The Great English Practical Problem (brough to you by Heathrow)

All counties have their institutional and ‘thinking’ problems. Australian intellectuals are often accused of being too broad and general in their thinking, unable to command the towering heights of research speciality within the rigours of a solid intellectual paradigm. American intellectuals are often accused of being too careerist, doing what is good for their career rather than good for the public knowledge they are entrusted to critique, advance, and preserve.

But, the significant English problem is short-term practical thinking. This is a country that has the institutional strength and wealth to build long-term visions to navigate itself through social complexity. Still, this is a nation whose institutions stumble from one crisis to the next, limited by the practical constraints of whatever funding is available, mistakes were made, or ideas are fashionable. Heathrow, the train systems, the roads, and universities are all impoverished by a Kafkaesque hell-ride of uncritical social realist practicality, unable to imagine a world that isn’t about filling in one pothole and then running to fill in the next (then forgetting about the first one and wondering why they need to be filled in any way because the workers weren’t told about the road).

Whilst most Western countries (notably my own, Australia) used the boom years to pay off Government debt, England went into more Government debt, unable to fathom perhaps that economies eventually crumble. So rather than have some money in the bank to navigate through the bad times, a short-term practical solution will now need to be found (borrow more money).

Practicality is an English game; it is theatre, the uncritical deference one must make to this culture to survive (like one must to ‘Egalitarianism’ in Australia). It is how England got here. Two thousand years of stumbling practically through the word, learning by doing, then forgetting. Two thousand years trapped in the practical now, the parochial useful present. Sure, practicality can be helpful, but it needs more intellectual scaffolding; otherwise, enjoy your wait at Heathrow.

The views expressed in this blog are always entirely my own, and I wrote about this stuff many years ago as an undergrad. Here is the link. The link to ‘the English disease’ (short-termism) and Heathrow was first made by Ken Livingston.

Short term practical thinking!



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