I had dreamt of living in a country where there was genuine peace and prosperity and friendliness and justice and good taste all around me, a country that was admired and emulated for all the right things – its reputation for fair play and gentleness and courtesy in public life, its love of art and science, its wealth, growing and decently shared out among all its people, so that no one is ostentatiously rich and no one goes with her or his basic needs (including personal dignity) unfulfilled, its concern for its cultural heritage and its natural environment, its admiration of the great, its encouragement of all those who seek to be great, and the care it takes of the weak and helpless, as well as its capacity to inspire other nations which regard it with respect or to strike them with awe if they are not capable of respect. Instead, too many prospects seem to have grown visibly darker in my own lifetime.
In a larger sense, the rot, insofar as I am conscious of it, has spread worldwide; it is most certainly an age dominated and led by greedy philistines with no regard for things of the spirit or for all the good things of the past, nor a thought to spare for the morrow, and that is an awful situation, because more than ever before, mankind’s predicament is such that we all need to learn from the past and avoid doing things that put our collective future at risk. Instead, it’s becoming more and more a case of ‘every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’: they’re teaching this vicious gospel in the best business schools today, and people are signing pre-nuptial contracts over what exactly they should owe each other in case they part ways a few years down the line! I remember Henry Kissinger talking to a gathering of college students a generation ago ‘You kids ought to be grateful to us – we’re leaving quite a few problems behind for you!’ and it’s no longer amusing.
Will there be a 22nd century for mankind, and will it be worth living in if you were Everyman? Nothing gives me worse creeps than the awareness that already millions of middle-class parents around the world are dreaming that their ‘little emperor’ will somehow manage to become a billionaire in his early twenties and thus perhaps avoid ‘reality’ forever. And simultaneously hoping (at least in this country) that the darling, thus brought up, will deign to take care of all their needs in their old age! God help us.