Two things happened this week. In and of themselves they are unremarkable: I got some junk mail, and I saw a movie. Bear with me…
On Thursday the editors of The Sun in their wisdom decided that everyone in the country could have a free copy of their special edition ‘This is Our England’ newspaper. I’ve never read The Sun on principle, but when mine arrived I suddenly wondered how I could have a principle about something I’ve never read; a catch 22. So I opened it, was suitably unimpressed with the scantily clad Kelly Brook on page 3 (caption: No 1 Rose), the entire page harping on about how the English are the most creative people in the world, travel section ‘50 fab things to do in England’, a double page spread on how good The Sun is (surely if it were good it would be self evident), and a load of stuff about English football, and then I quietly closed it.
I got out my best felt tip, scrawled a message across the front, and thanks to Steve’s helpful blog post popped it back in the postbox.
On Friday I went to the cinema. I went with a friend of mine who I met in Mozambique, but who has always lived in London. Her parents are from Bangladesh. She’s just my friend, I don’t really think of that stuff normally.
The cinema was full. There were people of all shapes and sizes. There were people who arrived late using their phones as torches as they squeezed into their seats, there was an elderly lady who hobbled down the stairs with a walking stick. To be fair most of the people there were in their 30s or older and vaguely ‘middle class’ (whatever that even means these days) but I think that probably had a lot to do with the fact that we were at the Barbican on a Friday night. The cool kids have better things to do on a sunny Friday and go to cinemas on ‘school nights’ instead. I bumped into four ex-colleagues who happened to be there too – a mix of male and female, younger and older, black and white, married and unmarried. You get the gist.
We went to see Belle. I won’t spoil it for you, but I strongly recommend it – not your typical period drama at all. The bottom line of the film is the message that human beings are all of equal value regardless of the circumstances of their birth. THAT is my England. For me England (or actually the UK which is where I really feel like I live – lucky Scots, Welsh and Northern Irelanders who presumably didn’t get free copies of The Sun) is a tolerant place, where people have equal legal rights, where barriers are actively broken down, where age, sex, class, marital status, skin colour, religion, language etc are all secondary to personality when it comes to who we choose to spend our time with. We have by no means perfected this yet, but we’ve come a long way from the status quo in 1781.
In the 18th Century there was slavery. Today there is The Sun. Both are divisive and prejudiced. Perhaps in a couple of centuries time there will be a film about the people who stood up to narrow-minded ‘journalism’.