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Monday, November 05, 2007

The way we were

A perfect inter-generational stand-off. First off Johann Hari (enough material for an entire blog, but have no fear, I'm not volunteering), reminding us that his generation is the most righteous and enlightened ever to have inhabited our planet:-

'In the contempt for these shows, there is also a disguised longing for the age of emotional repression, when British people didn't cry or shout or scream on television. But that world had horrible flaws that far outweigh ours. Watch the 1945 film Brief Encounter now and it seems like the record of two deeply mentally-ill people. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson meet on a train, fall in love and realise they are perfect for each other – but they are so deeply repressed they can't even bring themselves to touch, and return to miserable, wasted lives, wondering what might have been. This squalid stoicism made women feel obliged to stay with men who beat them too: the stiff upper lip was intimately connected to the bruised upper lip.'

But then there was Helen Maclenan, a decidedly atypical Indie reader whom I take to be of a certain age:-

'Sir: Johann Hari entirely misses the point of Brief Encounter, where the characters make the choice to return to their responsibilities and not to destroy the lives of their families.

'This may seem odd to Hari, as a member of the "me" generation, but there was a time when it was considered reasonable to consider the needs of others before one's own desires.'

Now, ain't that the truth? While we still can, we must cherish those who can tell us how it was before the Great Cultural Revolution. One day we will only have the films, their strangeness confronting us like Stonehenge or the writings of the Etruscans, and the Haris to interpret them for us (when they're not too busy designing Superpersons).

PS I don't want to gild Ms Maclenan's lily, but I do think it's revealing to chart the evolution of the concept of repression. It starts with Freud, of course, and for him it means the ways we prevent urges which we feel to be unacceptable from becoming conscious. But even Johann Hari surely cannot believe that the hero and heroine of Brief Encounter are unconscious of their feelings for each other. No, what he is saying is that their emotional health depends not merely on being aware that they're dying to shag each other, but on acting on that awareness. As if the point of psychoanalysis was not just to bring your Oedipus complex into the light of consciousness, but also to put it into practice. In Hariland morality only ****s you up.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yes, Hari could do with some of that "squalid stoicism". Duh...