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Combating hopelessness

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
I did have a positive thought - that I should go through this thread and make a list of all the good and positive suggestions people have made since 2014 to look at when feel I need inspiration and hope.

but some other time. I'm full of cold and going back to bed now...
 

Gramsci

Well-Known Member
I've been out and about in Loughborough Junction and Brixton today (London) ended up having chats with locals I know.

Some of whom are involved in the local community and joined Labour party due to Corbyn.

They are of the view to keep going despite the defeat. Also to continue to oppose the New Labour Council .

One said at least we have left MP to replace awful Chuka in Streatham.

Another was a younger person who joined and did a lot of local canvassing to support Corbyn.. A lot of young people want something different to the choice between Tories and Tory Lite Labour party. I feel for them.

On Brixton Forum its got worse. New poster coming on to have a go. Really depressing online and infuriating. To be expected I suppose. But not offline. I'd say in my local area people don't want Tories or New Labour.
 
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CH1

"Red Guard"(NLYL)
Late to this thread......

I've been intrigued for years by depression vs demoralisation.

In India demoralisation used to figure greatly in the analysis of the fate of married women, who often have to contend with living with their mother-in-law who dotes on mother-in-law's son/wife's husband.

I understood that apart from an unusually high incidence of psychiatric presentation by wives this also - in the worst cases - led to immolation on kerosene stoves. The question then being was it suicide by a wife criticised literally to death, or could it indeed have been murder.

Sorry to bring things down to this sort of level, but I feel sometimes we need to appreciate that other people's problems can be even worse.

As regards disappointment by thwarting of ideals this was discussed by the philosopher John Grey on Radio 4 on Sunday BBC Radio 4 - A Point of View, The recurrent dream of an end-time

John Grey - a long-time Brexiter - seems to feels that all utopian projects either lead to disappointment or disaster.

I myself am seriously disappointed by the Brexit out-turn and the election of Boris. But is it time to take a step back and cultivate my garden - to quote Voltaire.

In this regard I have to agree with Gramsci that it is gratifying when local community initiatives come forward and gather support.
 

brixtonscot

Well-Known Member
Some good points CH1
Differentiatons between young/old , urban/rural , individual/collective...

Individual distress tends to get
classed as "depression" , collective as "demoralisation"

At least part of the problem could be that we are all brought up with sanitized fairy tales of "happy ever after".....and then we get "haunted" by imagined futures that don't happen
(hauntology)
A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health
 
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8ball

Having a teeny break
Some good points CH1
Differentiatons between young/old , urban/rural , individual/collective...

Individual distress tends to get
classed as "depression" , collective as "demoralisation"

At least part of the problem could be that we are all brought up with sanitized fairy tales of "happy ever after".....and then we get "haunted" by imagined futures that don't happen
(hauntology)
A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health
That link between the nature of depression and the nature of capitalist realism (universal, unending, non-negotiable), isn’t something I’d seen put into words before.

I think me and some others I know (on here and off) have been feeling the weight of that synergy of late. It’s good to see it discussed in these terms. :thumbs:
 

CH1

"Red Guard"(NLYL)
I had never heard of Mark Fisher before perusing this thread - but found this newspaper article frightening.
Renowned writer and K-Punk blogger Mark Fisher from Felixstowe took own life after battle with depression

I am going to be discharged from SLAM on January 8th - and my GP only offers telephone consultations. I will be in the same boat as Mark Fisher was.

Fortunately I am nowhere near as intelligent - and my mood state is permanently dowsed down with lithium, so I'm pretty certain I won't be taking my life. That said nobody in the NHS is really prepared to discuss whether a life on lithium is a fully rewarding experience.
 

ice-is-forming

Well-Known Member
I had never heard of Mark Fisher before perusing this thread - but found this newspaper article frightening.
Renowned writer and K-Punk blogger Mark Fisher from Felixstowe took own life after battle with depression

I am going to be discharged from SLAM on January 8th - and my GP only offers telephone consultations. I will be in the same boat as Mark Fisher was.

Fortunately I am nowhere near as intelligent - and my mood state is permanently dowsed down with lithium, so I'm pretty certain I won't be taking my life. That said nobody in the NHS is really prepared to discuss whether a life on lithium is a fully rewarding experience.
Psychiatry has always been fiercely political.

