So, break’s over then. Time to head back into the breach. The words are piling up and somebody needs to do something with them or else there’ll be all sorts of havoc in the world. Can’t have stray, unclaimed words flitting about all over the place just waiting to get into the wrong hands now, can we? Can you imagine what sort of chaos would ensue if some kind of generic evil-dude bad guy got a hold of them?
Or worse yet, politicians?
It’d be spin and chaos, I tell you. Spin and chaos.
But anyway. Holiday over. Time to get back to work. Which is obviously why I’m sitting here writing this entirely unpaid blog and having fun stretching awkward analogies further than they should ever be allowed to go. Because there’s real work to do, but my brain is still well entrenched in holiday mode and some funny bugger has stuck gum in the on-switch (okay, it was me) so now it’s permanently stuck in Procrastination Mode.
Hmmm. Yes, you’re right. I really do need to tone down the ridiculously strained metaphors before I end up drowning in a sea of my own forced rhetoric, unable to grasp the life-saving buoy of plain language…
Won’t happen again, I promise.*
So, 2010. The second decade of the twenty-first century and we still don’t have hover-cars. But we do have a changing world facing varying degrees of social upheaval due in significant part to the rise of mass communications technologies and the globalised connections such bring and that, at least, makes for interesting times. So, you know, I’m not disappointed much about the hover-cars. Really. Interesting times are far more fun.
I spent some time thinking about such weighty concerns in the dying months of last year. Well, to be truthful, what I was actually doing was seeing out the previous year by curling up in a big armchair reading Wolf Hall, but if that doesn’t involve the pondering of interesting times amidst a changing world, I don’t know what does. Sure, it was a book detailing a period near five hundred years into our collective pasts, but just insert your favourite “the internet = the printing press in terms of social change” reference here and then you draw the parallels.
You know, it’s not every day that me and the judges of the Man-Booker prize actually agree on what should be The Book of the Year, but I do have to say that 2009 was one of those years when they got it sooo right. Hilary Mantel’s magnificent novel kicked the literary butts that was everything else I read last year. Yes, up to and including that hysterical little pamphlet by Senator Stephen “Watch out or I’ll filter you next” Conroy, Measures to improve safety of the internet for families, which just made me laugh and laugh and laugh. Until I realised he actually meant it. Then I just couldn’t stop crying.
So you should all go read it. (Wolf Hall, I mean, not the Government’s blueprint for censoring the internet and imposing restrictions on your freedom of speech and access to information, all according to someone else’s morality.) And not only because the novel is a page-turning masterpiece written in a delicious present-tense and delectable language which never puts a foot wrong and makes the past both immediate and fascinating.
You all know Henry 8 and the six doomed wives (really, ladies; you’d think by about wifey three or four you might have started to detect a pattern, don’t you?) While the odd historian or two might have tried to point out that the world as those knew it then was one of intense change and social upheaval, what with the break from the Church, the realignment of political power structures and the first signs of a recognisably modern social organisation slotting into place – we all know none of that stuff is ever quite as interesting as the affairs and divorces and general cutting off of heads, don’t we?
Except along has come Hilary Mantel to remind us that power and politics are always, always far sexier than any mere tale of bulging codpieces and heaving bosoms and the odd sharp axe.
So go read Wolf Hall. It is magnificent and it blew my mind with its brilliant detail and sharp cunning and, if nothing else, reading about the interesting times half a millennia ago might just distract you from the interesting times going on right now.
Or not. But what the hey, worth a try.
Anyway, I’m back, I’m here and I’m procrastinating. And in a world of Spin and Chaos, when our rulers no longer burn heretics in the street for their dangerous political opinions but instead use words – as Thomas Cromwell at the heart of Henry’s court once showed them how – in their attempts to manipulate how they are perceived and control how you will perceive them, then we’ve all got to think as smart as the wordsmiths. For only those who understand the spin will ever be able to navigate the chaos, you know.
2010 is set to be an interesting year amidst interesting times. An election year (well probably), where in the one corner we have an ultra-conservative Christian who wants to impose his personal moral worldview upon the whole country, and in the other corner we have… an ultra-conservative Christian who wants to impose his personal worldview upon the whole country. A year in which the media moguls of the past will no doubt ratchet up their attempts to cling on desperately to that past, threatening to scuttle public broadcasting, free press and quality journalism along the way. A year in which we will hear a lot from many but be told far less, and it will be entirely up to us to take responsibility for our own understanding.
So, you know, it’ll be a year of building on more of the same. And I, for one, am totally looking forward to it.
So let’s get cracking, peoples. Onwards, into the fray…
* Actually, that’s a lie. It will happen again. Lots. Heh, sorry.