Any study about “change” will tell you that it’s not easy. Take a few of the big social transformations that have occurred over the last six decades. I can’t point to one that just happened without a campaign or fight. Social and political change comes when momentum has built-up. Pressure is needed. Often that pressure comes in the form of protest and extensive campaigning in public.
As ever faster digital connections are becoming universal, it’s still possible to buy physical digital media. Charity shops have piles and piles of CDs and DVDs as people off-load the stuff that clutters their shelves. It’s remarkable that yesterday’s whizzy new thing has become a historic artefact so quickly. In 40-years, the optical digital disk has risen and then faded into the background.
I picked up a little bit of social history in a Red Cross charity shop. It’s a series of 3 DVDs that captures a slice of the career of the well-known journalist and broadcaster Alan Whicker. Stretching over six decades of travelling around the globe it’s a great watch. The series is called “Journey of a Lifetime” and was published in 2009. Although, there’s plenty that dates Whicker’s documentary style there’s no doubt that his ability to quickly summing up big changes is a masterclass.
That straightforward diction and incongruous club jacket became a trademark. It gave him a neutral camouflage so he could talk eye-to-eye with hippies, dictators, evangelists, social campaigners, film stars and dubious gurus. That’s what created so many revealing conversations that are now time stamped as emblematic of an era. I recommend viewing the Whicker’s reflections on six decades of social history. It’s a great reminder of where we have been and how learning the lessons of the past is so difficult.
Back to my initial subject – change. It’s easy to say that it’s inevitable and unrelenting but its nature is less easy to discern. Change undulates. We go forwards then we go backwards in differing amounts.
I have a theory that our social progression can be plotted like an inclined wood saw. Yes, I know. It’s the engineer in me. Look at the shape of the saw’s teeth. They go forwards, and then quickly go backwards but they always go backwards less than they go forwards. That’s how a saw’s teath cut.
This is one of my abstrat reasons why the UK Government’s most recent laws to supress public protest are as stupid as political debate can get. Resisting change is nothing new. After all, the word “conservative” has a simple commonplace meaning. When all else fails, the basic political instinct to push out laws that comfort supporters is built in. As a direction for a whole country to take, this way of working is foolish and naive.
Locking up climate change protestors is not going to fix climate change. Locking up protestors against sewage on beaches and in rivers not going to fix greedy water companies. Locking up republican protestors is not going to fix the decline in public support for the monarchy.
Using the pretext that – this is what the public want – as a cover for these policies is to show the vacuum that conservative political thinking is thrashing around in. Sadly, as I’ve said, reflection on the last six decades of conservative thinking shows regressive tendencies in abundance.