River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a Newcomer

March 2005

Marion wonders what has happened to our ethical standards.

"Whatever." How often every day do you hear that world-weary response? The word has become a sort of verbal shrug; shorthand for "I really couldn't care less." Nowadays, it just isn't cool to feel strongly about anything.

My thoughts on this were set off by a chance comment of an old friend who said to me recently: "Nobody I meet these days wants to talk about anything more challenging than the weather. But when we were young, we really cared about things, didn't we?"

I cast my mind back to when the two of us first met in our teens; we did indeed used to discuss everything from Communism to free will and the existence of God over endless cups of black coffee (which we considered to be much more sophisticated than tea). And we weren't afraid to tackle the really big issues, even if our debates were stronger on passion than logical argument.

Don't run away with the idea that we were a bunch of university whiz kids. The friend in question left secondary modern school aged 16, but we belonged to the generation that went on marches to ban the bomb and staged sit-ins at the drop of a hat. We were forever demonstrating about some high-flown principle or another. Our parents and teachers mostly disapproved and labelled us rebels - except for one who I remember saying emphatically: "Of course young people

should get out there and march! If they don't care about ideals, then who will?"

Perhaps I'm being unfair to today's youngsters - their apathy could be no more than a pose to keep us wrinklies in our place. I hope so. And, Lord knows, the run-up to an election is enough to make anyone apathetic! The sight of yet another politician feebly blustering under the glare of Grand Inquisitors Paxman or Humphrys is not inspiring. I'm sorely tempted to cry 'a plague on both your houses' and join the growing number of people who stay away from the

polling station.

But then I stop and think of the recent election in Iraq; it was humbling to see queues of people literally risking their lives for their right to vote. A right our own grandparents had to fight for but which we now take so much for granted that we can't be bothered to exercise it.

In a democracy, we (more or less) get the politicians we deserve and if our leaders seem to be a lazy, cynical bunch that could just be because we ourselves are too lazy and cynical to put a cross in the box that decides their fate.

'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn' is a great line for a film but it's a poor philosophy for life. So let's all get out there on election day and - as the sly old Irish saying goes - vote early, vote often!

Marion Clarke

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.