Page 6, 11th October 1974

11th October 1974
Page 6
Page 6, 11th October 1974 — We viewers can learn a lot about ourselves

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Organisations: Religious Department
Locations: Paris


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We viewers can learn a lot about ourselves

by MARY CRAIG Thoreau wrote: "It takes two to speak the truth one to speak and another to hear." Those who cannot or will not see any good in television miss the point that truth is a two-way traffic, a dialogue. As viewers we can learn a lot of truth about our society and ourselves if we have cars to hear.

It's not only in the serious documentaries that our society can be put under the -microscope and seen for what it

• is. Sometimes the middle-ofthe-road, on-going soap opera series is acutely aware of its responsibilities in this direction, Sutherland's Law provides easy, undemanding entertainment if that's all you are prepared to accept; but it is also trying to get something deeper across. In a recent episode an attack was made on those developers who make fat profits out of other men's misery.

At the outset, John Sutherland is aware of the drawbacks but believes that all's fair in the name of progress: "It's the human rat-race. You can't stop it." The unfolding story proves him wrong henceforward he will try his damnedest to uphold human values against devouring commercialism. The point is made with a sledgehmmer, but there will be those who miss it.

Other favourites, Z Cars and Softly Softly consistently deal with underlying social diseontents and tensions. What makes the ever-popular Crossroads unimportant and irrelevant is its lack of concern with•these. Our good situation comedies, like Porridge and Steptoe and Son reveal a world of injustice, ignorance and prejudice in which bad social conditions and demi-semieducation have done their worst.

LWT's Upstairs Downstairs set out the week before last to prove how easily prejudice can be aroused and energised given anxiety, insecurity, lack of real knowledge spiced by an infusion of rumour. Germanborn nationals were the scapegoats in 1914, but how many have there been since then? One thing we can always find is scapegoats. Significantly, the first theme of the new 10-week Anno Domini series (in the "Godslot," 6.15 Sundays BBC 1) was the traditional race-creed

hatred of Celtic v Rangers. Another case of Catholic v Protestant, with Christianity nowhere to be seen.

Where does the blame lie? Separate education, segregation of Catholic from Protestant, encouragement of a ghetto mentality? At least the possibility is worth considering. Speaking of the bigoted Scots hero in his novel "The Sash," the author claimed: "Take away his belief and he has nothing because society has not given him anything."

Anno Domini promises us tough and balanced reporting on the world of religious current affairs. It's an ambitious project for a Religious Department with its limited funds, and

it deserves all the support we can give it. The front man is Dr Colin Morris.

If the countless admirers of his books and of his trenchant and hard-hitting contributions to "Thought For the Day" on radio give him their allegiance now, Anno Domini should do well in the ratings. However somnolent I feel, Colin Morris's gravelly growl will always jerk me into complete wakefulness.

Was it conincidence that gave us Piaf (I Regret Nothing, BBC I) and Charles Aznavour Sings (BBC 2) in the same week'? In a sense Edith Piaf made Aznavour; she bullied him into making the most of his talent. and even into having his nose re-modelled.

She recognised something of' herself in him; both had an ability to reach an audience in its heart and guts. But Piaf was greater. When she died, millions grieved; the streets of Paris teemed on the day of her funeral.

She was no ordinary singer: her songs were redolent of the streets, of pain and sorrow and grinding poverty. Joy too. They were of the earth earthy, strictly not for Puritans, yet possessing a kind of innocence.

Her extraordinary private life

was frowned on by the Church, but it's a safe bet that her songs will be her memorial. In the words of her own Chanson 1 Trois Temps "history is soon forgotten, but songs do not fade."

In The Midst of Life (Tuesda.' Documentary, BBC 1) was, of course, a documentary about death. Not about the death of one individual, but about the attitude of society towards death. Death is the new obscenity, the one thing we don't talk about.

In the midst of life we are in death, commented Julian Pettifer, and we do our very best to forget it. When Evelyn Waugh wrote "The Loved One" about way-out burial practices in Southern California it had a Succes de scandale in two continents.

Today it might fall flat; fact is catching up with fantasy. Our funerals are production-line, our crematoria custom-built to "do" 50 corpses a day. "than all that senseless mourning,"

The contrast was between the modern instant funeral and the Irish wake where death is a community affair. Really the contrast was between man close to his roots and his community, and isolated urban man who has lost both.

Julian Pettifer's commentary preferred the wake. "Where death can be shared it seems more bearable and brings acceptance. Instead, a society that lives in ldentikit little boxes is buried in anonymity."

Anonymity, lack of the personal touch, lack of dignity, these are general complaints. The impersonalism spreads even to the churchmen: platitudes splurged over the coffin by a stranger among strangers. They, too, are often part of the nothingness, a feature of the sausage machine.

Even in our aghostic society, death holds mystery and even terror. It cannot be rendered anodyne; it is not nothing, even if we claim to regard it as the ultimate absurdity. Pretending that death doesn't exist simply makes us less able to cope when the time comes.

"It's like a sausage machine," complained a recently bereaved girl. "The coffin disappears through a hole; just like a scene

from Monty Python,"

_ "Much more intelligent," quoth the funeral director,

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