Friday, 22 February 2013

Reassuring stereotypes

For those of us whose views of the South African Police were formed in the 1970s by Tom Sharpe's Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure, there is a certain reassurance in a piece by Justice Malala in today's Grauniad alleging that little has changed. Kommandant van Heerden lives on as the chief investigating officer in the Pistorius case, Konstabel Els put down the Marikana mine strike and Liutnant Verkramp and Sgt. De Kock are randomly shooting any black men in vehicles that look too expensive. And as Jim was abusing minors in Television Centre, a white Anglican bishop in South Africa was notoriously administering an unusual degree of pastoral care to young African boys in his charge; he makes a thinly-disguised appearance in Sharpe's first book as brother to the nymphomaniac rubber fetishist whose shooting of her black lover / cook with an elephant gun sparked the mayhem.  

In that era we were not at all astonished that Jean, Cardinal Danielou should die of a heart attack in a French brothel, or that Scott of the arse-antics was exposed as a senior politician's 'bunny'. In an era in which rock stars were expected to be sexually androgynous drug fiends there was popular delight in finding that many of the deeply conservative members of the 'establishment' were also all at it. The seventies were perhaps the high water mark of satire and target after target tumbled to the sound of common laughter. We couldn't look at a picture of a judge in full robes without imagining the lacy knickers, garter-belt and corsets beneath and Brian Rix in Whitehall bowler and sock-suspenders fled from adulterous wardrobe to window. Lindsay Anderson lampooned the lot in O! Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital and by 1973 even Hair was lampooning itself when the roof falling in at the Shaftesbury ended a run of 1,997 performances.

And it's those of us who came of age in the seventies who now remain least tolerant of official malfeasance, skullduggery and hypocrisy in the upper echelons, fraud and political corruption, public virtue and private vice. We've not only seen it all before, our satirical stereotypes still 'come good' in the F2 generation. Long may they last.

4 comments:

Barnacle Bill said...

Chapter 5 of Riotous Assembly with Konstabel Els' courageous defence of the bunker just has me in tears of laughter.
It's a book never far from my bedside.

G. Tingey said...

Actually, Radders, it started earlier than that - I went to University in 1964 & the lampooning & disrespect was well under way by then.

What I want to know is, where did it all go wrong?

Because there were aspirations, too... as those of us who saw the Moon-landings remember.
I still find it hard to listen to a certain Strauss piece without crying for lost golden futures .....

Anonymous said...

Nice piece Raedwald; even nicer GT!

In the early 80's I used to have to visit a printing press in north Manchester to regularly repair two large instant print machines. These machines were run flat out, hence regular repairs were needed. The press? It was a mail order catalogue press, printing naughty, nay, perverse lines of stock for whoever was on their mailing list. Now when the machines jammed with paper, as they frequently did, the printed stock was left stuck inside.

Hmm, guess whose names were on that list? Lord Justice Blenkinsop; Reverend Pious; Tarquin Farquaharson MP; Lady Knickersoff. There were loads - hundreds of - establishment names. Premises security used to stand guard over me whilst I repaired the machines to make sure that I didn't get that list out of the door. What a shame!

Coney Island

William Gruff said...

Well done Raedwald. You've reminded me of a party I attended years ago, in a previous incarnation, with the first Mrs Gruff, at which was a man clad only in a gold waist chain and black, very high heeled stilettos. TFG had a lengthy conversation, as wives often do, with the man's female companion, a molasses hued, long limbed, stunningly beautiful, disturbingly shapely, well-spoken and doubtless expensively educated African lovely, who told her that the man was a high court judge. When TFG politely expressed her doubts the lady swore it was true.