A sad letter from England

A friend says England is quite a bit the worse of COVID wear. I believe that because no country can survive endless, cyclical lockdowns.

One of the joys of the internet is that I’ve reconnected with a very dear friend of mine from England. She is an incredible letter writer (she could easily have been a top-selling novelist) and an inveterate traveler.

Living in England, though, her life for the past 18 months has limited her travel. However, she and her husband did manage to take a little trip to the Midlands area of England. The trip did not delight them; it saddened them. She gave me permission to quote some of her letter, although I’ve abridged it to preserve her privacy:

After 18 months of Covid, everywhere looks neglected, run-down, dirty; great swathes of commercial property in every town and city are closed down, boarded up, or have grilles and metal shutters across their fronts; we’ve lost some of our biggest department stores (Debenhams and a large number of the John Lewis stores). It’s difficult to find anything to eat, should you wish to eat out, apart from burger and pizza places. The annoying legacies of Covid are everywhere: “sanitiser stations”, notices about face masks – many shops still “require” these, notices about queueing, notices about “staying safe”, posters fawning over the useless NHS … People are fat, tattooed, aggressive, smoking (how do they afford it?), yelling into mobiles …

My friend also remarked how dirty and unstocked public restrooms were. Funnily enough, it’s that last point that tells me how far England has fallen since I lived there or even since my last trip there in 2012. One of the things that always seemed most civilized about England was the fact that, wherever you went, the public restrooms were immaculate. The only other place to which I’ve traveled that had reliably immaculate public restrooms was Japan (although I have heard that the same is true for Seoul).

Reading my friend’s letter, I thought to myself that this is how England must have looked in the grim days after WWII when the Labour government’s policies prevented the country from bouncing back but, instead, kept it in an endless, grim depression.

I wrote back to my friend that, when it comes to the disrepair into which England has fallen, I’m not surprised. I don’t understand how modern governments think countries can sustain endless lockdown. And Australia, with its impossible-to-achieve “COVID ZERO” mandate–how in the world does it imagine this will all end? What happens to a nation with no gross national product at all? Where do they think 100% unemployment leads?

When my kids were in junior high and high school (11-17 years old), all the novels they were reading were dystopian, whether it was for their own amusement or in class. (The school, one of the best in California, didn’t do the classics. No Shakespeare, no Dickens, no Austen, no Bronte, no Faulkner, or even Hemingway. Nothing to elevate thought, look into the human condition, or teach good writing.) Perhaps those generations weaned on dystopian brain food are willingly creating the “normal” fed into their brains when they were young.

The theory that many conservatives have in America is that the only thing keeping us from being Australia is that Americans own well over 300,000,000 million registered guns, with more people getting armed every day. (I’m very pro-Second Amendment because the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans back in 2005 made me realize that, when seconds count, the police can be minutes or days away. We all need to defend ourselves.) Because England and Australia are officially mostly disarmed, the government can act with impunity.

Image edited in BeFunky.