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Where Do We Go From Hair? December 23, 2011

Posted by markswill in Media, Navel Gazing, Politics, Schmolitics.

Good evening, and following the melancholic portents expressed in my last scrawl, now we can really get down to it! But first of all, looking back on two years of ill-tempered criticism of the cultural, political and economic status quo, perhaps some over-arching justification is due? Whilst I have no wish to align myself with the Canute-like denials of progress generally associated with my parents’ generation, I nonetheless increasingly find myself at odds with so much of Life As We Know It. Is this because I’m getting older and the secure certainties assumed over five decades have eroded and, thanks to the speed and pervasiveness of technology in our lives, done so at an increasingly rapid rate? Or is it because as we get older, we become more fearful of a future over which, for reasons of failing health, economic impotence and/or intellectual confusion, we have less and less control?

Well search me matey, but what I do know, or at least observe with some assurance, is that however sophisticated their evolutionary state, lack of familiarity breeds fear in animals, and to maintain familiarity for homo sapiens bedeviled by rampant, escalating change, money is the only answer, and lots of it. You’ve probably gathered by now that I do not have lots of it, but I know a few people who do and as they age they generally buttress themselves against change by acquiring the cultural trappings of their past.

So when I whine on about the disappearance of print media (in which I’ve spent my entire working life), or the consolidation of retailing into a few mega-corporations who have power to affect our lives way beyond that of governments (which have too much of it anyway), or the joys of driving powerful, noisy vehicles in a world running out of oil (which bleeding heart environmentalists, often in the thrall of rich landowners, myopically believe can be replaced by windpower) etc., etc., etc., what I am really doing is yearning for the certainties of my past. And, of course, tacitly bemoaning my lack of financial foresight because like so many of my peers who grew up during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s when the possibilities seemed endless and optimism boundless, pension planning  wasn’t even on our radar, and I’ll have to keep working until I croak.

Now that we approach our mid-sixties with only a hundred-odd quid a week of state support to see us through, such adolescent naivety seems reprehensible and those fears become colossal. Time therefore to rail against an ever more incomprehensible world where the people in charge are half our age and we are off their radar except, of course, where the burdens on their tax revenues occasioned by our escalating welfare costs threaten their status quo. So slashing public sector pensions, health service provision and local govt. funding is so, so preferable to frittering away many tens of billions on scandalously fruitless computer projects, military procurement, state-owned banker’s bonuses, oh and let’s not forget the Olympics.

As an aside, I do not wish to become such a burden, but as I see sad-eyed folk only a few years my senior shuffling round with their walking sticks in their charity shop wardrobes or anxiously examining the own brand options in the local mini-mart, as I find myself having to take yet another drug on an indefinite basis to counteract yet another age-related ailment, as my hair and teeth fall out at an alarming rate, and as I notice with dismay in a recent Observer Review the roster of notables of roughly my age who have died this past year, then I realise that like it or not, I will inevitably become an encumbrance to our greater society.

However as I was discussing with better informed friends at supper last night, there is a  very real possibility that along with everything else that the less affluent members of my generation have long taken for granted, the welfare system may fall prey to the coming economic holocaust. Even since my blog earlier this week, the European banking system has exhibited further fissures in its carapace of confidence, and as one friend pointed out, the system is now so dependent on inter-bank credit that if one major institution implodes, then the likelihood is that it will take the rest of them down the crapper. Ditto if Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal or Ireland are forced into terminal deficit and out of the Eurozone, then the consequences for Britain and indeed, the West generally, could be catastrophic.  And I haven’t even touched on the growing threats posed by (nuclear?) war, religious fundamentalism, climate change and the next pig-ignorant right wing lunatic to enter the White House, all of which have massive economic and social implications.

