Saturday, 24 February 2018

The Dream!

When we moved into our current home- after a succession of liars and crooks (estate agents, solicitors etc.) had rifled through our monies- our closest new neighbour always responded to our greeting with the line, "Living the dream!" And, he was!

In truth, we never seemed to have that much time to chat. He was always rushing out as we were coming home, or vice versa. And then he was gone! To be replaced by our current neighbour, who we also only ever seem to pass at a jog. This is in truth a slight exaggeration, as we have extracted the time to stand in one another's respective homes, and to briefly swap our stories. Which leads me, albeit momentarily, to refer back to our former neighbour, or more so his, "Living the dream!" comment...

It was only after he had mysteriously and overnight departed to pastures new that it even occurred. Of course he really was living the 'dream,' only said dream belonged to someone else entirely. So, he was maybe more sustaining the 'dream' on behalf of someone else, through the act of 'living.'

Important family members
The 'dream' appears as considerably smaller and more personal when we trace it back a full generation, entirely more outwardly cute! It was both a more collective and an altogether far more inclusive dream. It both sought to envelope the wider nation and its people- many more of them- and it sought to entrust them with its evolution. Whoops!

It was also a time of embedded racism and sexism, much of which was hardly ever- my childhood perception- if at all, challenged. 'We' had 'The Black and White Minstrel Show,' on at peak viewing times of a weekend, singing their 'joyful' repertoire in the background. Admittedly, I didn't know anyone who openly watched this celebration of U.S. slavery. I thought that it was odd- much like many people thought Jimmy Savile very odd- and perhaps wondered if there wasn't something better to view. I knew that my parents didn't much care for it, but this wasn't born out of any sort of political stance. Because, just like so many of my friends parents, they were undoubtedly quite racist themselves. For a long time not many people actually thought- again, my childhood perception- to openly challenge the concept of 'The Black and White Minstrels,' as a peak viewing time TV 'spectacle.' And, let's not for a moment forget that the aforementioned 'peak viewing time' was initially upon one of just the two, then in 1964 three, available TV stations. With pretentions of 'personal betterment,' our family seldom ventured into the more commercial corruptions of ITV.

Female family member
My parents carried this institutionalised state of mind to their respective graves, and really it was only in their seventies and their eighties that they more often 'saw' this perspective challenged, outside of the immediate family that is. I carried with me, for several decades, a sort of self-awarded 'badge of honour,' 'attained' for upsetting much of the large gathering that had come to pay their respects to my late aunt, when I sat in the middle of the kitchen and discussed the public sector's possible futures under the then PM, Thatcher, with the lesbian partner of one of my cousins. For an age nobody challenged us, nor did they question the sexuality or the ethnicity of the aforementioned partner; these were 'benign' racists, many of them, and for the most part quite invisibly so.

The merest thought that racism in the UK is today at all shrinking away is probably quite absurd; it's surely still there, deeper in the foundations, quietly going on about its business, unchallenged. The difference is that it's much more wary than ever it was when I was a lad, more tentative about raising its head too often, or too frequently, more likely in the 'wrong' company. To the eye and the ear much of society functions seemingly without any covert racism whatsoever. Much like it functions without any covert sexism, or sexual abuse, or class prejudice, or disability discrimination, or (less so) religious intolerance. But, scratch the surface, and they're all still there. Of course they are, embedded as the necessary tools of a highly-tiered, pyramidal society, to be kept sharp and shiny but otherwise out of sight and mind until they might be called for.

In reality, and should the 'dream' so require, maybe, just maybe, many of those 'isms' will slowly die away through neglect. Maybe they'll finally attain their use-by date. Maybe, some time, a generation or so from now, we truly will be a racist-free society? Should the 'dream' still be forging ahead we will, however, then need some sort of replacement, purely so that the hierarchy may be sustained you should understand. Maybe it will be the era of gingerism, or those with the bluest eyes may yet have their turn, or the baldies, heightism? So towering is our 'society' that those at the top will by then be breathing more rarified air anyway. They'll be nearer to the sun, above the smog that their 'dream' has created for 'the rest' of us. Perhaps the species itself is just a generation away from its 'next' evolutionary split? The Icarians and the Rest?