I don't work for the NHS, but im always happy to discuss your thoughts on whether a life on lithium is a fully rewarding experience..
 

CH1

"Red Guard"(NLYL)
Psychiatry has always been fiercely political.

I don't work for the NHS, but im always happy to discuss your thoughts on whether a life on lithium is a fully rewarding experience..
Just for a more general audience, I seem to recall Robert Lowell the American poet apparently called lithium "dust in the blood" - and generally tried to avoid treatment.

I happened upon this National Public Radio audio blog featuring Kay Redfield Jamison, the bipolar academic who has just brought out a book about Lowell.
NPR Choice page

There is a sort of romanticism about manic depression in particular. However Kay Redfield Jamison fills in the downside - ie 20 hospital admissions for mania during Lowell's life.

I haven't read up Jamison recently, but her usual position used to be that she herself needed to take lithium to function correctly - and she was thankful that her husband would encourage her not to stop given the experiences she had had when coming off lithium and having an "episode".

In this broadcast she says that it was only when taking lithium that Lowell could be sure of not becoming dangerously manic, notwithstanding the effect on his creativity.

For your information I am only Bipolar 2, so lithium in my case helps me get out of bed and avoid suicidal ideation.

Sounds as though it might have helped Mark Fisher - though in my experience UK psychiatric services dislike prescribing lithium. They'd rather have you on Olanzapine, weighing 25 stone and needing multiple "services".
 
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ice-is-forming

Well-Known Member
Just for a more general audience, I seem to recall Robert Lowell the American poet apparently called lithium "dust in the blood" - and generally tried to avoid treatment.

I happened upon this National Public Radio audio blog featuring Kay Redfield Jamison, the bipolar academic who has just brought out a book about Lowell.
NPR Choice page

There is a sort of romanticism about manic depression in particular. However Kay Redfield Jamison fills in the downside - ie 20 hospital admissions for mania during Lowell's life.

I haven't read up Jamison recently, but her usual position used to be that she herself needed to take lithium to function correctly - and she was thankful that her husband would encourage her not to stop given the experiences she had had when coming off lithium and having an "episode".

In this broadcast she says that it was only when taking lithium that Lowell could be sure of not becoming dangerously manic, notwithstanding the effect on his creativity.

For your information I am only Bipolar 2, so lithium in my case helps me get out of bed and avoid suicidal ideation.

Sounds as though it might have helped Mark Fisher - though in my experience UK psychiatric services dislike prescribing lithium. They'd rather have you on Olanzapine, weighing 25 stone and needing multiple "services".
Neither lithium or Olanzapine are perfect, with both having class actions taken against the producers. Plus I've see the outcome of long term use. But it also sucks to have suicidal thoughts. Such toxic and limited treatment. But yeah... having spent a life time self medicating bi-polar with what would be called drugs of addiction ( don't get me wrong I've had my fair share of psych meds too) personally I've realised that I can control it reasonably well these days to stay unmedicated, post menopause. And having said that I can quite affirmatively guarantee that if I become unwell again I will, as usual, be the last person to know. And a psych will want me back on the meds.

Sometimes are harder than others but Ive been observent and can predict these with some degree of accuracy. It's always hard to tell how I've done though. Waiting with the fear to see what about my life i might have broken ... But recently it's been okay...

I'm not sure that I've ever bought into the romanticism of bipolar. Because the effects and ripples are so destructive. And that's without mentioning the living hell that is suicidality. The document brixtonscot posted up there ^^ is one of the best I've read for a while now, thank you.
 

brixtonscot

Well-Known Member
This is old article from 1993 , and while it is quite bleak , cynical even , I think it contains many truths.
It also contains an element of hope ( in bold ) ....and that is quite a challenge

What takes their place when the fairy-tales fail ?

by Joyce McMillan

Scotland on Sunday 29 Aug 1993

At the Traverse Theatre this Edinburgh Festival there is an interesting

show called Night After Night, by Neil Bartlett's Gloria company. It

promises a little more than it can deliver; but there's something

haunting about the questions it raises. For what it tries to do is

examine the strange, intense relationship between some gay men working

in the theatre, and the big romantic musicals many of them once worked on,

and continue to adore.