Far be it for me to be the harbinger of doom – or there again, maybe not – but we are already seeing libraries closing, museums and universities charging for cultural and educational nourishment that was once free, the apparently critical retail sector in imminent meltdown and no-one giving anything more of a shit about it all than a ‘change is inevitable’ shrug. That this is also the response to the yawning disparities between the circumstances of the very rich 1% and the variously impoverished 99%, that the same credit rating agencies who gave Lehman Bros an AAA rating days before it went bust are now apparently determining the fate of nations with little political question, and that the great god of growth is seen as our only salvation but without  any coherent or even feasible plans to restore it… well all that does I’m afraid speak to me of civilisation’s collapse.

I’m also not afraid to say that for me personally, change is not inevitable. I won’t join my iPad-proselytizing, online shopping addicted pals anytime soon and so provided I can still afford to, I’ll keep reading printed media ‘til it’s no longer available and even if it no longer earns me a living (sob). I will also carry on shopping at independent butchers, greengrocers and newsagents until they’ve completely disappeared. And I’ll continue to listen to live music and watch movies on the big screen until the last pub and cinema that I can still access on my zimmer frame has closed down.

What about you? But whilst you ponder that, or sniff derisorily at my gloom-mongery, it’s traditional at this time to wish everyone a fabulous Xmas and topping New Year. So as a bleeding-heart traditionalist, I’d better do exactly that.

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1. jan buxton - December 23, 2011

As someone so far still working in local government I reluctantly accept the cliché that change is the only constant but I’ve been thinking about it recently as it is proposed to move my team from ‘Environmental and Protection Protection Services’ into ‘Highways – Asset Management’. All the team members are unhappy about this; the same people who were equally unhappy about being moved from Highways 2 years ago. I was thinking about this in the context of the social and economic situation about which I share your gloom. I concluded that the important factor is the one you touched on – powerlessness. We like to be able to choose to move departments or how we get our reading material or what brand of groceries and we feel threatened as we see that choice inexorably slipping from our grasp as with increasing age, decreasing financial power, social instability or modern life we don’t fully understand, we lose control of our lives.
Changing is fine, being changed is not.

markswill - December 23, 2011

The distinction is crucial Jan, and thanks for making it.

2. Paul Blezard - December 23, 2011

Well I’m kind of relieved Mark. Much of this piece read like a long valedictory note and I was beginning to fear that you’d decided to ‘do a Hemingway’ or a ‘Cobain’ and top yourself (preferably in a less messy way). So I’m very glad you’re going to stick with us for a while longer yet. I always enjoy your ramblings, whether I agree with them or not (and I usually do). I’m sure, as Mr Micawber was wont to say, ‘Something will turn up!’ All the best for 2012 to you and all your blog-readers. PNB

3. jiff - December 23, 2011

We’re all doomed, doomed I tell you…
Well except me, due to the fact that I’m British and therefore can and will survive anything.
“I am not a number I am a free man”
Bring it on, I’ll see you on the other side…

markswill - December 23, 2011

That’s the spirit Geoff… but perhaps NOT the reason you drive a fine old Italian car…?!

jiff - December 24, 2011

My dear Mark, the limited amount of old Italian cars merely confirms my position, not really one for blending into the crowd. Don’tcha know.

markswill - December 24, 2011

And quite right too, Geoff: we are both part of the same (non) crowd.

4. Pete - December 23, 2011

Like Paul above by the time I’d read this half way I was expecting to see that you’d booked an appointment with Dignitas, so it is a bit of a relief to know that by the end of the piece it was actually OK to wish you a Happy New Year. Cheers, and keep on scribbling (or typing).

markswill - December 23, 2011

In a few years Dignitas will be the luxury option. Check out Soylent Green, one of Chuck Heston’s few decent flics, if you want to see what’ll be the more common option.

5. Martin Craig - December 23, 2011

That was kind of a relief…the end of the world we all know & love is one thing, but as long as you’re ok…

So we’ve reached the part where you say, “We blew it Billy.” & we say, “No man, it was great, man” & you repeat, “No, Billy, we blew it.” As long as we don’t all get blasted off our bikes in the next scene.

