What is the BBC’s brief again? If my memory serves me correctly, it was something about “entertaining, informing and educating”. Well, they have, of course, been a way off the mark on all three accounts on numerous occasions but to be fair not always so and yesterday evening in the documentary series “the 70s” there was some entertainment, a modicum of information and an eduction of sorts to be had. Never knew that Denis Healey called on the IMF to help bail out the British economy and doesn’t $4 billion dollars pale into insignificance when compared to the funny money that is being thrown around today? Still, the price then, like now, was austerity and, of course, ultimately Thatcher’s shock therapy.
Yes, there was information and, on chewing the cud, on becoming cognitively engaged with the programme, there was an education of sorts and the realisation that ….. well, there was a sort of déjà-vu and not because of some ardent thirst for a distant past, not because of some misplaced nostalgia, but because the here and now really has been there before. If there is a message, it is quite simply that capitalism doesn’t work. …… and the entertainment?
Well, wasn’t it exceptionally funny when the programme’s narrator, Dominic Sandbrook, tries to bring a personal touch to things when he says that his first memories, 7 at the ripe old age of three, are of the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, and wasn’t it just hilarious when he concluded last night’s episode by sort of contending that come 1979 it was, more or less, just great to be British? Still, Dominic cannot be faulted as he is, after all, just one more of those wooly thinking historians who are in demand because of their ability to resort to jingoistic generalisations rather than any serious research.
Of course, with free education along with the country’s manufacturing base and solid working class communities gone, what are the people left with? “God save the Queen” and their “Britishness” and all of a sudden it becomes worth delving into why Dominic cultivates a silly little illusion, all too detached from reality, of what once was and what indeed still is. That is when we really become informed and educated and, who knows, there might even be some entertainment to be had along the way.