Brewer's Droop #266
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING UNDERSTOOD
So Prince Charles pays a visit to Iran and gets off the plane where it’s blisteringly hot and dusty.
After the formalities he asks “where’s the Shah?”
Everyone was highly embarrassed and one dignitary says politely “the are no Shahs in Iran your highness.”
And Charles replied “oh, okay, I’ll just have a bath then.”
(Courtesy David Biggs).
WHY HAVE A BAR WHEN YOU CAN’T SERVE DRINKS?
My two sons were recently travelling back to the UK and, like me, they arrived early at Cape Town International Airport where they planned to have a couple of beers and relax.
Only one problem…..alcohol cannot be served in the main concourse because the licence hasn’t been renewed. Duh.
But one kind soul suggested they buy a couple of beers at duty free and enjoy them while sitting in a corner. They both went into the Duty Free shop where they see a guy unpacking cold beers into the fridge. “Can we buy two beers?” they asked “sure, no problem.”
So that resolved that issue. But one has to ask, is the management of the airport aware of the day to day running of the place – or are they too busy thinking up new names for the place?
You can’t buy a drink at an international airport? Lunacy.
(Moral of the story: you can’t keep two Brewers away from their beer).
BANNING THE FILM “ZULU” IN BRITAIN
And speaking of the lunatic fringe, it was reported in the Daily Mail recently that there are now calls to ban this movie on the basis of “racism”.
I’ve repeated the story here by Dominic Sandbrook and hope he doesn’t mind.
There are, in the annals of cinema, few scenes more likely to have men of a certain age sobbing into their handkerchiefs than that wonderful moment in Zulu. You know the one I mean.
Alone and exhausted at Rorke’s Drift, the massively outnumbered British defenders hear the Zulus singing their haunting war chant.
‘Do you think the Welsh can’t do better than that, Owen?’ murmurs Lieutenant Chard (played by Stanley Baker).
‘Well, they’ve got a very good bass section, mind, but no top tenors, that’s for sure,’ replies Pte Owen (Ivor Emmanuel).
Then, his voice unexpectedly resonant in the morning air, Owen strikes up ‘Men Of Harlech’, and then — well, you probably know the rest.
And if you don’t, you should watch the film without delay.
Even today, 54 years after its release, Zulu has lost none of its power. It is a film about men under fire, of course. But it is also a film about heroism, fear and sacrifice.
Set during the Zulu War of 1879, it is a patriotic film, but not a jingoistic one. When the Zulus sing one last song to honour the courage of the British defenders, or when Lt Chard gazes wearily over the piles of African dead, there is rarely a dry eye in the house.
So when the Silver Screen Cinema in Folkestone announced a special screening of Zulu to raise money for the Armed Forces charity SSAFA, they could hardly have made a better choice. Or so you might have thought.
But some people see things differently. Almost unbelievably, this week it emerged that more than two dozen signed an open letter to the town’s mayor, urging him to cancel the screening.
Their explanation is, in its way, a masterpiece of ignorance. ‘We believe,’ they write, ‘that the choice of the film Zulu, with its inaccurate portrayal of historical events and its distortions and racist overtones could have a negative effect on relationships within the changing and richly diverse communities here in Folkestone.’ Where do you start with all this? Is Zulu markedly less accurate than other films (not least Hollywood’s recent versions of history, such as Saving Private Ryan, which ignored British and Russian involvement in World War II)?
Not at all.
Is it demonstrably racist? Again, obviously not. The film takes care to show the Zulus as noble adversaries.
Indeed, the current Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi served as an adviser to the filmmakers and actually plays his own great-grandfather, King Cetshwayo.
Could a charity screening of Zulu really have a ‘negative effect’ on race relations on the Kentish coast? Is it plausible that, having seen it, people will start throwing spears at each other, or barricade themselves in their homes and open fire on passing foreigners?
Of course not.
If this story were just a bizarre anomaly, it would be easy to laugh it off. Unfortunately, though, it is part of a trend.
For there was another story about censorship this week, this time from America. Yielding to pressure from more self-proclaimed activists, the U.S. Association for Library Service to Children has removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from its award for children’s literature.
As many readers will know, Wilder was the author of the Little House On The Prairie series, published in the Thirties and Forties, which told the story of a pioneer family in the 19th-century American West.
Turned into a hugely popular TV series in the Seventies and Eighties, the books are the embodiment of old-fashioned, innocent children’s entertainment, which makes them irresistible to little girls, even today.
So why on earth take Wilder’s name off the award? You can probably guess. Wilder’s books, her critics claim, are full of ‘anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments’. The characters say things like: ‘The only good Indian is a dead Indian.’ Worse, they even call black people ‘darkies’.
Today, we rightly regard such terms as utterly unacceptable, but the fact is that in the 19th century, when the stories are set, people really did say such things — and worse.
Never mind that Wilder was a product of her time, as are we all. For when the activists shouted ‘Racist!’, not even the childlike innocence of her stories was enough to save her.
I am not alone, I know, in feeling nothing but contempt for the disingenuousness, mean-spiritedness, sanctimony and intolerance of these people. I’m not alone, either, in feeling utterly infuriated by the cowardice of the authorities, who are incapable of realising that appeasement only encourages them to find a fresh target.
What I find really depressing, though, is that this is becoming such a familiar story. The activists make a fuss. The rest of us scoff, sigh or shrug them off as maniacs.
But the authorities, terrified of being branded racist, give ground. And so, almost without anybody noticing, we take one more step towards a culture defined by the suffocating narrow-mindedness of the lunatic fringe…….
Banning a film that’s 54 years old means some people are trying to re-write history. They’ll be turning on authors next and then nobody’s safe. Kipling will go and, as Dominic Sandbrook says “how long before the censors come for Agatha Christie?”
Burning books I expect would be their plan of action. That’s been done by radicals and madmen before of course.
I think that’s a long enough rant for now.
Some more rain would be welcome and then roll on Summer!