Nice observations on wind farms and Sub-Standard & Bollock’s, by the way. The more people who wake up to those and other bits of reality, the more hopeful we can be. Have a great Christmas & New Year & write your ass off in 2012!

markswill - December 23, 2011

Thanks Martin, hope it’s not too desperate up there in the frozen north.

6. Peter Silverton - December 23, 2011

dear paddy chayesky . . .

7. WTK - December 23, 2011

Spread on cream crackers soylent green isn’t bad. Don’t worry. 2012 will be much worse.

markswill - December 23, 2011

That’s hugely reassuring Terry! And what of 2013… or will we all have perished in the fall-out occasioned by North Korea, Iran and Israel’s ‘pre-emptive’ nuclear strikes?

Nigel Morningwood - December 28, 2011

I think it unkind WTK would pass this facetious ‘whistling past the graveyard’ remark, flying in the face of so grave and absorbing a topic as Mark’s very public gerontilogical crisis.
Many who know WTK consider it doubtful he ever successfully negotiated puberty, drawing attention to his peculiar taste for wearing boys briefs size 8-11 years.

markswill - December 30, 2011

As no stranger to airing your psychoses in public Barry (for behind that comedy sobriquet it is of course you), I nonetheless feel it’s a case of ‘pots and kettles’ shoehorning Terry’s underwear habits into this otherwise solemn discourse.

8. Helga - December 23, 2011

Mark, I have to admit, I agree with every word! So WTF are we going to do? I absolutely refuse to just roll over and play dead!

markswill - December 23, 2011

Vodka and coke?

9. Linda Stokes - December 24, 2011

well…im happier than ive been since i was twenty-something….
but its all relative….which is, my relatives were all dying slow deaths and i had to care for them, but, they’re all dead now…well..
.its either
that, or cause we’re corresponding again…

markswill - December 24, 2011

Dr Linda, you were 20-something when I first met you (and we were, coincidentally, ‘an item’). So what went wrong in between?
More seriously though, my observations on the decline of western civilisation [(c) Penelope Spheeris, hahahaha] might just be the deranged ramblings of an old fool, but at least a few others seem to concur. Then again, may be they’re similarly deranged?

10. Hed Maginnis - December 24, 2011

I can see it now. Yesterday at Sandringham ‘Liz, Liz. That bastard from the welsh marches is getting uppity again………Oh I’ve got pains in my chest. Get me a specialist from the top heart heart hospital in the country and wave that private health form at them’
Years of political trouble and women here I tend to take the Biggles approach. If the worst happens one of two things will happen. You will survive it or you won’t survive it. If you survive it there’s no need to worry if you don’t survive it you can’t worry. That, tequilla, furry lined Barbour and a recalcitrant dog usually help.
All the best
PS Ipods are great, headphone amp and a decent pair of headphones.
PNB your fondness for FF Bikes is remembered with the same bewilderment as I had when I first saw them. All I see is some weird motorised pram or invalid carriage. I’m not saying for one moment that this is correct, it’s an opinion. Of course a hardtail is not exactly a healthy option either.

11. Mark - December 24, 2011

Why do I read this blog?

A – Cos I really enjoy a good rant

B – References to whacked out Motorcycles – did someone mention FF? – I was lucky enough to visit Malcolm Newell and his Quasar shop in Wiltshire many moons ago and its to my eternal regret I bottled out for something more “conventional”

Paul N. Blezard - December 24, 2011

Hed: I look forward to meeting you some time and talking some sense into your clearly troubled mind.
Mark: As I’m sure you know, Malcolm passed away far too young in 1994, but thanks to that danged internet thingy, he can still be enjoyed, along with Royce Creasey and a whole bunch of other FFers, including me and my rather fine and fashionable 1980s jumper, here:
Royce is still alive and well and ranting with the best of ’em – and still building the occasional FF. It’s all at http://www.bikeweb.com
PS If you’d actually bought a Quasar, as I eventually did, I guarantee you would have spent a lot of time cursing the too-low roof because you would have banged your head on it every time you got in or out! Genesis is far more sensibly roofed!

markswill - December 24, 2011

A ‘motorcycle’ powered by a Reliant engine… I think you made the right decision.

