Saturday, December 1, 2012

The British Society is Decaying


December 1, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi

I have made several visits to the Great Britain in the recent and distant past. I could not convince myself all these years that this country could have been the ruler of more than half of the world. But irrespective of my belief, she was the dominant power of the world for over a hundred years or so or roughly until the Second World War.

In 90s, it was polluted and dirty and during my visit in December 2011, I found it much more environmentally squalid and unkempt. The degradation of the environment in UK is escalating without any tangible remedies to contain it. The atmospheric hygiene is poor. The streets remain littered for days and weeks together without being cleaned. It is a common scene to see water drains outside the houses choked by stray papers, odd trash items, causally thrown away plastic bags, bottles and wrappers. It might become a third world country in due course.

If one compares the civic upkeep elsewhere in Europe like in Germany and Austria, one would come across a bewildering contrast. Germany has been rebuilt after the colossal devastation during the Second World War. The autobahns (highways) between the major cities are modern, wide, properly lined up with gas or fuel stations all along. The face lifting and landscaping is all over the country. The zoning laws are in place and strictly enforced.

But in England one fails to find that sparkling touch and luminous spectacle in cities and on roads and highways on a huge scale. One would find the familiar sight of cows grazing along the inter-cities highways on lush green grassy landscape far away. But within the cities the traffic looks to be stuffy and. The traffic lights too are not as modern and plenteous as for instance in the United States.

The streets lights look to be dim and sparsely installed on roads in the cities. The cab and private drivers take liberty with traffic laws by jumping the signals or fast driving or parking at forbidden or no parking places. This kind of law breaking is not common but happens sparingly and at odd times.

The British society is essentially conservative and therefore, any change or transformation in the construction of buildings, remodeling the public traffic system and buses is not willingly undertaken or conceived. The outskirts of the cities are full of old taverns and restaurants with their primitive designs dating back to several centuries.

The lamp posts on historical roads in downtown look like relics and were perhaps erected with the discovery of electricity.  Since the skies in the United Kingdom remain overcast for better part of the year, there is a pervasive dampness. One feels a kind of depression for not seeing the skies for days together.

One would aspire that the underground mass transit system of local railway is updated and modernized. Also one would wish that the double-decked bus transportation system too is done away with and the normal sized buses with modern frame and latest internal gadgets are introduced. 

The phenomenal difference in the overall picture of the United States and the United kingdom is that USA looks all new with big shopping plazas and  housing constellations fast coming up. In United States, the businesses, the shopping centers and factory areas are separate from the residential areas. Barring the apartment complexes, every built house or living unit is separate from other houses.  
It would be impossible under the American laws to open a gift shop or small retail outlet in the parlor or garage of the house. In England the houses share wall with each other as part of block. In England, Scotland and other parts, the living or guest rooms can be converted into a kind of kiosk for selling grocery times.

In Britain, the dirt and filth and smut accumulated in lanes around the roads and on the walls of the buildings must be washed and erased through a nationwide sweeping campaign. England has to overhaul its municipal system drastically and radically to put on the grab of a modern society. In the past such huge buildings with Gothic spires and domes were the symbols of the imperial glory of a colonial power.
The House of Commons and also the House of Lords accommodated within the vast edifice of Palace of Westminster have almost the same internal format as at the time of their inception.
The seating arrangement in perpendicular shape is unchanged for centuries. The prime minister has to bend forward to speak and in four years may develop leaning shoulders. The seats are smaller and joined together in rows. The parliament buildings in other countries look like magnificent structures and striking architectural monuments. But British parliament has the same primitive space and set-up.

One would wonder if any British government ever would think of constructing a new building for the parliamentarians of both the houses with modern fittings, new seating arrangements, new tables, decorations, wall hangings, microphones and with more space. Yet despite being housed in a traditional old building, it still is one of the most powerful parliaments and pioneering symbol of democracy.

In Glasgow the main city of Scotland, the railway stations seems to be following the same system of collecting tickets from the disembarked passengers by the collector standing at the tip the platform. In this city I saw the building made of stone bearing the marks of soot, smoke and blackness caused perhaps by the bombing during the Second World War.

In the houses of several of my acquaintances both native British and immigrant Pakistanis, the bath tubs and water supply system with minor modifications is the same as was prevalent several decades ago. The residents in some houses collect the water from the tap in the basin. Unbelievably they use the same water for washing face and gurgling and shaving. I wonder if someone can bear me out on this phenomenon. At about 11 o’clock in the evening, a manual bell is rung in the pubs for the customers to leave by which one is reminded that this should have been the custom in olden days. This is yet another manifestation of British penchant for conservatism.

Of late, the crime is on the rise. Even such worthies as late jimmy Savile a former BBC television host had indulged for decades in molestation of teen age participants in his TV programs as well as his staffers The street crime is mostly motivated by the racial hatred for the immigrants, for sex or to rob for money. The sex crimes too are proliferating in which both immigrant communities and local citizens are involved. The fabled investigation agency Scotland Yard is shorn of their luster and renown of the past. Many high profile crimes are still shrouded in mystery and unresolved.

The nationals of the British Commonwealth countries had enjoyed special privileges and preferential treatment with regard to visit or immigration visas after the World War II. This practice continued for several decades till the streets of cities in UK were conspicuous with sizable presence of the foreigners.

The plight of most of the immigrants or expatriates is miserable. Big families live in small units with limited space. In some houses or the apartments, I have seen the bath tub fixed in the kitchen. The toilet is in the courtyard and one has to walk many steps to reach that isolated place.

The influx of foreign students has been quite heavy during the past two decades. It was pretty easy for the students to get an admission letter from genuine or private and mostly fake educational institutions in UK. The embassy or the high commission would readily grant visa. These young persons would pay heavy amounts to the schools and colleges run by crafty professional businessmen. The basic purpose of most of these students was however, to get a legal stay in UK for a good future. They would be associated with these schools but would in due course find job and marry with a local girl for permanent legal status.

Now these students are in big trouble. They are being deported or sent back home in droves without even fulfilling the legal formalities. Such is the decay and devaluation of the acclaimed justice system in England. There seems to be a drastic halt in granting student visas to educational applicants from Pakistan and other south “Asian countries whose citizens invariably aspire to move to the green pasture like Great Britain. Instead of punishing the crook bosses of these phony schools, the onus has fallen on the hoodwinked young aspirants who came to UK legally for education with underlying motive of a legal stay.

There are localities and neighborhoods in various cities of UK where there is exclusive and complete hold of the immigrants such as South Hall in London. No one would believe on the first glimpse that these are the parts of a western country. The sanitary conditions in such neighborhoods are appalling. With heaps of garbage accumulated all over, with noise and din, with strung dresses and utensils, and cooked food displayed openly with smell all round can remind visitors the similar conditions back home.

Even in politics the immigrants are now demographically in such numbers that they can elect their own member to the House of Commons. In local elections the naturalized citizens have been elected. That shows the grass-root and a genuine democratic culture embedded in the English society. The ceremonies of a new prime minister taking over and the former leaving the 10 Downing Street is very simple and is total contrast to the extravagant ceremonies witnessed in the third world countries.


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