Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fawlty Perspectives

It started with an unanswered phone call and a voicemail message that included all sorts of accusations and choice forms of language. The voicemail belonged to a 78 year old man. The accusations involved claims that one of the callers had slept with his granddaughter, which turned out to be true. That the pensioner would probably kill himself when he found out. There was more along the same intellectual baseline.

The fallout initially started with just two complaints. Within a week the call was being discussed in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister. The debate seems to go on wherever you go. I even got stopped by the Brazilian cleaner in the work kitchen yesterday and asked for my opinion. One of the two callers has now resigned and the other one. Well he couldn’t afford to resign. And suffers the indignity of being suspended.

My problem with the whole thing is that I find it hard to see where the debating points lay. There can be no opinion because the issue is cut and dry. There is no debate around comedians pushing the boundaries of acceptability, there is no discussion around the fact the granddaughter did sleep with one of the two callers.

It is not about accepting the prank in its intended context of humour. Just because Chris Moyles or one of his posse makes prank calls does not mean you can justify calling anyone and being generally abusive even if you laugh while doing it.

It is not about the fact the 78 year old man is a celebrity and therefore deemed outside the increasingly fuzzy boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour.

These two callers could have stood on a stage and said the same things without making their call. That would appeal to some, make some laugh or just confirm the opinion of these two held by a good many. And that would not have resulted in resignations or suspensions or the prime minister discussing radio shows. That is a benefit of a society underpinned by free speech.

The fact of the matter is these two people did call another human and treated him with utter disrespect. That broke a basic tenet of human behaviour. Nobody should be permitted to do this. There simply is no debate.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Road - Cormack McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is probably more widely known in recent times for his book made into movie: No Country For Old Men.

The Road is a little different. A man and a boy walk east to west through America in a post apocalyptic world where all we know has burned, melted, been plundered, raped, eaten or committed suicide. So we are not talking jaunty tale of father and son at one with wildlife here.

Instead this is a world of mankinds possible future that does not preach or shout of our failings in the here and now. It just tells a very real story of what the future may hold. It is despairing and at times hard to read. Not from McCormack’s no fuss literary style but the sheer reality that is conveyed. At other times one man’s love for his child and the innocence of that child shine through the endless realm of dark skies and shifting oceans of ash.

If there is one fault in this story it is the need to make what is essentially a short story into a novel to make it commercially viable.

But apart from that this is the sort of story that should be read at schools. It resonates in the same way Lord of the Flies and Walkabout did as a life lesson that stays with the emerging mind.