The words leapt from the page:
‘Every new invention has to meet the criticism of sceptics and the mere force of inertia so powerfully operated by second-rate men who don’t like change.’
This sentence was published in 1965 when Britain was buying British and sunning itself in the white heat of technology – and yet the universal, eternal conservatism of human nature clearly seemingly still maintained. Does it today? Is on-going austerity, albeit these days with lipstick, a beard for fiscal timidity when it comes to what full recovery demands – investing in the future?
Not being a man doesn’t immunise me from this severe filter. Ever a proud sceptic, perhaps I must accept that I am also second-rate. It’s not that I simply ‘don’t like change’, but I am averse to unnecessary change. Change for change’s sake; change that demonstrates the cutting edge of new technology but does not demonstrate any pioneering improvement to life as we know and live and enjoy it.
So, for instance, I won’t be buying an Apple Watch.
As I understand it, I’ll thereby be denying myself a gadget which will ping when it judges that I’ve been sitting for too long. Well, praise be for that! I only hope that my fellow Wagner-enthusiasts recognise the sacrifice I’m thereby making.
I’m not a complete Luddite. I do already have a mobile phone that apparently can show films – but I have no interest whatsoever in squinting at a very small screen to see a very big work of art. I say ‘apparently’ – over twenty years ago at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I heard a remarkable Russian film-director explain why he had never been lured to Hollywood. ‘They make movies there,’ he said. ‘I make films.’
I think my ‘smart’ phone screens movies.
I’m revealing myself to be not just a paid-up intellectual snob, but clearly to be old… Why else would I sympathise with Hillary Clinton’s claim that she used her personal email address when she was Secretary of State because she found it more convenient to have just one address? The idea that this putative presidential candidate would therefore have the geeky nous to delete (illegally) embarrassing emails before releasing them for scrutiny – as is required and automatically done when using an official email account – is arguably stretching credibility.
Mind you, do we want a twenty-first ruler of the free world who is not nerd-fluent in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatApp, etc etc?
You’ve guessed that I can’t answer that question with any authority, actually. My husband assures me I’ll eventually see the life-enhancing advantages that opening a Twitter account will bring. How long, I muse, you can be with someone and not know them.
Leaving aside our grave new world of (anti-) social media, the once new-fangled TV sector is demanding the right to trivialise the political issues of the day by broadcasting leaders‘ debates’! When this US tradition finally infected British popular culture in 2010, I spurned the opportunity to watch the competing media-trained party-leaders flail and gibber under the studio-lights. I got the hang of the standard of ‘debate’ from the ‘I agree with Nick’ news-clips. In this country, we are not electing a president, I told myself.
When Princess Diana mugged and simpered her way through Martin Bashir’s ‘interrogation’, I repaired to the washing-up bowl (and likewise the Darling-Salmond pantomimes). And I know whereof I scoff: for years of my life, I earned the money to pay the bills by mastering the dark arts required to succeed in front of an STV or BBC or Channel 4 camera (all of which always, I learnt, lie).
Grumpy old woman, mutters hubby. I prefer Grumpy Ancient Woman – I am a GAL! And I know that the world will relentlessly turn with or without me. It certainly did for the author of those lines that caught my (second-rate) attention, who was in fact recalling his youth. Charles Carrington, in Soldier From The War Returning, remembered his reaction to the introduction of the ‘tank’ to the Western Front in 1916.
General Haig had deployed his first 40 Mark I tanks – in defiance of advice to allow the inventors to deal with the teething problems of their new baby. ‘Thirty-six started; some were shot up; 11 crossed the front line; and four or five made a useful contribution to the battle’.
So did that modest success rate signify a precipitate use of new technology? Hear this: ‘…the German command was not impressed and took no steps either to make tanks or to prepare anti-tank devices…a year later, the Mark IV tanks arrived, with many modifications…We had at last a war-winning weapon’.
Maybe I DO need one of these new pinging watches – sorry, Watches – to get me up on my feet.
(And then maybe I’ll run away…to Never-Never Land…)