BY LEE BEING
I recently moved back home to England. Why is this a talking point? Well… I haven’t come from abroad.
You may still consider me a refugee; a migrant; even an evacuee. I am a former Londoner who’s found himself in the midst of the glorious rolling black hills of Somerset. It’s only after living here for a couple of months that I had a profound sense of a reignited memory from childhood. It actually feels like what I remember England being like (minus the red buses).
Dear Reader of Country Squire Magazine, my writing may come as a foreboding; it may come as no surprise; it may just come across as a disjointed and erratic sprawl of words from a mentally-ill person. (Close enough). I am the urban space-man.
The air was the first thing I noticed upon my first visit to the ancient Saxon town of Taunton. Crisp. Clear. Clarity. It felt right.
My struggles of urban life slipped off like a manacle that had weighed me down for a good couple of decades. It’s been tough. Very tough. A different type of tough the country gentleman may very well scoff at, yet a very real battle is being lost from where I fled from. This is all very dramatic language, but I assure you, the reality is very concerning to me, and it should be to you. Even though here, in the ancient home of the Wessex kings, where hills are dotted with sheep, where lanes wind in serpentine curves, where pollen snows and clumps in the grass, there are still centres of cosmopolitan nodes on the proverbial web of ‘learning’, with diktats from the bloated, cold-blooded spider we once called ‘London’.
London’s trapping the youth like flies even here. There is a race to the bottom that people in Russia and Eastern Europe would reject out-off-hand because they recognise signs they’ve seen before. I have escaped like a dissident from that nation-state in all-but-name, that urban conurbation, that Orwellian well of social, educational and cultural experimentation, THAT London. Not MY London. Not anymore.
The fall has been gradual. No barbarians at the walls, not a cannon has been fired, no trains scheduled with countless children tagged and packed off to safety. This has been a quiet coup. One of the mind. The mind of the once celebrated, indomitable, plucky rebel spirit of the Londoner has been crushed and ground to a pallid paste. Something happened to the individual from when I was a young boy living in the relative calm and sanity of suburban Wimbledon, to the jaded adult I became living in the stark and filthy, aggressively dark undertones of Bow in the heart of East London, via the ‘gentrifying’ and suitably ‘cool’ – but the accurately dubbed ‘Murder Mile’ – of Hackney.
Don’t get me wrong, as a dyed-in-the-acrylic-polyester twenty-something urbanite, it was thrilling, it was edgy, it was ‘cool’, and there were all manner of exciting things to do (if you could afford to). It was, of course, all part of the program. We accept our lot. This is the sacrifice you make to live in the most exciting city in the world… Right?
I look back on it as regress.
Urbanites would look at country life with a sense of fear; of primordial suspicion; of a bygone and backwards mentality. Believe me, this is ants in the termite hill looking down at the anteater. The arrogance of intellectual snobbery is misplaced at best, and highly self-destructive at worst. But how does congealing a mass of people into ever decreasing concrete tombs mark any celebration of nature, of life, of intellectual propriety? It’s a con. Perpetuated by the dense collection of university factories; the schools of intellectually bankrupt ideas, where everyone is a media star, or a social scientist, or a humanities major (whatever that is).
During the last decade the veil really started to lift for me. The rise of social media is as centrist as life in London is, and it’s been perceptible within the social attitudes that have sprung up around the city. Pockets of people have become emboldened from their cosseted seats of learning that the disconnect on the streets, and the window-dressing of the burgeoning cafe culture of the ‘gentrified’ parts of the ever-disintegrating underbelly underlies this. Narcissism has become the accepted norm of the white middle class that flock to the now dressed and over-priced ghettos where there is a rubbing-up of cultural angle-grinding where noses are tipped high so as not to see the discarded chicken boxes littering the streets paved with gold; which, if they sniffed deep enough would recognise it as probably just being urine.
Aloof and held aloft on self-righteousness, the frequent stabbings seem like some vague memory of something that they may have read from a novel or some article from National Geographic, or something. Police tape around the bollards outside the latest boutique vegan joint must be bunting put out to celebrate diversity (if this were tape around a county maypole, there would obviously be an outcry of a health and safety violation).
There is a ferocity in the feral city that no amount of facile ’gentrification’ will ever tackle; it will merely gloss over it. The post-modernist university humanities expert on diversity will whitewash their hands of it, but you’d be the racist to point out that this ‘sort of thing’ is going on.
They don’t see anything beyond their unicorns and rainbows from under their green fringes and their oversized horn-rimmed faux lenses to even know where they are, let alone peel away the lustred fronts of the soy-only coffee shops. They are immune to the daily cuts and dices of the chosen utensils that are weaponised, because they very rarely ever see it, but they would be the first to draw swords if anyone drew a simple acknowledgement of the facts and statistics that come with it. They speak with authority on issues they wilfully and woefully are ignorant of, even when it’s all around them, but then, everyone is a victim, right? This is the price to pay for the privilege of living in the coolest city in the world, right? If you disagree, you are privileged, but if you join in the chorus, you can celebrate your victimhood over a £10 soy latte and tofu sandal side and remain cool, remain righteous, and remain SILENT.
How does this affect you, Dear Reader? The same schism-inducing self-righteous narcissism and paradoxical self-loathing victimhood that is ‘so on point’ in the trendy hubs in London are just starting to fan out everywhere else. Do you know what you’re paying your children to really study at university? Have you noticed any change in them? Look out for the signs of the cosmopolitan choke.
I clambered over the wall to seek a new life, a home I can recall. I escaped the thought-policing, cognitively dissonant ’Trendy Stasi’. Too much? You don’t know you’re in it until you come out of it. I could so easily have been swallowed up by it (more on that another time).
Lee Being is a Taunton refugee from culture-war-torn London. A singer/songwriter and budding writer of other things yet to be written. A former London nightlife luminary, seeking the quiet and sensibility of real England with tales to tell of what has befallen our capital from the true, gritty end. No longer blinded by the leftist ideologues; now a staunch classical liberal; libertarian; upwinger; opting for a fresh three-dimensional politic as opposed to the standard two dimensional swing-o-meter much favoured by Peter Snow.