We seem to have solved the problem of time travel
I’ve been travelling a fair bit recently, and it occurred to me the other day that we are living in some weird two-way parallel universe here in the UK.
There is a proper paradox at play.
On the one hand, we are making mind-boggling technological advances at dizzying speeds, turning sci-fi into reality quicker than our current generation of authors and scriptwriters can make it up.
On the other hand, we are slowing down, and in places grinding to a complete halt.
So how does this manifest itself?
Well, I can talk to someone on the other side of the planet through my watch, looking like some highly unlikely parody of a Secret Service agent, using the combined might of Steve Jobs’ and Sir Tim Bernard-Lee’s inventions, all whilst sat on a Southern Railways train…going nowhere.
Instantaneous communication across the globe using technology from Mountain View, California, whist on a part-UK, part-French owned train that is inevitably late, but thankfully not cancelled. Things to be thankful for in the 21st century.
Rail travel is an easy target though: it’s already well documented that average journey times are actually getting slower every year. That was news in 2012. As a regular Southern ‘customer’ I can assure the reader that the rate of travel has slowed considerably more since then.
By the time my grandchildren are born, we may be looking at travelling by wifi-enabled horse and cart, encased in a virtual alternative reality to take our minds off it.
Let’s take another example: air travel.
Whilst billionaires play in space, and aircraft are getting more and more sophisticated and efficient, the airport experience deteriorates by the day.
I mean, seriously, who looks forward to flying anymore? Only those travelling business or first class, I would wager. Perhaps those folk using that super duper secret specially fancy lounge at Heathrow. People like the awful Kirsty Allsop, who think it’s perfectly normal to travel first class (and leave their children in economy).
The rest of us grit our teeth and endure. And where possible take some refuge and solace in an airport lounge. Pause here to unashamedly plug our client, Priority Pass…thank you.
The truth is, it is no quicker for me to get to Athens today than it was 30 years ago. It may be (but is not necessarily) cheaper, but it’s certainly a lot less pleasant. Both in terms of the transit and the airborne experience.
But fear not, the billionaires are working tirelessly to ensure their buddies can fly from London to Sydney in 5 minutes, when they’re not busy cavorting on the moon, swallowing globules of floating Krug.
Sci-fi leading the way again. And the crappy side of sci-fi, at that.
There’s one other bit of time-travel that is even less palatable, however. It’s called Brexit.
I’ve been pondering what the Brexiteers really want to ‘take back’ and get ‘back’ to.
It’s not just about trade rules, red tape and freedom of movement. Lots of the people who voted to leave don’t even have an immigrant ‘problem’ where they live, and perhaps most ironically, a lot have benefitted disproportionately from EU subsidies: take a bow, Cornwall, Wales and the North East. Turkeys voting for Christmas.
So if it’s not a purely economic or downright xenophobic driver, what is it? What is this nostalgic, backward-looking motivation to ‘go back to how it was before’? What was so great before we were part of the EU?
Chatting to my half Greek, half German, and yet born and bred ‘British’ brother the other day, he suggested that a lot of people are reacting to a loss of community, and a diluted sense of identity. Their sense of ‘Britishness’ is under threat, and the EU was an easy target, handed to them by that idiot, Cameron, who put his dodgy political party (funded mainly by the dead) ahead of the best interests of the country.
Now, I have to admit something here.
Firstly, I am not British.
“What?!” I hear you cry, “With a name like that?”
It’s true. I am in fact half Irish and half Greek, which obviously makes me incurably biased, and indeed a proper EU-bail-out-lover.
Furthermore, I have never even met a Brexiteer (to the best of my knowledge).
I don’t think I even know anyone who knows a Brexiteer.
I’ve only ever seen them on TV, like a Blob Fish, or an Aye Aye (look them up, they’re great).
Nevertheless, I am going to offer one more theory on the time-travelling aspiration that is Brexit.
What was so Great before we joined the EU, was Britain.
There are people who think back fondly to the time of Empire, when Britain was a bigger player on the world stage. They’ve substituted ‘our friends in the Commonwealth’ for Empire, and I’m not suggesting they necessarily think of themselves as ‘superior’, but they hanker for a bit of ‘Rule Britannia’, if only in a metaphorical sense. For when being British counted for more, and we stood on our own two feet, bowing to no-one, etc.
Globalisation and the geopolitical changes of the last half century be damned.
Let’s Make Britain Great Again. (Not exactly what Nick Clegg had in mind when he wrote his book).
Brexit, our very own time machine.