Sunday, 22 February 2009

Abbey and Gothic thoughts

I misused part of this evening when I was in the mood for continuing working by watching a creditable production of Jane Austin's first novel Northanger Abbey. According to research (Wikipedia) the novel was original sold to a publisher in Bath for £10, where the story is set, then repurchased for the same amount, rewritten and published posthumously. Part of my misuse of time arose because I confused Ms Austin with the Bronte sisters whose lives I have studied and visited their Yorkshire parsonage home and therefore is part of my recreating work experience. This dyslexic form of stupidity is something that I do from time to time.

Having made this discovery I decided to continue working on the issue of addiction and disorders, (personality and social), and made great progress, but forgot to save and then lost the work through a crash caused by trying to use two Microsoft word processing programmes at the same time, and where there is no prospect of recovering the fine words created. I hate unintentional repetition so I decided to write about the Northanger Abbey film anyway, because it is a good example of the lesson that we never learn from the mistakes of others, or those made by previous generations.

Wikipedia is excellent in listing the main issues in the novel which were carried forward into the film.

However if so then I believe the main point, which for me, is that if you entrust those you have responsibility for to the care of others you are taking a risk, even if you believe you know the individuals, and have checked them out, a risk which can have devastating consequences. The parents of the heroine are portrayed as well meaning and kindly parents who have misgivings about their daughter's judgement and capacity to survive in the real world. She is a naïve romantic who believes what she is told unless provided evidence to the contrary, and spends much of her time devouring Gothic melodramas hoping her life will be prove as interesting and exciting. Because she is fundamentally an intelligent person with a conscience, she learns from her own mistakes and experiences, The story ends on a high note as she agrees to marry a kind and honest man who one suspects she will soon tire of unless and she will revert to living through the lives of others, once her life became dominated by child rearing and devoting herself to supporting her husband and his work, and with no other creative or meaningful activity of her own.

It is interesting that the Wikipedia listed themes are presented in such a way that I am not clear if the writer intending to applaud the approach of Ms Austin or it is intended to be a neutral or critical presentation.

The next theme is the danger when people believe that life is the same as fiction, especially fiction filled with danger and intrigue. Clearly this is nonsense. Great fiction is able to demonstrate just how much danger and intrigue exists in everyday life at all levels of society. In my mother's lifetime she has experienced two world wars and a neighbouring civil war, the death of her parents, and loss of the family home, and then of ten brothers and sisters, and from within their families, of banishment after a traumatising experience and comparative poverty over several decades, only to then suffer the years of the illness of severe memory loss with psychosis and physical dependency, and most of her brothers and sisters had similar experiences, so that her own cannot be described as extraordinary, and where even living to 100 years has become common place. Trash fiction, just like trash religion and trash politics tries to present life as a fairy story which fortunately an increasingly education public treats with contempt.

The second stated theme is that through the process of growing up the young lose their innocence, imagination and good faith turning into sceptical adults. The UK government has recently launched a media campaign to attract people into becoming carers helping people in their own homes and residential situations, The adverts emphasis what a rewarding job such tasks can be, and which is so, as the staff concerned constantly tell me, although the financial rewards are scandalously lower than those who become doctors and nurses, and they have to cope with significant oral and physical abuse from those with illnesses of the mind, and where longevity and physical aging means dependency on the carer for bodily functions.

The myth that innocence was ever a good thing should not be perpetuated although at least in the existing developed capitalist societies it has belatedly come to be recognised that unless those with imagination and good will are nurtured, our general standard of living will quickly be swamped by the rapidly growing newer capitalist economies, especially those that command natural energy resources.

A third message is that things are never quite as they seem, and a fourth that if one is to survive, then the sooner you become more self reliant and independently minded the better.
It is with the fifth and sixth themes that we enter the realms of mythology once more. The first being that life at the top was tedious to those who experienced it, although it would have been for a certain kind of person, but who is always in the minority. However the greatest myth of all is that one should not marry unless it is for romantic love, and which unfortunately is the same nonsense which young minds are filled with two hundred years later.

People should never marry for romantic love alone, and in fact the best marriages are likely to be cleverly arranged marriages, where account is fully taken of family and individual backgrounds to bring prospective couples into situations where nature can take its course. In comparatively stable societies where generations lived in close proximity and respect, grandparents and community leaders were in the best position to "arrange" marriages, whereas to-day, specialist agencies with trained and experience staff are more likely to find good long term matches than the hit and miss of going about it alone.

It is no good preaching morality or the risks and problems of indiscriminate relationships based on fancying somebody because of their looks and appearance or trying out a succession of prospective partners. It is no good saying what if you go to bed with someone and have a great time, but decide that you do not want a life term relationship with them, or they with you, and then you cannot find someone as good again? And for bed, you can substitute any of the single aspects upon which a relationship can build up over time to survive all the shortcomings of each other which become more irritating over time, and which can become mixed up with the disappointments and misfortunes of life in general that will occur.

Sadly it is in the order of things that we do not learn from the mistakes of others, including what happened in the past. In the later 1930's people in their millions paid the price for how the victorious nations treated the German people, a mistake which the allies, less Russia, did not make in 1945. Yet having experienced the success of post war Germany and Japan, the US administration failed with disastrous consequences to apply the lessons in Iraq. Unfortunately this is not a Gothic fantasy but a documentary reality. It is not the going into war that was wrong, but in trying to deliver the peace without the required resources. However at least for the time since the blood is being shed in another land, but then those with empathy will find no consolation in this, because of knowing what it is like for the non combatants who have to experience the Gothic horror day by day. It was about empathy that I had begun the piece about addictive behaviour and the excessive enthusiast, and the difference between addictions and personality and social disorders, and which will have now to be rewritten in the morrow.

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