The Decline Of London

I’ve never experienced London.

I must have visited the place at least twelve times, but these were either when I was very young and things were at least slightly different, or occasions on which the Underground has shielded me. The sprawling network of tunnels beneath the old city are more than just a quick method of transportation for travelers who use the capital as a hub between the north and south via train and coach. Many have a mental image of the London Underground as a rather grim place, and that is mostly accurate. The air is stuffy, most surfaces are caked in grime, and London commuters are indeed obnoxious and pushy. But the Underground represents something more, and that is a way to bypass the world above, to hide oneself from the despairing landscape overhead as if packed like sardines into the trains, we re-enact the events of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Metro 2033.

On my most recent trip, however, I had time to kill, and good reason not to waste money when my legs could carry me just as easily. An hour’s walk presented an opportunity to actually see this city, which up until that point existed for me more as a theory than a reality.

Firstly, I can confirm first-hand that London’s population is barely English, but one can prove that on the Underground journey alone. No, I actually got the chance to see how these people live, rather than just their composition. People there take remarkably little care of both their appearance and the state of their businesses and homes. Everything looks rotted, chipped, weather-worn, and often adorned with illegible graffiti. The stench of some pedestrians would put the Middle Ages to shame, particularly the Bangladeshi migrants I encountered, all of whom looked either dejected or menacing.

I saw beggars with cardboard signs, many of them white but judging by the grammar on their signs, perhaps not native to this island. Their stories ranged from a simple “lost job” to more complex tales. They sat huddled in the doorways of false fronts, or near lamp-posts featuring all manner of left-wing sticker-art demanding a living wage, and funnier still “a world in which everyone works for pleasure.” There was also an amusing sticker from ANTIFA with crosses through both the swastika and the Star of David. Of course, it was alluding to some kind of ‘anti-Israeli apartheid’ sentiment, but I found it amusing nonetheless.

These weren’t the only things plastered up for all to see. I did not once encounter a phone box that was not wall-to-wall with prostitute advertisements, and this isn’t an exaggeration. Trannies were comparatively cheap, with photos to prove how convincing they were. I wasn’t convinced.

One scene I found particularly ironic was that literally meters from what I assumed to be the embassy of Uganda, with its distinctive crane-emblazoned flag, were a set of custom, taxpayer-funded traffic lights which glowed with the symbols of various sexual orientations. I wondered if the Ugandan staff ever look out at the thinning population of actual Brits and wonder how they were ever conquered in the first place. More to this effect, there was a small ‘club’ nearby that framed in its windows the evidence of an earlier era where it had not been such a welcome addition to the neighborhood. A letter reads:

Sir, RE Endell St.: W.C.2. At above address there is the ‘Caravan’ Club (?): only frequented by sexual perverts, lesbians, and sodomites. It’s absolutely a sink of iniquity. Your kind and prompt attention is respectfully craved by: Some Ratepayers of Endell Street. To: Commissioner of Police.

Who knows what decade it was written in, but I don’t doubt that the ratepayers of Endell Street have long since either passed from this world or moved away. It’s a source of pride and conquest for the club’s owners, but for me, it is only a reminder that at some point communities across this country, decent people, were aware of what was happening, and there was a brief period of this awareness before they were gone.

A strange treat was waiting for me towards the end of my journey, and that was a live encounter with London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan. Fate can be funny like that. What chance was it that on this occasion of viewing the capital as if on a safari tour of liberalism in practice, I’d see that shining beacon of everything London has come to represent: its first Muslim mayor? Don’t ask why he was out in public, it was some kind of film screening for which the city’s population of pseudo-intellectual book clubbers had shown up. Khan is thinner in person, more tired and gaunt. He carries himself exactly like any contemporary politician. Fake, in other words. Much presentation but no substance, like fool’s gold (although fool’s pig iron might be more appropriate). There really is nothing at all remarkable about him. He’s more Arafat than Bin Laden; down with the home team, but not beyond ripping them off if he can escape with his head.

If I had to identify a lowlight, though, all that I’ve mentioned pales in comparison to the monument outside of Buckingham Palace. The monument to Queen Victoria was unveiled in 1911, and I can scarcely describe how ornate and well-crafted it is. The central column where the stone-faced queen sits is surrounded by four figures, each accompanied by a lion. A female figure holding an olive branch represents Peace while Progress is featured as a naked youth with a torch. Agriculture and Industry are depicted as you might expect. Atop the central column is the winged goddess of victory, her angelic wings casting a shadow over the promenade that stretches ahead.

Swarming all over this monument, clambering upon its outer walls, dipping their grubby paws into its waters, were hundreds of people shouting in languages I couldn’t even identify, racially ambiguous mixes from here and there with selfie sticks to make sure their imposition upon a piece of history was immortalized. The naked torchbearer looks down on precious Progress and seems to smile. I can only see crows picking over a corpse. Not far from that very spot, and not far from the lines of shops selling royalty-themed tchotchkes, is the residence of the supposed Royal Family. There is no sacred character to anything here. It may have existed once, but it would be error to think the Royal Family is truly revered by even the native-born, let alone those who arrived by boat yesterday. A photo-opportunity is all they are. And as I looked upon this scene in front of the palace, I could only think to myself:

A far cry from the Forbidden City, isn’t it?

