Essay on Post-War British Politics

Essay on Post-War British Politics

post british war tfl nursing www.ukessayslondon.comIntroduction

This paper is about the feeling of Nostalgia within the United Kingdom: from a popular to a political point of view. This essay will start with an introduction to Nostalgia. I will explain what it is, where it comes from, how it impacts society and opinions about it from  different people will be provided. To do so, I will look into literature from different eras, until arriving to a modern perception of the feeling. In the second part of the paper I will be presenting one British post-war historic event that has marked the country both politically and socially. This event is the Miners’ strike in 1984, when thousands of miners were protesting against the mass closure of the pits, which consequentially led to a major job losses, and how this event can be connected to Nostalgia.  In the third part I will link this event to today’s United Kingdom, to how the feeling of Nostalgia is still persistent and how it might be a possible cause for the outcome of the referendum regarding the Brexit. What are the Brits nostalgic of? The fourth and last part of this essay will include my personal opinion on what plausible consequences the United Kingdom might face due to the decisions it has made. What are the significances of the Brexit? How do present decisions affect the future? The essay will be closing with a conclusion in which a summary of the paper will be delivered, underlining the main topics. The methodology I will be using, is to examine the literature, such as books, studies and credible websites.

 

Essay on Post-War British Politics

What is Nostalgia?

Nostalgia: the feeling of sentimentality for the past. Usually triggered by memories of past times (filtered from pain); a wish to go back to better days.
The term comes from the Greek compound “NÓSTOS” meaning “Homecoming”, and the Homeric word “ÁLGOS” meaning “Pain” or “Ache”.  (Martin Odehnal, 2018)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Nostalgia is often linked to the fear of change. In fact, there are different factors to keep in mind when talking about Nostalgia, which are: Present, Change, Identity, and Past. The best way of describing what nostalgia is, perhaps is by saying that it is generated by the perceiving threat to our identity, from change. We, as human beings, fear change. And for this reason, we try to maintain our current identity, we believe that the future cannot be as good as the present, and that’s why the present is also not as good as the past.

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Although our current society is almost entirely based on nostalgia, it is not a new feeling. There have been traces of nostalgic feelings for centuries. In fact, there are many literary works in which this sentiment is well-underlined, if not the centre of the work itself. Going back to 1821 (with a little bit of research, one could also go further back), the Italian author Alessandro Manzoni wrote a poem called “Cinque Maggio” (The Fifth of May), in which he talks about Napoleon Bonaparte – the poem was written in occasion of his death, on the 5th of May, 1821 – and how the entire population was shocked by the news of his passing away. It is an ode to Napoleon, to remember his personality and characteristics, never once underlining his historic role or ever stating his name. In the poem the author heavily uses the past tense to underline the melancholy left behind from Napoleon’s death. (Manzoni, 1821)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Just as the example presented above, there are many other works in which the reoccurring theme is Nostalgia. One that cannot pass unmentioned is “Remembrance of Things Past – In Search of Lost Time” by the French author Manuel Proust. It was a collection of seven volumes published between 1871 and 1922, and became famous thanks to an episode that occurs in the first volume, in which the author is struck by a vivid memory of his childhood as he took a bite of a Madeleine. The entire collection is one big memory of the author’s past.  (Proust, 1871)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

One last example that cannot not be mentioned is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. This work is more recent than the ones previously mentioned: it was published in 1967, although the theme is still persistent. The story is about seven generations of the Buendía family, in which time seems to alternate from “flying by when they are children” to “stagnating when they are adults”, abandoning them into bitterness and nostalgia for years.  (Marquez, 1967)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Having analysed these literary works, we can provide a proof that nostalgia is a feeling that has been around for centuries, and is still around today. A modern icon of nostalgia in popular culture might be the singer and songwriter Adele. In her latest album “25”, most of her songs call for past memories and moments that are long gone. This feeling is presented with the certainty that the future will not be as good as the present, and this is what triggers the fear of change. (Adele, 2015)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Simon Reynolds, a music critic, explains in his book “Retromania” the reasons of today’s fixation with the past. He says we are the victims of a “crisis of over-documentation,” aided by “YouTube’s ever-proliferating labyrinth of collective recollection” and the draining amount of digital music history only a couple mouse-clicks away. (Reynolds, 2018) This thought can easily be extended outside the music circle and expanded to any type of documentation that is available at any time on the internet, providing us easier and faster access to anything we wish to know regarding the past. (Harvey, 2018)

Essay on Post-War British Politics

“Looking back is the only way for a society to move forward”.
This sentence clearly explains how history works, and thus, also society and politics.

