When you hear stories about injustice in countries such as China, Indonesia, Zimbabwe the natural reaction from the west is to shrug and say, "well, what do you expect from these developing or third world countries"? Uncivilised, corrupt, uneducated and generally not a part of the rest of the civilised world. Well guess what folks, Britain is catching up rapidly. The country of my birth, but one I have watched now from overseas just one month short of 50 years, is filling me with dismay. A young man, accused of rape and facing a significant jail sentence was only saved at the last minute by the prosecution lawyer who discovered the police had sufficient evidence in their possession to prove the man was innocent, but they had failed to hand it over. What? And this, say the lawyers is just the tip of the iceberg. Let's be honest (okay ... not a great choice of words), the police in Britain have not come across very well in the last few years with cover-ups and other misdemeanours. They blame it on underfunding - so let's just get convictions and forget the ethics then! How embarrassing.
Then you read on ... same newspaper ... where it reports that thirty per cent of the UK does not have good enough mobile coverage to make calls and texts on all four networks. M-Pesa in Kenya is one of the fastest developing-world Banks using telephony. The citizens of Shenzhen in Southern China now do not need to carry cash because all payments - stores, transport, and restaurants are done using payment channels like WePay or Alipay, and other cities in China are going the same way. Alright, you say, but UK has legacy systems that take time to change, I understand that - but surely if Kenya and China have coverage in some out of the way places you would think Britain should be better equipped. And take Korea (South of course) - now a developed country admittedly and with legacy systems, but it is the world leader in internet connectivity, with the world's fastest average internet connection speed. About 45 million people or 92.4% of the population are internet users.
Medical services - and actually I am a fan of the NHS given the amazing way they treated my Mother - is continuously being criticised in Britain again for being under-funded, facing staff shortages and doctors leaving in droves. And what they will do when all the foreign doctors they have in place are forced to leave, following Brexit, who knows? Oh, by the way whatever happened to the money the Brexit supporters were persuaded would go the N HS rather than to Europe? What I do know is that my annual medical visits to the hospital I have used in Thailand for well over a decade, for a very modest fee, does me very well. It reminds me also of a trip I made to Ecuador a few years back to visit my daughter who was studying there and I ended up with an eye problem. My inclination was to put up with it and wait until I was back in Hong Kong to have it dealt with, but the pain became too much so I succumbed to an Ecuadorian ophthalmologist who, frankly, was brilliant and charged very little.
Then there are negative reports on education, train services, roads ... the list goes on. It can't all be fake news - can it?
Now, you say, what a "moaning minnie" and what is the point of all this? My point is simply that Britain for many years was at the forefront of world opinions and impressions. It had an acute sense of morals and ethics. It had a judicial system that was the envy of many and a police force that people looked up to (my rather famous amateur running uncle - Stan Eldon - was a policeman and you wouldn't find someone straighter). It had a good health service, and a reputation for being innovative, particularly in the engineering sector. It didn't necessarily hand over its colonies in the greatest shape, but had provided initial infrastructures in many countries and therefore a base from which to work, but without always telling them how to do it.
But today I feel personally, and although many will disagree with me there are many others who see it the same way - the shine, almost a halo even, has gone. The reputations gained, indeed hard won, are being eroded but - even from a distance I have considerable affection for the place. And let's be honest where I live now, and the other countries where I have resided, are not perfect - as does everywhere for that matter but what I see around me in this region in particular is a desire to improve and get better, while at the same time the more I read about Britain suggests the movement is in the opposite direction.
Can I just say, then, that as with all these things at least in a democracy, the solutions are in the hands of the people. The interested, not the self-interested!