Prone as I am to watching the odd foreign-language drama series as an alternative to some of the dreary offerings churned out by our home-grown broadcasters, I stumbled upon a new German one the other night. I was probably drawn to the programme on account of it starring Sofia Helin, who played one of TV’s most original and unforgettable characters in recent years, Saga from ‘The Bridge’. Anyway, the story is set on either side of the Berlin Wall in the mid-70s and concerns an East German spy sent beyond Checkpoint Charlie to seduce a Western intelligence operative and hopefully acquire some vital information for the GDR as well as getting his leg over. It captured time and place really well in its slightly grubby, bruised-fruit colours and general air of despair, though it’s becoming increasingly impossible to watch anything concerning the Stasi and not draw contemporary parallels with the ‘free society’ we’re lucky enough to call our own in the here and now.
There was one character in it who appeared to be a State-employed caretaker in one of those archetypal Brutalist housing complexes that sprang up across the post-war East German urban landscape like concrete mushrooms. He’s first spotted standing on the rooftops with a pair of binoculars, focusing in on a TV aerial allegedly pointing towards the West and able to illicitly pick-up ZDF broadcasts. When he knocks on the door to alert the householder that this is against the law, she protests the wind blows the aerial in the wrong direction and then sends him on his way with a derisive ‘Haven’t you got anything better to do?’ He doesn’t reply, but the viewer knows he hasn’t indeed got anything better to do. He’s just another minor cog in the surveillance state, keeping an eye on the populace to ensure they don’t betray the founding principles of the GDR. Ditto the sinister schools inspector who patrols the corridors and peers in through classroom windows to ensure teachers aren’t veering from the script. One is immediately aware everyone in this series on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain is completely conscious of their every move being monitored and documented, constantly having to watch what they say for fear of reprisals. Imagine living like that.
A seemingly throwaway line relating to an unfortunate pubescent girl poised to begin the gruelling training that will eventually result in her being on the East German swimming team for the 1976 Montreal Olympics referred to her receiving an ‘ideological education’ as part of the process. Straight away I’m thinking of British kids in 2020 exposed to the corrosive cancer of Critical Race Theory in their curriculum, sneaked-in by teachers who themselves were indoctrinated at university and whose fellow former students have already introduced ‘unconscious bias training’ into the corporate world. When even a pussy-whipped halfwit like Prince Harry has caught the bug, you know this malignant philosophy has embedded itself deep, despite the admirable denunciation by Kemi Badenock (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities) in the Commons last week, making it clear the ‘white privilege’ narrative has no place in British schools. This insidious ideology may not be official state-sponsored policy, but if it’s not nipped in the bud in time it soon will be – especially if Starmer’s authoritarian excuse for an Opposition ever grabs power.
Not that we require a Labour Government to strengthen the worrying parallels with the GDR; the Tories, along with all the devolved administrations in the UK, are doing a sound enough job as it is. Britain’s own ‘Surveillance State’ was coming along in leaps and bounds even before Covid-19 intervened, but since then it has been presented with the perfect excuse to extend its powers as the ‘don’t kill granny’ storyline enables it to spread its nosy tentacles into every facet of private life with the minimum of public resistance. Digital technology may not be much use in testing – despite the billions handed over to useless companies whose qualifications for the task appear to be how much they’ve donated to the Conservative Party – but when it comes to tracking and tracing, one can be sure we’re being very effectively tracked and traced; and policemen who clearly have nothing else to occupy their time are happy to be dispatched as enforcers of unprecedented, astronomical fines for anyone daring to question the wisdom of the new normal. And despite their numbers being so depleted these days, the police have nonetheless been bolstered by the recruitment into the ‘Covid Marshal’ ranks of every Jobsworth busybody long yearning for an official badge to vindicate their self-importance.
In Soviet Scotland, the miserable population has a ‘Digital Christmas’ to look forward to as the strict rules keeping family and friends divided look set to be extended into the festive season. Jason Leitch, a man boasting the unnerving job title of ‘National Clinical Director’ has warned that large family get-togethers are ‘fiction for this year’. For anyone who recognises chatting to someone on Skype or Zoom is a poor substitute for being in the same room as the person on the other end of the line, this essentially means Nicola Sturgeon has achieved what no British political figure has managed since Oliver Cromwell; mind you, his administration closed theatres and all other palaces of entertainment as well, so maybe it didn’t even require the cancellation of Christmas north of the border for the Lord Protector’s policies to be successfully revived. And, remarkably, it doesn’t take long for any of this to be normalised either; what would have been unimaginable less than twelve months ago is already accepted and largely unchallenged. Giant tampons covering the lower half of the face are now socially compulsory on any outdoor excursion requiring setting foot in a shop – and to think I laughed at the first person I saw wearing one at the beginning of the year.
However, the undisputed winner of the competition between the devolved administrations to see who can emulate North Korean democracy is Wales, which has essentially become sealed-off from the rest of the country; few are being allowed in or out, and anyone venturing into England to stock-up faces a hefty fine upon their return; just to make sure, police are patrolling the border and have free rein to snoop in shopping bags. No, I can’t quite believe this is happening either. Wales is, of course, the only corner of the kingdom governed by the Labour Party, and it perhaps gives us an impression of how things might have been nationwide had Corbyn won the last General Election. Churches, pubs, gyms, hair salons and hotels have all been forced to close their doors during the 17-day (yeah, right) ‘firebreak’ lockdown as books, clothes and sanitary towels are deemed ‘non-essential’. ‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods,’ declared Wales’ very own staggeringly arrogant Lord Protector, Mark Drakeford, as the State outlaws individual personal judgement and assumes the role of arbiter of what is and isn’t important.
But, of course, if a discredited charlatan like Neil ‘massage the Staats’ Ferguson is still being given a platform to air his Doomsday fantasies, what can we expect? Lest we forget, this is a man who predicted 50,000-150,000 would die of Mad Cow Disease in 2002 – actual deaths: 177. He warned 200 million would die of Bird Flu in 2005 – actual deaths: 282. He prophesised 65,000 would succumb to Swine Flu in 2009 – actual deaths: 457. With a track record like that, why on earth is this joker still being listened to? Well, I guess he and his ilk are providing the scientific support to legitimise the erosion of civil liberties and freedoms that the pro-lockdown fanatics need. And it does seem that pro-lockdown Vs anti-lockdown is the latest manifestation of the seemingly limitless tribal polarisation that has become the norm ever since the 2016 EU Referendum – or ever since the Brexit verdict pushed pre-existing divisions over-ground. If we were thought we were a disunited kingdom in the last years of the 2010s, we didn’t have a clue what the 2020s had waiting for us.
© The Editor