Six Feet Under

With age comes maturity, at least that’s the theory. Age should at least provide most of us with the knowledge of when to ‘hold our tongues’, giving us the ability to know and recognise the time and place to be polite or to make a point. Some are blessed with the wisdom, grace and authority to be able to do both. Unfortunately they are the minority and I am not among them.

This week has provided numerous examples of emotive outpourings and public venting that may have been best kept private. In the days before social media the bulk of it would have been. There is a time to stop and consider the impact of your views upon others whilst pausing to look at what theirs actually are. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them of course but if all you have is spite and bile your maturity may ask if it’s really worth sharing.

That’s the theory anyway. Instead we react first and think later, often failing to question whether we’ve added anything to public understanding, popular belief, interest or knowledge. We share for the sake of sharing, just to join in – that’s why it’s called ‘social’ media I suppose.

The two women who dominated the news agenda fit ‘nicely’ into my proposed diatribe but with so many people seizing the same opportunity and shaking it senseless it was a bit hard to keep up and keep track, I only wish I had a £1 for every time I read the politely ineffective word ‘divisive’.

I’ve spent too much time reading and thinking about Thatcher this week, especially since I considered her consigned to the darkest corners of my memory. Maybe we’re now feeding the myth of Maggie whilst ignoring the danger of Dave. This thought has been part of the reason that I’ve avoided the melee, this and the fact that my strident viewpoints have been echoed and expressed better elsewhere (a lot of which are collected at the foot of this piece).

I could’ve pitched into the argument but there seemed no point in either liking everything I agreed with (of which there was plenty) or arguing with people I considered idiots. Even arguing out the reasons for their misplaced beliefs seemed futile when the likes of Mark Steel were doing a much better job than I had time for.

So, let’s do Paris – and not in that way, the way of her namesake Hilton who has become yesterday’s virtual fish & chip paper in the same way that Ms Brown will be next week. I feel connected to the Paris Brown story because I have teenagers in the house. I’m continually reminding mine that social media is a form of public entertainment and because it takes place in public future employers will have the opportunity to use it against you.
Paris Brown’s parents clearly didn’t do the same for her and unfortunately her ex-prospective employer didn’t think to do much screening either. Given that they’re a police force it seemed all the more worrying. These are the same people we rely on for CRB/DBS checks, if they can’t get it right what hope is there?

Paris was not without her supporters, some of whom made reasonable points whilst glossing over the racism and homophobia. I don’t know what kind of teens they have in their house but I’d be horrified if mine expressed views that were even remotely like these. So, whilst I could accept that Kent Police would want a teen who typifies the people they feel disconnected from I couldn’t help but think that they hadn’t approached the process properly - 164 applicants and this was the best one? That is worrying.

They were also right to think that no-one else might want the job now but should’ve realised that the act of taking it in the first place would ostracise any teen from the community they were meant to be associated with.  

I can thank Paris though; this episode has validated everything I’ve said to my kids about being cautious on social media. There’s nothing better than a vivid example to indicate that sometimes dad does know best!

We are meant to learn from our experiences, we often choose to ignore that learning but as the saying goes – those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This week’s lesson (if there is one) should surely be that we must take note of what happened before and ensure it is not repeated. Cameron and his ilk can commemorate Thatcher and try to have us believe that their rule is different but if it walks like a fascist and talks like a fascist then it shouldn’t need Paolo DiCanio to have it tattooed on his body for us to recognise it for what it is.
Further reading on Thatcher:
The economics of Thatcherism in three parts
History and legacy
You can tell a person by the company they keep
Polarised ‘celebrity’ responses from the excellent and very subtle Russell Brand, Glenda Jackson and Morrissey plus Tracey Thorn’s misplaced theory on the reactions. It’s not about the woman or the fact that she was one, it’s more to do with her style of leadership, the duration of it and the impact it had. The Tebbit comparison is wrong since the anger would’ve been directed at him had he been the leader.
Should we speak ill of the dead, mourn or rejoice? 
How much did we really care anyway?
Finally a reminder of why those that hated her did so, partly because she did things that we wouldn’t have dreamt possible in this country