On the one hand, these men love the whole business of the musical, the

romantic curve of the storyline, the happy climax, the sense of the

characters finding their true destiny in one another.

But on the other, they are inevitably excluded from the boy-meets-girl neatness

of the plot, with its final sense of a family founded, and the happiness of the

hero and heroine stretching on into a boundless future; so that their

intense appreciation of the form is shot through with a sense of

sadness, and hopeless yearning.

And as I watched the show, I realised that it's not only gay men, these days,

who must feel a sense of permanent exclusion from this kind of romantic story.


A few days later, I was in the Assembly Rooms, watching an exquisite,

joyful Midsummer Night's Dream from Georgia, and found myself

weeping with sheer nostalgia for the life-affirming exuberance of it all;

at this point, Shakespeare was so confident of the idea of erotic,

heterosexual marriage as a key to social harmony that he made the whole

world of nature reflect the temporary row between Oberon and Titania -

summer buds in midwinter, green corn rotting in the fields - and come

back to itself only when they were together once more.


And how can any of us now watch this kind of romance without a

profound sense of loss ?

Of course, the number of people who actually achieved great long-term happiness

through the conventional pattern of marriage was always small.

But today we are constantly showered with facts and images that rob us

even of the faint hope of a traditional happy ending.


Last week's Scottish Office report on divorce, wanly titled Untying The

Knot, shows that marriage is fast becoming an explicitly provisional

contract, with no strong expectation of permanence on any part.

The stream of media stories about the stresses on single mothers

emphasise the ugly truth that parenthood often divides men and women

more than it unites them. And last week, the Mothers' Union itself

published an article arguing that conventional marriage is overrated, and

we ought to re-institute some kind of ''clan'' system of extended family living.


And in a sense, all of this can be seen as a healthy development, a

final rejection of the big lie that conventional families equal happy

families. But the collapse of all these old assumptions has also utterly

robbed us of our fairy-tales, our dreams, the stories with which, in our

culture, we used to attempt to make sense of our lives.


We have seen, rightly, that it is nonsense to bring up a modern little

girl on a diet of Cinderella, and the assumption that some day her

Prince will come to resolve her life.

But the trouble is that we have no alternative that offers anything like the

same sense of magic and coherence.

We can parody the original story; we can make Cinders marry Buttons,

or set up a menage-a-trois with the Ugly Sisters.


We can commit ourselves to the militant shapelessness of modernism,

which defies narrative and questions the very idea of meaning.

But we cannot work the magic those old stories worked.

We cannot take the common stuff of life and link it confidently to a whole order of the

universe; we cannot imagine the deep, hard-won, richly-patinaed joy that

came from the simultaneous fulfillment of individual needs, and those of

a whole society.


As individuals, we probably experience far more moments of happiness

than our ancestors did.

But our happiness has a thin quality; it lacks social resonance.

We marry, but it is a private matter.

We have children, but no one takes pleasure in their existence except ourselves

and the odd grandparent. We see fine sights and beautiful things;

but when we get home, no one looks at our holiday snaps,

and the journey becomes meaningless.


Now of course the suspicion that life may be a tale told by an idiot,

signifying nothing, has always plagued people who survived into middle

age; Dante in his dark forest, Shakespeare who lost the will to write

those joyful comedies, all those who know the sense of stasis that comes

when the long drive towards adulthood and parenthood slides into the

past, and the only big ''life-event'' left is death.


But now it seems that even young people must share this sense that there

is no shape, no point, no storyline, as if the whole culture had become

a victim of mid-life crisis.

Romance ? Don't make me laugh.

Fulfillment at work ? You'll be doing well to get a job at all.

And kids ? More trouble than they're worth; just treat you like a cashpoint,

and remind you of your ex.


And the point about all this - the shapelessness, the cynicism,

the entropy, the rejection of old dreams, the inability to develop new

ones - is that it is not sustainable.

Human beings crave meaning and need dreams.

We need to know what to hope for;

and very few are loners enough to draw the whole map for themselves.


The rest of us like to feel part of some rhythm, some order of things;

and the more we mouth the inadequate rhetoric of ''do your own thing''

and ''it's nobody else's business'', the greater becomes the danger of

an hysterical lurch back towards a sexual politics that is strict,

secure, authoritarian, and ultimately fascistic.

