Regaining Respect For Our Culture

I believe that important changes are taking place in our culture, in our hearts and minds. The way we live today and our changing behavioural patterns will define the leadership of the next generation.

The pace of change is so fast ? in business, in technology and in taste ? that life today is not about the known or the now but increasingly about the new. New styles, new celebrities and new gadgets sound much more appealing that the old. Today’s news is out of date tomorrow, last week’s news is old hat and last year’s news is ancient history.

With this changing lifestyle has come a lack of respect in general and especially a lack of respect for established things that have been tried and tested over the years. Part of this lack of respect has meant that there is less regard for people with decades of decisions under their belt and life experience in their cupboards. In this personality-driven era many individuals, and not always the young, express a preference for those who say something sensational today, even if they are gone with the next tide. The cult of the outrageous seems to grow stronger every day.

The art of leadership that we should be passing on to the next generation is to avoid pandering simply to today’s fashion. We live in a world of homogenised tastes. The power of television plagues every household and I am sure I am not alone in bewailing the dumbing-down of standards on that medium. How anybody can claim that the broadcasting industry in this country continues in its aim to inspire, enthuse and educate our population is simply beyond my understanding.

It is clear that with crude reality television programmes being embraced by adults as well as the young, entertainment taste is reaching an all-time nadir and is corroding aspirations towards cultural values of elitism and excellence among all sections of the population.

The same corrosive attitudes now pervade our education system. The explosive expansion in the numbers attending universities and other F.E. colleges over the past 15 years has been accompanied by ever more conventional hostility to the elite providers.

Access regulators will now enforce a fiercely discriminatory policy against pupils from elite schools. We have to ask ourselves where we want our universities to be in the next few decades. The mass-market, bums-on-seats policy would be a disaster for the country as a whole. It is no surprise that full-fledged independence such as exists in the United States has driven up standards, academics’ pay and the relative global reputation of US universities. The dead-hand of state control must be removed here or else ? mark my words ? within a decade a majority rather than a handful of our brightest students will be attending overseas universities, thus hastening the pace of the brain drain of the cleverest and best from this country.

The distaste for elitism has infected “progressive” educational thinking for many decades now. A similar distaste infects today’s mass broadcasting media. Destruction of privilege is all that matters to the egalitarians. The fear of upsetting minorities and hatred of excellence has resulted in a sustained attack by the so-called trendy on the learning of the classics in preference to an “understanding of modern TV culture”. This absurd relativism questioning the notion that some books might be more worthwhile than others is simply madness.

The result has been a loss of respect for so much that has served this nation so well in the past. One important aspect has been our healthy scepticism towards privilege but now what I want to see is a similar sceptical questioning of the new, the untalented and the untried and untested. Mediocrity must not rule, OK?