Saturday 10 August 2013

Has change actually been slowing down?

Would the hapless Euro-MP Godfrey Bloom have offended with the same remark about bongo-bongo land a generation ago - in, say, 1967?

I have a feeling he would have done.  Even the year before Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech, and the dockers marching in his support, most of us in the UK would have found it tasteless and boorish, if not offensive.

Though, it is a marginal call.  Am I alone in remembering the lines of the original signature tune to the BBC’s Start the Week, sung by Lance Percival, and the line the follows “come to Bradford in  the sun”? (I won't say what I think it was in case my memory is faulty).

The reason I have been wondering this is that I turned nine in 1967 and went for my birthday outing with a few friends to Chislehurst Caves (where are you now, Adam, James, Justin...?).  I haven't been back since, until yesterday when, for my son's ninth birthday outing, I went again.

I wish I could say it hadn't changed at all.  To be honest, I didn't remember a great deal (though it was extremely satisfying, after all this time, to wander around underground with an oil lamp).

What now feels like nostalgia was then more like uncategorisable impressions, so it is hard to make comparisons.  But I have been wondering whether really so much has altered since then.

What has definitely shifted is social attitudes, to sexuality and race – or at least how one refers to it in public – and definitely in the role of women.  IT has also changed, but I wonder really whether that is as big a transformation as we think it is, however wedded we are to the screen.  We have also gained the concept of 'offensive' but at the cost of becoming more offended, more puritanical and so much narrower in public debate - but I was hardly taking part in pubic debate in those days, so I may be  wrong.

I have a mobile phone, which I certainly never had in 1967, but I probably watch less television – my children certainly watch very much less than I did.

But apart from that, what has changed?  In London, we have been working similar hours, going to the same sports venues, and catching the same bus routes with the same numbers, for well over a century.  I have been travelling in jumbo jets for my entire life.  The mini (see assembly line picture above from 1967) has been in production in Oxford since I was three - and it still is.

Doctor Who’s Tardis seems to be much the same as well.

Compared to the staggering technological changes of the first two decades of the last century, when cars, submarines, aeroplanes and cinema took giant leaps, to emerge fully formed around 1967, when the original pioneers were often still alive.

More about this in my submarine ebook Unheard, Unseen.

All of which is my way of saying this: don't believe it when people tell you that change is accelerating.  In the UK, it has actually been slowing down.

And there is an old dinosaur like Godfrey Bloom mouthing off to prove it.


neil craig said...

At the end of the Birmingham vote rigging trial the judge referred to postal ballots as making us like a "banana republic". Naturally the BBC, being an impartial state owned broadcaster of genuine liberal sympathies and not simply a corrupt totalitarian fascist propaganda organisation smearing the most popular party in the country, spent a vast amount of airtime denouncing the judge as "racist".

I'm sure you remember that. And knowing that it didn't happen I assume that, nin the normal illiberal manner of your party, you will censor this post.

Simon Titley said...

Your post mistakes "change" for technological change.

You are right that the pace of technological change has slowed but the pace of social change has, if anything, accelerated. The changes in attitudes to gender, race and class have changed more in the past forty years that they did in the previous hundred.

Perhaps the greatest change has been the atomisation of society. We inhabit much more private worlds. An example of how solipsistic society has become is that most bloggers under thirty seem to interpret every contrary opinion in terms of how offensive it is to them personally, and hence they seem to exist in a permanent rage.

Mark Pack said...

Are we slowing down? Let me give you my answer in video form :)

David Boyle said...

Neil, I would not dream of censoring your post, but must admit I'm not absolutely sure what you mean...

Simon, I v much agree, though I'm not absolutely sure that social attitudes have changes as much as you say.

Mark, we have a great partnership before us: I can make the assertions and you can come up with the evidence!