The seeds of it exist already, in the alarming macho imagery of video games and

science-fantasy movies, in the screaming tabloid campaigns against lone

mothers.

And those of us who fear that kind of backlash must face the

fact that knocking down old stereotypes is not enough.


If we tear down an old patriarchal civilisation with all its myths and

legends, then we must begin to build a new one, with new templates of

joy and fulfilment, new romantic visions; and we have to make those

visions as erotic and magical as the old ones.


When an artist like Neil Bartlett asks the right questions,

there is a faint flicker of hope that we may be up to the task.


But most of the time, the only answers I can see on the horizon are

those of the reactionaries, the ones who want to get back to some lost

paradise of ''normality'' in which papa rules, and women, children, and

homosexuals know their place.

They fill me with dread.

But their creed has a terrible clarity, in a time of growing confusion and fear;

and that makes them dangerous indeed.

The rest of us like to feel part of some rhythm, some order of things.
 

bellaozzydog

rolling turds in glitter
I try and remember that as an overall trend we remain so much more better off now than we ever have been. Ever. Not everyone, but generally. Worldwide and in this country. Yes there are some who genuinely have to rely on food banks and are homeless and that is shit and avoidable. But for the majority we have seen generation on generation improvements in living standards, healthcare, leisure time, technology, food quality, environmental standards. No point getting so pessimistic you can’t see the wood for the trees.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
 

Jeremiah18.17

Well-Known Member
Improved “leisure time, technology, food quality, environmental standards”?
Not in my life. Work now invades all our time - due largely to technology and deunionisation - There are microplastics in ALL your food, including the “organic” that is more expensive and out of the reach of many, even in Britain. Environmental standards, rules and regulations are not worth shit if they are ignored. From where I sit many places that were recognisably rural or unspoilt when I was younger are now urbanising, commodifying, deteriorating - and that is in Britain with it’s “world class” protections. Species extinctions rise almost unremarked in mainstream discourse. The air in London contains more microplastics than many industrial cities in China.
What some see as the technologically advanced utopia looks to me like the basis of psychological, physical and spiritual totalitarianism - we can see where things are going now - see China’s social credit and mass surveillance, see Populism with its armies of unreachable conspiraloon zombies, see the levels of stress and mental illness in the most “advanced” economies.

You might, technically, have a point with healthcare, were not the NHS in such a state and now likely to be increasingly commercialised and commodified. You might have a point, globally with living standards - the coming climate crisis will see those off for most.

Sorry, but in the UK we are in a relative prosperity bubble, which still has massive poverty. In development terms, globally we may be near the top of the arc, we will see how steep the descent is going to be if capitalism, resource exhaustion and climate crisis continue and intensify, as they look likely to do, now that most of the world is now under the control of brutal, lying, idiot oligarchs.

It is all coming down, one way or another.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
I try and remember that as an overall trend we remain so much more better off now than we ever have been. Ever. Not everyone, but generally. Worldwide and in this country. Yes there are some who genuinely have to rely on food banks and are homeless and that is shit and avoidable. But for the majority we have seen generation on generation improvements in living standards, healthcare, leisure time, technology, food quality, environmental standards. No point getting so pessimistic you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Yes I've heard it said that things are better, but who for? I'm not trying to be pessimistic - just realistic.

But I don't think that year on year improvement is possible and if it ever has been it is at the earths expense - someone always has to pay. The gap between the richest and poorest is definitely increasing in the uk. I'm not sure about worldwide.
 

Edie

Well-Known Member
Yes I've heard it said that things are better, but who for? I'm not trying to be pessimistic - just realistic.

But I don't think that year on year improvement is possible and if it ever has been it is at the earths expense - someone always has to pay. The gap between the richest and poorest is definitely increasing in the uk. I'm not sure about worldwide.
Is the gap all what counts? Compared to my grandparents generation, young adults in the Second World War, prior to universal healthcare, when being in service was still a thing, no central heating, slums, rampant mysogyny no gay rights, women in institutions for having babies out of wedlock. Are you seriously trying to argue that it’s harder today? Take off your rose tinted spectacles. Sorry to say this cos your all kind and well meaning people but the kind of handwringing and self pity of this kind is badly misplaced.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
Some good points CH1
Differentiatons between young/old , urban/rural , individual/collective...

