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No more Shackletons

I spent yesterday evening watching a recording of an excellent two-part four-hour TV dramatisation of the exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton. As World War I was about to tear Europe apart, Shackleton raised the money to lead an expedition to the South Pole. He never reached it. He and his 28 men, by rights, should’ve died from the intolerable cold, exhaustion, hunger, frostbite, gangrene and madness. But they didn’t. Not a single man jack of them died because Shackleton, by dint of his sheer indomitable courage, ingenuity, determination and sheer force of will managed to bring them home to Britain where Shackleton himself was hailed as a national hero

God, it was all so British and stirring, damn you!!

Well, I say, ‘British’ but that was back when Britain was full to the gunnels with square jaws, stiff upper lips, steely eyes, straight backs, iron resolve and not even the women were in touch with their feminine side. Mountains were there to be climbed, oceans were there to be plumbed and there was not a single square inch of this wild and windswept planet that could not be trampled all over and conquered by stout, horny British feet

Would Sir Ernest still be a national hero if he’d lived today? No, I rather think not. I rather think he’d be denounced as irresponsible and an environmental vandal. He’d be reviled in the media as a danger to health and safety, for setting a bad example for our children and for failing to provide diversity training. He’d be sued by his crew for emotional trauma and be forced into bankruptcy as a result. He would lose his home, his wife would dessert him and his kids would be taken into care. On top of that he would be ruthlessly persecuted by the government who would pass laws (retrospectively) to enable them to throw him into prison and ban any further expeditions to anywhere more risky than Hyde Park

God, it’s all so British and depressing, isn’t it

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