Once again, there are any number of unbelievable events which I could write about from the last week. It is impossible to do justice to the suffering of those caught up in the latest attacks/coups. To say nothing of the continuing wars and refugee crises. Maybe the person who posted this week that David Bowie had been the glue that held the Universe together was actually right...
Before the horror of Nice though, the entire world seemed to shout a collective 'What the f...??!!!' at the announcement of Boris Johnson as the new UK Foreign Secretary. Clearly Prime Minister May now has Johnson, the Leave figurehead, firmly in her debt but it does seem incredibly risky to be sending such a buffoon (polite description) on diplomatic errands. We will have to pin our hopes on the ever present Civil Service to keep him under control, a la Yes Minister.
But future descendants of Boris will at least have access to a mass of information and speculation about the motivations on all sides. Chapter and verse for his personal and political histories. Possibly his own diaries. However badly he performs.
This is the 'privilege' of fame or notoriety. Descendants of the very famous or aristocratic never need to grub about in county records offices or trawl through online newspapers. Their family history is freely available. (Distant relations of Big Brother contestants or other minor celebrities will have a job separating the endless 'saucy' selfies from the true facts but hey, it'll add a new dimension to family history.)
I have argued many times on this blog that our historical records lack ordinary voices. In 1937, a project called Mass Observation was started in Bolton. It began as an artists' curiosity project but once the Second World War began, it was an important exercise in public opinion and requirements. Its people observed, eavesdropped on and photographed ordinary lives. Plus members of the public kept daily diaries. To quote David Dimbleby's BBC series Seven Ages Of Britain, governments began to realise that they 'could not just tell people what to do, they actually had to listen to what they were saying.'
For something like Brexit, our descendants should not be left with simply academic or journalistic opinions. Or with the thoughts of the privileged. Somebody or some organisation needs to be recording ordinary opinions. Social media is all very well as a record but Mass Observation, for example, was very fond of gleaning information in the pubs or on the streets. Social media generally excluding the views of the elderly being a good example of the need for this.
To quote Dimbleby again, 'Bolton stood as an example of the great Northern cities which supplied much of the nation's wealth but which had a long history of being ignored by the South.' Sounds terribly familiar in the context of what we already know about the split of the Brexit vote, doesn't it? Someone should have been 'mass observing' before David Cameron decided to assume he could win a referendum.