Individual distress tends to get
classed as "depression" , collective as "demoralisation"
It seems govt policy with regard to the disabled / unemployed is one of demoralisation. Shifting the blame for the illness / lack of employment on to the individual rather than the uncaring nature of our economic system.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
Is the gap all what counts? Compared to my grandparents generation, young adults in the Second World War, prior to universal healthcare, when being in service was still a thing, no central heating, slums, rampant mysogyny no gay rights, women in institutions for having babies out of wedlock. Are you seriously trying to argue that it’s harder today? Take off your rose tinted spectacles. Sorry to say this cos your all kind and well meaning people but the kind of handwringing and self pity of this kind is badly misplaced.
that's a fair point.

Some things have improved here in the UK at least and certainly as a queer woman I'm glad I wasn't born before I was. Glad I didn't have to live through two world wars. Glad I wasn't born before the NHS. Glad I've got a vote. Glad I didn't have to go into service aged 12. Glad I benefitted from a free education. I know there was no golden age, and wouldn't say it is harder now, well perhaps not for us here on these boards.

Is the difference between rich and poor is starker now or does it just seem so? Do we still a sense of family / community / friendship / solidarity - I'm not sure these things have always fared so well. A lot of pressures from our so called affluent life styles and mass media work against those bonds between people. On the other hand here we are - more in touch and connected than ever.

I started this thread by saying it was shit in the 80s but basically asking what got us through? I've always been inclined towards being miserable and looking on the dark side, but I am (hopefully) looking to combat that here.
 

redsquirrel

This Machine Kills Progressives
It is obviously true that for the majority of people in the UK things are better in absolute terms today than 100 years ago. But to use that as some sort of benchmark such that it is "handwringing" to look around and feel appalled at the what's happening both in the UK and worldwide is pretty awful.

Across the western world inequality is increasing, in many places there are increases in the number of people living in poverty, already the appalling consequences of climate change are being felt (something that is only going to get worse). It is not just "rose tinted spectacles" that make many people think their children are worse off than they are - we now work longer for less pay and under worse conditions. That is having a real effect, people are dying earlier.

To proclaim the above as "handwringing" is only a few steps away from the type of "we've never had it so good" crap promoted by people like Norberg, Pinker, etc - a horrible defence of liberalism, capitalism and inequality. It's appalling bollocks 1, 2. The improvements we have achieved have been on the basis of the solidarity friendofdorothy has talked about, they have been made in spite of capitalism not because of it. What the system such people defend has done is ensure that any "progress" has been far less significant than it should have been.

Of course we should not lose ourselves in despair at the above and we should celebrate the wins we have achieved but the "it's getting better" better nonsense needs to be placed in the bin.
 

brixtonscot

Well-Known Member
Is the gap all what counts? Compared to my grandparents generation, young adults in the Second World War, prior to universal healthcare, when being in service was still a thing, no central heating, slums, rampant mysogyny no gay rights, women in institutions for having babies out of wedlock. Are you seriously trying to argue that it’s harder today? Take off your rose tinted spectacles. Sorry to say this cos your all kind and well meaning people but the kind of handwringing and self pity of this kind is badly misplaced.
Yes , true.....but as been said previously on this thread , most of these improvements were implemented historically over the 20th century , largely with election of Labour govt in 1945 and introduction of welfare state.
Up until the late 70's and the coming of Thatcherism/neoliberalism , when progress stopped and gone into decline
 

CH1

"Red Guard"(NLYL)
I'm intrigued by the British vs Italian approach to community care.

In the UK were have had reports and policies going on about community care in care for the elderly and psychiatric care since 1956
Care in the Community - Wikipedia
They are syill arguing about it - but the main thrust appears to have been towatds closing state institutions and opening private ones - usually run bu people trained by the NHS.

On the other hand in Italy - regarding mental health - regarding mental health - Italy passed a law in 1978 requiring the phased closure of all mental hospitals, and mandating treatment in the community.
Psychiatric reform in Italy - Wikipedia

I recall back in the 1990s some groups such as the Hearing Voices Network going on exchange visits to Trieste, which was apparently in the vanguard
of developments in Italy. Clearly if the Italians are making genuine progress here it will be more difficult to evaluate and replicate here now were are Brexiting.

