Wednesday, 27 May 2015

For God and Country

Just out of interest, reflect for a moment on what the image here means to you? Is it an image that fills you with pride? Is it an image that exemplifies all that is good about our wonderful country? Or does it have a different meaning for you? Does it stir a faint unease of far right extremeists?

This image is one used by the Scout movement, and "For God and Country" is there motto. I was in Edinburgh for a few days and visited the war memorial at the castle. If you haven't been, it is well worth the trip if you are interested in history. The war memorial is a solemn place. Books listing the fallen are present and I was touched at how many people were looking up relatives. Reading the regimental insignias and memorials, it struck me just how much our nation has changed. How many people would sacrifice their lives "For God and Country" today? I suspect that many of us would still make an ultimate sacrifice to defend our family and friends. But what about "For King and Country"? When Charles ascends the throne, will protecting his life be you primary concern?

On the flight back yesterday, I was pondering these things. There was a fascinating article in the Telegraph by Stephen Fry about Apple. Apple is the worlds largest company with a turnover of over $700 Billion. In 1970, it didn't even exist. Before Steve Jobs rejoined and they launched the iMAC it was viewed as on its last legs and ready for the knackers yard. Why the turnaround? Because it makes consumer products far better than anyone else. Apple makes brilliant things that we didn't even know we wanted until they make them. Then they become a central part of our lives. It is quite interesting that in the story of Adam and Eve, it was the Apple that God told them to leave well alone. The forbidden fruit of knowledge. It never occurred to me before, but as I read the news on my iPAD, maybe this wasn't a fairytale, but a stark warning for all of us, of the dangers of consumerism?

I'm not a luddite and I think Apple products are fantastic and if ever there is a company which deserved to be the biggest in the world, it is Apple. They simply make things better than anyone else. But how did we get from the nation where "King and Country" was our ethos to one where rampant consumerism is our national religion. I guess the moment was 22nd September 1955, with the launch of ITV. That was the moment when ITV was launched. Up until then, the TV was all about public service broadcasting. ITV made programs so that you'd watch commercials. The better the program, the more people that watched it and the more advertising they could sell. Once companies realised the power of TV advertising, the world changed. There are constant debates about what should and shouldn't be advertised. When I was a child, tobacco advertising was perhaps the most lucrative. It seems bizarre today that a dangerous and addictive product could have been mass marketed.

TV advertising exposes us to things and we in turn want to buy them. This is the way of the world. I was intrigued to read that the Pope hasn't watched telly for decades. He doesn't even watch football. I think for many of us this would be almost impossible, nearly as impossible as putting down the iPAD and the iPHONE (or your cheap and nasty equivalent).

What is interesting though is that this new world has delivered a less violent, more tolerant society. Ireland voted at the weekend for same sex marriage, something I thought would never happen a few years ago. In the UK rates of violent crime are falling. Are we all to busy on our mobile phones to actually thump each other anymore.

In Stephen Fry's article, he detailed the massive new campus Apple are building to drive even more growth. I can only ponder on what products they are inventing that we don't want, but in a couple of years will be a central part of our life. I wonder how long it will be before the iPAD is a museum piece and seems as distant a memory as the sacrifice as the generation who gave their lives For God and Country?

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