care she needs. In the Golden Age we believe in deference, not in some new-age ‘patients’ rights’ nonsense. What doctors say goes. Shut up and tug that forelock.

As for the Pritchards – this letter-writing to the council asking for more wheelchair ramps to be set up, for disabled toilet facilities to be expanded, and public transport made more accessible is really beyond the pale. Disabled people, sorry, cripples, have no business seeking to be ‘integrated’ into society. They should stay at home or in institutions, dependent and pitied, where they belong.

The hospice at the end of the road, caring for the old and the dying? We must shut it down – no room for that sentimental nonsense here (just read Charles Moore in the Telegraph for more). What about the day-care centre for those with learning disabilities (sorry again, I mean retards – I really must stop being so PC)? Well, that will have to go too.

And on it goes

The fairy godmother’s work continues, seeking out those who need to be set straight about the advent of the new Golden Age. Spreading her message of all those wonderful values, bringing undoubted happiness to some, but devastating the lives of others.

So the next time you find yourself hankering after some marvelous Golden Age of the past, just spare a thought for those, some of whom could be amongst your nearest and dearest, who would be left shivering in the cold outside while you pull your comfortable chair closer to the roaring fire of nostalgia.

Some aspects of the past are wonderful and positive. Some aspects of the present are less so. But to describe a bygone era as a Golden Age, while decrying modern society, is to forget the amazing advances that have been made in improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable, some of the most deserving. For me, the benefits of living in the present far, far outweigh the cost of having lost our mythical, wonderful past. I want to build on what we’ve got – not sink back to a former time whose so-called superior values treated so many people with contempt.

  1. la bona said:

    In the name of justice, I am obliged to help to disseminate story of a religious persecution … My apologies for irrelevance.

    Breaking News!
    Barbaric persecution of an apostate …

    The Malaysian authorities are persecuting an ex-Muslim fondly known as Ayah Pin and flattened his religious commune dubbed as Sky Kingdom, which is a quasi-religious commune located in north east Malaysian.

    Once Muslim, Forever Slave!
    Ayah Pin has publicly renounced his Islamic faith in 1998 but was REJECTED by the state (NB: Apostasy is a capital crime is Malaysia punishable by DEATH!)

    The Persecution
    In 2001, the Malaysian authorities jailed Ayah Pin for 11 months for attempting to renounce Islam. He is viewed as a security threat and they continue to harass him with all sorts of uncivilized threats befitting the low-life including smashing up the lovely giant teapot and flattening the commune, which they just did yesterday!

    Prior to the destruction yesterday, the authorities raided the commune in July, 2005 and detained 45 faithful including a Kiwi, senior citizens and among others, 3 children of Ayah Pin and his 3 wives. I read somewhere; there are kids left behind unattended in commune and while some faithful have to pawn all they have to bail themselves out, the rest are still in custody.

    Their crime: Being unIslamic!

    As if the arrest was not good enough, mobs made up of some 35 unidentified assailants armed with Molotov cocktails attacked the commune and set the place ablaze …. Assailants attack Ayah Pin’s commune with Molotov cocktails! … I supposed mobs and Molotov cocktails are Islamic.

    If you have a comment, please do not hesitate to email me at Alternately, you are welcome to do so at the forum (

  2. One of the great plays of the 20th c. is Stoppard’s “Travesties”. Reading your version of the 1950s, a period through which I lived as a boy and as a teen-ager, I wonder whether you didn’t co-write it.

    Yes, there were fewer women in full-time work which meant that “little Jimmy and Susie” had a full-time Mum to bring them up and feed them properly because, of course, Mum would have been taught ‘Domestic Science’, or, cooking, to you and me.

    I was, and still am, a bastard both by nature and birth, and never once in my entire life did anyone make the slightest reference to it in any way. It is true that if a young girl produced a baby out of wedlock, it was the cause of considerable gossip but that was due in no small part to the fact of its extreme rarity. And before you even start to tell me of the hordes of back-street abortionists working day and night, forget it. They simply did not exist in any great numbers.

    It is probably true that were you sent back to live in the 1950s you might risk death by boredom, but me, particularly given all that has happened in the last month, with *children* murdering *children*, fanatics slaughtering wholesale, ‘youfs’ putting an axe through the head of a young man simply because he was black, and today, a black man stabbing another man several times until he was dead simply because he objected to food being thrown around on a bus, well, I’ll take my chances with the boredom.