 Essay on Post-War British Politics

Nostalgia in British History and Politics: The Miners’ Strikes in 1984

For two centuries the United Kingdom had based its economy on the extraction of coal. Though, by 1984, the richest seams of coal had been increasingly worked out and the remaining coal was more and more expensive to reach. The solution was the mechanisation of the job, thus fewer people were needed. It was inevitable that this situation had worried the mine workers. Furthermore, on the 6th of March, 1984, the government had announced that they planned to close 70 pits, as a long term project. This announcement was what triggered the strikes. Miners weren’t happy to lose their jobs and thus rebelled to this decision. There is one thing that is necessary to underline, which is the fact that not all miners joined the strikes as they believed that the mines they were working in were safe from closure.

The strikes were led by Arthur Scargill, which became the spokesman for the NUM (National Union of Mine Workers). Arthur Scargill was an opponent of the Margaret Thatcher’s government (who, during this epoch, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom).  He believed, and stated in March 1983, that  “The policies of this government are clear – to destroy the coal industry and the NUM” (News.bbc.co.uk, 2018).

Essay on Post-War British Politics

The situation degenerated on the 18th of June 1984, when a violent event occurred, later taking the name of Battle of Orgreave. During this day, clashes between 6000 miners and 5000 police officers became more heated than usual, resulting in the wrongful arrest of 93 miners, the injury of 51 of them, and 73police officers were harmed as well. Only many years later documents have been declassified and released, revealing that the police had molded statements so they could persecute the protesting miners for riot, which potentially carried a life sentence, and hide the fact that the act of violence was initiated by the police to teach them a lesson, hoping that they wouldn’t come back out in force again.

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Margaret Thatcher has referred to these events as follows:

It is the work of extremists. It is the enemy within”. (Daily Telegraph,  2008)

The strike ended one year later, in 1985, and the people were forced to return to work for the little time they had left before the closure of the pits. This was viewed as a major political victory for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party. The NUM (National Union of Mine Workers) was one the strongest unions in the country, and its defeat was of great value for Thatcher’s government.

Essay on Post-War British Politics

The strikes symbolized the struggles of the population, who’s legacy still perceives the repercussions of those events. 35 years later, there are still lands which are dealing with the impacts and losses.  (the Guardian, 2018)

The BBC has referred to these events as, “the most bitter industrial dispute in the British history”. And in fact, it was.

Essay on Post-War British Politics

The aftermath of the Strike wasn’t the brightest. Miners were discouraged and searched for work in other industries. Scargill became president of  NUM (National Union of Mine Workers) in 1985, but his authority  was challenged and his calls for another strike in 1986 were ignored.
Mick McGahey, who was loyal to Scargill during the strike, became critical of him and claimed that his leadership was becoming separated from its membership, the violence had gone too far . Scargill said that it was a “tragedy that people from the far north should pontificate about what we should be doing to win back members for the NUM” (Adeney and Lloyd, 1988).

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Reasons for the feeling of Nostalgia

Due to the closure of mines, Britain has lost on of its greatest industries, causing a series of consequences: around 165,000 people had lost their jobs which led to a massive drop in the country’s economy. Ever since this phenomenon, the British have felt nostalgia for better days that are now long gone. (The Guardian, 2018)

An article of The Guardian, published in 2014, states as follows:

A generation on, it is clear that the miners’ strike was more than a defence of jobs and communities. It was a challenge to the destructive market and corporate-driven reconstruction of the economy that gave us the crash of 2008. The outcome of the dispute brought us to where we are today: the deregulated, outsourced, zero-hours world of David Cameron’s Britain. […] Three decades on, it has become ever clearer that it wasn’t the miners or their leaders who were the enemy within. It was the secret state and those who wielded it against people defending their livelihoods across Britain”  (Milne, 2014).

This leads the reader to understand that the United Kingdom is still recovering from the economic loss and the political mistrust. This, with the fact that the sentiment of Nostalgia is communally felt in today’s society. But the nostalgia is not only towards the era on coal mines – that, in my opinion, would have died anyways, as the technology advances and a more attentive eye is set on the environmental issues – but also towards the great accomplishments that rule the United Kingdom’s history.

Let’s take as a mere example the Royal Navy. It used to be the greatest and most powerful fleet in the entire world, yet, today its value is not as acclaimed as it used to be, since air planes have taken their spot.

Another example is the British Empire. Between the 16th and the 18th century, the British Empire was the widest and most powerful empire in history. It ruled lands all across the globe which won it the name of the “empire on which the sun never sets”. Not only it was vast and powerful, but it also dominated the world trade market, meaning that it had  control over the economies of many regions. (newworldencyclopedia, 2018)

The recent feeling of powerlessness and the nostalgia of the United Kingdom’s golden years is what I think might have led the British to vote in favor of the Brexit.
I believe that the people in the UK are wishing to find a way back to when the country was a highly powerful nation, starting by disassociating from the European Union and restoring the national autonomy.

