Brutal fact as in granite, you
are free as in ‘this is a free country’ – schoolboy attempts at resistance.
Memory informs me that in the fifties, and maybe beyond, this was a benchmark
of a certain sort of conservative political correctness – endlessly repeated
– the first part of a litany proclaiming belief in the glories of Englisness
(Britishness?). It chimed in with notions of the enemies across the Channel:
the Pope, the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, no . . . oh I don’t know, the
French, the Germans, better say Nazis, the Communists and whoever else that
should be added to the list. All safely held back by that narrow strip of
water, the English Channel. So we can look forward (or is it back?) and say it
again – this is a free country.
I didn’t quite have the words to
ask, ‘And in what way are we free?’ or ‘In what way am I supposed to be free?’
Looking back I have no memory of knowing (in the sense of understanding), what
was being said. Were these compadres repeating what their fathers proclaimed?
My struggling identity depended on not repeating what my father believed; it
looks to me like I was mainly watching and waiting. Of course, later, I was to
discover that my values tended to follow his. I wonder if I ever said to him,
this is a free country. It sounds like good adolescent stuff – looking for a
fight and on the other hand, explain this to me. How to seek and find guidance
when you’re looking for a fight? There’s another possible scenario: I say to him,
‘it’s a free country’, in a kind of whiney, irritating voice, and he gives me a
clip round the ear. He never did but there’s a rightness to the exchange;
Let’s get things straight, you
need to understand a thing or two about the nature of power and yes, you’re
certainly free to fuckup your life, you probably will. And I did; but who
doesn’t! Did we get above ourselves in the sixties/seventies and so we came to
the inflicting of pain, what in the medical profession became known as pain
management. Matron Iron Lady agreed to come in and manage our pain, cold
turkey, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, more whining. What do you children
think you’re doing.
Isn’t it amazing how sane we are
– I can hear you hooting with laughter, spluttering, choking, call this sane!
And yes, I do think we are surprisingly sane. Of course, we have our moments of
madness, but we chat away to each other, pull each other back from the brink
(mostly) and have a glass of wine with our supper and keep our eyes off the
cliff away to our left, waiting to swallow me.
The joy of fear, I mean freedom. And don't forget, Pinky and Perky are in charge of demolition services.