That’s us, that is.
Being a bunch of useless loonies was the reason given in Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” for why the hapless crew and cargo of the Golgafrincham B Ark had been sent to colonise a new planet in a spaceship which was designed to crash rather than rely on its crew to land it safely. If you’re not aware of the story, and if so, shame on you, what had happened was that the advanced Golgafrinchan society had realised that there was a large and completely useless third of society, its management consultants, estate agents, advertising executives, marketing assistants, celebrity hairdressers and telephone sanitisers, and that it would be best if they shipped them off so that the productive ordinary people and talented elite could get on without having to bother with them. The B Ark was so called because its inhabitants had been told that the elite would be going with them in the A Ark and the workers along in the C Ark. After a long journey, the B Ark crashes into prehistoric Earth, providing us with our ancestors.
At the time it was written it was probably intended to be a humorous skit on the inhabitants of gradually gentrifying Islington and its burgeoning ranks of estate agencies. Unfortunately, only a little over 30 years later, it is a very good description of Britain generally.
What other explanation can there be for the absurd spectacles this week of government ministers apparently encouraging panic buying of petrol due to a tanker drivers’ strike which might not happen. Or the mad scramble by politicians to cram pasties and sausage rolls into their fat mouths to demonstrate how down to earth they were and how evil a change to the VAT rules to make hot pasties be subject to VAT like any other hot takeaway food.
I’m not sure whether the government is being cynically clever in manipulating a populace, media and Opposition to jump at every lunacy or merely fortuitously inept. I tend towards the latter as the thought of the former, even if we deserve it, is too depressing. Moving towards competence should at least theoretically be possible, but the moral corruption needed to rely on popular idiocy is unlikely to be curable.
Either way, we’re in a dangerous and depressing place where the satirical hyperbole of Brass Eye from barely 10 years ago looks restrained and considered compared to current events. If only more people actually read rather than merely bought those insufferable “Keep Calm and Carry On” nicknacks.
Meanwhile, the government is able to be as mad or bad as it likes or can’t help being (take your pick) and it is hard to tell if even the things it is doing well are on purpose. The continuous screams of anguish and opposition to everything it does have now joined together so that there’s difficulty in working out which things are really bad and which things really ought to be left alone for being trivial. Or even which things ought to be seen as improvements (there are some!).
We probably aren’t going to hell in a handcart, but we risk going on the B Ark. At least in the book the B Ark, unknowingly, got the last laugh as the remaining Golgafrinchan population was wiped out by a virus spread from an inadequately sanitised telephone. I’m not sure we’re that significant.