What has not been taken into consideration is the fact that Brexit, as it presents itself in this moment, does not seem like the best method to restore the country. Putting an obstacle to a phenomenon such as globalization, in 2018, is like taking a leap back of 100 years, not in a positive way. Moreover, the United Kingdom will be left alone dealing with the world’s major issues, for example, such as climate change.

As I’ve quoted before, “Looking backwards is the only way for a society to move forward” (Anonymous). This means that the world, in order to move on and develop, needs to take a look into the past, at history, without being too attached to it. Rather, learn from past mistakes to ensure a better future.

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Possible Future Consequences:

We obviously cannot predict the future, although we can make assumptions.
One thing I feel free to say is that the feeling of Nostalgia is something the human kind will carry forever. It will resonate in a way or another;  it could be through a political view, an economical one, or in clothes, music, films, and/or literature.

We’ve already seen the consequences that the Miner’s strike has caused on today’s society, economics, and politics, and how nostalgia has affected the decisions made upon these consequences. What is interesting to analyse are the “consequences of the consequences”.

With Brexit, the United Kingdom has, not quite collectively, voted to leave the European Union. Driven by the desire to restore the country’s autonomy and individual power, the majority of the British have come together and voted through a referendum held on the 23rd of June 2016.

As soon as the results were announced, there had been many contrasting feelings regarding the outcome. Statistics show that the majority of people who voted in favour of leaving is aged 45+, while the youth had displayed the wish to remain in the European Union. (BBC News, 2016).  Just by taking a look at these statistics, we can see how the elder generations, who probably have lived during the UK’s ‘better days’, are seeking for a way to return to them. On the other hand, the youth is looking for a way to move forward, not accepting a step-back (BBC News, 2016).

There could be many consequences regarding Brexit, both positive and negative ones.
Starting from the positive ones – not that I can personally think of many – the removal of the EU budget contribution  is per se a great economic saving (always if we don’t consider the fine that the United Kingdom has to pay just to be leaving the EU). Perhaps that greatest outcome of this referendum is the wake-up call perceived by the youth to channel their interests into politics. A refreshing wave of young  ideas into the political game could lead the country on extraordinary paths of recovery and improvement.

Unfortunately, there are also some negative aspects that cannot be kept hidden.
Let’s start from the general agreement that Brexit could provoke an economic shock, leading to a loss in the country’s GDP (Begg, I. and Mushövel, F., 2016). In a real-life situation, this means that many people will either become jobless, or their business could face some major crisis, especially those fields which are entirely based on the connections and advantages that are alive only thanks to the European Union.

Another aspect to be taken into consideration is the fact that the era of ‘single nations’ was centuries ago. As I’ve mentioned before in this paper, dealing with the world’s major issues, such as global warming, mass immigration, or the rise of robotics, is almost impossible to do alone. Unions between countries have been created in order to have a collaboration, not only thinking about the aid and partnerships that can be exploited by unification, but also believing in the power of union against the greater issues that must be faces around the entire globe.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller (Lash, 1981)

Although decisions have been already made, and the referendum will be effective starting from March 2019, the only thing left to do is to try and take the best out of the situation. A challenge has been thrown on the table of us, future generations, and I trust that we will be able to handle it better than who came before us.

You can’t stop the change, any more than you can’t stop the suns from setting” – Shmi Skywalker (Star Wars: A new Hope, 1977).

Essay on Post-War British Politics

Conclusion

In this paper I have talked about the feeling of Nostalgia in the UK. I have started the essay by giving an explanation of Nostalgia: where the term comes from, what it means and  how it is used. I have provided literary evidence of Nostalgia in works from different epochs (Alessandro Manzoni, Manuel Proust, Gabriel Garcia Marquez), arriving until today, with the singer and songwriter Adele as a modern icon of nostalgia. I have then moved to the second part present an historic event occurred in the United Kingdom in 1984, which is the Miner’s Strike in opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s government and decision to close down mining pits all around the country, as a boycott to the industry and the NUM (National Union of Mine Workers) which was a very politically and economically powerful union at the time. I have provided proof and opinions of how this event has led the nation to an overall decline and rose the feeling of nostalgia. I have linked this event as a plausible motivation of the development of the Brexit referendum. I have discussed how the United Kingdom might feel about its past, and its history: going from being the most powerful empire in history to an economic, social and political downfall. This general feeling led the population to desire a way to bring back the ‘good-old days”. In the last section of this paper, I have discussed about the possible outcomes of Brexit and the impact it might have on the United Kingdom. I have provided both positive and negative outcomes according to statistics and analysis carried out by professionals, along with my very personal opinion on the matter.

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