As probably one of the last baby boomers, born at the end of 1964, I am probably somewhat representative of a watershed period in English history. Coming to the England at the age of 3 as the son of 2 first generation immigrant doctors from the Asian sub-continent, the post-colonial attitude towards a perceived 'foreigner' was there staring me in the face from a very early age.
Just talk to anyone brought up in England during the 1970s with immigrant parents and you will hear stories that would make your skin crawl. My first day at a highly regarded private school was greeted with racist abuse from day 1. This occurred with startling regularity and was relentless. Living and growing up in Cambridge, I was often reminded that the popular stickers worn at the time by the indigenous population 'I'm not a tourist, I live here' could not be worn by anyone of colour (sic). Such a sic erat scriptum is my own translation of much more colourful and abusive language. School jokes were peppered with references to immigrants from Pakistan and Ireland and there was I, sadly laughing along for fear of reprise. When I attended my one and only football match at Cambridge City with my father as a 10 year old, I felt like a modern day Rosa Parks who had somehow occupied a 'reserved' seat meant for someone more deserving.
In the 1970s, there were terms of abuse for just about every European national. Even in school lessons, my history teacher joked that 'Italian tanks only have one gear...a reverse one' and my German teacher openly stated 'the next question cannot be answered by anyone of Indian origin' when I put up my hand. I kid you not. It didn't end there. At a children's pantomime, the question 'why are there so many brown people living in Bradford' was met with tumultuous laughter at the answer 'because Cadburys take'em and they cover them with chocolate'. A bit like the Monty Python 4 Yorkshireman sketch, if I told above to the young people of today, they won't believe me.
Not all but many older people in their 50s and beyond in England cling on to Colonial attitudes. I am surprised that given my social influences, I wasn't also swayed to see myself as someone who still 'ruled the waves'. Perhaps it's also that being a doctor, being tolerant and broad-minded comes more easily to me. Being a psychiatrist, doubly so.
For nearly 20 years now, I have raised the harm from alcohol in older people as a result of unhealthy drinking patters that have been influenced by people's formative years. During the 1970s, television was awash with alcohol advertising and alcohol was (according to my parents) very much a part of pharmaceutical company sponsored lunches for doctors. It was not unusual for medical students and even consultants to be found smelling of booze in the morning at work and some medical students took great pride in 'spending a night in the cells to dry out' after a weekend '10 pints and a curry' inauguration for the medical school rugby club. Getting drunk was highly regarded, particularly not remembering what you did the previous evening because you were so 'out of it'.
When I suggested reducing recommended drinking limits for older people in 2011, I was castigated by much of the older population for my 'Nanny State' approach to limiting a habit that was socially acceptable. After all, it has been part of English society for hundreds of years and no doctor can turn around and brainwash those whose parents and grandparents had drunk as much as they do and it 'never did them any harm'. This sounded like the smoking argument from the 1960s all over again.
The younger population of today has a very different perspective on life. They have mixed with a global population both in school and through travelling. Whereas they have reduced their alcohol consumption considerably compared with those a generation above, older people have actually increased their consumption compared with those before them. Images of high profile Brexit leaders in a pub with a pint of beer still symbolises the John Bull image of the 1970s and before.
It is an image that will undoubtedly wane with time and I would guess that in another 40 years, we might decide to re-join a united Europe.
Until then, we can celebrate by living in our glorious past. European law has done much to protect the rights of doctors and countless others. European research funding has significantly progressed health care. Many parts of Europe are occupied by our Ex-Pats.
But for older Brexiters, the world remains a foreign land.Suggest a correction