Ben Preaching the Blind – “Blind Faith”

The cover is a little odd. Looks like a crashed bicycle wheel on its side. Is it the London Eye, turned Orwellian spy? In some ways, that’s rather apt.

“‘…Trafford wanted privacy, or even just a bit of peace. Every day he wanted to shout, ‘Here’s an idea: why don’t we all just shut up for five minutes?’ But it was a serious crime to have no faith. It had not always been a crime… Trafford knew this because the change in the law had come about in his own lifetime. The statutory obligation to have faith was the very first of the Wembley Laws…'”


Ben Elton’s latest is essentially The Crucible-meets-1984… uh, for us now in 2007. Following his usual trend for environmental disaster and the enroaching power of the media (*ahem, We Will Rock You’s themes of “Spice Girl” domination of cultural mores and reality TV turning youth to revolt*), he’s now making a statement about the growth of fundamentalism and the popularity of FaceBook (uh, ‘FaceSpace’).

Guess I better not befriend him online then, huh? Shucks, to think I once got Douglas Adams to respond to me via email. Those were the technology-embracing days…

Again, the mild-mannered, technically-proficient hero (that immediately leads you to think of Elton starring in a TV film version), Trafford Sewell quite likes the idea of a bit of privacy and has begun to openly question the contradictions around him. Viva Revolution! Fahrenheit 451!

Zeitgeist, zeitgeist, zeitgeist, is the chant that fills my mind as I look over at my rather folded-up big-bumper paperback copy of ‘Chart Throb’ that now seems dated despite being only a year old. Reality TV has been a bit of a bugbear for him for too long and I’m starting to wonder if anyone’s really listening to him anymore. The proslytising of ‘Popcorn’ seems more and more absurd the more and more I learn about psychology and influences on helping behavior and violence. Could it actually be more than Ben’s imaginings at work that makes us as we are in the real world?

Sorry, I do admit that he’s improved his writing style since Popcorn. Certainly the one-liners that were copied blatantly from his stand-up acts (and yes, every tour. I see him. Every one. So I know what I’m talking about.) are dropping in frequency. He’s crafting a few characters with more depth and less stereotyping. What aggravates me about this one is that he’s getting too scattergun and comes across as affronted at everything.

Yes, Mr Elton, you have got a point. The environment (yes, we’re starting to listen! Finally!), fanaticism and the ravages of faith. But please – slow down ‘Motormouth’ and let some of it sink in before I do us all a favour and shoot myself for daring to watch America’s Next Top Model. I mean, maybe we can learn something through deeper analysis of it and what it says about us as viewers and citizens, rather than just shutting it down outright?

Anyway. Some soundbites from some interviews, if you think this might be a read you’d like to support with your money:

“It isn’t about either Islam or Christianity – it’s about faith,” says Elton. “The idea just dropped into my head, as always. I was having a walk and I just started to think about the obsession with respect for faith, as if the mere fact that you can call something a faith sets it apart in terms of credibility from other ideas and acts of intellect.” This combined, he says, with something he’s been thinking about for years, which is the end of privacy and the rise of nominal celebrity, where people can use the recording and exposing of their lives, especially physically and emotionally, as a career.

Interview via MP3 (with the former Doug Anthony AllStar Richard Fidler! How’s that for a hark back to the iconoclastic days; they used to both be on The Big Gig, where Elton met his ‘Jam Tarts’ bass-playing wife Sophie!!) is featured here.

… I wonder if I’m prejudiced towards him because he married a local girl? Oh well.

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