Not that anyone in the NHS will be interested in a European solution anyway. If they wanted that why did they put the newly knighted Sir Simon Stevens in charge of NHS England? Concurrently Angell Ward (Coldharbour) councillor 1998-2002 he was a new Labour policy wonk for Frank Dobson and Tony Blair before going off for a ten year stint at United Healthcare - first in New York then Brazil.

Sir Simon most likely knows more about private healthcare for the poor than any living soul in Britain - but how does that compare to community care in Italy. That is what I want to know.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
Affluenza?
I may be personally living a more comfortable life and maybe many of us urbanites are.

However growing up I'd never heard of foodbanks and never met a homeless person. I find it profoundly depressing that people without food or homes exist in such huge numbers in our rich nation - its a disgrace that our govt seems unembarrassed by. This is as a direct effect of govt policies, though the authorities and media seem keen to throw the problem to charities and to blame individuals.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
I'm intrigued by the British vs Italian approach to community care.

In the UK were have had reports and policies going on about community care in care for the elderly and psychiatric care since 1956
Care in the Community - Wikipedia
They are syill arguing about it - but the main thrust appears to have been towatds closing state institutions and opening private ones - usually run bu people trained by the NHS.

On the other hand in Italy - regarding mental health - regarding mental health - Italy passed a law in 1978 requiring the phased closure of all mental hospitals, and mandating treatment in the community.
Psychiatric reform in Italy - Wikipedia

I recall back in the 1990s some groups such as the Hearing Voices Network going on exchange visits to Trieste, which was apparently in the vanguard
of developments in Italy. Clearly if the Italians are making genuine progress here it will be more difficult to evaluate and replicate here now were are Brexiting.

Not that anyone in the NHS will be interested in a European solution anyway. If they wanted that why did they put the newly knighted Sir Simon Stevens in charge of NHS England? Concurrently Angell Ward (Coldharbour) councillor 1998-2002 he was a new Labour policy wonk for Frank Dobson and Tony Blair before going off for a ten year stint at United Healthcare - first in New York then Brazil.

Sir Simon most likely knows more about private healthcare for the poor than any living soul in Britain - but how does that compare to community care in Italy. That is what I want to know.
It depresses me that govt want to follow US rather than EU leads in healthcare as in so many other areas.

It seems to me in the US they have a way of medicalising every social problem like shyness or social anxiety, then marketing a medication to 'cure' it. I suppose through TV drama and social media taking meds for mental issues is seen as common and normal even for children. Thats not to say all meds are bad - but its seems to be easier and cheaper to give out some pills than deal with the very real problems that people have.
 

Miss-Shelf

I'll meet you further on up the road
I had a much more comfortable early life than either of my parents in their early lives
They however, living in an inexpensive part of the uk, through their working life and retirement, had rising disposable income, affordable housing, a good life/work balance, early retirement, decent pensions
As a single parent in an expensive area of the UK, I've had harder financial times comparatively in my adult life and have seen my wages decrease in actual amount in the last decade. I get by but I'm not financially comfortable and can't see that changing any time soon. I work much longer hours than they did and have a much longer commute to work.

I have benefited in loads of ways from changing social outlooks and choices and my daughter definitely has. Although she has even less financial options than I do.
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
This is old article from 1993 , and while it is quite bleak , cynical even , I think it contains many truths.
It also contains an element of hope ( in bold ) ....and that is quite a challenge

What takes their place when the fairy-tales fail ?

by Joyce McMillan

Scotland on Sunday 29 Aug 1993

At the Traverse Theatre this Edinburgh Festival there is an interesting

show called Night After Night, by Neil Bartlett's Gloria company. It

promises a little more than it can deliver; but there's something

haunting about the questions it raises. For what it tries to do is

examine the strange, intense relationship between some gay men working

in the theatre, and the big romantic musicals many of them once worked on,

and continue to adore.


On the one hand, these men love the whole business of the musical, the

romantic curve of the storyline, the happy climax, the sense of the

characters finding their true destiny in one another.

