Friday 3 March 2023

What flavour is pride?


In the worst days of the old Soviet Union, there were regular shortages of almost everything. Not just life’s luxuries, but even essentials, such as bread. When word got out that a shop had managed to get a supply, queues would rapidly form and people would patiently wait their turn, hoping that there would still be some left by the time they got to the head of the queue. Some might have felt a sense of stoicism at their ability to withstand shortages and muddle through somehow, but for most it was a feeling of resignation and acceptance. It was just the way things were: criticism and protest were tightly controlled and potentially fatal, even if they could spare the time to engage in such activities. The reality was that they had little choice but to spend many hours queueing first for one product, then for another and for many that became their prime focus. It’s doubtful that many saw the situation as a source of pride in being Russian. And the elites, of course, had their own secure supplies, including luxuries as well as the basics.

Post-Brexit Britain hasn’t reached anything like that situation, although it sometimes seems as though the government is trying hard to emulate Soviet Russia. It isn’t just shortages, first of one thing, then of another. There is a more general sense of decline; a feeling that nothing quite works any more. The political elite looking after their own would be familiar to those queuing Russians, as would the feeling of hopelessness to do anything about it. The expectation that tomorrow will be much like today is becoming more deeply embedded in the collective consciousness, as the hope for a better tomorrow recedes ever further into the future. And as the Russian elites found, to their delight, forcing people to concentrate on keeping body and soul together is a wonderfully effective vaccine against protest and dissent. There is one big difference, however. In the UK, in 2023, the government actually expects us all to take pride in the way that we cope with all the problems which they have created, by appealing to something called the ‘blitz spirit’. It’s very much a redacted view of what happened during the war years, but it somehow seems to work with a particular demographic – mostly those who aren’t old enough to remember what really happened, but who carry an idealized understanding passed on by their parents. Stalin would have been astounded at the effectiveness of the approach.

It reminds me of a story I’ve referred to in the past. And it’s still true that some of us would find it a lot easier to be proud of being British if things worked as they were supposed to and goods were available when wanted. Pride comes in different flavours, I suppose.


dafis said...

It looks increasingly as though governments are working hard at conditioning us the common herd to a future of increasing unavailability of basics that we hitherto took for granted. Also we will have less access to travel.Pricing and taxation of cars and fuels so only the very well off can afford them and at the same time cut back on bus services, make the trains too costly and unreliable. So it time for "eat less, keep the heating down, you are going nowhere".

Seems like they've all been swotting up on Pol Pot's recipes for happiness.

Anonymous said...

Those coming up to state retirement age are also facing problems accessing help lines on the Government pension portals. Huge queues and after waiting for long periods being suddenly being cut off. A state that just does not seem to work sny more.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday some of the papers led on the fact the half a trillion pounds of cuts to services have been made since the Tories and Liberals started the austeity programme in 2010. Added to this we have a high tax and low productivity economy. Makes one think where has all the money gone? Total mismanagement at Westminster in my opinion.

Spirit of BME said...

There were no ‘worst days’ in the Soviet Union – from what I saw, all days were a living nightmare.
In Plaid Cymru if you pointed these facts out you were labelled ‘far right’, as you know any motion in Conference on the USSR never criticized the regime and totally vented their opposition to NATO and the usual unanimous was guaranteed.

John Dixon said...


I think that you may be ever so slightly exaggerating here. The idea that opposing capitalism and US foreign policy is equivalent to supporting communism and Soviet foreign policy is as silly as the idea that opposing Soviet policy and communism is the same as supporting capitalism and US policy. There are some of us who see faults in both; trying to make it a binary choice is a way of using labels to avoid debate.