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You're having a laugh - maybe!

Aug 09, 2016

Are we losing our traditional chirpiness? You know the sort of thing: 

‘Have you heard that there’s a comet due to collide with the Earth in three days’ time?’ 

‘Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the World!’ 

‘Well actually ... 

Although we tend to idealise the ‘olden days’ as a time when people appeared more content with their lot and had a better sense of their place in the world, I am not so sure that this is necessarily altogether accurate. 

Age wise I am probably in a much better position to comment on these earlier times than many of you. For example: there is nothing to make you chirpy about sleeping in an unheated bedroom becoming damper and colder by the day as the winter progresses. And as for being able to roam the streets at the age of nine with impunity; well that certainly applied to me until I sustained a compound fracture of the tibia by falling off a metal railing!  

Not long ago I was watching the finals of ‘Young Musician of the Year’ on the TV. When the result was finally announced, one of the judges remarked: "How encouraging it is to encounter such talent – especially in this increasingly mediocre world." 

Interesting word ‘mediocre’ – a word that you take for granted – a mediocre word in itself!  I looked it up in the dictionary: average or ordinary in quality, from the Latin ‘mediocris’ meaning ‘moderate’. This certainly reinforced my understanding of the sentiment expressed. 

But is it true? And, if so, is it a good or a bad thing? 

Let’s get one thing straight; in comparison with our forebares, the majority of us have a much improved lifestyle. Yes, there was a time when medieval knights and religious orders lived a very comfortable life. The aristocracy had their time as well and then industrialists stepped in and largely took their place and then the emergent middle classes slowly took over. But throughout this time, the average member of the populace had a pretty rough time of it, full of hard work, infant mortality, hunger, cold, war and pestilence. But throughout it all we did have our good ol chirpiness. 

Let’s look at this another way. Perhaps chirpiness was the only thing people really had in those days. But in reality there was really nothing mediocre about their lives, because every day was a drama and maybe just getting through it was a blessing. Sounds morbid? Shouldn’t do really because the correspondingly beneficial things in life were recognised, acknowledged and consequently fully appreciated. Therefore there were many identifiable reasons to stay chirpy. 

I should point out at this juncture that I have just composed a song in my mind about keeping your chin up and looking for a silver lining and The White Cliffs of Dover and Knees up Mother Brown but I digress … 

In today’s world we really should have much to be thankful for. Our benefits are many and our comforts are legion. The middle classes of yesteryear would probably be perfectly content with what we often now call poverty. The problem is that we no longer seem to value the immense and rapid changes which occur in our lives on an almost daily basis. We expect them as our natural right. We are entertained, warmed, fed, healed and protected: but do we really acknowledge the true benefits of our progress anymore? 

Of course, it is worth pointing out that there are still people throughout the world who do not have these benefits; although hopefully their lot will improve with the increasing dynamics of our world. There’s nothing mediocre about their daily struggles, they simply haven’t got the time; but have you noticed how happy they often appear in their appreciation of what we might call the simpler things of life? 

Maybe modern society’s increasing preoccupation with political correctness is acting as a dampener on our chirpiness, with a consequent increase in mediocrity. At times it seem to be no longer possible to diffuse difficult situations with humour. Do we really all have to think and voice the same things? Mediocrity is surely the inevitable conclusion. 

It’s perhaps worth repeating an anecdote relating to a situation which occurred towards the end of the Battle of Waterloo. The Earl of Uxbridge was riding next to The Duke of Wellington when one of the last cannon shots of the war removed the Earl’s leg.  

"By God sir", he exclaimed to the Iron Duke: "I seem to have lost my leg!’" 

"By God sir, so you have!" said the Duke with similar restraint "So you have!" The battle then continued. 

They certainly knew all about being chirpy in those days! 

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