This post started off with a different agenda, but about halfway through, you’ll see my id appear as the election results came in. To hell with the punctuation, grammar and spelling…my mind is reeling, my gut is aching, my throat is twitching…
Best read in the voice of a furious lunatic who dreamt of more.
Oh social media, what have you done to me?
I have been forced to a position where it may appear I am defending Michael Gove, have you people no shame?
Social media is a frequent nail bomb of conjecture, rumour and newspaper stories further spun, all ready to blow up and leave us screaming and furious.
Today, I was repeatedly informed that American literature had been banned by autocratic Gove. Despite the same rumour also implying that this ban would also effect all other Non-British English language authors such as Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Janet Frame, it was the North Americans that were mourned.
It seems this all began with a piece in The Sunday Times. To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men were to be banned for being foreign. By 9am, Twitter smelt of petrol, wine bottles, rags, and insurrection, people were ready to imagine themselves on a street with a placard and fire.
The fury was twin-pronged.
I have never met a teacher who gets dewy eyed when thinking of Gove (though some do weep angry tears). To Kill a Mockingbird is many people’s most beloved book. (some people like it so much they even spelt the name correctly)
The problem was, it doesn’t seem to be as clear cut as that. This was not a banning of all books “that ain’t from around here”. It doesn’t even seem as enormous change as some people were imagining. The disgust that people feel for Gove meant that they leapt to presumptions and banged on about them because it seemed the sort of thing he would do. I am beginning to get angry about people not being factually accurate with their anger, and then it might be anger wasted. Anger that needs to go beyond the internet defused by officials pointing out a misunderstanding, and while that distraction is going on, more shit is being heaped and hurled in myriad ways. It’s all close up magic, so furious for Harper Lee, we are blind to definite monstrosities.
I do it all the time. I see something, my goat is got, and I am hammering at a keyboard.
Education secretaries are rarely popular, they are frequently meddlesome, conservative, and with little empathy. In the last few decades, the governments seem unable to imagine much of a reality beyond their own experience. It is this emptiness, this media savvy gesturing, this fear (on the left) to be bold, that seems to have allowed this grotesque illusion of an everyman, Nigel Farage, to predict earthquakes (so it is wrong for same sex marriage to cause flooding, by the hedge funded right are allowed to cause earthquakes?). Farage seems to have fallen from the mind of Ralph Steadman into a pint of real ale, and as he has crawled across the barroom floor, the humidity in the saloon has created a mirage of alternative thinking, when all that lies there is grit and gum blood. (I remain in confusion that a party against regulation and so keen on financiers gains seats after people of so similar a shape, breathing the same fetid, money eating halitosis, helped bring much of the world to the brink of collapse).
This is why we have to try and be accurate with our anger. It’s hard not to just open the window and be as mad as hell, to declare we’re not going to take it anymore, when we clearly are.
And back to education.
I am not sure how much these English literature reforms are really going to change the books learnt and art appreciated. Teachers, please feel free to comment under this (I am talking particularly about the selection of books on the curriculum, not Gove’s other changes, but you can out down your favourite or least favourite of these too). I want to know and I would like to know from a more accurate source than “spun for umbrage” newspaper inches. But with Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot echoing in my mind, I consider it sad and insular that, “on this mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam”, this world of rapid communication around the earth and beyond it, that we should become more parochial. “This is what someone who lived near here wrote”. As, for the time being at least, the only species in the universe that writes poetry, creates narratives from ink and imagination, dreams of other worlds and populates them with the product of thoughts, we should be learning to appreciate that we are not so different. That Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart can be studied next to Zola’s The Earth and Jorge Luis Borge’s Labyrinths. Or do we only let the schools teach the books that were written in the county of the institution, for fear that the mental leaps for the people of Nottinghamshire to understand the words of Lanarkshire writer would be too great, and create a population who were worryingly cosmopolitan.
I hear Carl Sagan declaring, “think of the all the bloodshed, so men could be the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot”, but I’ve been reading George Carlin’s Last words too.
“‘FUCK YOU, COCKSUCKERS’ is my approach. To the world. To the leadership.”
My mind is confused. Why have we fallen for this little islander bullshit? Has there ever been a time when the blame couldn’t be passed on to someone foreign who has “different ways”. Mediocre imaginations are surprisingly potent in this vote game.
And what the fuck is the mainstream left going to do. The people who fucked it up with greed, and persuaded everyone to dance along into debt, are the people gaining from their own crimes. Oh man, I am going to stop here.
“if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”. We need to be angry. And we need to pay attention, so we’re not diffused or fobbed off on a technicality.
I will be trying to do my happy show in a town near you soon – Swindon, Hull, Glasgow, Newcastle, Swansea, Newport and many more. Details HERE