Posts Tagged ‘2011’

From the very beginning of Nick Murphy’s period thriller, it seems that the awakening of Florence Cathcart (a plucky yet vulnerable Rebecca Hall) has already taken place. An enlightened young woman by 1920s standards, she is (Cambridge) university educated, a scientist, a published author, an inferred atheist and, most shockingly of her time, wearer of trousers while barking orders at men.

A professional myth buster, exposing fraudulent mediums feeding off the fear and grief in the aftermath of the First World War and influenza pandemic, she is called upon to investigate reported ghost sightings at a mansion turned boarding school- having been the scene of a long forgotten murder of course. Not only does she have to battle the myth and superstition of the paranormal but the prejudices of an early 19th Century patriarchal society which she does with a single-minded fervour.

However, her hardest battle is with her own sanity, which she seems to lose as the film progresses. Through a series of unexplained events and drastic, violin screeching cut-tos , the director takes us through the supposed haunted passages of the house as well as the troubled mind of Florence. Aided by a supporting cast of physically and mentally scarred war veteran turned schoolmaster, Robert Mallory (Dominic West); matron and ardent fan of Florence’s work, Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) and frightened child (Isaac Hempstead Wright), Florence closes her eyes tightly to her previously enlightened state and awakes in a world of apparitions, superstitions and acute awareness of her own loneliness. Ironically each character’s solitude and sadness draws them closer together but leaving them more mentally isolated.

The ending to the film is far less shocking than saddening. Reminiscent of other costume thrillers, the viewer is thrown a few red herrings before being treated to a retrospective glance at explanatory scenes. The truth, once exposed, is far more jarring than the  scattering of eerie moments throughout the last 100 minutes, showing that the evil perpetrated by the human mind and body is far more incomprehensible than any perceived spectral presence. This dissection and degradation of the human psyche  is certainly explored in the film but is lost in a supernatural fug of ghostly set ups and thriller-by-numbers moments. The paradox, however, is that both aspects could not sustain the film on their own. Once the real horrors are known, they resolve to be one and the same, showing us that however scared we are of the darkness of the truth, we still shut our mind’s eye tight, even though this makes the truth even darker.

On Wednesday 30th November 2011, many public sector workers walked out in force, protesting against the woeful future of their pensions. In these hard times we may be able to sympathise with these disgruntled workers and their fight against the current government with their cutbacks hitting people where it hurts most: in their vulnerable old age. The cause, many would agree, is a worthy one. However, these strikes fail on a number of levels and are the wrong strategy in a country verging on another recession and with a crumbling coalition government.

Strikers out in force in November 2011

Striking as a process for change is, historically, ineffectual. No U-turn in government policy has been enacted due to civil disobedience. Even the Suffragettes’ struggle for the female vote, although a commendable and logical cause, served only as a headline-grabbing publicity stunt.  It took the First World War and millions of strong, hard grafting women in factories to show the patriarchal government that they deserved to be taken seriously. Every strike and protest since then has not changed the government position in any measurable way.  In some cases they have caused a detrimental effect. Even the militant and arduous miners’ strike in the 1980s drove mining families into abject poverty and ultimately led to the irreversible closure of mines up and down the country, thousands of job losses as well the strengthening of the government standpoint, enabling their re-election for a decade. This strike also ended at the cusp of a recession. The miners’ struggle certainly did not cause the recession but it would not have helped the state of the nation, crippled with debt, mass unemployment and social unrest. Having a strike at the edge of another recession is making an already dire situation even worse for a public suffering from high inflation and savage cuts to services.

Miners in the mid 80s anticipating a fair deal. They never got it and many lost their jobs.

What is the alternative to strike action?  All adults have the power to change the government’s mind with the most effective weapon: their vote. This is a gift from democracy that people rarely use, yet they are ready to risk disruption and public safety by walking out of their jobs in protest. In the last general election, the voter turnout was 60%, the majority eschewing a pension protecting, worker-friendly Labour government. That still left one third of the country who weren’t that bothered who came to power. Now, if the strikers and their many sympathisers wanted justice and fairness they should have voted for it at the ballot box. It’s no use electing a Tory-led government, a party that advocated massive cuts in spending long before the general election and then trying to shut the door on them after they have galloped into their first year of governance. As well as the general elections, there are also the local elections, where the voting public can elect councillors who have even more tangible effects on their wages, pensions and monthly outgoings.  Unfortunately voter turnout for these is even worse, being as low as 20% in some areas.  It seems like the country is reticent to speak up until it is far too late. However, a potential four years until the next general election may seem a long time but retirement will be even further away for most disgruntled employees, enabling them to gather strength, regroup and vote out the offending government, finding a party who will look after their interests.

The strikes are also are a fairly blunt way of targeting those in power who are able to correct the perceived injustice. Yes they are affected but so is the rest of the country who are relatively blameless in the whole affair (voter apathy aside).  We are left without rubbish collection and, in some cases, public transport- maybe only minor inconveniences- worth it for the struggle of hard pressed workers against an unfair system? Possibly. However our children are without teachers, yes for a day but education is precious and each day of learning is sacred. Even more sacrosanct are human lives. Being left without a fully functioning fire service and hospital staff even for a day is at best irresponsible and at worst downright lethal. If the (entirely justified) legal bar on police and prison officer strikes were to be lifted, would we support them too, risking lawlessness, rioting in the streets and mass jail breakouts- even for just one day?

Strikers with police, who are legally barred from joining them

As has been proved throughout human history, two wrongs do not often make a right.  Strikes do come from good intentions and are a worthy cause, helping those lucky enough to have a salary-linked pension scheme to get a better deal when they retire, but they are obtuse, ineffective and misdirected.  However admirable the cause, this wrong course cannot change the even bigger perceived wrong of a coalition government hell bent on cutting spending where it hurts most.