Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On ‘families’ and what this implies in today’s tory world

This entry is difficult to write – as it starts with a tragedy involving other people, none known to me, and as it is based in the reporting of this which touched a nerve with me, but beyond that connected with reporting of many other events over the last two or more years, in terms of their reporting and of prevalent discourse.

The landslide in Dorset was dreadful. My heart goes out to those who have suffered in this event and to the kin and friends of the woman who died; in particular her boyfriend and his father, participants in the same event, escaping narrowly themselves. I must say, from the outset, that this entry is not about these people but is about the reporting of the tragic circumstances of which they were part.

So, to the reporting. I was disturbed, distressed – as an outsider, and one who looks at discourse and presentation of media items – by the way it was portrayed on telly; and seeing this, as a discourse researcher, as part of an ongoing trend. 

“The beach was packed with families enjoying...’ No, it wasn’t necessarily. There were people there, it was packed with people in various interrelationships, young, old, singles, couples, children running and playing, carers, friends, dogs, seagulls, and yes, boyfriends and girlfriends; and all with relationships and other connections to other generations.  I am so tired of hearing that only ‘families’, whatever these are, matter, with the implication, increasing with every usage, that anybody else – say, a child who comes to a place with friends and a mutual carer, whether a babysitter or a grandparent – is outside the pale.

Let’s give just one example of beach-goers – this from my own childhood, an expedition to Lunan Bay in Angus. My mother was invited by a friend to go there. The small party of four included: the driver; her grand-daughter, my friend; my mother; myself. I was then around five or maybe six years of age. We were not ‘a family’, but were a party that much enjoyed our collective day at the beach. People live and have their beings in groupings that are not easily described or conceptualised but should not be wiped away by a simple descriptor of ‘family’.
This discourse of ‘families’ is increasingly prevalent and my question is what it may do to other ways of living that don’t fit within the neo-conservative version of how ‘families’, defined in some way, connect to their big society. Doesn't 'bigness' go  beyond the bounds of 'family'?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Nationalism and Wimbledon

Some things today have given me concern, focused on Wimbledon. One is the expressed view, especially in a question to ‘Any Questions’ and the replies there and in ‘Any Answers’ afterwards - that we should not respect Andy Murray’s achievement in getting to the men’s finals but should demand, and only respect, victory in the final. The others were similar comments on the men’s doubles and elsewhere. Is mentioning anything other than a victory, 'celebrating failure'?

Well: I think something is seriously missing from this. Wimbledon is not something in which any ‘nationality’ is automatically given a win. It is about, one assumes, skill, determination, and bloody-mindedness in various ways. But nationalism isn’t, surely, what it’s about. In, for instance, the doubles matches, there are numerous cross-national pairs. And for my part, yes, I’d love for Andy Murray to win tomorrow; but I enjoy Roger Federer’s playing, and so my hope is to watch and cheer for a good, world-class, match. The match, of course, occasioned by the environment which is Wimbledon. And that is what, in my opinion, we should celebrate.

Britishness – well, yes, there have been things about whether Murray is ‘Scottish’ or ‘British’. He is of course by dint of being Scottish axiomatically British, but this seems to escape some commentators. However, the key point for me here is that it’s not whether a ‘Brit’ wins, but that Wimbledon is British. It is our forum, and is one of the best of such, that we provide  - paralleled by those hosted elsewhere – to the world. So let’s get sorted the difference between what we host, magnificently, and any claims to titles, which because of opening to the world, we can’t and shouldn’t make, and we don’t want to whine, do we?

And so, if one of 'ours' gets near, to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, or the championship, these are all to celebrate, within a world of performance and not narrowly circumscribed.