Friday 8 January 2016

Germany Calling

In 1945 Cologne was called "the world's greatest heap of debris" as a result of bombing by the RAF and later fighting between the US and German armies.  It took some time for it to become a working town and in that period was not a safe place to be for anyone, along with many other places in Germany.

When I was last at the railway station in the mid 1980's things were different, it was just another town and by then a prosperous one priding itself on its culture and its return to some sort of normality.  It has now become a media flashpoint because of the attacks by groups of recent migrants on women.

But back in the 1940's and 1950's I recall that in general it was thought for women to be about alone or in small numbers at night was a risk in many places.  Prowlers or alcohol fuelled males after pub's closing times, ten or half past, could be around.  This was not new.

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt is one of forgotten figures of the late Victorian and early 20th Century.  A poet, philosopher and writer he was a fierce critic of Imperialism and government.  Also, he was a friend of Winston Churchill and had a long term relationship with the lady from Liverpool Catherine Skittles Walters who counted Edward, Prince of Wales among her admirers.

When Gladstone's Cabinet was staggering into Egypt in the early 1880's on the excuse of bringing better government Blunt famously remarked that it was safer for a woman at night to walk the streets of Alexandria and Cairo than it was from King's Cross to The Strand.

If you know London, you will be aware that Faringdon Road is one of the major streets on that route.  In Blunt's time the district was a centre of the sex trade replete with slums and lodging houses for jobbing labourers.  It is now home to Guardian Newspapers, the beacon of what is thought proper by many today, so perhaps not much has changed.

In the Guardian today, Gaby Hinsliff excuses these events in Cologne and tells us that these young men are essential to Europe because they are needed to pay for all the pensioners we have with the ageing population.  It is the old saying that omits a few things that do not square with that.

One is that the way things have turned out is that the older generation is the one where most of the wealth is to be found.  Also, it has many on pensions which are funded, that is out of savings.  Add to that there seem to be quite a number of pensioners doing "little" jobs, largely because they are capable of it.

Also, in Europe and the UK around the equivalent of four to five age cohorts of young people have been removed from the labour market to feed the politically powerful education industries.  At the end of this some are unemployable.  Moving numbers of them into training in work might give better results.

But this is neither popular nor easy, just as putting back the age for pensions entitlement, an issue that has been ducked for decades because of the political problems. The Tories may be going for more apprenticeships etc. for the young but are making a mess of organisation and funding.

One answer from the Labour Party to help our young in the lower orders rise in status and wealth is to force the private education sector to open up their courses to all in, wait for it, drama, arts and the media.

I have a vision of old age pensioners being herded into local halls to watch hours of Samuel Beckett, say "Waiting For Godot", to remind them of who is paying their pensions.

As for the recently arrived young male migrants the great majority will not be on incomes that pay much tax, if any and if it is paid.  Even those, perhaps a small minority, actually paying national insurance, gives a minor take.  A good many are in cash in hand work and in any case see their duty as paying remittances to families back home.

The dark side of the events in Cologne and the smaller scale ones now endemic in many urban areas and the motives and beliefs of those involved, is that it is going to become much more common, almost a norm and our idea of a free for all society can be forgotten.  As Blunt was trying to say, there was a price to be paid and we would be unwilling to pay it.

Some whose views have been regarded as unwelcome have tried to point out that if there are surpluses of loose young males around of any kind whose ideas do not match what is thought right by others and they are beyond effective control then things will happen.

When they do the outcry is likely to be a blame game that misses the obvious.  Also, the chatter is going to be in terms of generalised thinking and any study of the detail and what happens at critical margins is ignored.

Last but not least are the worrying trends that suggest that the Western economies in their size and coming structure may no longer be delivering employment as in the past.  Not only fewer jobs but falling real earnings may become the norm.  Also, there will be a cull of the middle classes.

What the political effects of all this might be can only be guessed, but the past will be of little help.  We have sown the wind.


  1. Sown the wind indeed. This thing is like a slow motion train wreck, only not so slow motion now.

  2. "there seem to be quite a number of pensioners doing "little" jobs, largely because they are capable of it."

    Much of it probably unrecorded in official figures too.