Huzzah for BBC4. For those of you outside the UK, BBC4 is an award-winning television channel that makes mostly documentaries and is considered a “thinking” channel. Or at least a channel that makes the viewer have a think for a bit, anyway. It is quite intellectual, quite serious. The programme after mine is entitled The Seven Ages of Stardust. Almost every programme is educational and fascinating, even the quizzes.
A programme has just ended entitled “Cavalier or Roundhead: Which One Are You?”. It was a fascinating look at the ideas behind the civil war and how those ideas still polarise us today. Cavalier represents panache, pleasure and individuality. Roundhead represents modesty, discipline, equality and state intervention. Having already spoken about Oliver Cromwell recently and how, he wasn’t actually a Bad Man, this leapt out at me from the programme planner.
So which are we? Which am I?
Well, personally, I’m a fairly hedonistic person – I like drinking alcohol, I like shopping on a Sunday, I like stained glass windows and coloured paint and frescos in churches and mince pies at Christmas. Oliver Cromwell would have disapproved of me, thoroughly.
And yet I believe in the role of the State in the life of the individual. I believe that some legislation is necessary to keep us on an even keel. I like CCTV (as long as there is actually someone watching it). I especially like it when it has a microphone and shouts at people who drop litter (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-10694692), as I think litter is one of the most unforgivable crimes committed on society as a whole. I like rules about seatbelts and laws against drink driving. I dislike soft sentencing policy and am unconvinced about rehabilitation. I like consumer law and protection and fighting for the individual against the greedy and unscrupulous, using the law as a tool, a weapon for good. And I really dislike fox hunting for sport. If you want to chase some vermin across a field, I’m sure London has some rats you could borrow.
But at the same time, I dislike the recent obsession with individualism at any cost. “I have the right to…” has become a positively pernicious worm in our society. I’m worth it. You’re worth it. Don’t change me. Be yourself. Just do it. Tattoos, piercings, hair dye, binge drinking, underage sex, wear what you like, do what you like, say what you like, expect respect but don’t give any to anyone else, no respect for authority, no respect for the law, no respect for other people or their stuff. Anti-social behaviour, vandalism, graffiti, damaging cars for no reason. And, for some reason, more varieties of mascara than any single human species should ever need.
As an aside, Holly Willoughby advertising a new whitening toothpaste by saying it is “always part of her beauty regime” is just stupid. This product has only just been invented. So she must have had unnaturally white teeth already. Either that or it is neat bleach in a tube. Because her teeth are so white, they glow. They would give a polar bear snow blindness. Disingenuousness in advertising is gradually tipping over into outright lying. Mascara adverts are just the most obvious example. The touching up and airbrushing of images and using lash inserts and post-production Photoshop (no, really) to make the effects look better than they ever possibly can in real life. Every so often, an ad gets banned and another makeup company gets told off (http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2012/10/Parfums-Christian-Dior-UK-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_196932.aspx). But the lies continue and yet another mascara gets made and marketed even more intensively than the last.
On the plus side, this individualism leads to Darwinistic results. I don’t want to wear a bicycle helmet. Fair enough, don’t. Darwin will take care of the rest. Dying of your own stupidity is what the Darwin Awards were invented for. Just please don’t breed first, as that ruins the gene pool for another generation.
For those of my friends who don’t wear a cycle helmet, please make sure your Will is up-to-date. Even if you aren’t killed outright, if you suffer a head injury, the lack of helmet would be considered contributory negligence and no one will compensate you for any damage done as a result.
And if you think you’re getting a replacement brain from somewhere, you watch WAY too many movies. You only get one set of eyes, one set of teeth and one brain. If you don’t protect them, that’s your decision, but they aren’t going to be replaced. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Bones and joints and even some organs can be replaced. But if you wear out your eyes, teeth and brain through neglect, chances are, you aren’t getting new ones. Well, not real ones, anyway.
Sorry, I digress. Cavalier or Roundhead. So which am I? I seem to be a bit of both. I like Oliver Cromwell. He did some good stuff (like letting the Jews back into England so he could borrow money from them – if you were unaware of the world’s first recorded act of ethnic cleansing by legislation, click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Expulsion). He did some bad stuff too, but overall, I think the effect on England (I said England, not Britain – I am aware that Celtic societies have a different view of him) has been a good one. He has shown us the danger of extremes. Cancelling Christmas was a corker and there’s no way England will ever allow itself to go there again. We need a bit of Cavalier and a bit of Roundhead.
But our society is becoming more polarised. Society as a whole is becoming more Roundhead – more CCTV, more legislation on food and diet and healthcare and benefits and taxes and plastic bag use, new Police and Crime Commissioners – whilst, on an individual level, we are becoming more Cavalier – drink til you puke, take whatever highs you like, legal or not and to hell with the consequences, have sex, have LOTS of sex, have a baby if you want one, never mind who is going to pay for it, talking of not paying for it, have a Caribbean holiday every year, throw yourself off a building, a bridge, a mountain – hedonism at full tilt. How are these two ways of thinking going to co-exist? They will collide (every Saturday night in most towns) and we have no idea what the consequences will be. It probably won’t be all out civil war. But it’ll probably still be quite interesting to watch.
So, dear friends, which are you – Cavalier or Roundhead?