Tuesday 11 February 2014

Different Similarities

After booting a first job is to check the Obituaries to confirm my continuing presence and to retrieve the memory of any bits of my past that connect. 

Today in the Telegraph list were two that seemed to be in sharp contrast.  One was of the former child film star Shirley Temple, 85, and the other Stuart Hall, 82, the Jamaican born English cultural theorist cum political philosopher.

Both have Wikipedia pages and other listings telling their stories as well as the summaries in the obituaries.  Shirley went on to a distinguished career in politics in later life, Stuart has been credited with the thinking that created major planks in the Labour Party policy making of the last three decades.

Neither are any personal connection but both had an influence one way or another.  My parents were regular cinema goers and as for some reason neighbours were reluctant to sit or take me in I was dragged along. 

There were certain films where one was restive.  Any romantic film, ugh Charles Boyer, or child stars, oh no no not Shirley Temple or Judy Garland might well lead to the cinema manager having a quiet word.

The result was that while very many of my parent's generation and those following bought into the notion of The American Dream, Hollywood and media style, I did not.  But thanks to the men of the US 82nd Airborne Division and contact with ordinary Americans, I did have a healthy respect for them and their capabilities.

Quite why I did not bump into Stuart Hall at some stage is one of the accidents of life, simply that we were not in the same place at the same time.  Basically, his ideas about culture and society were derived from, related to and part of the warp and weft of the metropolitan Left and people of the post war mid 20th Century, they are listed in the biographies. 

A couple of years in a London Secondary Modern school in the 60's would tell you some things but it was far from typical of the British working classes around the country and nor did he see much of manual work, factory work or the basic public services that existed then. Bluntly, he like his academic associates was always well removed from the daily grind.

So today we find ourselves in a culture and way of living in the UK that is defined by a global media celebrity and entertainment industry that saturates our communications and politics. 

This is largely based on that of the USA which has grown and expanded since the early 20th Century.  Shirley Temple was part of that and for a brief space of time promoted an ideal of childhood.

Stuart's ideals made for a woolly notion of theoretical culture and meaning.  This was supposed to derive from the working class but that class now and in the coming generations are far removed from those of the past in almost every way. 

His idea's were oblivious to either technological change or the pace of radical reshaping of work patterns, movement and the basic thinking patterns of so many people compared to what some of the Left thought they should be. 

So now we have a Labour Party based on cultural theories that bears no relation to realities.  It is little wonder they were bought so easily by the extractive financial and media industries that had emerged in the late 20th Century.

Two people so different yet so much alike in being party to the selling of illusions of life that were fictions of the mind.

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