Book review of Britain: What a State, by Ian Vince

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By David Ophalus

From the title I bet most of you are expecting some kind of humdrum Daily Mail interpretation of how we’re getting buggered more than you previously thought, like the recent offering by Heather Brooke called, The Silent State. Well, I thought it would be nice to offer a brief antidote from serious rebellious activity, by presenting a review and podcast with the author, Ian Vince, of a brilliant book and PDF, called Britain: What a State.

I first came across The Department of Social Scrutiny on Facebook last year ending up in fits of laughter reading through some of the pastiches of Authorities forms, such as the P45, HMRC’s Application for Mercy and the National ID Card forms. I still chuckle at the P45 form, it perfectly resonates the insensitivity of management and how real people invariably end up in a horrible work place. For instance on the P45, there is a treated area to ‘Place Employee teardrop onto treated strip’ and a tickbox area for why the employee left including the option, ‘Tested positive for human Soul.’

The 2010 PDF edition of the book is just massive and the more I read it, the more I find myself finding things that previously only rattled my subconscious, coming to bear the 3rd time over. I love the way Ian takes the noodle out of what Britishness really is:

“I’m proud of everything British. To me, Britain is the smell of a two-stroke petrol mower, the orderly stripe of a lawn and the snout of a mole twitching nervously from its burrow, catching the last precious drops of dew on a late Spring morning before it is dispatched with one blow of a spade manufactured in Sheffield.”

It reminds me of people who don’t really know anything about Britain and think we’re all members of Alice in Wonderland, riding on Pennyfarthings, drinking tea in the afternoon and all behaving like that twat actor out of that oh so British film… that’s it, Hugh Grant.

Something that stands out from the new PDF edition is that it’s stood the test of time because Ian quite cleverly saw where everything was going and satirised a lot of where the Government were about to crack down on:

  • The Magna Carta 2006, which he saw as the taking away of people’s right to a fair trial
  • An assessment gag about what kind of Serf you are definitely resonates with the Police advertising campaigns trying to get us to look inside each others bins and report our neighbours
  • Vaccines and the RFID chip conspiracy theory
  • A Timetable for Change which is something we heard alot from the people behind Obama and the Conservatives
  • Great Britain PLC and the relentless increase of new ways to rob people blind
  • Robbing of the elderly and their pensions
  • The economic crash; and much much more!

As Ian said in the podcast,

‘The thing with the Government now is that now it’s all come to pass, there’s nothing left to satirise, it’s all far too real today.’

Unfortunately, the more time passes, the more we see divides and differences of opinion shutting down all around us. Ian’s book is a reminder that Britain is actually an absolutely amazing Island with some of the most ancient history in the world, just down the road. And it is this modern human appetite for the ‘harmonisation’ of culture through Globalisation that’s killing all the eccentric traditions of British Culture.

This book is an absolute marvel and I cannot recommend it enough for a good chuckle to help put things into perspective that we are all still human and we all need to laugh and love to get along… everything’s all too serious now or is it just me?

I will leave you with one of my favourite excerpts of the PDF:

“Your forms lead an interesting life the moment they enter the system. A good example is your P45 – the form you receive after you’ve pissed your job against a wall. While you worry about your mortgage and the scowling, unsymmetrical faces of staff at the local Jobcentrehassleplus, your P45 begins the kind of exotic journey only pre-packaged Oriental snacks can dream of. All P45 data is first inputted into an underground computer silo for processing, dispersal and retrieval. After sorting, the original is sent to Rangoon for I-Ching interpretation by accountants at the As Above, So Below Institute of Tax. After three full moons have elapsed, the original form is burnt in a sealed bell jar and the ashes collected for auditing and mass-spectrometry. The jar is broken against the hull of a ship bearing your tax data, which is then sailed into the Bermuda Triangle. The last five steps of the process have only ever been attained by computer modelling. You can find a fuller description of all these processes in the tax office leaflet “What the Fuck Have You Done With My Tax Records?”, which is freely available at your local office inside a large, erratically rotating jar of wasps.”

You will find Britain: What a State here:

And here’s Ian’s Social Scrutiny website:

Social Scrutiny Facebook page:

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