web analytics


By ATWadmin On December 11th, 2006

ATW regular Ernest Young has sent in this thoughtful piece – it reflects his concern at the ongoing deconstruction of British community…..

The closure of something so commonplace as a pokey little shop, in High Street, Backofbeyond, may be of little consequence, or interest to the Grand Panjandrum’s in Whitehall. They are so insular that they fail to see the real damage they have done, and are still doing to Great Britain, or perhaps they do see it, and silently relish the destruction they are causing. After all, such ‘centralising’, does make us that much easier to administer – their word for control.

Whenever these little shops close their doors for the last time, a small part of the community dies with it, The butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers went a long time ago, rarely missed as they were replaced by super markets and out-of-town supercentres.

What they did not replace was the individuality and uniqueness of each establishment, which gave each small community it’s own character. Now, town centres, from Land’s End to John O’Groats all have a similar feel.  Thegranularity has gone, GB has been homogenised, mixed and blended into a consistently dull ambience of utter mediocrity.

Towns, villages, and communities no longer have any individuality, they are now no more than a lot of people living near each other, they no longer have that something extra, that a true community bestows upon it’s residents. The same thing has happened to us whether as a family or as a nation, we no longer share a common identity.

It was our sense of identity that has served us so well  in the past, we now no longer ‘relate’, to people outside of our immediate circle, we are all strangers.

One can only assume that this is the intended result, in part, of all the closures of institutions such as Post Offices, hospitals, Police stations, and railway stations, etc,  that Whitehall has forced onto unwilling neighbourhoods, either by regulation or manipulation, and all in the name of progress. That is, if it is possible to describe a retrograde step as progress?

We have been fragmented to such an extent, that we are now all ‘a minority’ of one sort or another.

Can they not see that we are collectively much stronger as a community, than as just a sum of the parts?

16 Responses to “FRAGMENTATION….”

  1. What has destroyed town centres is the rapid growth of out of town shopping centres. Tesco and other big supermarkets will not be content until they have forced the closure of every small shop in Britain. The planning laws have recently turned against out of town centres, but the damage has been done.

  2. This phenomenon is depressing, inhuman and ugly, no doubt about that!

    However, if you believe in laissez-faire capitalism, which I presume Ernest does, it’s an inevitable consequence of your principles.
    It’s also obviously wrong to say it is one of the intended results of centralisation and closure of local services, or indeed to blame government for it It’s all done out of economic considerations, profit and bugger the consequences.

    BTW, it’s also of course a worldwide phenomenon, and many places outside Britain fare much worse. Not only is Britain becoming standardised, all Europe is. From Norway to Italy you will hear more or less the same pop songs as you pass the same stores selling the same brands, In England the songs are at least English. In Denmark they are English too. I recently saw in a town in Holland a row of 5 different stores all of which had names in the now universal English (Wit Boy, Jeans Shop, etc.).

    It looks like there’s little anyone can do about it.

  3. Peter, Cunningham,

    It has little to do with laissez-faire capitalism, after all, the planning is all done at the bureaucratic level. Tesco is a fairly recent phenomenom, the damage to the High St. was done fifty years ago…

    It is no more, or less than social engineering, which is the sole domain of government. That such a pattern is rife across Europe, should give a clue to the reasons for the trend.- rampant bureaucracy…

    The closure of small neighbourhood enterprises has more to do with spendthrift local authourities killing the golden goose, with excessive taxes on businesses, making it impossible for ‘one man and his dog’,to earn a decent living in the High Street.

    A flock of sheep are all the easier to herd if kept in control by the shepherd and his dogs.

  4. The basic laws of lassiz faire economics require a certain element of fair trading for supply and demand dynamics to work properly. Clearly the supermarkets have a monopsonistic, or at least dominant influence on purchasing and locations and it would not be run counter to free trade to clip their wings.

    The social arguement and the goal of conserving local communities should fit into any Conservative credo.

    So why has new Labour allowed the excessive development of supermarkets to continue unchecked? Maybe new Labour minister and funder Lord Sainsbury might be able to enlighten us. Here we see New Labour sleeze and corruption incarnate.

  5. Both of you are right. High rates bills and Supermarkets. Of course we are also to blame – we won’t pay the few pence extra to keep the local shops going. Worsened now by the supermarkets keeping longer hours.