They say that the capital is the beating heart of multiculturalism, but even as a staunch critic of that concept, I say that it doesn’t describe what I saw. Perhaps some boroughs are home to this tapestry of cultures, but I didn’t see any culture whatsoever at all that day. I saw trinkets from cultures for sure; kebab huts, Chinese New Year lanterns, even a union jack at one point, yet all of it is like refuse that washed up on a shore one day, cut from its root and waiting for another tide to bring in more. As the natives decay, so does the city it seems, and make no mistake the people are decaying. It’s often hidden behind heavy makeup, but some don’t even try to hide it, as demonstrated by the delightful woman who joined protests against an edgy art gallery in Dalston last week, declaring “I don’t care what you believe, I believe no Nazis.” I’d say these creeps crawl up from the sewer, but as I alluded to before, the sewer in London is overground. I struggle to imagine what it might have been like before the rot set in, and the same goes for all of the major cities of the UK from Birmingham to Manchester. I can see why every metropolis needs a Lee Kuan Yew to cane the feet of gum-chewers and hang the dealers in the underpass, because the very nature of a city is to incubate within its urban sprawl the worst excesses of society. They are the environments in which social pressures that select for both care and virtue struggle to function, and it is in such places that the firmest hand is needed. That hand is totally absent from the capital, which heaves its commuters, buskers, whores, gangs, and hipsters back and forth in the course of a working day, and with every movement the place gets just a little less bearable.

That’s the real London. Next time I’ll take the Underground.

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11 Comments

  1. Phileas Frogg March 6, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Then out spake brave Horatius,
    The Captain of the Gate:
    “To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.
    And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his Gods.”

    It’s not the worst fate, but it does rend your heart.

    I’m nearly resigned at this point; whole swaths will have to be abandoned, and there will be a great cry that will go up throughout all of Egypt, and in our sadness, in our grief we will find Him again. He never left us, but when at last the scales of our pride fall away from our eyes, we will see that He stood there all along, and THAT will be the greatest tragedy of all. The solemn realization that it was all for naught; a blind fumbling which never need have happened.

    And then we will weep. And then, we will weep no more, nor smile, for there will be no joy in the work, until the work is done.

    Reply

  2. Quicumque in civitate sunt, non Christiani sunt. – St. Jerome in response to his experience of the city of Rome

    Reply

    1. What if they are…..?
      Conceivable that Christianity itself has sunken to depths of immorality

      Reply

  3. As someone who lives in London I can only agree with almost all of what you say, only to add that if you go to any of the eastern boroughs (worst of all being Barking and Dagenham) it is without a doubt Dar Islam.

    There are a few scattered places embracing a bit of the old genteel British culture like Rules restaurant or Gordon’s wine bar but the point is now that London, and England itself, can only be saved by a great purging.

    Reply

  4. Alex Nicholson March 6, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Was in London to visit the museums recently and this is more or less in line with my take of the place. When I was at the Victoria monument the tourists weren’t so bad, for me the worst was Trafalgar square with its throngs of the unwashed and unmotivated. I wished also that the world-class museums would charge a fee. My time at the British Museum was partly spoiled by the crowds of people who didn’t really seem to value the experience, not least of which were the hordes of mulatto school children. I found the pubs generally pleasant though and just getting outside the urban core I found things surprisingly pleasant.

    Reply

  5. London is a ugly city and was a ugly city even before muds made it more bomb-worthy. The streets are narrow, the houses are small and pathetic, the infastructure outdated. Bomb this monstrosity. Flatten it and resettle the place when the radiation wore off.

    Reply

  6. Thanks Mark, I really enjoyed that piece. Fine vintage melancholia.

    Reply

  7. “It was a different age and a different generation. After six exhausting years of bombings and privation, Londoners in the 1940s took great pride in themselves, were courteous and disciplined. Bomb sites were cleared, with the bricks neatly piled to one side and little make-shift gardens created.

    Perhaps the most impressive sight I came upon was when I emerged from the tube station at Piccadilly Circus. I found a little table with a pile of newspapers and a box of coins and notes with nobody in attendance. You take your newspaper, toss in your coin or put in your 10-shilling note and take your change. I took a deep breath – this was a truly civilised people.”

    ~~~~

    “In the five decades since I first came to London, so much has changed. I remember enough of the past to regret the passing of that age when power and influence made London throb and hum and count for much more in the affairs of the world.

    Five decades ago, London was a grimy, sooty, bomb-scarred city, with less food, fewer cars, and deprived of the conveniences of the consumer society. But the people, then homogeneous, white, and Christians, were admirable, self-confident and courteous.

    From that well-mannered Britain to the yobs and football hooligans of the 1990s took only 40 years. I learned that civilised living does not come about naturally. There are other significant changes. Britain is now multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious. Churches are nearly empty on Sundays with many deconsecrated and converted into places of entertainment while some 500 mosques are filled to capacity on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath.”

    – Lee Kuan Yew, “The Post-war Breaking of the British Civic Spirit”

    Watch the whole thing:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oto7u0Mj6I&t=472s

    Unsurprisingly this is not a well known speech. Perhaps SM could repost it.

    Reply

  8. I made a trip to London in 1982. While Europe had been filled with life and energy and happy people, this city was drab and worn out. Everyone looked miserable. The atmosphere was of a place and people who had simply given up on themselves, and didn’t care anymore. An English friend and I had been intending to get jobs as waiters and live there. After only a day, I knew I wanted nothing to do with this place. I left after three days, and I will never go back.

    What makes this especially sad is that I’d lived in England in the early 70s as a child, and it had been wonderful. Even a trip we made to London in those days was nice (I imagine it was still coasting on the fumes of the Swinging 60s).

    I had been filled with excitement at the prospect of seeing England again.

    I’m sure London is far worse now than the decomposing corpse that upset me so in 1982.

    Reply

  9. Very well-written, Mark.

    Reply

  10. Chiraqi Insurgent March 9, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    There should be an article like this about every major metropolis in the Western world, but instead of writing a new article on each city I guess you could copy/paste this one and simply insert the proper mystery meat that is currently replacing the native white population of a certain city. Because not all mystery meat is equal.

    Reply

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