A Vigorous Renaissance of Social Value by David Seagrave
Paul Kingsnorth, who emulated William Cobbett on journeys around Britain has described the erosion of social value. By that he means the quality of life derived from people developing all their abilities and bringing to bear an active orientation to life. In that idea of social value he loudly echoes the findings of Erich Fromm in his influential book TO HAVE OR TO BE.
Kingsnorth visited the towns of Middle England and found how they are now almost clones of one another but for a few historic buildings. A recent visit to Arbroath underscored this idea Beyond the harbour,the high street is just like any other in Britain with its shops encouraging people to live beyond their means.
I am quite shameless in my conviction that people are incarnated for something far better than sybaritic self-indulgence. I have referred to Contributionist ethics and theology in many other essays. I feel that I may be quite mistaken because of my background of being oppressed. IN THE NAME OF GOD, I plead for all in A.L.P to scrutinise my ideas and come forwards with other paths to self-realisation.
Please forgive me for being a wistful old man who looks back to his boyhood and young manhood through rose tinted glasses ! I recall significant landmarks on my life’s journey where I amazed myself. Such as when I stepped on board a Cologne tram, a boy and in the utterance of the correct German: DREI ERWACHSENE UND ZWEI KINDER NACH DEN STADTMITTE, BITTE – I alighted, truly, a man, of just sixteen years of age.
When I contemplate Britain’s general slide into that self-inflicted stupefaction I call GRICEHOOD, I am convinced that Britain desperately needs a vigorous movement that cultivates the Good In People. There is a reference to the Revd Doctor Thomas Guthrie in the COURIER dated 10 Sept which rings loud bells in my mind:
“This illustrious son of Angus-Shire struggled mightily to get right to the roots of social evils”
He founded Ragged Schools and so within a generation made a significant impact upon poverty. I am making a presumption, which may be quite false. It is the idea that when impoverished people experience what is good and wholesome they will undergo convulsive paradigm shifts and henceforth shed bad habits to lead sober industrious lives.
For example, if they were taught how to play musical instruments, or to paint or to make their own clothes or discover the intrinsic beauty of mathematics or master French. To amend PLATO they would quit the twilight existence of self-stupefaction and embrace the Light of Learning for its own sake.
With command of such lifeskills as tailoring comes that convulsive change of state I call Dragonhood. When there was a widespread belief that “the path to Heaven is through self-improvement” it gave rise to that energetic social mobility which provided the motivated people who administered the British Empire and brought the Light of Learning to its far-flung corners.
Lord Reith who was scathed by his Free Kirk Minister father WAS the BBC and acted according to its Charter to edify listeners. How I remember Saturday Night Theatre ! I recall the works of such dramatists as Henrik Ibsen which all had an explicit moral message.
The Ancient Greeks held that the purpose of Art is to EDIFY not to entertain – I subscribe to that view. This leads on to all the storyline threads in my literary works. Whenever I illustrate what is wholesome and good, I hopefully portray a society which people would WANT TO join, if only they could step into my necessary parallel universe. It follows that I would be AN OUT AND OUT HYPOCRITE if I did not actually provide the edifications that I illustrate in action. For it is one thing to describe in lyrical detail a society where social value is restored and cultivated, and quite another, to provide all the wide range of edifying pursuits disciplines and arts that bring about the kind of society which I have illustrated.
Yesterday was a Sunday and I felt depressed and lonely. Now I no longer take any photographs on Sundays (because I have far too many already ) I am very oppressed by the unwritten obligations of Sunday observance. It is true that some pursuits are permitted but whenever I have tried to operate my Sunday Photohikes there are those like my father who oppose Sunday edifications and find spurious reasons to obstruct my attempts to alleviate loneliness every Sunday.
Whilst I can work on my outdoor model railway on Sundays I have almost NOBODY to share it with IF A.L.P can find a light omnibus and driver, the per capita cost of a trip from Edinburgh to places as far as Crianlarich is the price of about 2 glasses of beer –and SO MUCH MORE BENEFICIAL. Off the top of my head I can write directions to reach at least SIXTY beauty spots within day excursion range of Dunfermline.
Though only a minority of photographers use film-cameras, I insist that traditional darkroom photography is a most exhilarating, challenging hobby I look back to the joy I felt when I developed my first film and made my first enlargements then when I mastered progressively more difficult colour processes culminating in those colour enlargements made from negatives exposed in repeatedly reloaded “throwaway “ cameras which I am rightly proud of.
I MUST NOT rabbit on about model railways as a royal rail road to the formation of my character ! I have explained to John Player the problems I face of carrying model railway material to and from my home, and of severe constraints in track layout design caused by my inability to LIFT heavy baseboards. I seek to build a demonstration layout smaller than the Ottadale one which could cost (with 3 engines and rolling stock ) about £100 if that – LESS than many Hornby type engines –which of course REMAINS MY PROPERTY and also includes artworks and a model viaduct.
So allow me, fellow Alpers to give of myself and through my literary works and my menu of wholesome pursuits provide Fife and Forthside with a vigorous renaissance of social value