Communication Breakdown, Part 2

As 2016 finally implodes in a shitstorm of fake news and false facts, I find myself in need of consolation. If I was a hedgehog, I’d hibernate. My previous post ended in a soothing flurry of proverbs but their analgesic effect has now worn off, so here’s another one:

‘When the heart weeps at what it has lost, the spirit laughs at what it has found.’

Arab proverb

Gulp, think I’m going to have to wait a while before that one works!

In the meantime, here is some music:

Hmm, that’s blown away a few cobwebs, if only because it was 1970 and not 2016! My life was ahead of me then, all speculation and no nostalgia. Who was it said, I wonder, that nostalgia is not what it was? I reckon we were the first mass-media generation and the fusty old past was a backward-looking book we were only too keen to close. Like Bob Dylan, we went along with Rimbaud’s injunction that it was necessary to be absolutely modern. Adults in the 1950s, wearied by the war, usually seemed happy enough to let us get on with it. After all, our freedom was what they had been fighting for.

And by comparison with children today, we were allowed to run pretty wild. But don’t run away with the thought that it was a golden age. My cousin Helen makes this thoughtful observation:

As children spawned just after WW2, we remember what it was like before the screws tightened on British society: schools were often appalling, there was little Health and Safety, and we had rights now gone for ever thanks to Thatcher and Blair. While this meant industrial accidents, child deprivation and unfairness, it also meant freedom to protest. Freedom of action. When in Marrakesh for my 60th, I was overjoyed at the lethal collapsed pavements which we had to navigate to avoid breaking our ankles. I felt once again the thrill of being in control of my own path – literally! I suppose what I’m saying is that you need some danger, mayhem and confusion as the crucible for inspiration and change. What have we lost in our present over-protected first world?

We learn best through trial and error: without mistakes, no achievements. How else can we grow up and not just older? Here is Helen again:

Young adults today don’t know anything different from the over-scrutinised, coddled society we have today. They don’t suffer from the feeling of loss of rights. How much more obedient will future generations be? They will accept without question their body-chipped, iris-recognition life. We also have to be vigilant for signs of the return of repression under the excuse of protection and safety.

We have always been contaminated, heavily, with the infantile responses programmed into us by all the “Sit still, be quiet, do as you’re told” directives of childhood: but looking over the parapet today it seems (Warning, generalisation alert!)  that younger generations are lacking in the cussedness, determination and daring that makes my generation such an inconvenience to the Establishment when we cross swords with it.

1984 has been and gone, with no obvious sign of Orwell’s Big Brother, but soon enough our every move will be followed by the often shadowy forces of control and commercial exploitation. Can you have a true democracy where adults are, in effect, infantilised? Helen traces the problem to our shallow ‘soundbite’ culture:

I blame the internet in part – the tsunami of information which helps to desensitise compassion and stifle curiosity. But why be curious anyway? The apathy of today is a realistic assessment of our political system. When you’ve grown up with celebrity culture, naturally you’ll be more interested in the Kardashians than the fact that there’s been a 6.5 earthquake in the third world.
Helen and I used to exchange long illustrated letters in our early teens and we’ve just resumed our correspondence on, ah yes, the internet! Perhaps we can prove Marshall McLuhan wrong when he said The medium is the message … in our case, I very much hope and believe, it’s not the how but the what!
Anyhow, no more talk of hibernation, I’m inspired to write and post an epic poem in defence of freedom before the weather closes in completely …
Image result for sun and storm
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19 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown, Part 2

  1. I think 1984 is fully here – sophisticated, disguised and modernised. We are scrutinised, manipulated, lied to and controlled.
    A good bit of mayhem and a bit of freedom and danger made life a lot more interesting. Are we being bored into quiescence?

    1. I bet you’re banned from fairground shooting-booths, Opher, because you’d hit every target! Your spirited response is so much better than slumping into passive quiescence, which I have a tendency to do. My cousin’s input also cheered me up … as does reading Private Eye! Theresa May is pretty boring …

  2. I make fun of millennials, but we and the world we grew up in were not all that great, come on. Are my daughters like me? Was I like my parents? My parents and their friends moaned about the world changing and the degenerate younger generation who didn’t know sacrifice or hard work too. As it will ever be.
    Kids still do stupid and dangerous things, believe me. As it also ever will be.
    If we want change we have to work for it, not blame or even self-blame. That doesn’t mean I’m not depressed about what’s going on…(K)

  3. Yeah, as I said, no golden age and I agree that the tensions between generations are a fixed feature of human life but I still like teasing out historical differences rather than similarities to explore cultural trends. Perhaps there are also some cultural differences between countries – our shift from a centralised to a privatised economy may have been more intense, for example, and the war may have had a greater influence on public life. And far from making fun of millennials, I worry about the world we’ve created for them, which is increasingly unfair. Thank you for your stimulating comment.

  4. Love the Zep! And it is still relevant today, as we face this communication breakdown. As for 1984, I believe we have narrowly avoided it. People are beginning to wake up. And yet I see so many asleep too… However, it is a new day. I personally love the Millennials, they are the future and they are smart. In my life I do not know anyone who is obsessed with the Kardashians, and yet we are told everyone is. Fake news? Yes, I’d say so, Fake news is now more glaring and dangerous than ever, but people are learning to discern.

    1. Yes indeed, while the kids today – see how hip and clued up I am? – are surrounded by this stuff, they are more adept than maybe us oldsters at reading it and hopefully sorting the wheat from the chaff. I’m also grateful that they broadly voted against the reactionary side in the UK and US, unlike my own generation which was not a good advert for the values I keep trying to ascribe to it! That’s the trouble with trying to generalise – the facts keep getting in the way …

      1. The thing about older adults — a lot of them say ‘ oh these kids, who do they think they are? Talking on cell phones blah blah blah’. But it is US who wanted a better world for the kids! lol! Us who wish we’d had cell phones. That is always the way.

        1. Speaking as an older adult – late 60s – I’ve never wanted a cell phone and am quite happy never to have had one. I like being out of touch. Don’t suppose I’m typical, though …

          1. I never wanted one either !! LOL! But then I was ‘forced’ into getting one for purposes of work. I used that as an example, but perhaps not a good example, of the conveniences available today… What I mean is the ‘take’ on young people is that they are spoiled — but really, we all want an easier world 🙂

  5. I suppose, what we need to remember is that you can’t miss what you never had – another proverb type cliché for your collection? And maybe what’s happening is an alternative type of rebellion – we may not admire it, but neither did the previous generation admire what we got up to. You should have heard what my Gran had to say about girls flaunting their knees.

    1. She didn’t by any chance have shares in maxi-dresses, did she? You’re right, though, they have to navigate their own way through the reefs. And they must get pretty fed up with us oldsters going on about the good old days as if fun was invented in 1963 … ha, cue Philip Larkin, coming at it (as it were) from the other direction …

      Annus Mirabilis

      Sexual intercourse began
      In nineteen sixty-three
      (which was rather late for me) –
      Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
      And the Beatles’ first LP.

      Up to then there’d only been
      A sort of bargaining,
      A wrangle for the ring,
      A shame that started at sixteen
      And spread to everything.

      Then all at once the quarrel sank:
      Everyone felt the same,
      And every life became
      A brilliant breaking of the bank,
      A quite unlosable game.

      So life was never better than
      In nineteen sixty-three
      (Though just too late for me) –
      Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
      And the Beatles’ first LP.

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