Art Economics Low Politics Decline Political Theology Power Geopolitics

Reflections #8

Normal is over

On Sunday morning I was greeted by the shrieking sound of police sirens. Possibly three to four vehicles sped past with their sirens blazing aloud. Later that morning, I go outside of my front door for a brisk walk and I immediately see an abandoned vehicle with tape strewn along one side of it (picture below, left). I walk to my local Tesco and observe a wall that is covered almost entirely in graffiti (picture below, right).

Enriched car (left) and vibrant wall (right)

Whilst on my morning walk, the number of CCTV cameras in the local area is overwhelming, they are everywhere, with some houses having multiple cameras. I walk past one property and an automated, robotic voice tells me that I am being recorded as the camera films me. This looks like something that Skynet or OmniCorp would design and sell, it is all very dystopian. I thought to myself, what happened to the children riding their bicycles, couples doing the front garden and people taking their dog for a walk?

This all occurred within the space of about two hours and it left me asking myself “how did this all happen?” and “how did we get here?” but the only answer I can offer is that normal has gone. Normal is over and it is not coming back, the change is permanent.

Even relatively simple and menial tasks have come to embody this change. I recall visiting my local library recently, one which I frequented during my youth where I spent countless hours immersed in books of all kinds. The front part of the library has now been converted into a makeshift English language and support centre for refugees and migrants with – again - CCTV, scanners and metal detectors installed everywhere. It looks and feels like a maximum-security facility of some kind, not the place where I read Dickens’ Hard Times or Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. This offends and saddens me on every conceivable level.

Coming to a community near you

A doctor’s appointment at my local GP used to take 3 minutes to book and you could choose when to come in. Now, when you ring up you are given a myriad of automated options and have to wait your place in a queue of sometimes up to a dozen other people. Other options include an online consultation with a chatbot or downloading the NHS app and doing it that way. It is all ridiculously complicated, frustrating and time consuming, underlining an opinion shared by many that the system is designed this way to beat people down. This is not progress: this is the managerial state’s solution to the problems they have caused with their reckless policies.

Our high streets have changed as well. In any major British city, the high street is now defined by halal fried chicken takeaways, betting shops, vaping and shisha establishments, pawnbrokers, nail salons, world food shops and tattoo parlours. Throw in an American franchise and a Turkish barber (or three!) and that is your typical high street now. Money changers, professional translators and visa processing centres are also very common. This is all part of the changing face of Britain.

Even the landscape is changing. On the outskirts of many cities, encroaching on the green belt, we have more and more hotels being built (Travel Lodge, Holiday Inn and Premier Inn foremost among them). Then there is the recent addition of storage facilities, allowing people to store their excess belongings. With hundreds of these dotting the landscape, and having the appearance of a sarcophagus, it is a rather fitting symbol for a society obsessed with consumerism.

We live in a world of electric vehicles, flavored water and synthetic food. Everything has a QR code (even for marijuana deliveries, would you believe).[1] We have AI generated conversations and AI generated images. We are up to 85 different genders and all manner of sexual orientations including endosex, abrosexual and grey romantic. I grew up reading Choose Your Own Adventure but Choose Your Own Gender is an entirely different proposition altogether. No one knew what vaping was a couple of years ago, now it is ubiquitous and it has even been declared an epidemic among teenagers with 54% of young people aged 11 to 18 in England report having begun vaping.[2] The world is so crazy and upside down that normal doesn’t even enter into the conversation: this is post-normal Britain.

Choose your own gender with chatbot assistance should you need it (left) and marijuana deliveries with a QR code (right)

Now, you can reject a lot of this but the point is that the establishment will still force all of this on you regardless. You will pass the billboards on the way to work, click past the sponsored advertisements on social media, see the news segments, hear the conversations at work and so forth. So, even if you don’t adopt this way of life or consume these products it is still there in the ether. Abandoned vehicles, adverts for Beyond Meat, graffiti laden walls, rainbow flag pedestrian crossings; try as you may you simply cannot avoid all of this. You cannot just ‘turn off’ the system, that’s not how it works.

Where is the off button? Anyone know?

Stockholm’s syndrome means that as a collective we have all come to gradually accept all of this as ordinary. I would go one step further and argue that normal is over and we are living in post-normal Britain where sometimes even seeing isn’t believing.


[1] Barnes, F. (2024) 'Drug dealers turn to QR codes to sell their wares as stickers appear on lampposts with the slogan...,' Mail Online, 26 January.

[2] Hall, R. and Skopeliti, C. (2023) 'UK health expert raises alarm at vaping ‘epidemic’ among teenagers,' The Guardian, 18 March.

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