Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The shocking crapness of Britain - top to bottom crapness that shocks!

Two unrelated happening for some reason seem to have linked themselves in my mind. On the one hand, a particualrly gruelling example of politcal snivel from the British culture minister Margaret Hodge, berating the Proms as being too exclusive (1). On the other hand, well liked British newsreader Carol Barnes has suffered a life-threatening stroke (2).

As I said, there is nothing to link these two stories and only a mind derranged by hatred of New Labour's pitful squandering of its historic opportunity and still sickened by the hideous outpouring of faux greif post Diana would perceive one. I possess such a mind, sadly.

Hodge delivered a speech (3) to an entity glorying in the name of the "IPPR think tank on Britishness, Heritage and the Arts," in which she criticsised the Proms as being too exclusive, complaining that "audiences for some of many of our greatest cultural events - I'm thinking particularly of the Proms - is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this," and that "this is not about making every audience completely representative, but if we claim great things for our sectors in terms of their power to bring people together, then we have a right to expect they will do that wherever they can."

Though Downing Street denied that she meant to actually criticise the Proms in anyway, because that isn't what New Labour does - the Proms, a spokesbeast assured us, were a "wonderful, democratic and a quintessentially British institution." So much for Hodges claim that she wanted to "challenge our sectors square on."

This sort of waffle is bad enough, but Hodge also explained what was good and why. Good things included the Angel of the North (4), Coronation Street and The Archers. Public holidays were good as well. These things, apparently, were "icons of a common culture that everybody can feel a part of," and "enhance a sense of shared identity," though why a lump of mis-shapen metal on a hillock outside Gateshead would make anyone feel part of anything, or inspire me to hug some random weirdo on Princess Street in Edinburgh at 3am, is lost to me.

Perhaps I am too cynical to understand. Maybe it works like this:

"The Angel, man! Have you seen it?"

"God! Yes! It's so beautiful. I realise, brother, we are all British together, we have a wondrous common heritage. Ambridge is the spiritual home for both of us. Let me take my knife from your stomach, brother, and kiss your wound in a spirit of inclusive Britishiness." (5)
Homing in on her purpose, she explained that this sense of cultural togetherness was important, especially to new migrants, who - perhhaps - might not get the all inclusiveness of The Archers. To deal with this problem, Hodge suggested surreal citizenship ceremonies for new-minted Britons, so they would appreciate the wondrous - and inclusive - culture that they were now part of:

She also suggested that British citizenship ceremonies be held in historic British buildings like castles, theatres and museums to help people "associate their new citizenship with key cultural icons"
Right. So telling Hamid that he's now a British citizen, swatting him on the asre with an arse-swatter made from athistle, rose, leek and shamrock, while standing at Marble Arch (a cultural icon if ever there was one) will make him British, and privy to the secrets of Coro and the Archers. Sorry, but I've been British for more years than I can remember, and I still don't get Coro.

Meanwhile, Carol Barnes was suffering a massive, life threatening stroke. This is, of course, at tragedy for her, but lots of people have strokes. Not many of them get into newspapers. Her tragedy is only important to her, her family and friends. I donm;t think it will stay private, however. While it won't get to the revolting demonstrations faux emotion we say post-Diana, there wll be a lot of expressions of grief over this. And by expressions, I mean that I don't think that it is real grief, but manufactured, phoney grief of people who feel they are somehow involved in Barnes's tragedy - or feel they ought to be. We should butt out and let family and friends get on with coping with it as best they can. But rubber-necking and gawping at the misery of others is the new (inter)national past time.

If Hodge wanted a "wonderful, democratic and a quintessentially British institution" then she should look at the new (inter)national past time of rubbernecking, gawping at the misery of others and feeling somehow involved with one of the "icons of a common culture" and her personal disaster becomes something "that everybody can feel a part of," giving us "shared sense of common cultural identity"?

Perhaps citizenship ceremonies could be held at Barnes's hospital bed, so the newly Britishified Brits will immidiately be able to take part in the national pastime of taking too much interest in the misfortune of others, and evermore "associate their new citizenship with key cultural icons."

I don't know what makes me more angry - the wafflely cant of politicians wittering about something as irrelevant as the Proms and holding up Coronation street as an exemplar of culture, or the sinister emotional incontinence increasingly demonstrated by the real British public. Hodge, I suppose, has made a prize fool of herself and probably a Pavlovian reaction in somepeople, who will now reach for their revolver if they ever hear the word culture again (though perhaps to shoot themselves to escape Hodge's belthering), where as the creeping emotionalism is a symptom of something dangerous developing in Britain.

(Credit where credits due: Omni, Lard, minge VHW and the rest on News)
1 - 'Proms not inclusive, says Hodge,' unattributed BBC stroy, 4th of March, 2008. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7276684.stm)
2 - 'Newsreader Carol Barnes 'close to death' - 4 years after daughter died in skydiving tragedy,' by Paul Revoir, Daniel Bates and Liz Hazelton in the Daily Mail, 5th of March, 2008)(
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=525589&in_page_id=1770&ct=5)
3 - unless otherwise indicated, or onbviously fictional dialogue produced through the actions of my own sick mind, everything hereafter contained within quote marks is sourced from the BBC article identified in #1, above. Apart from the identification of the think tank, and some reported speech, it is all direct quotation culled from the report.
4 - The Angel, in all its dubious glory, can be seen at this web adress:
http://www.gateshead.gov.uk/Leisure%20and%20Culture/multimedia/virtualtours/angel_java.aspx as of the 5th of March, 2008.
5 - This is the fictional dialogue produced through the actions of my own sick mind that I mentioned.

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