5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Refreshingly witty, intelligent and thought provoking.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Devil's Advocate (Paperback)
John Humphry's writes a challenging critique of the confused social and political landscape of Britain today. In Section One, Humphry's examines the increasing tendency of people today to blame others for their supposed 'misfortune', leading to an increase in compensation claims for 'personal injury', which he refers to as the 'victim culture'. Alongside this he also looks at how society has become so fearful of taking risks and preoccupied with safety, that many schools have started abandoning field trips for fear of being sued should accident and injury occur. There are also some poignant personal references to the Aberfan disaster in 1966. Humphrys descibes not only the dreadful scenes he witnessed as a reporter, but how the financial generosity shown by the public, who raised £1.75 million for the victims families, was turned against the villagers by the Wilson government and National Coal Board (NCB) who said that the money should be used to clean up the landslide, when it was clearly the NCB's fault. Further excellent analyses looks at how trust has broken down in society. He makes a reference to the chilling and repulsive child abuse 'suspicions' raised against former news colleague Julia Somerville, when a film developer at Boots became 'suspicious' at the number of naked bath time photographs taken of her baby. There are many amusing analogies in this book to things which irritate the author which had me in stitches of laughter. However the subsequent sections of the book go on to criticise the 'consumer culture' which Humphrys sees as all pervading. This preoccupation with 'consumer culture' in my opinion, is one of the weaker points of the book. Humphrys argues that the expansion of 'consumerism' is largely responsible for contemporary social atomisation and political disillusionment. What Humphrys fails to fully comprehend is that it is the failure of politics that has led to the climate today where we are all treated as 'consumers' rather than citizens, and not greater consumer choice. John goes back into personal reminiscences of growing up in post-war Cardiff, where there was a greater sense of community than is apparent today. Again what he only partially pinpoints is that today's breakdown of solidarity and 'community' is more to do with the Tina (There is no alternative) outlook of today's society, the general slowdown in capitalism, and the dissolution of 'right' and 'left' as competing political ideologies which gave the post-war world a semblance of 'coherence'. Humphrys flatters 'cosumerism' by giving it a dynamism it doesn't possess. If the 'consumer' is a limited view of the person, then surely a theory of 'consumerism' would be even more receding. Overall, this is an excellent, beautifully written and challenging book. Humphrys refers to a wide variety of sources to explain his argument, ranging from radical sociologist Frank Furedi to conservative psychologist Oliver James. An original and enticing piece of writing which runs rings around the political guff put forward by todays Labour and Conservative parties. We need more challenging voices today, Humphrys is one of them.