Yesterday I set off on a bold adventure, to find lands untroubled by the machinations of my society. I left my darling wife behind, put my fear aside and headed North. The journeying was pleasant but by some accident of circumstance I found myself washed up on the shores of a strange land, which I later discovered was called
Lilliput, sorry Leeds. Unlike my hero Gulliver, the means to relate my adventures were to hand. Consequently, I tweeted my tales as I went along. By yesterday evening, a cultural misunderstanding obliged me to flee Leeds and take to travelling again. This morning I washed up in Brobdingnag, sorry Bradford. The people here have been wonderfully kind to me, despite their monstrous size. My arrival has caused quite a stir. I’ve been invited into high society to explain the culture I’ve fled from. Keen to give my compatriots a proper explanation of the account I’ve given of them, I’m recording here a summary of my conversation with the local bigwig.
I began by explaining the approximate location of my home town, Brighton. The tone of his incredulous reply (“Further South than London?!”) was friendly. “You must have good reason to tell me such a tall tale”, said the head poncho, “and I’m keen to hear about a place which produces people as little as you, so I’ll respect your discretion and ask you to continue!”
Unabashed, I introduced my culture by means of its politics, with the aim of educating the giant in our values. I began with recent history, mentioning the war in Iraq. Keen to give both sides of every debate, I told of the million people who demonstrated that this war would not be in their name, pointed out that the government launched it anyway and honestly detailed the mass slaughter of innocents involved. In broad brush strokes, my story included the sudden capitulation of the enemy, his execution by our new allies in breach of our own laws and subsequent extended occupation of that fair land, which we regarded as being central to our own creation myth. My audience listened politely but shifted uncomfortably on their chairs. Concerned that I had perhaps erred on the side of the peaceniks, I hurriedly changed tack and declared the entire episode a victory. Their head man asked, “was this exercise carried out according to your laws?”
“Oh no,” I replied, “it was definitely illegal – on that all the lawyers agree.” My audience shifted in their enormous seats some more and exchanged glances which seemed confused to me but since one can never be too sure of the correct interpretation of foreign mores, I moved onto more recent topics.
Turning to European relations as a whole, I explained that Southern England had largely stood outside continental history, which had been riven with constant wars. My audience muttered and frowned. Conceding that our politicians had seen fit to intervene from time to time, “to restore the balance of power”, I proudly announced that we had finally matured beyond the petty power play of European politics: “Now we have invited them to sort it all out by themselves and declared ourselves formally uninvolved!” This conclusion startled my hosts. The chief giant simply asked, “By now you must have considerable economic ties with these people you claim live across the water from you – how can you pretend to be unaffected?” Oddly, I found myself without an answer to this question.
By this point, my generous hosts were starting to resemble those charged with the care of a simpleton: they smiled sweetly at me whenever I looked in their direction but out of the corner of my eye, I could clearly see their despair. Did they perceive me as a fantasist? Their king was less careful to hide his displeasure. Politely, he asked me to turn to domestic politics.
“Ah, ” I begun, “that’s a lot simpler to explain.” I went on to explain how we use an electoral system which is supposed to deliver strong governments by handing all power to the largest minority. The room shook with laughter louder than any thunder. When they had calmed down, I reassured them by pointing to the abject failure of this system last time around. Answering their demands about our political solution to the crisis, I briefly explained that the largest minority party formed a coalition government with the party which came third and went on to detail the radical plans by which they proposed to solve the debt crisis. When I got to the bit about the government unveiling secret plans to privatise our health service, which they had cleverly not mentioned at all I’m the previous election campaign, my hosts could restrain themselves no longer. Cries of “No!”, “Evil bastards” and “We’ve heard enough!”, shook the rafters. Even the king was beside himself with anger. Standing up, face contorted with rage, he bellowed that he had heard enough of my madness. I could not believe my ears – never before have I seen such a complete change of opinion. When they enquired how on earth I could justify such crazy behaviour, I found myself confused and lost for words. It wasn’t so much that I was scared, more that in their company I found myself agreeing with them. It was as if their way of seeing the world had suddenly become mine. Holding my hand out for silence, I gathered my thoughts and indicated that they should be seated again. Eventually, my beckoning won them over and they sat down although, to be fair, most of them were now engaged in a vigorous conversation revolving around my claim that our law didn’t permit personal prosecutions of bankers guilty of creating the debt crisis by reckless lending.
Luckily, their leader’s grasp of etiquette was superb; a few hard frowns from him quieted most of them. Clearly they hadn’t understood the scope of our leading visionaries! I could hardly blame them – everything I had seen of their society had revealed a much simpler approach to morality. If something served the common good, it was good. If it only or mostly served a selfish aim, it was bad. Dear friends, though I am far from home, I hope to bring a little of this wisdom back with me, should I be fortunate to survive this latest adventure (but I am getting ahead of myself).
I needed to explain how radical the coalition intended to be in resolving the debt crisis with a simple and direct example. Therefore, I explained the new plans to convert the public police service into a private profit making enterprise to reduce the burden on the public purse. Whatever fuss I had already created was nothing compared to the shock waves this news caused! Of my assembled audience, those previously more vocal shouted that they had heard enough immorality for one day and stormed put of the room. The more quiet members of the court just put their heads in their hands and began to cry. The king fixed me with a hard stare and quietly whispered that I had to take my peculiar evil out if their fair city, lest it corrupt impressionable children. I’ve been given six hours to organise my departure or face a lifetime’s solitary imprisonment…