    And touching on Andrews point yesterday about Granny, it’s often the disadvantaged – unable to drive, no transport, who depend on the small shopkeeper. They don’t have the option of into the car and popping down to Tesco.

  6. I don’t share the nostalgia for local shops. I remember them for poor sevice high prices and low standards.

  7. And you can hardly blame laissez-faire economics for the closure of hospitals, rail stations, police stations etc, all of which play their part in making a community.

    It is no more, or less, than social engineering in the quest for political control

  8. >>>It’s all done out of economic considerations, profit and bugger the consequences.<<<

    exactly. im glad i live in a (belfast) street where local/artisinal retailers dominate. the only concern is, starbucks have become a recent addition.

  9. Henry,

    I have to agree with you – but it was not always so.

    Your memories probably do not go back as far as mine, and if your experience is of the sixties and seventies, when the decline of the High Streets were already well underway. Then you do have a valid point.

    Anything prior to that, and I would suggest that local High street shops did provide all of those things that we are so nostalgic about.

    The whole process is one of cause and effect, and to define the actual turning point would provide many hours of debate.

    It could be said that the advent of supermarkets was that point, but I would suggest that planning regulations encouraged the supermarkets, which started the decline – and so on….

  10. on an interesting side note, the nazis brought in very wide ranging measures to protect artisinal/local trade and retail. even back in the thirties the threat to small business, by large department stores, was recognised.

    although, it should be noted that this was as much about undermining the jewish owners of several large stores as it was about protecting the little guy.

  11. NRG

    The planning laws are now against out of town developments. This was brought in a few years ago and brought an end to the Thatcher-inspired free-for-all which resulted in many town centres becoming derelict.

    But Labour has an ambivalent attitude to the big supermarkets. While there is now a backlash against Tesso’s dominance there is also gratitude to them for keeping inflation low. Needless to say, Labour is not too concerned with the plight of the local suppliers who are systematically screwed by the supermarkets, or with the Bangladeshi sweat shops which produce cheap clothing and pay their workers a few pounds a week.

  12. The Village Green Preservation Society speaks out.

  13. Part of labour’s change of heart might be linked to the cooling of relations with those bigwigs in the business who were happy to give money in the past ?

  14. The point of the original post was that, with the closures of so many post offices, and we are talking mainly of those sub-P.O.s that, in another time, may have been called ‘general stores’. We will be losing the last remaining badge or symbol of the ‘community’, which prompted my remark that we will all be living together, but we will neither be neighbours, nor a community in any real sense of the word, we will all be minorities.

    The PO part, unable to exist on it’s own, and likewise the ‘general’ part of the business. Together they provide a very real service to the many small communities and neighbourhoods, but especially to the less mobile among us.

    I am not anti-Tesco’s, or any other store, they did no more than fill a gap in the marketplace when it no longer became viable for the ‘one shop’ business to exist. They fill a need, as do these post offices. If the government abandons them now, they will, yet again, be ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’

    A related observation on the General Post Office, has anyone else noticed how few of those big red, kerbside post boxes there are, they too seem to be a disappearing breed, and of course, make the local post office of even more importance to an area.

    Thank you all for taking the time to read, and comment on my first, and probably only posting…

  15. Hard to know what the asnwer os to this. I donlt see how it can be social engineering.

    We are all part of the problem as we gerelally voted with our feet and made our way to the supermarkets or shop online with supermarkets.

  16. Aileen,

    The government has for a long time maintained an infrastructure that encouraged the ‘community feeling’, indeed it has done so for so long that people have come to rely, and in many cases based their lives on that infrastructure.

    Families move house to be near schools, workers move to be near convenient transport, e.g. railway stations, communities are largely founded on the framework of services – most of which are, and should be provided by government – not because they do a better job, but for no other reason than, they always have provided such services, we as a community rely on their continuity. The same may be said for the provision of roads

    To suddenly withdraw them, or to start charging for their use without caring whether there is an alternative, hardly demonstrates a caring attitude, and is a good example of social engineering.

    Non governmental infrastructure, such as the church, the pub, etc, and a viable retail area, are all very much at the mercy of government whim. and it is here that ‘social engineering’ is perhaps more obvious, as it does with the building of housing, whether private or council.

    The provision, or non-provision of car parking, the maintenance of green belt boundaries, and many other planning decisions are all subject to the social engineering skills of people who seem to have an agenda based more on political than a ‘quality of life’, criteria.

    As you say, difficult to come up with an answer.