Date: 27th January 2006 at 6:20pm
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But the delusion of constant change will mean we will never notice – just ask them at the Villa.

By Steve Wade

Things begin to look different as you get older. You re-read old books and you can’t help but think that perhaps Eustacia Vye was a silly cow. You watch old films and suddenly Bogart is not the bad bastard in The Caine Mutiny, its that s**t-stirring Fred MacMurray. You start revising your view of heroes and reach the unavoidable conclusion that Shackleton’s biggest problem, was not the extreme cold or the sea, it was getting the chaps
through, while some whinger undermined him at every step, behind his back.

Historians still debate why the revolution never happened in England, or more precisely, why the French chopped heads off and the English simply wrote poems about their oppression. It seems that ever since Wat Tyler got it in the neck, revolt went out of fashion in the Sceptred Isle and was replaced by dissident whinging. For the English citizen under the jackboot of an oppressive monarchy and whose suffering eventually provided the example for Engels and Marx, it was a means of survival. How they cheered when the troops were sent abroad, in sheer relief that they would not be used on themselves.

But you have to give the establishment credit, as long as no one dared to challenge their power or privileges, then any other citizen was fair game. It was not without its advantages, as it provided a pretty convincing illusion of democracy, while the tradition of traducing those who rose to any significance within our society, meant that no individual can ever emerge, with their reputation intact, and challenge the oligarchy. So thus, we have our system of checks and balances – we build them up and then we knock them down.

We are a nation of whingers, lurkers and kibitzers.

The truth is, we hate change and we hate progress and we have the perfect system for preventing it from happening. And if that doesn’t work, we can all go down the pub and look at the hunting horns and ancient farming equipment on the walls and all feel safe again. But in the meantime we must keep up the whinging and make sure no one has a decent enough reputation, which might lead to either our admiration or the thing we dread the most – actual progress.

So, in our battle against improvement, we all have our part to play; we can all be whingers.

But whinging alone is not enough and it takes an even more important weapon, to prevent the dreaded improvement – the illusory change. This is the tactic
of choice for Government, business and all other institutions. The idea is to constantly implement change, to ensure that the results of the previous
change cannot be measured. It is the business of the Government and of all management to think up novel and interesting changes, to give the illusion of progress, while covering their tracks and hopefully ensuring that any modifications to the previous innovation, which would actually bring forth the dreaded progress and upset just about everybody, never happens.

Of course there are sometimes very laudable principles at stake and so it can’t always be dismissed as a bad thing. Clearly, the country is in desperate need of a good supply of uneducated people and so it is obvious that if you can occupy teachers with a shed-load of paperwork, they will spend less time teaching kids to read. And Change makes paperwork. Buying the police more and more expensive kit (helicopters and computers) looks like progress but ensures they can’t afford to put petrol in their cars or Bobbies on the beat, which guarantees there’s enough crime for the needs of the system and there is a very visible foundation for the class system.

Queen at the top, Chavs at the bottom; its how we prefer it. Bad education,lack of coppers – you get the result you want.

Football is no different of course but it did take me some time to quite understand the implications of the England manager’s termination this week. At first I thought it was solely down to English xenophobia because having done their best to remove all foreign contributions from their history books (the Prussians from Waterloo etc), they generally do their best to maintain the delusion of national greatness, which does not sit well with a foreigner showing them how to play football. But, I instantly remembered how they treated Sir Bobby, as he is now, and everyone before and since.

No, it had to be something else.

It was pretty obvious really, it was just planning ahead for defeat. With the scapegoat lined up, it will allow us the delusion that we could have won it, if only the News Of The World hadn’t undermined the morale of the team and then to avoid either the media or the FA being the target of public wrath, there will be an instant replacement who will make the pain go away and make our dreams come true. So, its a bit like Dunkirk but they are sending out the rescue craft nice and early. Now that’s what I call planning. We are now free to indulge our fantasies, while the safety-net is firmly in place.

Its all about maintaining yet another national delusion, while protecting the football establishment.

Its all a bit sad but its also bloody hilarious. Sad that we need these delusions and we definitely do but hilarious as the various candidates try and make themselves presentable. It is obvious that becoming the England manager is equivalent to appearing at the royal court and the process of selection, is guaranteed to produce the traditional class consciousness. Now I don’t expect big Sam will be required to take elocution lessons like Alf Ramsey, who always spoke very slowly so he wouldn’t reveal himself to be a despicable oik but I suspect like all respectable visitors to Her Majesty’s court, he will be aspirating his aitches, just like all self-conscious northerners tend to do when they first go south. All Villa fans will remember the transformation which overtook Graham Taylor when he was being lined up for the England job and even David Platt feigned a Corinthian spirit, when he was after being captain of England. For England managers, footballing considerations always come a sad second – ask Cloughie’s ghost.

Sam, who a year ago, was presented in an advertising campaign as an ogre likely to frighten the children, has now, with the substantial help of the conspiratorial media, to try and present himself as a man of cool, phlegmatic, gentlemanly qualities. The makeover is going to be fascinating and for the sake of national delusion, we will be encouraged to forget that he has been mostly known for his team of big bruisers and that when his team were seen to pass the ball, most commentators were surprised. Sam is a man of obvious passion but as stage fright is yet another national characteristic (along with our love of jeering and our hatred of winners), I am sure that it will merely infect his team, with the sort of fear of failure and fear of success, which crippled every other England team before our ice-cool Swede calmed them down.

But the delusion of constant change will mean we will never notice – just ask them at the Villa.