Thursday, May 30, 2024
HomeCulture WarThe buildings know

The buildings know


WELCOME to the eerie Britain of late 2022. The Christmas lights are on, but is anyone home? Semblances of normality toy with us. Snow presents picture-postcard scenes. People scuttle hither and thither, in timeless festive bustle.  

Most sense nothing amiss. But the buildings know better. As we slither into decay, familiar streets grow ghostly, granite edifices fragile. Like the country itself, they’ve been hollowed out, their foundational precepts – British self-confidence, piety – all but extinguished.  

Whitehall, once the nerve centre of a mighty administrative machine, stands half-empty, forlorn. No matter: Remote-working civil servants still stymie Brexit – anything conservative – from their living rooms.  

At a diminished Number Ten, the Prime Minister diligently manages decline; it’s been in the job description for decades. Across the road, pygmies occupy the Palace of Westminster. Laughably, they sit opposite each other, adversarially. With any integrity, they’d face Davos, or Highgate Cemetery. 

Broadcasting House, built to inform, educate and entertain, harbours arrogant partisans. Nothing anti-traditional is off-limits. Extravagantly-paid nonentities spout flagrant propaganda, on and off camera. Apparently, Britain is uniquely evil on slavery. Oh well, that’s the Ottomans off the hook.  

Fleet Street is just as bad. Genuine scribes earned their tipple or three in nearby boozers, their second homes. If they could, these legendary pubs would ban today’s craven hacks.  

University spires still gleam. But below, they see young minds submit to dark new orthodoxies. Lecture theatres, erstwhile settings for animated debate, emit the dull drone of conformity. Courtyard statues grow twitchy. Who’s next to be toppled? ‘Trans’ activists stalk sullen corridors, hunting safe-space breaches. In bemused libraries and dorms, offence archaeologists excavate social media accounts. Chinese Communist Party tentacles spread through leafy campuses, capturing this department, that dean.  

Outwardly, majestic churches are unchanged. The continuity deceives, but they’re powerless to act. Now they house interloping prelates who twist the Word. These clerics’ faithful predecessors are long forgotten: Reactionary barriers to progress.  

Majestic Anglican hymns, resounding through the ages, are silenced. Congregations haemorrhage stalwarts. Trendy newcomers favour vicars onside with climate change, diversity and inclusion, equity. Thus the new quasi-religions, instruments of middle-class superiority, have inveigled their way into oak pulpits.  

Plush hotels are fuming, forced to accommodate illegal migrants at muggins’ expense. No more hosting wedding receptions, dances, honeymooners and families – normal hotel business. For we live in abnormal times. These young, fighting-age men receive the red carpet treatment from the state, lest accusations of racism fly. And so another great British institution is usurped in the name of humanitarian ‘duty’.  

Fighting-age men of different vintage and origin did their duty. Two thousand lovingly-tended British war cemeteries in France, 500 in Belgium, commemorate it. The sacred memorials there, such as Thiepval, the Menin Gate and Passchendaele, will never perish. But for now they peer disbelievingly homewards – and weep.   

Inanimate things – bricks, mortar, marble and bronze – are alive to the unfolding calamity. Perhaps one day, and in sufficient numbers, the living will join them. No building back better required; just honouring what we already have.     

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Stuart Major
Stuart Major
Stuart Major is an independent scholar based in Sussex.

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