Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Python for Dummies
Monty Python, for all that much of its content looks dated now, had an unerring knack of subverting reality and brought incisive intellect and a little madness to issues both contemporary and timeless. Once seen, who could forget the Piranha brothers and Dinsdale’s prickly nemesis, Spiny Norman, a caricature of the Cray’s ‘Craysy’ world? “...and then he loses his temper and nails my head to the floor... Well he had to, didn't he? I mean, be fair, there was nothing else he could do. I had transgressed the unwritten law.”
Take a reality, turn it upside down and make it funny. In this classic about-face a feted northern poet resident in London is exasperated at his soft son, who has run away up north to be, of all things, a miner. (Watch it, it’s very funny.) ‘Ampstead wasn’t good enough for you was it? You ‘ad to go poncing off to Barnsley.” shouts the father. His son replies “One day you’ll realise there’s more to life than culture. There’s dirt and smoke and good honest sweat!”
I thought of this when I read a ridiculous polemic in the Guardian yesterday, by Paul Mason, blaming Thatcher for the current parlous state of white, working class boys. I mean, Thatcher? I know it’s the Guardian and all that but if three decades, including thirteen years of Labour government, isn’t enough to address the problem, then what’s the point of even trying? And as somebody on Twitter posted “The left complaining about cultural vandalism is a wee bit rich.”
Because it’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it? Prior to the left’s imaginary prickly nemesis, ‘Fatcha!’ [exclamation mark required for correct spelling] it was the multi-layered class system. Before that it was rich noblemen versus the peasants. If anything the Thatcher era heralded a breaking down of the class structure which many on the right bemoan for allowing oiks into positions once held by scions of notable families. But the social mobility engendered by the grammar schools and aspiration sank to new lows under Blair as English kids were written off in the name of diversity. (Or are we calling it vibrancy now? It changes so often it’s hard to keep track.)
Monty Python once portrayed the Silly Olympics, with such events as the 3000m steeplechase for people who think they’re chickens, the marathon for the incontinent and in the pool, the 200m freestyle for non-swimmers. No doubt this entire sketch would be unbroadcastable today, the sound of offence-takers drowning out the guilty giggles of an audience spoon-fed political correctness.
But what people like Paul Mason fail to recognise is that it is up to you, not the state, to sort out your life. If his father could be self-educated under the old class system, via the public libraries and meeting with like-minded souls, think how much greater the possibilities for education the internet brings today. One of the Python events was the ‘fifteen hundred metres for the deaf’, the punchline being that they don’t hear the starting gun. It sounds like those who complain about their start in life are maybe cocking a deaf ‘un. You have to laugh, don’t you?