For those who happened to catch-up with Andrew Marr's chat with the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, the 'dream' may now be that little bit less hazy. Almost the first thing that one noticed was that he seemed to have a clearer grasp of Britain's place in the current world than do many of 'our own' politicians. Marr would ask a question of the President and he would gaze thoughtfully back, often silently pondering the wider implications of the proffered words. Marr, all-the-while, would instead be loading up his next cartridge, sometimes looking quite confused at the duration of the Presidential response. More used to bursting through any of the more challenging or lengthy contentions, Marr was seen to often stutter or be made to reload, as Emmanuel Macron steadfastly refused to be derailed from his considered answers.

It was refreshing to hear such a pro-European giving such nakedly honest answers, and this too seemed to toy with Marr's trajectory- much like a man who has elected to lean against a door which he has not considered might suddenly be opened. Emmanuel Macron, with a slight inclination of his head, acknowledged that France might also have fallen into the trap of Frexit, before going on to elaborate. Marr again looked slightly perplexed, this was after all a President with leftward-leaning credentials, time will tell. 

Stormy waves and clouds
The interview is currently still available (as of 31st January 2018), some of it, and it made clear several points which the entirety of the UK Government's Brexit Team have thus far failed to do- Dave Davis's ineptitude aside, which has never been in doubt. Much, as is the nature of the beast, is still 'up in the smoggy air!' But Mr Macron was heard to enlighten upon the issues of the single market ("by definition, less deep than today!"), and the unsubtleties of 'the referendum.' For those who may have missed it, Macron went on to address the issue of possible, or more probable, reasons for the UK to have voted to further isolate itself from, effectively, the world, and this within a global market place! At least it will have united the racists, we may surmise, the Little Englanders and the bigots, and, in so doing, secured a somewhat darker 'dream?'

Most telling, for myself, was the "freedom without cohesion" moment, the moment when Emmanuel Macron went on to cite the current policies and, most importantly, the goals of the UK Government as being too unregulated, too free-market! For all of its points of clarification- hats off to Mr Macron!- the occasion was more than slightly Marred, however; nobody had informed the interviewer that points weren't going to be awarded, although the smirk often seemed to think otherwise.

Abstract vacuum cleaner with colours
See, what 'our' Government seems unwilling to acknowledge, unprepared to consider, is that the correct degree of regulation actually brightens the 'dream.' Unfettered deregulation creates a market in which it's the missing corners that give the less scrupulous companies the edge, and those now-cut-corners were there for a reason, keeping people alive maybe, preventing injury, nurturing mentality, ensuring that the 'dream' is still one of inclusivity, not one of consolidating exclusivity- gated mansions and shanty towns? The larger the company the more correct it always is now, by default, really? The individual always must now default to subservient? Best just seal off that back door to legal representation for the minions, the shiny one with the Doric columns at the front is all we need into this far better 'dream.' Access the company's website- we operate a telephone-free interface- do you have an e-mail address? 118 118, do me a favour! We might well dream about these things, but they're not the 'dream' that is actually being sold, sold, and sold again to us!

In such a climate even the previously-respected companies will find that they're increasingly having to treat people with equal disdain... just in order to keep abreast of the crooks... "a race to the bottom!" Effectively we've started to regulate to make society ever-less inclusive, to shorten certain lives, to mark young children out as chaff and to ensure that they can't afford the wheat anyway!

Country scene with clouds
The disaffection is so palpable that one can almost taste it in the air at times. Whether people voted to struggle on towards a more united globe, or else to cut the steel cables and to contemplate drifting out into the Atlantic, where that more heavenly 'dream' surely resides, there is still tightly-knotted disaffection. Often the BBC et al will attempt to dress it up rather, or to tidy-up the degrees of disaffection, by slotting each grievance into it's preordained box, but this would be disingenuous. Often those that voted to better unite the globe are to be portrayed as being rather more satisfied with the state of the current EU. But this is likely so very far from the truth. Many of those who voted to remain were as dissatisfied as those who voted Brexit, I should know, I was one of them. I'd say that many of the Remainers have got, or have identified, even more to feel aggrieved about, because often they've given the situation considerably more thought... and still found it to be deeply wanting!

