THE JOAN COLLINS FAN CLUB August 23, 2011Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Politics, Schmolitics.
It’s not often that I agree with Joan Collins, in fact this is a first. However as faithfully reported in a recent issue of The Daily Mail – an organ I like even less than La Collins, more on which a little later – I just had to concur with this: “I pity the poor children of today,” sympathised Joanie, “who are exposed to the nasty adult world of profanity, porn and poverty of thought. Kids take on board the mindless slosh that drips through TV and films today; famous footballers who brawl in bars, slaggy ‘glamour models’; and foul-mouthed comedians who joke about the most disgusting things. These are the role models of today.” Who she seems to think are responsible for the many school leavers that are unable “to read or write properly and are totally unfit to earn a living.” Some of this is a bit rich coming from an ancient B-list actress who appeared topless in at least three of her films during an era where such behaviour really was deemed disgusting, but nevertheless, and as The Sun might snigger, she had a couple of good points.
Readers of these blogs will by now be familiar with my own coruscating views on the evident moral decline of western civilization and in truth I sometimes wish I could pen something more uplifting, but if it’s hiking in the Chilterns, the Best Pushchairs Under £100 or amusing little eateries tucked away in the lesser reaches of Suffolk, then I’m afraid the weekend supplements are always going to be ahead of my game. So for the moment I shall stick with pessimistic fatalism and duly informed by Joanie I noticed in the same issue of the i that reported her Daily Mail utterances, news of major survey of eight- to 17 year-olds which concluded that those who regularly read text messages were much more likely to be below average readers than those who didn’t. More dishearteningly, only 5.4% of this sample admitted to regularly reading fiction.
This might account for the level of illiteracy bemoaned by Joanie which, by the way, was prompted by comments by her “many friends in business” who just can’t find the staff they need (e.g. spin-doctors, wig-makers, plastic-surgeons?), but whilst I personally share her grief, there are those who would aver that this matters not a jot because society is simply and inevitably embracing these new forms of communication and changing accordingly.
A whole school (sic) of educational thought espouses the benefits of grammar- and punctuation-free phonetics, and social networking sites which, let us not forget, facilitate the overthrow of dictatorships as well as the looting of high streets, have between them created a language that aped the argot of science fiction monsters a few decades ago. Add to this the high-speed, staccato-cut visual imagery that some of us oldsters might find annoying if not bewildering, and it’s perhaps no wonder that attention spans have diminished and Joanie’s feckless youth lack the ability to concentrate on books or even magazine articles containing more than a few hundred words?
But if it’s only old farts who lament this, there are surely more genuinely sinister aspects to this march of cultural development? For a start, the normality of text messaging, Twittering and Facebooking is generally undertaken with little or no thought to its consequences. Cyber bullying, riot-inciting Facebook and Blackberry trafficking and shameless sexual harassment are just three examples of how digital media encourages communication without responsibility: just tap out a whim-inspired message, press ‘send’ and out it goes into cyber-space which, because there’s no-one on the end of a ‘phone or across a table to answer back seems to remove any consideration of consequences. And an old fashioned letter requires so much more thought, effort and the almost ludicrous cost of a stamp all of which might actually facilitate pause for thought during its composition.
Quite apart from the dangers of such instant communiqués and the slapdash language that they’ve now normalised, there is also the sheer volume to contend with. I really, really do not understand how those addicted to Twitter and Facebook find time to do a job of work (and here a nod to Ms Collins and her business pals may again be due), much less poke their noses into a book or their feet into a gym, cinema or art gallery. I have enough trouble tearing myself away from the great god of email to engage in such cybernautics, let alone spend the hour or so a day I once spent reading a newspaper or a few chapters of latest Jeffrey Archer’s latest masterpiece.
Of course the emergence of digest media like Metro, The Week and most recently, the Indie’s baby sister, i – which I do actually buy every day, but mainly ‘cause it costs only 20p and the Indie is a shadow of its former self – reflect if not intellectually nourish the Twittering, time-poor middle classes. But where I wonder will it all end? Well to mount another of my regular hobby-horses, if this race to illiteracy continues, then no-one will be reading books in a few years time. Which is just as well because there won’t be any libraries left: after all, isn’t it so much more important to mount a single Tornado raid on Libya than keep open the average public library, both of which cost approx. £40,000… and don’t even get me started on the cost of our Afghani and Iraqi adventures?
As for newspapers and magazines, well within what little there’s left of my lifetime, they’ll all be gone too. With the possible exception, that is, of the celeb-based rags that continue to proliferate, so at least we’ll still be able to absorb the wisdom of such latterday sages as Joan Collins.
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