Child of the fifties

Dark satanic mills seen from the canal. Artist unknown.

I was born during the early 1950s into a drab district of a worsted grey woollen town in a part of the grim and grimy north of England known then as the West Riding Conurbation of Yorkshire. I was the only child of working-class parents. In those days, my working-class baby boomer generation had two choices on leaving school: we either became fodder for the dark satanic woollen mills or cogs in the crepuscular engineering workshops as these were the two industries that dominated our town. At that time, mills and workshops offered a job for life but mobility of any kind wasn’t really an option. Nevertheless, technology and changes of location are the two major themes that have run through all of my peripatetic life. Always standing out rather than fitting in, I’ve never just gone along to get along. Mais, je ne regrette rien!

‘Life was a lesson we tried to learn.
There were no tests to pass, no licence to gain Only win or lose …’

Barclay James Harvest. 1983. ‘Fifties Child’ from the album ‘Ring of Changes’. Polydor Records

The baby boomer generation was large and there were plenty of contemporary competitors in everything I did … from selection for the local state grammar school (a race that I won) to places at university (a race that I lost, at least until the 1990s). The ‘may the best man win’ approach to competition has shadowed me all my life and has been a source of much motivation in gaining my many achievements. But for later generations, it seems they are told disingenuously that there are no losers, only winners, and failure is often spun as ‘success’. However, I have found that where there is no failure, there is little learning.

Moreover, truth seems to be no longer grounded in factual correspondence but is created by a consensus of amplified minorities. More destructively, diversity is now prior to competency and compliance with ‘wokeness’ is everything.

Lastly, refuting the claimed omniscience and infallibility of the political, academic, scientific and corporate elites, I am critical of today’s transitory western society wherein commitments are increasingly revocable with resultant entitlement cultures based on the monomaniacal celebration of mediocrity and which has led to the ablation of social capital through the dumbing-down of everything. Sadly, the way has been made clear for the new barbarians.