Thursday, 11 January 2018

What happened to him?

Oh the pleasures of introversion.

I have been reading Jeremy Paxman’s ‘Empire’, loaned by my mother as an interesting book to give perspective on the creation and loss of the British Empire, and particularly how it affected the British outlook and attitude. It’s a fascinating overview, written by someone who bridges the gap between modernism and the post modern, generally able to step back and view with a little understanding instead of just applying a mindless liberal condemnation to the process.

It’s also helpful to step and back and ask what parts of me were developed from an imperial British attitude. 

And I find that, despite not being British, there’s quite a lot. 

And I’m not at all sure that’s a bad thing.

On the radio this morning, a new advertising campaign for the British Army was being discussed. As the ‘obvious’ demographic from which to recruit (white males aged 16-25) has shrunk relatively, so their advertising campaign has been broadened to encourage non-whites and other ethnic minorities & faiths (and gay people - they were mentioned too). The new advert made me think about a re-worked version of the old tee shirt slogan “join the army, meet exotic new people, and then cry on your mates shoulder afterwards”. Probably perfect for the current generation of 16-25 year olds then. 

We should also remember it is JUST an advert.

The army rejected 20,000 applicants last year, which is encouraging.

This is pertinent to the book, because the infamous British stiff upper lip wasn’t about being poncy in public, but instead about individuals and groups enduring often quite extreme hardship and suffering while maintaining determination and a good attitude. Explorers often returned with parasitic insects living in parts of their anatomy, malaria, dysentery, perhaps having had to remove some of their own teeth. In some parts of India an ex-pat was considered to have done well to survive through 2 monsoon seasons. If you were in the army then, there was a fair chance that your compatriots weren’t going to be terribly sympathetic if you wanted to have a good cry because mummy was a long way away.

Sometimes I wonder if we forget that to look ahead, sometimes we also need to look behind?

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