Last week, as part of a creative project with First World War themes, I was privileged to meet the writer Nicholas Mosley.
Before we met, I researched Mosley's fascinating life. I did not have time to read his eighteen novels, but I could read some autobiographical work, including his relaxed account of the incident which won him the MIlitary Cross in the Second World War. It seemed to be more force of circumstance than a considered act of bravery. Mosely said:
'In war you are given a structure, and you have to obey it - or not.
In peace you have to find or make a structure, but then why should you obey it?'
About the First World War, Mosely pointed out there had been a feeling of inevitability - that it was 'an apocalypse that had to happen'. And we all know what did happen.
Then he leant back, looked thoughtfully into the air and said, as only an 89-year-old can:
'I wonder what apocalypse we are facing now?'
As far as I know, we do not face an inevitable war with Germany. With the cuts in the armed forces budget that were announced last week, I am not sure we are ready for war with anybody.
So is there an enemy within?
Politicians have talked about a 'broken society' but should they be looking at themselves?
Is what Mosley would call the 'structure' falling apart? Corruption, immorality and disgrace ooze through every pore: politics, police, the media, banks, the financial markets and business generally have all been shown to be motivated by self-interest and greed. Glaxo Smith Kline were fined $3billion - yes, $3billion - in the US last week.
Here, our discredited politicians decided on a parliamentary rather than judicial enquiry into the banking scandal - a decision which can only have been in their own self-interest (especially after the pathetically inept cross-examination of Bob Diamond by the Treasury Select Committee). Surely we want the best solution to the banking crisis - not the fastest?
The judiciary seems to be the one and only part of our establishment structure that remains upstanding. Even this observation could only be applied to our judges rather than the legal profession as a whole - much of which serves to cover up, justify and profit from the immoral and fraudulent behaviour of 'establishment' figures.
It gets worse. Not only is the structure falling apart but, without a war to rebuild it, there is no one with integrity and respect to do so. It may be that our judges are all we have left.
And even worse. Faced with an austere, hopeless future - alongside a justifiable loss of faith in 'the system' - how much can the people take? Last year, we witnessed widespread rioting, looting and arson. I fear there is more to come.
Nearly a million British soldiers were killed in the First World War.
Is this what they died for?