I am often thankful that I was born at the time I was, and in the place I was; in England, just 15 years after the end of world war 2.
I have never known the experience of war, resulting famine or homelessness. I’ve never known hunger or the desperation that results. If I had been born just 10 years earlier, there would still have been ration cards for essential foods. Fifteen years earlier, and large parts of London would have still been in ruins.
When I was born, it was still legal for people to advertise rooms, saying something like? “Room To Let – No? Coloureds or Blacks.” A few years later, all that was history.
When I went to school in England, I had no problems whatsoever, even though I was usually the only non-white child in the class. Meanwhile, over in the USA at the exact same time, they had to call out the National Guard to get the first black children to the newly desegregated schools in the southern states. Big contrast!
Despite what I think of national boundaries and the notion of countries in general (another rant, not for today), I have to be very grateful for my British passport; mine by birth, i.e. by sheer fluke, through no conscious intention on my own part. Meanwhile, so many others in this world are stranded where they are in loathsome conditions, just through the misfortune of having been born in some miserable excuse for a country, with a passport (if they can even get one) worth less than? nothing by international standards.
If I have to be completely honest (and here is where that “political correctness” garbage goes out the window), I have to say that I am also glad I was not born too much later either. I grew up in what might be called nowadays, “Old Britain,” i.e. a Britain where most of the people in the country were actually British going back for generations, and hence there was still a high degree of cultural integrity. So I still think in that “old school” sort of way, and maintain a high respect for English Literature; Jane Austin, the Brontes, Charles Dickens – that sort of thing, that sort of world. I was not brought up in this multi-cultural, multi-lingual morass that is London nowadays; a city that has lost its roots, and where you cannot even identify the strange languages being spoken anymore. After all, what is the point of maintaining these artificial and arguably damaging demarcations that we call countries and national boundaries if they ultimately don’t stand for much of anything at all?
Nowadays, people have to actually pay for their university education; a thing unknown in my time. In fact, I did not even have to pay to go to the excellent Latymer Upper School, to receive a first-class education that bears a substantial cost nowadays. There was a charge, even in those days, but there was also something known as the “Eleven Plus” exam which you took at that age. If you passed it sufficiently well, the government would pay for the rest of your education to the Direct Grant schools, of which this was one. Happily, I did get a free place and remain thankful for it to this day. Some years later, the whole Direct Grant system was abolished (by the Conservatives, of all people – you would have thought it would be the Socialists) and my school went private as a result.
I did not even have to pay for my university education either; not for my B.Sc. nor my PhD. All was paid for by the State. Again, I have to be grateful for being born just in time, because all of this was phased out shortly after I left the education system. I can’t even imagine how young people have the courage to go to university these days, knowing that they will come out with a substantial debt on their shoulders (and it is even harder to justify if the subject is an Arts degree, with no clear qualification for a job at the end of it all).
All of the above free educational benefits actually led me to be grateful to my country and wish to give something back to it. Thus, when all my fellow Physics Ph.D students were graduating and taking one-way flights to the USA in order to start on salaries several multiples higher than what they could earn by working in an equivalent university in England, I did nothing of the kind. I wanted to stay and give something back for what I had received. So I stayed in Britain and worked there from the time I left university until my career in Banking finally ended.
Think about that. Nowadays, who feels that sense of gratitude towards their government in England, or anywhere else for that matter? Their primary preoccupation seems to be to take our money and spend it on missiles, and initiate wars we have almost no meaningful connection or care about. Do we even feel we are really cared about by our country in the way I felt as I was growing up?
I’m also grateful that the shameful disgrace known as the British Empire was finally over and done with when I showed up. When I was young and people asked me what country I came from, I would proudly say “Great Britain.” There’s pride and patriotism for you! Well, happily, I eventually grew up in that respect and no longer say that. When I ponder what this country perpetrated upon the world, and the suffering that went with it, all for their own ego, greed and selfishness,? I feel a sense of apology to all those nations who suffered this relentless raping of their natural resources and wealth. It must be Britain’s karma that all the wealth it robbed and looted from the world had to be given back with interest during the world wars, in helping to defend that world from an even greater menace… than itself!
Timing is everything. So far, at over fifty years of age, I have not suffered war, famine, riots, or any of the other routine disasters that have habitually plagued humanity. Then again, if I have much time left, there is no reason why some or all of that might not arrive someday! Things are not exactly looking too bright and hopeful these days, are they?
So, come what may, it’s probably best to remain thankful. And expect the best whenever possible.