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It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

July 8th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life/Politics · No Comments · Life, Politics

There is a lot of change coming. Some of it necessitated by the Covid-19 experience and some of it self-inflicted by Brexit. I do try to embrace change and welcome it because, like most people, I want things to keep improving and improvement implies change. Conversely, any change represents an opportunity to twist it into a benefit.

Despite that, I am finding it very hard to see how Brexit, especially a no-deal Brexit will benefit anybody apart from other countries and those with deliberately complicated finances who will not have to comply with the new EU transparancy regulations. Losing the freedom to live and work in France, Bulgaria, Greece and the rest is bad enough, but now there seems little chance of the sort of economic boost needed to compensate for that loss.

So I have been trying to remember other changes that everybody thought would be disastrous, but turned out to be OK in the end. That, in turn, made me realise that sometimes we (the general public, with the newspapers happily inciting us) really have got our collective knickers in a twist over things that were, with hindsight, quite trivial. Some got their knickers more in a twist than most.

The most trivial example I could think of was when the BBC moved their evening news from 9pm to 10pm. That was twenty years ago, and it is hard to think what all the fuss was about, but at the time it generated floods of angry letters and general feeling that it was the end of civilisation or something.

There are examples that were less trivial, representing real change to real people on a day-to-day basis, but still when you look back you wonder what the fuss was about. Like decimalisation. Tell anybody under 40 that there was huge resistance to moving from currency based on twelve pennies to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound to the mathematically simpler 100p to a pound and they will think you are making it up.

The metric system was another one. I’m old enough that I do still think in terms of miles rather than kilometres – but I do think in terms of centimetres as much as inches and will convert to cm to do any calculations, obviously. When I weigh myself it is in kilograms and I have no instinctive feeling for pounds. Had we changed road signs to kilometres I would have adjusted better.

Other changes that seemed huge at the time but now fall into the what-was-the-fuss-about category are the change in format of broadsheet newspapers to a size you could actually manage, mandatory seatbelts, passports changing colour and size, the introduction of the steps rule for goalkeepers, smoking bans, or Peter Gabriel leaving Genesis.

OK, so the last one is controversial, but whether you think Genesis did nothing good after Gabriel left, it wasn’t the end of the world.

All of that was supposed to give me some perspective and feel a bit better about the impending changes, but I found it all a bit depressing because it seemed to me that the driving force behind a lot of the Faragists was that they are still fighting some of these battles long after they have been settled, and that the whole EU thing was a proxy for going back to smoking in pubs while spreading out a newspaper larger than the table, and paying for your beer in shillings.

Brexit isn’t going to move the BBC news back to 9pm, make the Times twice the size, bring back shillings, and turn pubs and trains into smoke-filled chambers. All of which we could have done anyway if we had really wanted to. It is just going to give us a different colour passport. Which we also could have had anyway. (I still maintain it was black rather than blue – I still have my old one and it looks pretty black to me – but that is beside the point). I really feel that there are lots of genies that are not going back into their bottles and all we are going to achieve by trying to stuff them back in is a load of bottles even more broken than this simile.

In conclusion, I did a really shit job of looking on the bright side, but leaving that aside, are there any other stunning examples of things that seemd huge at the time that really weren’t? Surely the Nine O’clock News is not the best one I could have thought of.

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