‘Subverted by thuggery’ or are we living in revolutionary times?

How Johnson can realistically hold that chucking a statue of Edward Colston into the water is thuggery I really do not know – and he was, after all, supposed to know a bit about thuggery himself.

If he’d pointed out that the South West England especially, had for centuries, been subject to kidnapping and slavery from Barbary pirates so by the eighteenth century it was probably Bristol’s turn next in man’s inhumanity to man, it might, arguably have caused people to think a little more reflectively.

Personally I was rather more interested in an article in the Atlantic of a couple of months ago, by Rebecca Spang, Professor of history at Indiana University, in which she points out that revolutions are not individual events, but are times when societies gradually disintegrate. She says,

The United States may not be having a revolution right now, but we are surely living in revolutionary times. …. History feels like it is out of our hands.

Is Britain at a similar point? Certainly history feels like it it is out of most people’s hands – the trouble is that with Brexit, it feels like it is in the hands of hedge funds and speculators, rather than the peoples’.

Yet certainly when the article says :

Life will not go back to normal….. because the norms of the past decades are simply no longer tenable for huge numbers of Americans.

..that is going to be true of Britain. For sure life is uncertain for almost everyone, many have less money, many more have time, and many have time to think. Unsettling times have the possibility to be used creatively, and currently it is Black Lives Matter. The inability to pay housing rent while eviction is legally delayed will be concentrating minds. Already the government has proved that it cannot enforce the ‘no more than a gathering of six’ rule because it has insufficient numbers of police to enforce it. They have discovered that they have to govern – and police – by consent.

Government may be gradually discovering that although they have a whopping majority inside the Commons – they certainly don’t outside it.

While the government keeps exhorting us to be responsible, it simultaneously keeps many in penury and waiting five weeks for Universal Credit.

I wonder whether people may begin to think on slavery and wonder if we have a government, that is itself responsible, and if it isn’t whether it can be undermined – or even subverted…

That risks being a certainty if food shortages arrive and with food banks experiencing a doubling in demand without a corresponding rise in donations, that could be sooner not later.


  1. Bill Hughes -

    The government is deluded if it thinks it can control the rising civil unrest and angry public mood at the moment. We certainly are moving into a pre-revolutionary situation if the unrest continues. The government of “law and order” was impotent when the Avon and Somerset police stood by and let the demonstrators drag the Colston statue from its plinth and dump it into Bristol harbour. The South West was not only involved with the slave trade. piracy etc that you outline but also rife with smuggling and intricate chains of transporting and storing contra band. This may happen again if imports are charged on WTO tariffs if there is no EU agreement at the end of the transition period on 31 December

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Indeed Bill
      I think No-Deal is a virtual certainty, Indeed it may be even worse than no-deal if the EU believes HMG is not honouring the NI protocol. The Cummings affair has also damaged coherence – the sense of one law for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of us is potentially very damaging.

    2. Peter May -

      Agreed, Bill. Currently it seems almost as if the govt does what it does and we do what we do and never the twain shall meet – and pretty much nobody cares. The French kept ‘freeports’ (where have I heard that before?) in Northern France in the 16/17th C precisely in order to undermine Britain.
      Seems it’s our turn now…

  2. Helen Schofield -

    It took William Wilberforce 46 years to get Parliament to abolish slavery and yet here 187 years later a country still “breaking bad” by re-electing a racist government!

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