About 14 years ago, at about the time I retired and began to withdraw from some of my commitments, I wrote down a list of some of the things I would like to see happen during the remainder of my life.
Recently, I found the notes I had written. Here they are, verbatim.
I hoped for:
1. Students attending well-staffed Universities and leaving with a deep understanding of their chosen subjects rather than an achievement in factual learning.
2. Young adults starting out in life without a burden of debt.
3. To live in a country that is part of Europe and respects Europe. A country that acknowledges the imperfections of Europe and is in the forefront of attempts at reform.
4. A country with a healthy two-way relationship with the United States of America.
5. A country which seeks to strengthen the United Nations and a UN which is more effective at peacekeeping.
6. To live under a government of people of integrity, honesty and conscientiousness. A government that delegates clearly and does not try to over-regulate.
What Went Wrong?
At the time I wrote this, I thought that we might be getting closer to the ideal. How wrong I was. What has happened? Why has it happened? It is going to take more than one government cycle, even more than a generation to get things better again.
1. Universities struggle on. They are about to be hit by the termination of their European collaborative research projects and loss of European and foreign students.
2. Student debt has got worse as university fees have gone up. Student nurses have had their grants cut recently.
3. Brexit means that we are doing exactly the opposite of what I was hoping for in (3) above.
4. We can still strive for a relationship with the people United States but their new President’s ‘America First’ policy will make it difficult. It is not going to be a healthy relationship.
5. The UN has found itself impotent to do anything about Syria and the Middle East problems just as it was in Bosnia. Currently the UK seems to tolerate the UN rather than seek to strengthen it.
6. I remain to be convinced that the current politicians are less venal than those of 14 years ago. Fortunately, one can still identify some good, honest, well-educated, well-intentioned and informed people just as one could all those years ago. Has any one of them got the leadership qualities to make a difference?