But on the other, they are inevitably excluded from the boy-meets-girl neatness

of the plot, with its final sense of a family founded, and the happiness of the

hero and heroine stretching on into a boundless future; so that their

intense appreciation of the form is shot through with a sense of

sadness, and hopeless yearning.

And as I watched the show, I realised that it's not only gay men, these days,

who must feel a sense of permanent exclusion from this kind of romantic story.


A few days later, I was in the Assembly Rooms, watching an exquisite,

joyful Midsummer Night's Dream from Georgia, and found myself

weeping with sheer nostalgia for the life-affirming exuberance of it all;

at this point, Shakespeare was so confident of the idea of erotic,

heterosexual marriage as a key to social harmony that he made the whole

world of nature reflect the temporary row between Oberon and Titania -

summer buds in midwinter, green corn rotting in the fields - and come

back to itself only when they were together once more.


And how can any of us now watch this kind of romance without a

profound sense of loss ?

Of course, the number of people who actually achieved great long-term happiness

through the conventional pattern of marriage was always small.

But today we are constantly showered with facts and images that rob us

even of the faint hope of a traditional happy ending.


Last week's Scottish Office report on divorce, wanly titled Untying The

Knot, shows that marriage is fast becoming an explicitly provisional

contract, with no strong expectation of permanence on any part.

The stream of media stories about the stresses on single mothers

emphasise the ugly truth that parenthood often divides men and women

more than it unites them. And last week, the Mothers' Union itself

published an article arguing that conventional marriage is overrated, and

we ought to re-institute some kind of ''clan'' system of extended family living.


And in a sense, all of this can be seen as a healthy development, a

final rejection of the big lie that conventional families equal happy

families. But the collapse of all these old assumptions has also utterly

robbed us of our fairy-tales, our dreams, the stories with which, in our

culture, we used to attempt to make sense of our lives.


We have seen, rightly, that it is nonsense to bring up a modern little

girl on a diet of Cinderella, and the assumption that some day her

Prince will come to resolve her life.

But the trouble is that we have no alternative that offers anything like the

same sense of magic and coherence.

We can parody the original story; we can make Cinders marry Buttons,

or set up a menage-a-trois with the Ugly Sisters.


We can commit ourselves to the militant shapelessness of modernism,

which defies narrative and questions the very idea of meaning.

But we cannot work the magic those old stories worked.

We cannot take the common stuff of life and link it confidently to a whole order of the

universe; we cannot imagine the deep, hard-won, richly-patinaed joy that

came from the simultaneous fulfillment of individual needs, and those of

a whole society.


As individuals, we probably experience far more moments of happiness

than our ancestors did.

But our happiness has a thin quality; it lacks social resonance.

We marry, but it is a private matter.

We have children, but no one takes pleasure in their existence except ourselves

and the odd grandparent. We see fine sights and beautiful things;

but when we get home, no one looks at our holiday snaps,

and the journey becomes meaningless.


Now of course the suspicion that life may be a tale told by an idiot,

signifying nothing, has always plagued people who survived into middle

age; Dante in his dark forest, Shakespeare who lost the will to write

those joyful comedies, all those who know the sense of stasis that comes

when the long drive towards adulthood and parenthood slides into the

past, and the only big ''life-event'' left is death.


But now it seems that even young people must share this sense that there

is no shape, no point, no storyline, as if the whole culture had become

a victim of mid-life crisis.

Romance ? Don't make me laugh.

Fulfillment at work ? You'll be doing well to get a job at all.

And kids ? More trouble than they're worth; just treat you like a cashpoint,

and remind you of your ex.


And the point about all this - the shapelessness, the cynicism,

the entropy, the rejection of old dreams, the inability to develop new

ones - is that it is not sustainable.

Human beings crave meaning and need dreams.

We need to know what to hope for;

and very few are loners enough to draw the whole map for themselves.


The rest of us like to feel part of some rhythm, some order of things;

and the more we mouth the inadequate rhetoric of ''do your own thing''

and ''it's nobody else's business'', the greater becomes the danger of

an hysterical lurch back towards a sexual politics that is strict,

secure, authoritarian, and ultimately fascistic.

The seeds of it exist already, in the alarming macho imagery of video games and

science-fantasy movies, in the screaming tabloid campaigns against lone

mothers.

