When I was 32, I decided I wanted to do a Creative Writing degree at Chichester University in the UK. Since it had been some time since I had studied and I hadn’t already received a degree, I had to do an Access to Tertiary Studies course in the form of a Diploma of Liberal Studies through Portsmouth University.
I chose subjects which I thought would interest me : Literature, Communications, Business Studies and Education.
It was whilst studying Communications I first came into contact with the empire that is Rupert Murdoch and the realisation of the enormous influence the media has in determining how we view the world, our neighbourhoods, our family and ourselves.
Yesterday, we took Master J to see Independence Day: Resurrection. I have to be honest, even with the special effects, I was bored. The US stopped producing original content some time ago, eager to ride any gravy train it can with sequel upon sequel. Mindless. Unimaginative. Superlative.
But that isn’t what got my attention. What got my attention was the movie trailer for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Now, I had seen the book in a bookshop a few weeks earlier, picked it up and discounted it because, well, because it seemed a little dark and I can’t really read dark stuff because my brain seems incapable of knowing that it isn’t real, and then I have nightmares and it’s all a bit much. So I put the book down and moved on.
But the movie trailer really caught my attention.
It is a movie based on the book of the same name written by Jane Goldman and directed by the wonderfully odd Tim Burton. All of his movies have a dark tincture to them, and although mostly I avoid them, I adore his non conformity and his eccentricity, not to mention the beautiful delivery of the inherent message in each of his films. And this one is no different.
This one is about a home for children, a home that exists because as Eva Green’s character – Mrs Peregrine – says “because our abilities don’t fit in the outside world, we live in places like this.”
As I watched the beauty and majesty of this movie, I found myself wishing that as a child, I could have found a home for children with special abilities where I could be embraced for my individuality and difference. On the outside, I look no different to any other person with my physical attributes – white, middle-aged, blue eyed, blonde hair, etc. But I have always seemed to think differently. I have always seemed at odds with those around me. I hardly ever seem to think in the same way that popular opinion seems to think.
And it got me to thinking back to that lecturer of Communications, who at the time I thought was so jaded and cynical in her view of humanity and its seeming inability to think for itself, instead opting to syphon up any dollop of drivel dished up to it by the Murdoch press. She never blamed the individual. She blamed the machine that is Mass Media, vomiting up anything that it can that will put money into the coffers, influencing how people see themselves and the world around them in the process. She would angrily rant at how the Media acted irresponsibly, that by virtue of its reputation, people took what they read to be gospel, and believed the Media when it told them their life was not good enough and would be judged, that to think as an individual, independently was personal suicide, that you would be without a tribe if you dared to disagree with the nonsense they coughed up. “Don’t believe them,” she would yell, “Think for yourself, BE yourself!”
And I thought how lovely it would have been to have had a teacher like Mrs Peregrine, who would see us for who we were, accepting us for all our strengths and gifts, not the deficiencies that would cause us to be haunted our entire lives.
And I got to thinking how I have never really seemed to fit into this world with its increasing demand of cookie cutter conformity. And how that has caused me to feel so lonely and isolated, so much so in my darkest hour, the pain of living in this world has seemed more excruciating than dying.
And now, as I read the Brexit campaign aftermath, the fear mongering by the press, failing entirely to highlight the point that actually the one prized thing that we send our sons to fight and die for – democracy – has prevailed, that here is a shining example of that one thing we tell the rest of the world they must have in action, I am dismayed. And I am inclined to empathise with my Communications lecturer.
I have read with dismay how quickly the media has leapt to characterising the voters of the Leave campaign as “over 50” and “uneducated”, as if democracy does not have a place at the table for them, as if their wisdom is non existent or any less valid. Rhetoric that furthers even more the appalling increasing ageism and elitism that exists in our world.
I have read the commentary on how the uneducated and the old have doomed the future of the youth. I have received in my inbox a petition to overthrow democracy and call for another referendum so that that those who could not be bothered to show up on the day can have their say, and the voice of the majority, who should not have spoken, can be silenced once more.
And I have thought how much of a slave society has become to the monster that is slowly eroding humanity – Capitalism, free market, money. So much so that we would overthrow that prized cornerstone of our society, democracy. We don’t have to like the vote, but civilisation, whatever that means, dictates that we honour it. However, the media would have you believe not. For the media controls how we think.
Honouring that old, uneducated lot does not fit in with the Media. And so we are told stories of how the UK will be thrown into a recession, and that 800,000 jobs in Europe will be lost, and how England itself will be thrown 300 years backwards. And every single one of those 17 million voters that turned out to vote to leave are being demonised as old, uneducated, selfish.
The truth is that no one knows what will happen in the aftermath of this. Not the media and its horrendously irresponsible fear mongering, not really even the so-called educated experts. Not really. Just as no one could really predict the property bubble bursting in 2008 causing a massive world wide financial crisis, which frankly it could be argued set this whole chain of events in motion as governments pushed austerity measures onto the man in the street and baled out banks.
I do know that if people felt more empowered, more visible, more included, this EU thing may never have come to pass. But the truth is that people don’t feel empowered, included, or visible. They feel just the opposite. They are desperate. Desperate to feel like they are valued, and loved, and included for who they are by society and the world at large. Desperate to feel that their individual contribution on this planet means something. Desperate to feel that their age and education and looks and disposition does not preclude them from having a voice. Desperate, perhaps, for someone like Mrs Peregrine.
If you are looking for someone to blame in this furore – look to the Media, look to the businesses who stand to lose the most out of this turn of events, look to those who would seek to destroy the one thing that has stood the test of time, across millennia, in the name of subverting the voice of the people, to maintain the power they once held.
I cannot say that I know how this one is going to turn out. It may be catastrophic. I am philosophical, frankly. I believe that humanity, like self levelling cement will somehow adjust. We went from living in caves, and killing animals by hand, to living in high rise buildings and connecting to people through the internet. We are a resourceful bunch.
I do know though that I believe in democracy, not an oligarchy, and on the 24th June, democracy prevailed. That the media don’t like that is frankly tough luck.
I also find myself wondering if schools were more like Mrs Peregrines, and less like Hollywood 90210, how the world might be today.
And then I find myself wondering who is going to protect those who turned up to be counted, those peculiar beings who don’t fit the media image whose voices are now being threatened. Who stands to protect that one cornerstone of our society that should be non-negotiable?
Who? I’m thinking you. And me. We need to stand up and defend and protect. We, who are peculiar and have never felt like we fit the image the media has fed us all our lives, the image the media has deemed the one to which we should aspire. No. We are the ones who would fill the halls of Mrs Peregrine’s school to the brim and we should be the ones to protect it. Let’s do that. Let’s protect everyone’s democratic right to a voice. Let’s be the protectors against the media who would swallow us whole and shut us down. Can you do that? Let’s try. Go on, I dare you.
Until next time,