The observations we are looking for do not concern Britain’s status as a world super-power or economic prowess. From end to end of those hundred years, Britain was the acknowledged world super-power and a financial and economic powerhouse. What we are really looking for is a sea-change, a paradigm shift, in society itself – its general tenor and temperament.
The pursuit of fame, fortune, the perfect body, the perfect career, the perfect partner, all turns to sand after a while. When we wake up to that, we begin to search for an identity beyond our technological prowess and our mania for “self-actualizing” ourselves as anything we care to imagine. For most of us, the refrain of “you can be and do anything you like or can imagine, even totally reinvent yourself and your gender” turns out to be the pursuit of a phantom which keeps disappearing around the next corner or curve in the road. Or maybe the Phantom sneaks up from behind and laughs snidely that it’s a chimera. The Phantom smirks that we should have known all along what we are really supposed to become, but now we’ve burned so many bridges it’s too late, or seems to be, to go back.