And those of us who fear that kind of backlash must face the

fact that knocking down old stereotypes is not enough.


If we tear down an old patriarchal civilisation with all its myths and

legends, then we must begin to build a new one, with new templates of

joy and fulfilment, new romantic visions; and we have to make those

visions as erotic and magical as the old ones.


When an artist like Neil Bartlett asks the right questions,

there is a faint flicker of hope that we may be up to the task.


But most of the time, the only answers I can see on the horizon are

those of the reactionaries, the ones who want to get back to some lost

paradise of ''normality'' in which papa rules, and women, children, and

homosexuals know their place.

They fill me with dread.

But their creed has a terrible clarity, in a time of growing confusion and fear;

and that makes them dangerous indeed.

The rest of us like to feel part of some rhythm, some order of things.
There is so much in this that I want to agree with and talk about.

The trad idea 'family' life has been the backbone of so many political policies. Remember clause 28 talking about 'pretended family relationships' and tory talk about Victorian Family Values and protecting the institution of marriage. I'm often amazed at how much things have changed in my adult lifetime, but we have no agreement on what replaces the old ideas, what to aspire to or what is the new ideal.

Young people still enter into traditional marriages with proud fathers 'giving' away their daughters in white dresses - spending thousands on that not so once-in-a-life-time party. My heart sinks when I see gay couples doing the same - is that what we marched for?

This is the tricky bit:
If we tear down an old patriarchal civilisation with all its myths and

legends, then we must begin to build a new one, with new templates of

joy and fulfilment, new romantic visions; and we have to make those

visions as erotic and magical as the old ones.
ideas and answers welcome.
 

Miss-Shelf

I'll meet you further on up the road
those
There is so much in this that I want to agree with and talk about.

The trad idea 'family' life has been the backbone of so many political policies. Remember clause 28 talking about 'pretended family relationships' and tory talk about Victorian Family Values and protecting the institution of marriage. I'm often amazed at how much things have changed in my adult lifetime, but we have no agreement on what replaces the old ideas, what to aspire to or what is the new ideal.

Young people still enter into traditional marriages with proud fathers 'giving' away their daughters in white dresses - spending thousands on that not so once-in-a-life-time party. My heart sinks when I see gay couples doing the same - is that what we marched for?

This is the tricky bit:
ideas and answers welcome.
to my mind the romantic visions of heterosexual marriage were/are about celebrating the nuclear family
A strong bond to an inward looking circle.

New romantic visions of individuals held and looked after in solidarity in communal life would be welcome to me

However, it's difficult to build this community life [as we know] within present financial structures which are set up for individuals or couples. Housing units are hard to adapt for bigger groups. It's difficult in most areas of the UK for people to organise their living situations near to significant community friends
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
I had a much more comfortable early life than either of my parents in their early lives
They however, living in an inexpensive part of the uk, through their working life and retirement, had rising disposable income, affordable housing, a good life/work balance, early retirement, decent pensions
As a single parent in an expensive area of the UK, I've had harder financial times comparatively in my adult life and have seen my wages decrease in actual amount in the last decade. I get by but I'm not financially comfortable and can't see that changing any time soon. I work much longer hours than they did and have a much longer commute to work.

I have benefited in loads of ways from changing social outlooks and choices and my daughter definitely has. Although she has even less financial options than I do.
My dad left school almost illiterate, was a worker in the same factory for 46 yrs could afford to buy a house and retired with a decent pension. Hard to imagine that happening now, even up north.

Its hard to see how extended families and communities can thrive when housing is seen a luxury. So much of the radical politics of the 60s/ 70s /80s came from people in cheap housing, cheap secure rents and squats. How can young people build continuity or anything in their lives if they are struggling to pay rent in a flat on a 6 month lease?
 

friendofdorothy

Solidarity against neoliberalism!
those

to my mind the romantic visions of heterosexual marriage were/are about celebrating the nuclear family
A strong bond to an inward looking circle.

New romantic visions of individuals held and looked after in solidarity in communal life would be welcome to me

However, it's difficult to build this community life [as we know] within present financial structures which are set up for individuals or couples. Housing units are hard to adapt for bigger groups. It's difficult in most areas of the UK for people to organise their living situations near to significant community friends
Lets not give up looking though!
 
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