La giornalista e scrittrice inglese Laurie Penny riflette su Longreads sulla società britannica e in particolare sulla romanticizzazione della storia imperiale del suo Paese – tendenza riscontrabile, secondo la Penny, anche in alcuni lavori letterari ma soprattutto cinematografici – e su come questo modo fantasioso e nostalgico di guardare al passato abbia in parte favorito gli sviluppi politici più recenti come la Brexit e la schiacciante vittoria dei conservatori guidati da Boris Johnson nelle elezioni generali del 2019. Nel corso dell’articolo l’autrice si sofferma inoltre sul complesso rapporto tra politica, cittadini e sistema sanitario nazionale (National Health Service).
Many of the biggest narrative brands of Britain’s fretful post-colonial age are stories of a nation coming to terms with the new and eroding nature of its own power, from James Bond (a story about a slick misogynist hired by the state to kill people) to Doctor Who (which I will defend to the death, but which is very much about the intergalactic importance of cultural capital). We are a nation in decline on the international stage; that’s what happens when a small island ceases to own a third of the earth. Rather than accepting this with any semblance of grace, we have thrown a tantrum that has made us the laughing stock of world politics, the sort of tantrum that only spoiled children and ham-faced, election-stealing oligarchs are allowed to get away with.
In this climate, the more pragmatic among us are seeing that what we actually have to offer the rest of the world boils down to escapism. Fantasy Britain offers an escape for everyone after a hard day under the wheel of late-stage capitalism.
There’s no actual escape, of course. Good luck if you’re a refugee. Since 2012, the conservative government has actively cultivated a “hostile environment” scheme to make life as difficult as possible for immigrants, highlights of which include fast-tracking deportations and vans driving a massive billboard reading “GO HOME OR FACE ARREST” around the most diverse boroughs in London. Seriously. If you want to escape to actual Britain you need at least two million pounds, which is how much it costs for an Investor Visa. Non-millionaires with the wrong documents can and will be put on a plane in handcuffs, even if they’ve lived and worked in Britain for 50 years — like the senior citizens of the Windrush generation who came to Britain from the West Indies as children with their families to help rebuild the nation after the Second World War. In the past five years, hundreds of elderly men and women, many of them unaware they were not legal citizens, have been forcibly deported from Britain to the Caribbean. The subsequent public outcry did almost zero damage to the government’s brand. In 2019, Johnson’s Conservatives won a landslide victory.
Immagine da Boston Publich Library.