12. noel - December 24, 2011

A glorious exit strategy that that involves a functioning Reliant engine ?

13. markswill - December 25, 2011

‘Functioning Reliant engine’ being a relative term, I take it, Noel?

14. andy tribble - December 30, 2011

You need to divide your worries into what’s really disastrous and what isn’t. And overlay that list, onto what’s necessary for life and what isn’t, for you as an individual.

For instance, although a literate person myself, I can live without a library. And Greece can go back to the drachma and should never have left it. I can live without locally sourced vegetables.

But if the EEC and the insurance companies stop me from riding a modified motorcycle, while wearing a t shirt, I will be most upset.

markswill - December 30, 2011

You’re right on all counts, Andy… especially the last one: ‘most upset’ being an under-statement. But who is there fighting motorcyclists’ corner in the UK these days who has any clout in Brussels?

jan buxton - December 30, 2011

That’s true, Andy, but then the old adage ‘we all hang together or we all hang separately’ comes into play. I have never smoked nor gone hunting with dogs but I object to the way that they have been banned – and that approach can be applied to quash any minority if that principle is acceptable. I am in the minority that drive a Land Rover on non-tarmac roads, we’re an easy target and have already lost a sizable proportion of our roads at the last attempt; I’m also in the minority who prefer to keep classic cars on the road … or ‘old wrecks’ as our WAGS term them … and I watch worriedly for more details of VOSA’s changes to the MoT next month.
I’ve never counted but I’m guessing be-T-shirted modified-bikers are a similar minority and an equally easy target.
The current trend seems to be to reduce cultural/social life to the lowest common denominator. Perhaps this counter-evolutionary mode will doom us and we’ll become extinct due to an unexpected byproduct of some European safety legislation? Oh, and happy New Year! 😉

15. Jules Bywater-lees - December 30, 2011

Remind me to buy you a pint and slap you in the face, the term, pull your head out of your arse springs to mind. I’m still half a generation from the non existent pension and I was relying on your generation to blaze a trail into a disreputable yet exciting third age.

But really why should I/anyone care, you had it all or at least a big chunk of life, sex without AIDs, free education with a support grant to buy the fags and booze, boom years followed by boom years and more wealth than any of us could imagine. Music of now has stagnated after 50 years or innovation and now everyone is served up recycled culture. When ITV launch Morse the early years you know its shit.

And the real lost generation, the school leavers of today [of which my son will join] face 10 to 20 year of stagnation [if you believe the optimistic economists]. Technology might be the savior, if the Arab spring and anti-capitalist movements can organise with twitter, facebook and youtube then the power of the printed word has just evolved. The lost generation cannot follow us, they have find their own jobs, their own futures, they have cheap technology to make their music, movies, international shop windows and access to billions of pages in global library.

And maybe we should show them how its done. By the way just bought myself a cheap projector so outdoor movies will be available in the woods, complete with a pizza oven. That’s living the dream.

markswill - December 31, 2011

Would that be the same ‘cheap technology’ that is putting millions out of work, concentrating power in the hands of a few mega corporations and allowing the Chinese govt. to keep their people repressed?

Jules Bywater-lees - January 4, 2012

Um, yes

But lets not be victims especially ones with really good excuses for why we don’t get off our collective arses and make our lives better.

markswill - January 4, 2012

Too many double negative for my liking Jules, but then negatives are the staff of life for some of us!

16. Jules Bywater-lees - January 5, 2012

Would that be the same ‘cheap technology’ that is putting millions out of work, concentrating power in the hands of a few mega corporations and allowing the Chinese govt. to keep their people repressed?

Like Apple, yes!

markswill - January 5, 2012

Yes, like Apple. But then I never claimed to be free of hypocrisy, Jules.

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