The Ship of State sailed serenely on its way, hiding its inner workings from well-paying and lower-deck passengers alike. Lower deck were paying basic, hoping to begin a better life when the ship made shore; the well-paying were the real passengers and their return journeys would give them dinner-party conversation for ever – including the sumptuous banquet meals each evening.
The meal was drawing to a close. Such cosiness, such haze of vague chatter, some harmless flirting and middle to upper class giggles, such business minds never at rest when more money might be made – and the business minds knew the value of ladies’ beautiful necklaces, the diamond mines from which the rock had probably been wrested by men desperate for work, living in work camps under close supervision – and the high class hands through which the stones had become jewels, each pair of hands taking its cut. They knew the factories of Lower England and Utter Lower other parts of the world where the cloth had become my lady’s beautiful dress, passing through similar skilled business hands.
“Don’t you ladies worry,” the men lied, “the people are glad to have work – mines, factories, shops, fields and farms and great estates. They are grateful to the great and good, even to the Churches, whose skilled investors know how to make more money and work money. These men are devoted to their work forces and we can safely leave it to them with as little interference from governments and trouble-makers as possible.”
Who were the ladies to disagree. They had the vote, though they knew nothing about the Chartist movement, just a little about the brave little suffragettes, but they had good husbands, some a little worn now, with their tickets to comfort and for this simply lovely voyage.
“What games shall we have this evening?” says someone, as the upperdressed lower class men cleared away the remains of the meal and rearranged the chairs. “How about table football?” said someone. “We can pretend to be different European countries and we’ll play for an empty vessel.” Super idea, all agreed, and table football was produced.
“How do we play?” squealed one of the ladies, “I know nothing about football.” “It’s a game of two halves, one half played right to left and the second half played left to right and each team tries to stop the other team from scoring a goal and sneak a lucky one near the end for themselves. That’s football,” said one of the men who was an expert. “And what’s the point of it?” said a rather sharp lady, already bored by men-only conversation.
“There is no point, really, except filling in time and, in the real game, making money. But people like to bet, so it makes money that way, too.”
The woman pulled a womanly face as she smiled her thanks for such an enlightening conversation. “Empty-headed fool,” the other women could hear her thinking. But he wasn’t. He knew that for many (most?) men, money, power and what they could demand or buy were finally what really mattered. Personal morality and ideals visibly crumble when the choices come – better be powerful than powerless.
“That nice Mr Mogman,” said the same witty lady, “put it well when he said that we do not look for his sort of Catholic morality when choosing a party leader or prime minister, didn’t he. Now we have a Catholic prime minister – is he a different sort of Catholic?”
“This is getting too serious,” said someone, impatient for the football. So they played table football with knockouts, a little swearing and side bets, occasional knocking over of drinks. Such excitement to fill in the time and avoid boring bedtime conversation. The lower decks were quiet and dark, people resting in hope, we can imagine. But the richer world had better things to do than rest and hope. Drink and be merry, plan power and money, far more interesting.
The football final came to a penalty shootout and England one of the teams! Squeals and groans and closingof eyes – best way to watch a penalty shootout!
If you don’t look, it isn’t happening. That’s the world, isn’t it. Don’t look if you don’t want to know where there is suffering. Refuse to acknowledge where you don’t want to help. Just look to your own comfort zone and don’t care about lower decks and migrants, inescapable poverty and hunger, lack of education and hope, wars and hatred. Those are their problems and they must solve them as we solve ours . . .
The Ship of State hit the pandemic iceberg. The lower decks flooded first, there were not enough lifeboats (no need, you see) and some were even launched part-empty (me and mine first, you see) and the ship sank; 1,517 died, 705 lived. We don’t know the result of the table football but we do know that viruses loves the big sporting occasions and are waiting to welcome people to Wembley. Covid-19 welcomes anyone, really, knowing no borders.
Mr Johnson and his present team are rearranging the deckchairs in a few days’ time. The pace of increasing numbers of pandemic cases worldwide is frightening. Who is counting? Who is willing to risk the health of many for the entertainment and financial gain of the few?
(4th July 2021)
I recently re-read the Washington Post for 21st April, 1921, the account of the Titanic. Heart-breaking incompetence.