Being 60 means I am able to look back upon quite a lot of years. I am also able to differentiate between two worlds, the world we now have and the world as it used to be. I am not being sentimental when I say that I prefer the world as it used to be, before the ‘change’ started.
I grew up on a council estate. My dad went out to work and my mum looked after us at home. It was considered a noble thing to do and it was not considered to be in any way inferior to be a housewife and stay at home mother. On the contrary, it was thought sensible that if you bore children they would need to be looked after by somebody. Most people chose to do the job themselves. It worked.
As I look at my old Primary and Secondary School photos, (I am becoming as dog eared and creased as they are!) I notice that every face is white; sun kissed on the summer ones, but white. It was not until Grammar School that I met a boy with a coloured skin. He was Indian, the son of a doctor. We never thought him strange. He was considered a little exotic, but not strange or anything to be frightened of. He was a nice lad and we were all friends as you would expect.
I am not quite sure when that all changed. I think I might be right in saying that it was at some stage in the late 1960’s that the white faces started to slowly decrease in number, to be replaced by a variety of coloured shades. For a time, there was nothing to cause concern. Immigration was at modest levels and could be measured in the tens of thousands per year. There were those who decried such a state of affairs but I think I am right in saying that there was no real sense of worry or consternation in the populace at large. Then the blissful ignorance was disturbed. One of the duties of the professional politician is to consider the wider picture of society. Whilst we ordinary minnows might be relatively at ease with the state of things, he is charged with the responsibility of looking to the future as well as the present. It was pointed out that this increased presence of other races in our midst, whilst in some ways beneficial to the wellbeing of the nation, posed potential problems ten, twenty or fifty years down the line. You see, men and women tend to get married, they have children, and immigrant races rather more children than the desirable or affordable 2.4. A degree in mathematics was not needed to understand the long term implications. There was concern, but I think I am right in saying there was no real hatred of the foreigner.
Fast forward thirty years and a Labour Government is given the reins of power. It takes it upon itself to modify the populace. Whether this is a matter of political eugenics or work-force enhancement is a matter for debate. Whichever it is, the constitution of the British population is radically altered. Looking at some of those schoolyard photographs today you would find some that are exclusively black, some entirely coloured, most a mixture of races, you would be hard pressed to find an all-white example as was the norm back in 1963.
The boyhood world of 1963 was a peaceful one. It was possible to walk to school unmolested. In my experience it was largely possible to be at school and be unmolested. Parents did not feel the need to drop you off and pick you up lest you should disappear only to be found some time later in a shallow grave. There was little if any need to educate you in matters sexual as you would slip into the strange and messy wonders in your own good time. Teachers felt no compunction to search your flesh for bruises or other signs of abuse. I would regularly ‘play out’ with my friends until the sun went to sleep and wend my weary way home to find my parents blissfully un-haunted by nightmares of what might have happened to me whilst out of their sight. It was a better world.
I wonder what caused the change in our society. Why was it possible in those days to board an aeroplane with no fear of falling out of the sky other than through the engineering limitations of the aircraft maker? Why did people have such a carefree attitude to the welfare of children. How was it possible to allow the populace to go about their daily business without oversight or regulation? Why was it unnecessary to have every street, traffic crossing, railway station, airport and byway monitored in some remote CCTV bunker?
When I sit down with my grandchildren and open the old shoe box of well fingered photographs from ancient times, how do I explain to them the transition between the world as it was and the world that they have been born into? When they ask, “What happened Grandad?”, how do I tell them? They can see a difference between the photos of my childhood and the reality of theirs. Is there a correlation? Was it the conservative minded, the old fogey’s, the traditionalists who refashioned the country into what it now is, or was it the leftists and the modernisers; was it the amoral, the iconoclasts, the so called initiators of emancipation that chipped relentlessly away at the certainties that had served so well? Who was it that changed the fabric of society, who permitted, nay encouraged a whole new influx of inhabitants who knew nothing of our traditions and who cared little for the thought that this country owed its character to a long and steady history of Christian moral teaching?
In short, when my Grandson tells me his world is different, and so are his photographs, am I to deny that there is a link, or do I tell him not to think such bad thoughts, because to do so is wrong, and might even be considered unlawful.