for Auld Lang Syne
Reflecting on this year from the officially enforced, and perhaps too socially-distanced comfort, of your designated lockdown zone, you may find your mind’s eye seeking out the company of crowds and naturally consider the only gatherings of this year – the various, apparently spontaneous, international commiserations over the death of a saintly, pistol-whipping1 porn star unfortunately over-fond of strange powders. And the inevitable and justified attacks on the symbols of white racism (statues, public building, liquor stores, shoe shops, McDonald’s, street names, white faces) that caused his demise. Should, however, this reflection be too political for your maudlin mood, and you just prefer something mair auld lang syne, I attach the following little compilation of 1950s Scandinavian street scenes from what appears to be home movies. And you may imagine yourself there instead, enjoying your unjust privilege. Although there is no sound (other than a retrospectively added and poorly chosen soundtrack), it speaks for itself. It features Scandies of course (and thankfully a few fjallravens to maintain the special interest of wildlife connoisseurs) but we Scotch, as fellow North Euros, are in no wise excluded from recognising a common cultural past, and thusly seeing ourselves in the images. That is our former selves.
https://youtu.be/t0oxUeKIgIc and here's a live link. (I'm not sure if I've done this correctly, tell me if so)
Perhaps I am projecting, but I feel a terrific sense of order and security radiating from the images, in that these places are safe in a way that does not exist anymore. Good manners too, somehow suggests itself. These are nice thoughts to enter the new year with, don’t you think.The city centre scenes are striking for how well-dressed people appear to be; dapper, polished and elegant are proposed as the correct adjectives. And slim. And White. Slim and White; Aye, there’s the rub.
Although easily within the span of many readers, the world depicted is as gone as Caesar’s Rome.2 For some oldsters this may evoke nostalgia, for the young however (and here I am thinking of White school children) raised in a world of images where their visual replacement is almost complete, I feel that these images will come as a surprise. And for ethnic others; they’ll be wondering where they are. I am especially curious about how older children, gas-lighted and bullied into beliefs about prejudice and patriarchy as their recent history, react to seeing just pale faces like their own in what are undeniably liveable countries, despite the absence of the cultural enrichments we now enjoy. For young males especially, seeing innocent images of ordinary White males who are not the buffoons, psychos and incompetents they know from TV, perhaps this would have a subtle power. Could these images evoke some atavistic impulse that could threaten the project to deprive European peoples of their heritage? I am sure that I am not the only one to think this.
I’ve politicised my viewing of these images, although we know watching them that such a perspective was not even conceivable to the original filmers – although arguably to the recent compiler. It is this very innocence of political agenda that gives them their subversive power and this is why they will be memory holed. Our past, according to this corrected view, was narrow and dull, intolerant and corrupt, racist and anti-Semitic. No other memory will be allowed.
It is the perquisite of power to invent the past. And we are not to find a welcome there. In this future world auld acquaintance should be forgot and never brocht tae mind. Let us resist this for, evoking Rabbie, auld lang syne.
Hat tip to The Clash, from whom I stole the title.
What think ye?
1. Lest this causes a misunderstanding, we are not referencing a porno-style pistol whipping in the saint’s case, but actual pistol whipping (with a gun) of a pregnant woman he was robbing. I think ‘pistol-whuppin’ is the correct term.
2. And ha ha, for exactly the same reasons. Emperor Claudius shakes his head: Ego dixi vobis.