Granted, we’re not talking about Basra or The Bogside here. But the strength of feeling seems to tip to the extreme. During the first lockdown, when many city dwellers ran midnight to their country quarters to sort things out, aggressively “Turn around and fuck off” signs were draped over highway bridges amid police-calling incidents “minor vigilante justice” began to show itself.
A friend of mine from Glasgow who took a short term rental in a Scottish seaside town in 2020 was charged with de facto manslaughter when a neighbor (whom he had never been in contact with) died of Covid. “Yeah, I wonder who brought that in?” asked the old lady next door.
As an expat in London, I can’t help but be disturbed by some of this nativist rhetoric often encouraged by a scapegoating media class. However, it also feels like a completely inevitable consequence of decades of ignorance and a lack of protection from the central government.
It’s a difficult subject that keeps leading me into dead ends. While the constituency I live in continues to vote for the party that gives the green light to dumping raw sewage into nearby bodies of water, the city center full of students, vegans and expats seems to be more seriously invested in the area’s ecological and economic future to have . But I can also see the not-from-around-here making the locally born and raised damn mad.
One thing is certain: this is just the beginning. As big city life becomes less and less necessary, as towns and villages across the country become more accessible to the metropolitan bourgeoisie and in response to prodigality “Your driver arrives.” Life is growing, I reckon we’ll see more people moving out of cities – and with it more tension between them and those who were already there. Or maybe they all just run back to Brockley and Chorlton at the first sign of a flat vowel in their kids’ mouths.
As this is Britain, I doubt we’ll see too many more firebombings, but the divide between old and new is likely to widen, exacerbated by differences in accent, income and ideals. And that’s a difficult dynamic for such a small island.
In my experience, in the rolling fields and rocky shores, people enjoy the same things as most people: Facebook, family, soccer, alcohol, drugs, romance, big screen TVs, and TikTok. Yet these odd utopians keep popping up and projecting all their frustrations at the 21st centurySt Century into these perfectly normal cities, desperately clawing for something that most likely isn’t there – all instead of looking to themselves and their own fears.
A very British story, if there ever was one.