‘To Be or Not To Be?’ LOL

 |  April 27, 2010

The first time I saw Boy George of Culture Club singing ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ (Top of the Pops, 1982, for those that are interested), I thought he was a girl. My taste in women has always been a bit strange (ducks to avoid a left hook from Mrs. D).

Culture shock ensued the next day when I found out that he was a bloke. To someone whose ordinariness is the rock on which his boringness clings, this was absolutely shocking and required several hours of watching sport down the pub to assure myself that everything was ok. My cultural value set had been shaken…not stirred. Even though it was 28 years ago, I can remember that moment he caught my eye very clearly…and of course the subsequent revelation.

Popular culture defines the moments in our lives. Whether it is a song, fashion or hair-do, each generation has their own set that applies to them. It is also by its nature transient; here today, gone tomorrow (or in my case, hair today, bald tomorrow). So is it important?

Culture can be thought of as people sharing an enduring common belief or value system, language, institutions or even art. When combined they define how they live their lives. Popular culture doesn’t work like that; a 50-year-old punk rocker doesn’t have much relevance today. To be cultured is to be educated, enlightened and sensitive to one’s cultural heritage.

That can’t be applied to me. The closest I have been to culture recently was to discover a piece of Camembert that had been lurking in the fridge a little too long. Mouldy food aside I therefore decided that the Daring household should have affirmative culture action to improve the quality of our lives. But what should it be?

If popular culture is temporary then real culture must last. At school we used to have musical appreciation with the ‘Beak’ (headmaster) in his study. With a cane on the desk ready to whack us round the head or other convenient body part to ensure our attention, we had to sit through hours of classical music. We all thought it was old and boring and therefore it had to be ‘real culture’.

Remembering this I announced to Mrs. D and daughter number 2 (D2) that we were going to have an afternoon listening to Bach and Beethoven. The rolling of the eyes and heavy sighing were not good. And that was just from Mrs. D; D2 hadn’t even taken her earphones out to hear what I was saying. Undeterred I borrowed some CDs from a cultured friend (yes…I do have one) and made them sit down to appreciate them.

An hour later I was losing the will to live. So much so that I gratefully received a call from a friend and managed to turn a two-minute discussion into half an hour. When finally I returned, both Mrs. D and D2 had done a runner; although secretly relieved, it did allow me to feign disappointment in their inability to give it a try and maintain the cultural high ground.

Emotional blackmail is always a useful family tool and so when I suggested that we could read – and act out – a Shakespeare play together, they grudgingly agreed. We didn’t do badly; we made at least three pages of the play before I had to make a phone call. By the time I returned the prisoners – sorry, family – had escaped. I was starting to see a pattern.

Maybe we’re not ready for culture? Maybe we are too far-gone for culture? What does this all mean? Are our lives less valuable as a result? As I poured myself a large G&T and reached for my computer to console myself with clips of people slipping on banana peels on YouTube, I noticed that both Mrs. D and D2 were online somewhere in the house.

I MSNed them; ‘Shall we carry on reading the play?’

‘OMG’ replied D2 – ‘No.’

‘LMAO’ replied Mrs. D. Two other letters representing a well-known phrase involving sex and travel followed this just in case I was in any doubt as to her true feelings.

And it was then that it struck me. Our culture today is electronic. Just as transient, just as temporary as any other popular culture but a whole lot faster and certainly more international. It doesn’t negate cultural diversity or heritage; from what I have seen it actually allows us all to learn more about it. When we all know each other then the world has to be a better place.

Reassured with life, the universe and everything, I loaded iTunes and started playing a song. Georgie’s dulcet tones filled my headphones…

‘Give me time, to realise my crime…’