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Last chance saloons

Revellers in Sydney out for a last drink before lockdown, homeless people in New York and whole towns, like Boddington in the UK, are just three societal groupings recently identified as living in ‘the last chance saloon’. The meaning of this idiom in British English is to bring attention to the arrival at points in processes from where, if the same track is pursued, hope and good fortune will be in short supply.

Today’s Corona virus pandemic is the latest in an accelerating sequence, stretching back 40 years, of ghastly nights out at the chance saloon ‘Humanity’, an establishment glaringly in need of refurbishment. Indeed, regulars were still battling embers from three months of dreadful blazes in the ‘Australia’ room two months into the current disaster. The chorus of distress from ‘Humanity’s patrons is both  deafening and widespread, millions across the world sick, millions protesting their suffering in the face of centuries of racial oppression and whole country’s entering their fifth consecutive year of famine. A globally, palpable torment as for the first time in 103 years the whole world is caught up in crisis, filling the ‘Humanity’ to its rafters.

The less known fact that ‘Last chance saloons’ were registered as ‘First chance saloons’ at the same time highlights options for the ‘Humanity’ from here. Travel in the same direction will simply quicken the increasingly ugly fall from human grace presently on show. The distinctly inhumane practice of selling life-saving ventilating equipment to the highest bidder during a global pandemic is a reminder of just how unsightly that has become at times. This intention to exploit roams largely free and unrestricted across our world, the decision to register chance saloons as both ‘first’ and ‘last’ in the 19th century a forerunner of the amorality to come.

The debate on climate change draws attention to the scale of the task in changing the direction of the ‘Humanity. However perfectly suited the idiom ‘last chance saloon’ is to the issue of tipping points (Pearce 2019), many contributors are unable to accept even the need to renovate the physical environment in the ‘Humanity’. Fearful a withdrawal from the current assault on the planet’s natural resources would stifle their opportunities to go on accumulating, these climate deniers are trapped in a state of disingenuity. Playing down the level of climate destruction plays up the chances of today’s Richie Rich’s crew getting their hands on even more wealth….apart from other natural resources, the value of fossil fuels lying buried in the earth was estimated to be $70 trillion before the pandemic.

A range of hugely significant, communal structures in patron’s lives are being used as tools, creating further perils as they prop up an attempted concealment of the real causes and damage wreaked on nature and humanity by economic and social policy globally. The spreading of lies and misinformation through social media about the role of the other’(s) in our midst, and their countries of origin, in spreading Covid-19 also fuels a threat to their physical well-being, a lurking, horrible inevitability for some in the ‘Humanity’ (Trump and fearful human beings).


However, the ace in the hole for the ‘Humanity’ is democracy. No matter how wealthy, Richie Rich’s crew today only represent a tiny fraction of the voting population. Real hope for a better way to live and the early signs of just how warm and human like that is have emerged universally during the present crisis, seen in both the incredible outpouring of love and inspirational resourcefulness in acting together to help. A chat over a quick drink between an NHS doctor and two Mercedes F1 engineers leading to the co-production of a much needed breathing device is just one from an endless list where usually separated parts of society are coming together for something intended for the benefit of all. The willingness to share knowledge, skills and resources to reach a common, humanistic goal other than profit should strengthen our resolve that we can build a first class’ Humanity’.  

“Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."

Nelson Mandela (February 2005)


Pearce, F (2019) As climate change worsens, A Cascade of Tipping Points Looms https://e360.yale.edu/features/as-climate-changes-worsens-a-cascade-of-tipping-points-looms  School of Forestry and Environmental studies, Yale University. New Haven. USA


Richie Rich. American Tv 1980s. Film 1994


Trump and fearful human beings https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/us/politics/china-virus.html