So, politics for a change. Johnson is live on TV right now, and has just said that he hadn’t realised the Premiership was a relay race and that the rules had been changed halfway through. This from a man who didn’t even obey the rules he himself set during the covid-19 lockdowns, yet more proof that whenever he opens his mouth he lies. And later today we will see the third female Prime Minister the UK has had, all of them unfortunately Conservative, all of them hostile to the working people and to minorities of all kinds. Although the rot in our society could be said to have started well before Thatcher (even a superficial examination of British history shows an absolute disregard for workers from those in power, and an absolute absence of respect from those in the upper layers of the still existing British class system for anyone without landed wealth), it was she who started the active suppression of the working class in the modern age, and she who decided she would break the working people and grid them into the dust. The trend continued with May who was the implementer of the Hostile Environment approach, a racist policy aimed at expelling legal immigrants and asylum seekers from the UK, an approach she continued with her Brexit policies, an approach which ultimately led to the current government policy of evicting immigrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda (which has so far evicted zero people at a cost of £120 million). The third, Liz Truss, will take power today after the charade of being asked by the Queen to form a government (let’s leave to one side that we shouldn’t even have a queen, never mind a Prime Minister elected by less than 100,000 members of the Conservative Party, not by the people of the UK), Liz Truss, whose biography I have already titled An Unprincipled Woman, who started out as anti-nukes, anti-Royalist, and pro-Europe, and who has now turned coat to become pro-nukes, Royalist, and anti-Europe, and who will probably make Johnson look like a good Prime Minister. Of course, it would be wrong to lay the blame for the UK’s travails solely at the feet of three women – the history of the Tory party is littered with men both spineless and unprincipled, liars, deceivers, and racists all (perhaps John Major excepted who was a good but disingenuous one-nation Tory and remains pro-Europe, though he is not without blemish in this sad history).
The path forwards is not clear. The cost-of-living catastrophe will claim more lives than covid-19 has, all poor and sick people. The march towards totalitarianism will continue, the suppression of any views which challenge the status quo, which challenge the upper-class white privilege and exceptionalism upon which British society and British Imperialism were built, the suppression and criminalisation of minorities, the one-sided and discriminatory attitude which has been the hallmark of every Conservative government in history. The history of this part of the 21st century has not yet been written. I just hope we don’t get to the point where it will be written by an official historian of a one-party state which has no free democratic elections.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 202
‘Looks like the Kremlin,’ Aggie says, reaches out for the door.
‘We even have our own Red Square,’ Marion says, holds Aggie back. ‘Where we allow students to say what they want to say, no holds barred.’
‘Doesn’t that cause trouble?’
‘Sometimes. More often not.’ Marion pulls Aggie a little closer. ‘Now, we’re just here for show for a little while. We’ll speak loudly about women’s cultural issues as we walk round. I’ll show you Red Square. And we’ll wander round the Intercultural Center, nod at people, shake a few hands. And then we’ll go downtown to my office where it’s a little more private. But we need to show ourselves here just to satisfy the powers that be.’ She lets go of Aggie. ‘Just let Bill there let us out of the car. That’s what he’s here for.’
Marion laughs. ‘Oh, no. He’s my husband as well. And he teaches. This is all just artifice, you know, just like everything else.’
Aggie shakes her head, grasps her backpack tight, waits for Bill to open the door, and steps out of the car as gracefully as she can manage.
Bill nods and smiles at her. ‘Just stay here while I get Marion.’ He has a deep baritone, and only a slight American hint in his voice.
‘Thanks, Bill,’ Marion says. ‘If you wait here and tell the cops to fuck off if they bother you, that’ll be just fine and dandy.’
‘Yes, Ma’am,’ he says and winks at her.
‘Incorrigible,’ Marion mutters as she hooks her arm through Aggie’s. ‘Let’s go for our little show tour. And let’s pretend we’ve nothing better to do.’
‘Will there be people here this late in the day?’
‘There are always people here,’ Marion says. ‘Learning doesn’t stop when it gets dark or past five in the afternoon.’
They walk along a path that circumnavigates a square of lawn people around the edges by trees which would be lush in the summer with leaves, trees planted in the middle of the path. They pass a statue of Ignatius Loyola.
‘Our great inspiration,’ Marion says. ‘Jesuits that we are.’ She grunts. ‘Give me a child until he’s seven years old, and I’ll show you the robot,’ she says. ‘Only paraphrasing, of course.’
‘I’ll show you the man,’ Aggie completes the quote correctly. ‘Perhaps that’s what the experiments were all about.’
‘Keep your voice down,’ Marion says.
Aggie shakes her head. ‘You’re as paranoid as I am.’
‘With good cause.’
‘So how does Loyola chime with Women’s Studies,’ Aggie says, her voice back to its normal level. ‘It wouldn’t seem that he had very much to say on the emancipation of women.’
‘One of his leading principles is that every person is unique, so that’s not really far off women’s rights as individuals. And he talks about service rooted in justice and love, and I don’t think anyone can argue with that whether or not they have faith.’
‘I can see that, but their involvement in the Inquisition and persecution of Protestants doesn’t exactly stick to those two principles, does it?’
They are off the path now, illuminated by old-fashioned tall lights that look as if they could have been powered by gas in another age, walk through a gap between two old buildings that, now Aggie can see them more clearly aren’t red brick at all, nor are they as old as they look. And ahead of them, a brightly-lit building that is red-brick, that’s all sharp angles and edges, across a plaza of small rectangular bricks, neatly and diagonally laid.
‘Well, we’re in the right place to be having this conversation,’ Marion says. ‘This is our Red Square. Minus the domes and the unscalable walls.’
‘And the answer to the question?’
‘I’m not sure there’s an answer. Times have changed, and so has humanity.’
‘And not for the better.’
‘No, not for the better. And that’s what we need to fix.’
Aggie sees the name of the building affixed above the doors. Intercultural Center. She shudders at the spelling, like she couldn’t shudder at Marion’s pronunciation of it a few moments before.
‘And you say you’re not English.’ Marion laughs and hols the door open for Aggie. ‘Let’s have a cup o’ coffee and see who’s around, shall we?’
The warmth rushes out of the building into Aggie’s face, and she suddenly feels very homesick indeed.