Sunday, 9 July 2017
ACTIVISM, THE DECLINE OF
Despite my best attempts to live in earlier decades, all the evidence points to the 1970s being a long time ago. We all know the cliches that were repeated ad nauseum on those 'nostalgia' documentaries that were so prevalent 15 years ago, typically encapsulated by stories of power cuts and Noddy Holder's mirrored top hat. But there have been other, more subtle, changes since then, the results of which are only becoming apparent now.
In the early 70s, social and romantic life was relatively simple for a man. You met a woman, went out with her, stuff happened, and you got married (the exact timings of these events depended if and when she got pregnant). Once the novelty had worn off, you generally found that you'd said everything sensible you could possibly say to each other. Anything else usually resulted in arguments or unedifying mutual passive-aggressive behaviour.
To my generation, the solution to this is simple - divorce. Sure, it's costly and adversarial, but it's better in the long run than a lifetime of mutual recrimination and misery. But in the 1970s, such things were far less common. The majority of people were not comfortable talking to lawyers and having their dirty laundry washed in public. So, for better or worse, they stayed together and found ways of staying apart.
As Countess Scarlioni said "Every man must have his hobbies." Unfortunately for most men of the 1970s, Count Scarlioni's personal hobby was unavailable to them, so they had to find something else. Usually, it involved being in smoky rooms with other men, discussing issues of little lasting importance but involving a lot of time and committee effort. Is it a wonder that both the peak of Union activities and the peak of CAMRA campaigning happened virtually simultaneously?
And ever since, with the following generations of men finding more immediately satisfying activities to engage in, the average age of a local CAMRA branch committee has been increasing with every passing year. Possibly the only things keeping the institution going are that (1) most have retired and can devote time to CAMRA that would be otherwise unavailable and (2) they have wives or partners understanding of their man's need to spend MONDAY NIGHT IN BAMBER BRIDGE .
Presently, CAMRA is wrestling with the the unescapable fact that it's members who are under 45 are disengaged from the "necessary" Social and Administrative functions of their local branch. Various half-hearted gestures towards said demographic are under discussion. They will no doubt fail, as the vast majority are simply unavailable to go to an upstairs pub room on a weeknight, simply to write an agenda or take down the minutes of a meeting. Quite apart from the fact these activities are regarded as "dull" by a generation with precious little free time, it's unlikely many 40 year olds, most having a home/family/and possibly other family members to spend time with, would simply even imagine ditching them for a night of note-taking.
Anachronism has its place in buildings and maybe even in culture, but for a "Members' Organisation" it's a tomb simply waiting for the lid to be hauled over it.