Friday, July 22, 2011

Banana Republic

Now that we're officially a banana republic, where police and politicians can apparently be bought by unelected and unaccountable corporate entities, can I finally fulfil an ambition to drive around central London in an open-topped Jeep, wearing a bandolier and firing a gun in the air? Unless Hollywood has lied to me, this is what seems to happen on a daily basis in such places. Mind you, according to such films, these places don't much resemble London, or anywhere else in the UK, for that matter. Rather, they consist of dusty sun-baked streets lined with palm trees and white-painted buildings, and the wild Jeep driving usually takes place around the fountain in the town square. Sadly, the UK bears more resemblance to the other type of dictatorship depicted in US films and TV series: the European totalitarian regime, by implication Communist, but in its details more resembling Nazi Germany crossed with Ruritania. (I specifically refer you to old episodes of Mission Impossible, which seemed to alternate between the two. The banana republics all looked like southern California and tended to feature actors like Michael Ansara sporting a droopy moustache and wearing a khaki military uniform. By contrast, the European regimes all looked like a 1930s Frankenstein movie - mainly because they were shot on the same Universal back lot that had hosted the Frankenstein movies in the 1930s - and tended to feature the likes of Jeremy Kemp sporting a monocle and wearing what looks suspiciously like a 1940s Wehrmacht general's uniform.)

Anyway, getting back to the point, could the UK's realisation that it is a banana republic usher in a new era of efficiency - to get anything done, all you have to do is sort out a suitable bribe. Or is that Cameron's 'Big Society'? I get confused. I think the difference is that in the 'Big Society' it's simply about creating a system of public services where all that matters is your ability to pay for better services - it's all institutionalised. Under a true banana republic, it's about paying off individuals to actually subvert the existing system. It doesn't even have to be money that changes hands - I'm sure that the average copper could probably be persuaded to turn a blind eye to, say, a bit of indecent exposure, with a couple of bottles of Scotch and a packet of fags. If you want to build an extension on your house, a council planning officer would probably only cost you the fags. Getting better exam grades, well we're talking about buying teachers here, so a Big Mac would probably suffice. You might have to throw in the fries as well for the top grade. The bottom line is that at least there's a degree of honesty in a banana republic: everyone knows that it is corrupt, there's no attempt to dress it up as a 'Big Society', 'free market', or some other bollocks. Everything and everyone is for sale at the right price. And if we don't like it, we just put on that bandolier and drive around firing our guns in the air...

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