Friday 5 May 2023

The world we have lost - Lee Kuan Yew, who made Singapore the happy city it is, about his first visit to London. How very much we have lost.



'Perhaps the most impressive sight I came upon was when I emerged from the tube station at Piccadilly Circus. I found a little table with a pile of newspapers and a box of coins and notes with nobody in attendance. You take your newspaper, toss in your coin or put in your 10-shilling note and take your change. I took a deep breath - this was a truly civilised people.

'After three months of London, I abandoned life in a bed-sitter in Swiss Cottage, for the university town of Cambridge where survival skills were not necessary, because the university, which catered for 10,000 gentlemen, and a few young ladies, assumed they did not have such menial skills and so ministered to their needs.

'That Britons are better off materially than they were is visible everywhere. But that quiet pride and self-confidence, that national cohesiveness that marked out the British people after victory in World War II, has dissipated. Many of my British contemporaries believed that the loss of empire caused that loss of elan. The mirage of Commonwealth unity beguiled the British people from facing up to the hard reality that Britain was no longer the heart of an empire.

'Looking back at those early years, I am amazed at my youthful innocence. I watched Britain at the beginning of its experiment with the welfare state; the Atlee government started to build a society that attempted to look after its citizens from cradle to grave. I was so impressed after the introduction of the National Health Service when I went to collect my pair of new glasses from my opticians in Cambridge to be told that no payment was due. All I had to do was to sign a form. What a civilised society, I thought to myself. The same thing happened at the dentist and the doctor.

'I did not understand what a cosseted life would do to the spirit of enterprise of a pe ople, diminishing their desire to achieve and succeed. I believed that wealth came naturally from wheat growing in the fields, orchards bearing fruit every summer, and factories turning out all that was needed to maintain a comfortable life.

'nly two decades later when I had to make an outdated entrepot economy feed a people did I realise we needed to create the wealth before we can share it. And to create wealth, high motivation and incentives are crucial to drive a people to achieve, to take risks for profit or there will be nothing to share.'

1 comment:

  1. For the time being there are tiny bastions of civilisation as we knew it, which remain dotted around the country