Each individual is just that, an individual, and as such will have his or her own reasons. For me, currently it's the manner in which this 'dream' is looking to 'embrace' the children. Should you happen to have strolled past Smiggle with a child in tow, you will quite quickly have realised that it's not the reliability of a pencil, a sharpener, the fastness or the particular hue with which said child is interested... no, it's the hypnotic sparkle of the otherwise redundant shell, or perhaps just the wrapper; the rubber does not so much need to properly erase as to be shaped like a pony, or a rabbit, or a polar bear... Hell, why not invest in the whole menagerie?

Build-a-Bear is far worse- in Norwich, Chaplefield, the respective shops occupy the same mall, rather like a pride of lions preying upon the unsuspecting wildebeests- here some of the staff genuinely are positively predatory; should they happen to catch the child's eye they're well practised at luring them in off the walkways; when they smile you can see that their teeth have been filed to points! In truth the actual bears are okay- at best they're just okay- it's far more the peripheral tat that goes with them! Why not also purchase a hat, a pair of boots, roller-skates, gloves, sunglasses, Hell, that bear's gonna need a Build-a-Bear variable rate mortgage! Attend the workshop, where your child/grandchild/nephew/niece may 'construct' their own formulaic bear and the hook has probably already been implanted- look at our sparkly wares!

And then there's the lovely Peppa; who wouldn't love Peppa, with her cutesie voice and her stream of moralistic lessons for the kids? When Peppa Pig came to Norwich- Theatre Royal- the seats were awash with happy children, interspersed with also mostly happy adults. With careful manipulation of one's pathway into the theatre one might even have managed to bypass the accompanying plastic tat that was on display in the foyer. The lights dimmed, the curtains opened and we all set about enjoying the show. In fairness the performance was always going to be okay, not quite as wonderful as many of the other children's theatre productions that we've witnessed- 'The Grufflalo,' 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt,' 'Little Red Riding Hood,' 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea,' 'Gruffalo's Child'- but still 'good.' We pondered the chaos that might ensue, as the children attempted to visit the toilets during the unusual half-time interval. Half time interval? Is there usually an interval?

And, as the curtains gently swished closed, so the interval suddenly took on a more sinister complexion. The 'dream' had pursued the theatre-goers inside, in to the auditorium; the aisles were suddenly transformed into a light-flashing 'spectacular' of the same garish tat that many of the seated parents-and-other-adults had so meticulously managed to circumnavigate earlier. No prisoners here! It was all going to the same Pacific location, anyway, but it still needed to be foisted onto the families first. Peppa doesn't appear to devote much time to this particular issue, during her T.V. life-lesson-slots.

Entertainment's long been in the bag! Whether it's the easy-betting route to darkest despair- "When it stops being fun, just stop!" It's really that easy!- or it's the longer road of pester power, entertainment's pretty much been bought and sold. Bingo, anyone, scratch card? We had, for the present- some of us- hoped to keep the children out of it, but your peripatetic and up-to-speed 'local' Executive-Head may well sell the school in not much more than an extended story time, before he's packed off to close the next business deal. You're either on this carousel or else the same is eyeing you up via your on-line purchasing history.

People have been led to 'believe' that they are party to some sort of friendly partnership, that the company or corporation they would otherwise challenge, or occasionally question, might somehow respect and cherish this 'relationship,' that it is a 'relationship' of mutuality... but really it's a 'dream,' far more nightmare than dream...

They're relying upon us not checking under the bed.


  1. Have you watched the film 'One by One'?
    You might find it thought-provoking....

  2. Rik Mayall? I'll give it a go.