Tuesday, April 10, 2007
It’s spring. Two days ago, not a lamb in sight. Today , dead on time, (Good Friday), looking out of the Wiltshire window, there’s hardly a sheep in sight who is not accompanied by brand new twin sprogs with nothing on their minds but food – something with which the lumbering, dag-encrusted mums are evidently well endowed. (Don’t anyone mention mint sauce.) But where are the proud dads - resting?
Happy Easter everyone!
It must have been a slow news day. I guess the media were all waiting for President After-dinner Jazz to squeeze the last drop of PR from his magnanimous gesture. (As also did our own media - at the expense of the four soldiers killed in Iraq on the same day.)
The BBC News carried an item about Britain that our local TV station in Nice had run more than three weeks ago. It’s a piece about the ubiquitous CCTV cameras that not only spy on and film us, (Britain is the most CCTV-watched country in the world), but that can now shout at us: like ‘No skateboarding’ or ‘Pick up that cigarette packet you just dropped’. Ayatollah Blair likes control: ID cards (a case of locking the chicken-shed door now the fox is inside.); DNA, eyeball and fingerprint data bases. Even Uncle Sam has a picture of my eyeballs.
Funny thing about control - while trying not to attach the word ‘freakery’. People who try to control other people – whether with tears, withdrawal of emotional or physical needs, spying, nagging, blackmail or threat of violence - usually begin with insecurity or fear. Fear of exposure; of loss of financial security; of loneliness – fear of partner, of children or relative leaving them. It’s a kind of disease, and if neglected can become at best a habit, at worst an obsession, with the original fear forgotten (A dominatrice I know controls - adult - family board games to make sure the same person doesn’t win twice!).
As fiction it can be fun: anything from dramatic (Pinter) to hilarious (Steptoe). Controller/controllee relationships need not be male/female. They can be female/male (African Queen), male/male (Maugham’s The Servant – screenplay, interestingly, by Pinter), female/female (The Killing of Sister George), parent/child (Mommie Dearest), or child/parent (King Lear). But in real life it is tragic.
The irony of control is that it never works. On the contrary, it usually ends up causing exactly the eventuality that was most feared. At first the controllee doesn’t even know. It creeps up on him (it’s not necessarily a ‘him’ of course but you have to say) imperceptibly, with decisions like whether they wallpaper or paint. He may prefer paint, but partner spends more time with wall than he does. What kind of car? He might feel a little more strongly about that one, but what the hell - he’s in love.
It may even be well-intended – controllee thinks he’s keeping partner happy and partner is saving him the bother of dealing with trivia. And so it goes until the decisions get weightier – and controllee realises with a shock that it’s a long time since he initiated or participated in a domestic decision.
Eric Berne, in Games People Play, talks of ‘an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing towards a [...] predictable outcome’. In advanced stages, there’s no room for compromise: Contollees can give up careers, ostracize lifelong friends and even relatives, until there’s only one way out. ‘Out’ can mean booze, different partner or just ‘out’
We can’t always fight it – we know we probably will end up with Heathrow Terminal 5; street lighting that blocks out the stars; Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, carrying ID cards or living in a house we don’t like. (But it's not all bleak: Blair will eventually leave and take up his directorships in British Airways, BAe and the rest.) But at times we might have avoided some of them if we had spoken up earlier.
Not enough control I bought three things on Monday: a new TV set, a DVD player and a flat screen for the computer. None of them were usable. The TV (Curry’s) came without a cable to connect to my antenna, the DVD (Amazon) came without a SCART cable, and the screen (also Curry’s) came without a VGA cable to connect to the PC. Don’t say I should have spoken up earlier – I did. Curry’s said they were in the box.
Too much control I know I go on a bit about referees, but last night’s UEFA cup game between Sevilla and Tottenham could have been a great one – two good teams who play fast, flowing football. OK, a bit of police brutality – when else do they get a chance legally to crack a few English heads? – and some spectacular diving by the Spaniards: what else is new? But the score was made farcical by the stupidity of the referee, who had blown his whistle before the ‘fouled’ player hit the ground, and was standing over the penalty spot a second later. It was obvious that Robinson had got both hands to the ball, and that the player with the ball at his feet would trip over him – even if he had not intended to. Robinson got a yellow card for letting it be seen that he was not in full agreement with the ref. The other 20 million were not charged. That ref. has a promising future.
Sentence with more 'thises' than Richard II Hope you've been watching this: This is This this week - not better than usual, just a bit different. There's still time to catch it. Looks like a great idea, eg. for dilettante bloggers who don't want the commitment of a full-time blog. Apply here.