March 5, 2023 11.09 am This story is over 15 months old

John Marriott: Don’t look back in anger, it doesn’t have to be like this

‘Surely we can’t go on making the same old mistakes’

2023 is my eightieth year and, in many ways, our country has changed so much since I came along. I and my fellow baby boomers spent a good deal of the time after WW2 worrying about WW3.

We thought we knew who the enemy was back then and it came as a massive relief and surprise to many of us when the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe seemed to indicate that our western way of doing things appeared to have triumphed and the nightmare prospect of a nuclear Holocaust was finally over. It looks as if that ‘enemy’ never really went away. I wonder whether some of us feel as euphoric now as we appeared to be some thirty years ago.

In the run up to Christmas, The Lincolnite published a series of end of year thoughts from local worthies about the year just ending and about the prospects for 2023. I also added my bit of doom and gloom as well. Most tried to paint a positive picture of the past year (and I admit it wasn’t all negative) and offered hopeful messages for this one, although the word ‘challenging’ appeared in quite a few articles. What they all had in common was that they seemed to accept the way things are and offered little insight as to why we have reached this sorry state or how we could make things better. But surely we can’t go on making the same old mistakes. I’m sure I’m not alone in believing that it doesn’t have to be like this.

In my lifetime we’ve had quite a few difficulties to overcome. It started with an economically clapped out country with years of postwar austerity, the rationing of most things until 1954, various balance of payments crises, with inflation peaking at 25% in 1975, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 as well as numerous wars, both minor and major, and financial crises, none of which were thankfully serious enough to upturn the world order. Somehow, we managed to muddle through. However, the present situation in Ukraine has the potential to change all of our lives unless wiser heads on both sides prevail. Besides this conflict we need to add the continuing strife in the Middle East between Jew and Arab as well as between Muslim sects, while China, upon which we in the West appear to be reliant for so many consumer goods, continues to push the boundaries. With a climate crisis threatening to get worse, this ought to be a wake-up call to us all.

The COVID pandemic has shaken many of us out of the complacency into which some of us had lapsed, and has revealed corruption and sharp practice in many areas. Recent revelations do not place some individuals in a very good light. Let’s not forget the financial crisis of 2008, which burst the Blair/Brown bubble and necessitated taxpayers bailing out the bankers whose casino financial dealings got us into trouble in the first place. They and many politicians do not appear to have learned many lessons. Equally damaging was the decision by the UK Coalition Government in 2011 to use austerity to try to balance the nation’s books by using local government as a human shield against any backlash from voters to their cuts in public spending. Then there was Brexit and you probably know the rest.

In 1956 John Osborne’s ground breaking play ‘Look Back In Anger’ first appeared in the West End, heralding the arrival of the ‘kitchen sink drama’ and the so called ‘angry young men’. While lead character, Jimmy Porter’s ‘anger’ was largely domestic and class based, it spawned a movement that has never really gone away and has permeated many aspects of life since. It’s often called ‘the blame game’ and many of our citizens have become experts at it!

Anger, usually but not always controlled, epitomises many pre and postwar popular movements, from the suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th Century and the Jarrow Marches of the 1930s to the CND’s ‘Ban the Bomb’ marches of the 1950s/60s and the ‘Insulate Britain’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ activities of more recent years. Nearly all do look back in anger at wrongs they claim were committed in the past and continue to be committed in the present. Many movements were successful, but by no means all.

You see, it just doesn’t have to be like this. Why not look at a few areas where thinking outside the box could breathe new life into what we still like to call democracy? So, rather than heed the words of John Osborne in 1956,  I would prefer the advice of Noel Gallagher of Oasis forty years later: “Don’t look back in anger”.

In an effort, therefore, to stimulate some debate or just to ruffle a few feathers, I thought I might revisit a few of the topics that have attracted my attention in articles I have written in The Lincolnite over the past few years. Whether it’s how we organise our politics, how we pay for services, how we live our lives, or how we treat people less fortunate than ourselves, for example, let’s not get angry, let’s be prepared to take a step back and see whether there could be a better way of doing things. My main motivator is that it really doesn’t have to be like this.

You may be quite happy about how things are. Even if they aren’t, you may reckon that nothing is likely to change in the foreseeable future. It doesn’t have to be like that. The late Robert Kennedy famously said: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not”. I agree with Bobby.

— To respond to John Marriott, email [email protected] or download the MyLocal app, the new home of The Lincolnite, to comment and get all the latest Lincolnshire updates.

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.