27. Stop the World, I want to get off!
I am aware that that was the title of a musical starring Anthony Newly in 1961 but it does encapsulate how I find myself feeling sometimes. I am aware that this is going to be similar to the previous article, but it comes from a different angle and beginning. I was reading a fairly light hearted article about keeping on top of the news and came across, “And before you know it, being politically up to date on (particular news concerns) is as second nature as knowing who’s in and who’s not in Strictly.”
Now if you had just come back from two years in the dark side of a third world country, I am sure you would look at that sentence and say, “Who’s strictly not in where?” not realising that the columnist had been using shorthand for the TV programme, Strictly Come Dancing. I was left wondering about the trivia that we keep in our minds these days. There are so many of these contestant shows on TV that to cover everyone, we should probably speak about those who are in or out of Strictly, Get me out of here, Britain’s got Talent, the X Factor, and any other of these ‘drop-out of’ shows that you can think of.
Being an article for those of us of more mature years (!), it’s fair to be a bit nostalgic and look back to a time when these sort of programmes had not arrived and the everlasting Bruce Forsyth was hosting much more simple and straight forward contestant shows. But more than that, knowing who was in and who was out, was not the coinage of current culture back there. I confess I watched and enjoyed earlier series of Strictly, but you can have too much of a good thing and gloss, glamour and people acting in silly ways sometimes has eventually soured with me, and so now I’ve dropped out of the culture race to know who has just left the show. You may have a stronger stomach than me, so good on you.
But to refer back to the columnist who got me started on this, one of her starting points was that we each need to have a knowledge of economics to understand the news these days. Well, I used to teach economics for a period in my life and if you think you’d understand a lot more of what is going on in the world if you did economics, let me put your mind at rest: you won’t!
Here’s the worrying thing: I’m not sure there are many people (if any) who really understand the world’s economic problems. Oh yes, we have pundits lining up on TV day after day pouring forth their wisdom but actually it doesn’t seem to be making anything better! In fact, to the contrary, we totter on month by month with a fresh set of worries and questions. Every time Mervyn King of the Bank of England appears, it seems it is only to tell us the next bad thing. If they agreed on the answers we wouldn’t have the problems but, nevertheless, we are bombarded week after week after week on TV and in the papers with more and more speculation and bad news.
So here’s my question: do I need to know all his stuff? Am I a better person for it? Am I reassured by it all? You know the answer to that by what I’ve said above. All of this stuff – whether about TV dancing celebrities, hopeful up and coming singers, or the grumblings of the Eurozone – I think I could get by without!
Some while ago I was in America for a number of weeks while the world’s biggest entertainment show, the Olympic Games, was on in China. Now because of a thing called Time Zones and because much American TV is rubbish, it was almost impossible to keep tabs on who was doing what in the Games. End result? I am possibly a rare Brit who hasn’t much of a clue as to what went on and who won what, simply because I was out of the communications loop. But, hey, if you watched it, how much can you remember of what went on all those years ago? Even more importantly, how has your life been changed by that knowledge?
You see the signs are already there for next year (written in 2011). Slowly and gradually the hype is winding up for next year’s Olympic Games in London and slowly and gradually we are going to be convinced that those four weeks are going to be utterly unmissable and (implied) we will be lesser citizens if we miss it. Now don’t get me wrong; if you enjoy sports it will be a great four weeks, but I’m here campaigning for those of us who normally switch channels when athletics is on. I don’t think it’s that I’m becoming a grumpy old man, it’s more that I’m becoming aware of how the modern world tries to dictate what is important, and very often the people doing it are doing it for self-serving purposes. That’s fine but I’ll resist your efforts to lay guilt on me for not being part of your frenetic culture.
Contentment is a funny thing. It’s being comfortable with what you have and at our time of life I think that’s important. For younger people, too much contentment would mean we never develop scientifically, medically and so on. Research is born out of a hunger for something better. But contentment is the enemy of the modern government economist who wants us to spend our way out of a recession. Understandable but to be resisted sometimes! I’ve just seen a newspaper supplement that is all about the top 100 gadgets you should be thinking about before Christmas. The back fifty of them were things you “need”. No, I don’t need all these things. I know they make a fun and interesting supplement but leave the propaganda for the younger generation. No, I don’t NEED a Kindle from Amazon because I’m not going to be sitting on a train commuting and if I was I’d be just as happy with a paperback as with an £89 gizmo that I might get mugged for!
So, am I advocating turning off the TV and cancelling the newspapers? No, not at all, but every time ‘they’ try and pile information on you about problems with no answers, yawn! When ‘they’ try to dump you with guilt for being ‘out of touch’, smile and yawn. Contentment is knowing who you are, with what you are, and with what you have. Don’t let them take it from you, and if they have, grab it back!
Quote: “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.”
Quote: “It is not our circumstances that create our discontent or contentment. It is us.”
(Source: Vivian Greene)