the Road to Ruin with David and Victoria Beckham
I return to the UK from India it is inevitable that someone will ask
me "What is India like?" They want to know how different it
is from the West. It can be difficult to explain. Maybe I should take
a few newspapers back next time to give people a snapshot of the place:
disinvestment, privatisation, disputes over rivers, water shortages,
Ayodha, cross-border terrorism, Bollywood hits and flops, Sanjay Dutt
in trouble, Salman Kahn in even bigger trouble, the latest in the Laloo
Prasad sage, the latest in the Jayalitha drama and so on. A daily dose
of the serious, the quite serious and the not so serious.
In a way, the newspapers provide insight into the Indian psyche. For
a foreigner, the newspapers in India can be fascinating. There is just
so much happening. But what can you expect in a country of over a billion
people, so many languages and such diversity?
Britain is affluent; the fourth or fifth richest in the world. Most
people have it good and even when it is not so good, they at least receive
state benefits from the welfare system. This is not to deny, however,
that a section of the population have it rough - well the rest of us
need a baseline from which to bolster our own feelings of self-worth
Over the past five years I have spent more time in India than in the
UK. My recent arrival back home heralded my stark awareness of just
how homogenised and dulled the British mentality has become. It is quite
paradoxical really; at a time of increasing globalisation the national
consciousness appears to be stuck in an insular quagmire. In the UK
we have the serious press and TV news programmes, but by and large the
nation is gripped by tabloid gossip that is passed off as "news".
And in a nation of 60 million, it never ceases to amaze just how narrow
concerns have become.
In most affluent societies, concerns and desires often become trivialised.
The hardships of yesteryear have largely gone and the life and death
issues of filling your stomach and finding decent shelter have taken
a back seat. News has become frivolous - a form of entertainment. The
democratic ideal of a well-informed populace has been overtaken by one
interested in gossip and tittle-tattle. I would not have believed it
if I were not here to witness it at first hand. The aftermath of the
Iraq invasion still simmers in the background, but the nation is fixated
by the belief that it is being swamped by marauding bands of asylum
seekers, allegations about a TV celebrity and his supposed sexual misdemeanours
and by Beckhamisation.
Beckhamisation is centred upon David Beckham and his pop singer wife,
Victoria. They have become Britain's celebrity couple. She is a former
Spice Girl and he is the captain of the England soccer team. They court
the press wherever they go and whatever they do is splashed across the
papers in on the TV news. He has just been transferred from one club
to another for £25Million (around $40Million). Both of the Beckhams
are multi-millionaires and most of us would find it difficult to imagine
the enormity of their wealth. The nation is gripped by his move, and
what it will mean for the country, his wife and their son - "Brooklyn".
Blair has recently made changes to the constitution but it has been
overshadowed by the Beckham phenomenon.
Sure, concerns over globalisation, GM crops, adopting the Euro and global
warming are on the agenda, but by and large Britain has become Beckhamised.
German philosopher, Herbert Marcusse, noted this trend toward Beckhamisation
in the West in the 60s and 70s - long before Beckham was born - a one-dimensional
culture obsessed with trivial pursuits and "false" desires
where the type of care, size of house and cut of clothes are all that
matter. And these days the measuring stick for all of this is - you've
guessed it - the Beckhams: they who wallow in self-infatuation and conspicuous
But what can we expect? People are animals. No, that is not meant in
a derogatory way; I quite like animals. Quite naturally, we like to
view ourselves as possessing inherent virtues. And yes, we are capable
of love, altruism and logical thought. But reality also shows us, however,
that people can be pretty brutal, intolerant and are easily swayed by
greed, dogma and fads and fashions based on popular myth and emotion.
well people are people. Lofty ideals such as democracy,
diversity of thought, and informed opinion are always under threat and
in danger of being swept aside by forces that appeal to our narrower
and baser instincts. Increasingly, in these times, those forces are
India has a long way to go before it ends up where British culture is
but look out! Coming to a satellite TV station near you - the Tendulkarisation
of popular culture (that is if Beckham doesn't get there first!).
© Colin Todhunter July 2003
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