Gumby Watch

Britain’s royal potsmoking slacker Prince Harry stunned the world with an outstanding lapse of judgement last week when he wore a nazi uniform to a fancy dress party. Now everyone knows that only Mel Brooks can get away with that, not royal heirs in sleepy backwater countries like Britain.

Still it’s good to know that, despite getting only a B and a D in his A-levels, Harry will soon be off to the military elite training school, Sandhurst, where he’ll be assigned to defending a once great nation and such freedoms as, oh, how about freedom of the press. Or maybe they’ll keep him away from anything too sensitive. We can only hope.

The BBC, weary of tsunami deaths over a couple of weeks, got very excited about The Sun’s revelation and published several pages on their website about Harry and the Royals. I dread to think of all the ghastly pundits who must have slithered out of the woodwork for TV interviews and obsequious Radio Four talk shows. I only saw the internet version but it must have made Right Thinking Joe Public’s skin crawl.

One brilliant webpage put up by the state-funded media purported to detail The Blunders of Britain’s Royals. Okay, you can always rely on the Duke of Edinburgh to say something crass so it’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Nevertheless, some of the Beeb’s blathering was clearly written by zombie scarecrows searching for fresh brains.

In 1996, Prince Philip made headlines when he questioned whether the media would call for a ban on cricket bats if someone used one to kill people. What the media wouldn’t say was that Philip was right. The British media is, tragically, reactionary–at least on a national level–because they have to keep selling newspapers, filling the airwaves and churning out the copy. And they feel it’s their duty to keep issues in the spotlight, lest their dimwitted readers lose the sense of moral outrage. At least until something else comes along.

So a gun crime results in an irrelevant ban on all guns. A stabbing results in a bizarre call for banning knives–all knives, including kitchen knives. And a bus crash caused by a driver having a heart attack results in a call for seat belts for bus passengers. Regardless of the fact that such measures would have had no effect on the fatalities in any of these cases. Prince Philip was exactly right to point out how ridiculous all this is with his reductio ad adsurbdum. But he’s said dim things before so this must be dim too, right? Wrong.

Prince Charles was criticised more recently for his remarks about education, when he wrote about the UK’s learning culture:

“What is it that makes everyone seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities?” he wrote.

He blamed a “child-centred system which admits no failure” and tells people they can achieve greatness without “putting in the necessary effort or having the natural abilities”.

The BBC seems to think this is worthy of inclusion in a page on blunders. I submit that the person who included this, who thought it was newsworthy in this context is exactly the sort of stupid person Prince Charles was talking about. Someone who got their position more through contacts than hard slog. Some representative of the not-very-bright individuals who think the world owes everyone a living regardless of how hard they work or how much talent they have.

Britain’s education system, like the US, is suffering from this and ultimately the countries’ economies suffer too. Schools don’t actually teach that mediocrity is desirable and intelligence is bad, of course. Instead they use social engineering to ensure an essentially communist agenda is met. Smart children can’t be separated from the rest, streamed into a higher set, because then the rest might feel bad. The result is, well it’s Prince Harry with a B and a D grade in two A levels and dropping out of a third. What everyone sees is that Harry’s off to Sandhurst despite of his lack of effort.

Yet still Prince Charles was spot on with his comments about education. Nobody can fail, mediocrity rules. I sit and watch hours and hours of turgid mediocre videos every week sent to A2 Film Fest because everyone now has the technology to make moving pictures. Similarly the internet is full of dull, boring hackery because everyone has a keyboard. But most of these people aren’t filmmakers or writers. And you know why. Because either they haven’t applied themselves or they haven’t studied or they have no talent.

Uh oh. I said it. What if I’m a hack too? What if I have no talent as a filmmaker? Okay, I can face that. But I believe I can see the standards, the real external standards. And I know exactly where I’m falling short. I don’t believe most of the people now typing for the net or sending their work out to film fests can tell the difference between good and bad writing or filmmaking. Everyone watches movies and TV but few really see the details, when it’s great or why it sucks.

Education is failing because the criteria for success are being set by the students, not by the teachers. Likewise economies are failing because companies are being allowed to get away with appalling lapses in social responsibility. This isn’t just inappropriate; it’s wrong. Some forms of success have to be defined by external forces.

Not everyone is a winner, only a very few are outstanding. Prince Harry clearly isn’t one of the latter but he won’t fail because he was born into a family with the right connections. Most people don’t have that. B grade students used to have to work harder to get to the top, but they used to do it. B grade students often surpassed A grade students who found it all too easy to coast while their slightly slower counterparts applied themselves more.

Now we’re seeing the D, E and F grade students get everything, regardless of where they started. I think it’s largely because they’ve got a monopoly on noise. Stupid people can be painfully loud and smart people hide from the noise so that they won’t have to work harder by slowing their minds down to communicate with them. We’d rather they just went away, somewhere else. Quietly. Instead, the emporer is naked and everyone’s cheering.

4 Responses to 'Gumby Watch'

  1. Ed Says:

    Sounds like the message of A Clockwork Orange is alive and well.

  2. Lionel Birnie Says:

    Keith, I have emailed you at saintkeith but am not even sure if that’s even your address these days.

    If not, let me know.

    All the best for ’05.

  3. Caroline Says:

    Spin on spin.Crap on crap.But is it that people swallow it all? Are the indignant public not just a figment of The Sun’s imagination? Probably not.They just can’t handle the truth so they play “lets pretend” forgetting or, more chillingly, unaware that their part of a game -truly believing their “problem hair” is having a massive impact on their quality of life.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Wayne Rooney – a footballer with brilliant feet but a trailer park mentality – is a national hero. The educated talk in mockney accents and pretend not to know about culture. Kids’ ambition rest on fame for fame’s sake, money for money’s sake rather than being biproducts of achievement. We are the world’s fourth largest ecomony because of the cultural, industrial and intellectual achievements of our forefathers. Our future is about as bright as our Royal family. I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else though.