  3. Well, apart from being immensly flattered at being compared with Stoppard…

    I wasn’t trying to recreate the 1950s – I’m taking social attitudes from, as I said, decades stretching back to the 19th century. By the 1950s, thank goodness, attitudes to illegitimacy had changed, as you describe – unmarried mothers were much less likely to be institutionalised for their sin. But many would say (I seem to remember Peter Hitchens arguing this in the Abolition of Britian) that it was that very change that made possible the the huge rise in illegitimacy of the subsequent decades. Had attitudes remained what they were in Victorian times, when illegitimacy was a stain that could not be washed clean, would the rates today be so high?

  4. 3A: re that last comment, the bigger change is the attitude to sins and sinners. In the older dispensation, you could recognise a sin as such but still love the sinner; these days, the sense is that to accuse somebody of a sin is to ‘judge them’, as people. Reasonably enough, we don’t want to damn illegitimate mothers, so we completely do away with any view on their actions.

    On the post itself – obviously, we’ve gone through this many times before… While I grant that there are some out-and-out nostalgists, for most of us the point is to recognise that the gains we have made in recent decades have also had some unfortunate consequences. It doesn’t mean we want everything back the way it was before; but we do think that some of the losses should cause us to go back and see what we can recover.

    Some of the losses are unavoidable – the price we pay for greater personal freedom, which few of us are really willing to trade away. But maybe some – like crime levels or divorce rates – might be something we can act on, and calling attention to the loss by showing how things used to be, while open to abuse, isn’t the end of the world either.

    Personally, I want to go back to the 1550s. But that’s a different story.

  5. Jamie K said:

    I think the point about the fifties that everybody seems to forget is that the UK had just emerged from a world war, which itself had followed twenty years on from another huge outbreak of mass slaughter in which Britain lost very heavily. A lot of what we think of as the fifties regime wasn’t morally inspired, IMO, so much as recuperative. People worked hard, went to bed early, aspired to a moderate degree of comfort, valued their privacy etc. Culturally speaking, this is an invalid’s diet.

    So the fifties were a period of bed rest for the UK. When it started feeling it’s oats again, the UK got up and went about it’s business with renewed vigour. Contrarily, the desire to return there is a form of hypochondria.

    Anyway, here’s my fifties tale:

  6. Would we get Churchill or Eden as Prime Minister again? If the latter, not much change really – ill-thought-out Middle Eastern ventures, the course of which is entirely determined by the Americans etc. (Although at least with Suez we had international law on our side, I suppose.)

    Actually, come to think of it Churchill wouldn’t be too much different either – loved by the Americans, obsessed by foreign policy, but increasingly showing signs of being insane and absolutely fucking useless on the home front…

  7. dearieme said:

    Come on, Blimpish, tell Nosemonkey that Churchill was a pretty dud wartime PM but a brilliant peacetime one.

  8. Dearieme – I’d say he was simply pretty dud. Making good speeches does not a good leader make – look at Ken Livingstone after the 7th july bombs. (Although in Ken’s favour at least he hasn’t tried to launch a pointless invasion of Norway…)

  9. … but he was especially dud as peacetime PM. And even worse as Chancellor in the 1920s.

  10. Well, that was a nice long list of ‘Things that Were Wrong with the Fifties’, including ‘Jamie K’s’ reminiscence, in the style of D. H. Lawrence, of grim life in the potteries.

    So here is a list of ‘Things Wrong Today’ ……. oh, hell, it’s just too long and too boring and too depressing, and anyway, I hear the call of The Balvenie.

  11. Jamie K said:

    “…in the style of D. H. Lawrence.”

    Naked wrestling followed by anal sex? Look, sunshine, I come from the WEST Midlands.

  12. Your loss, Jamie: your loss.

  13. One thing that is a great improvement today over the ’50s, occurred to me in the shower this morning – we all bathe much more often. I seem to remember it was one bath a week in my boyhood, and, Boy, did I need it!

  14. Pingback: Tim Worstall

  15. Steve said:

    So what would the Fairy Godmother have to say to Robert and Nigel who have been happily living together for years?

    “Right you dirty queers, you’re doing 10 years in Dartmoor for sodomy.”

    Or Tasha the pregnant teenager?

    “Sorry love, abortion’s cancelled but there is the old lady round the corner with the hot knife and the gin bottle.”

  16. Shuggy said:

    Some things have changed for the better and some have not. People have been complaining about the death of community for years. I think there has been a real and tangible erosion of “community spirit” over the years and some aspects of this really has made society more unruly, but the mistake is always to assume that “community” is necessarily a benign phenomenon when they can be stifling and oppressive too.