As we sat in the morning traffic on a rare trip to Exeter, we noticed a man walking along the pavement.
He was clearly a rough sleeper with a drug habit. Thin and gaunt, he hid his features under a wide-hooded baggy sweatshirt.
He walked along in the rain holding up his dirty and urine stained track bottoms so that, viewed from behind, the seat was somewhere near his knees.
Every time he let go they would fall down to the floor and he would stop, pick them up again, hold them with both hands, then one hand and drop them again, repeating the whole process.
“Why doesn’t he tie them up with some string,” I mused.
“Or tie them on one side at the waist” added Michelle.
A good idea, I agreed.
He continued for some considerable distance- letting his joggers fall to the ground and pulling them up again.
There was something maddening about his dogged refusal to seek a more permanent solution to this tragic comedy.
He reminded me of the character, Lucky, in Samuel Becket’s existential play, Waiting for Godot- a stalwart of the comprehensive school A level curriculum in the 1970’s and 80’s.
In the play, Lucky was attached to his master Pozzo by a ridiculously long rope tied about his neck and it struck me that our man could do with a bit of that rope now to hold his trousers up.
Lucky, when he is not serving Pozzo, usually stands drooling, or sleeping if he stands long enough, and pointlessly lugs around a suitcase full of sand.
Our man seemed to fit the bill as the perfect modern standby.
Within his 700 word monologue in act 1 (Brought about by the wearing, not of jogging-pants but a kind of thinking hat) Lucky inarticulately comments on the arbitrary nature of God, man’s tendency to pine and fade away and the decaying state of the earth.
Not the sort of chap you’d invite for a beer to cheer you up or share a good laugh.
I declared our friend a metaphor for the hopeless and hapless malaise that has been inflicted upon our post covid society in the ‘build back better’ new world order and wondered how I could give the play a modern twist.
It was too dull and cumbersome for my taste anyway. It is like staring into a muddy puddle when, if only you looked up, you could see a wide expanse of open ocean before you. It could have been written by any Frenchman with a philosophy degree or even an amateur enthusiast like former footballer Eric Cantona. “Ze seagulls follow ze trawler hoping zey will find ze fish”. His mastery of the new fetish for pronouns would be bang up to date at least.
At last, we parked the car and headed up the high street with purpose.
It was worse than I had feared and the decline in surroundings since my last visit was noticeable.Gangs of homeless people lay in the shelter of closed small businesses and shop fronts. Zombie-like addicts swayed along the pavements.
In a move presumably designed to gaslight the dull, shuffling punters (as if they cared) the large department store in the city centre was in the process of being converted into a luxury hotel.
Who would habituate this incongruous monument to wealth I could not fathom. Perhaps the wealthy parents of the Chinese students from Exeter University who roamed in chattering groups. Or the students themselves.
How otherwise is the new humanist Utopia to be created without first capturing the hearts and minds of students?
It is of note that thanks to Lime Tree Capital Partners, which has offices across China, some of China’s brightest phD students are funded to complete their studies here.
Exeter university is part of a collective of universities owned by the Russel Group, which claims to ‘have a huge impact on the social, economic and cultural well-being of their regions, yet also influence and achieve impact on a truly global scale.’
Funding of the University has also come via an £8million donation from the UAE and Dr Sultan bin Muhammad al-Quasimi, who was described as its ‘most important donor.’ But we will say no more about that.
Call me cynical but I fail to see how this helps the economic and cultural wellbeing of anyone but those who can already afford it, further widening the cultural and economic divide.
Let us first examine the real world results of the societal upheaval since our elite masters decided to usher in their vision for the new utopian world order- especially over the last 3 years:
Economically and socially ruinous lockdowns based on the trickery and propaganda of communist members of SAGE (Susan Minchie) and the frequently and wildly erroneous predictions of the philandering modeller, Neil Ferguson, who flouted his own lockdown rules- giving rise to the humorous observation on his predictive capabilities: “Out by a Ferguson.”
Small businesses have gone to the wall and big pharma, big business, big-tech and wealthy shareholders have profited, increasing the number of billionaires creating more monopolies.
We have a culture war, designed to divide us more than ever before:
We have become confused about things we have, until yesterday known to be true- such as the immutable biological distinctions between male and female or the certainty that two plus two equals four. Control of the very language we use has softened the image of paedophiles calling them ‘minor attracted persons’, created a minefield of pronouns that must be accommodated lest you lose your job, classified praying in your head an ‘offence’ (see Isabel Spruce) and the bible classified as ‘hate speech.’ (See the trial of Dunn and other examples)
A race war, where racism is seriously proposed as means to fight racism and we are blamed for the actions of our forefathers. Whereas Martin Luther KIng’s dream was to ‘judge a man by the content of his character and not by the the colour of his skin’ the new moralistic parody has it the other way around. It’s always someone else’s fault!
Sky-rocketing food and energy bills, a mental health crisis, a migrant crisis, a housing crisis, an NHS crisis, where patients routinely wait 48 hours for a bed and often cant even get out of the Ambulance for hours on end.
A cancer crisis
Rows of empty shelves in supermarkets.
A crisis of hope and meaning.
A crisis of identity.
And last but not least, Harry Windsor being pushed over in the kitchen by his brother, William, causing him to fall over a dog bowl. (I threw that one in to see if you were still paying attention). As an interesting aside, look at the mainstream media to see which of these serious issues has the most coverage.
Unless you’re living in a cave or somewhere off-grid in the Appalachian mountains, you cannot have failed to observe the sudden degeneration of our society.
It is no accident that the book of Genesis speaks of man’s rebellion against his creator. His temptation to sin and in the words of the snake when urging Eve to take the forbidden fruit:
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” …. And….”You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Instead of walking with God in that beautiful garden, they realised they were naked, covered their bodies with fig leaves and realising their sin, they hid from God.
This is of course metaphorical language but metaphor always represents something real- it conveys meaning.
The bible is a statement about life as it is- not as it ought to be.
About a fall and a way of redemption through Christ of our fallen selves. Not by trying to change ourselves or the world, but by accepting our God-given identity, and utilising our God given talents to His glory, not our own.
Our arrogance in assuming that we can change the weather and create a new utopia apart from God is as old as Genesis and might I add, is doomed to fail as it has in every culture and society since the beginning of time.
We must learn to accept our failings and our sin, seek forgiveness and ask God to help us change. We must swallow our pride and stop pointing at others.
We must accept and take up the full life and freedom given to us to walk with Him in this beautiful garden.
Until then we are doomed to shuffle along with our trousers down, repeating our mistakes.
Vladimir: “Well? What do we do?’
Estragon: “Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer.”
(Waiting for Godot)