What Amis said……….

“If there’s one word that sums up everything that’s gone wrong since the war, it’s ’Workshop.’ After ’Youth,’ that is.” I hope that’s right; I didn’t check it thoroughly. It is attributed to Kingsley Amis and is often used in conservative writing. I believe I can understand what he said (NB not “what he was saying”: that is a use of the progressive that came into vogue in the 60s)….. to a degree. Once there was a time when people seemed to know what to do. They knew how to grow up, to work, to get married, to have children, to vote (their interests), to fight, to worship, to die. Now we seem to need instruction in all those things, but esp in raising children and having sex (the two are often connected).
And yet, what brought the workshop into being? People’s discomfort with the way things were. Men worked, woman stayed home, men doled out grocery money, often based on what he remembered from his childhood (I once read about a man telling his wife to feed the family on $35 a week even 30 years ago or so when I read that, it was ridiculous). School was left to the teachers……… until minorities found their voice in talking back to teachers training their children for a life of servitude. Women, during WW II when men were in short supply, found men not to be all that necessary. Work was available and they found they could do it…….. periods, emotions, menopause, and all that aside, and that men could provide comfort on a serial or rotating basis. Men no longer could assume their wives’ compliance in the bedroom while they set up dalliances on the side. Marriage became optional and the world where a White man need not fear having a woman or a Black for a boss was gone…… forever………. unless the Republicans win.
And here’s the corker: since I don’t know when Kingsley Amis said this, I don’t know if “the war” refers to WW I or WW II. Can you tell? After WW I we had the flapper era, divorce, the beginning of the collapse of empire (Amis was British), urbanization. Urbanization made it possible for a girl to have serial relationships without ruining her reputation. Even as the office predator, she left that behind when she changed jobs. Changing jobs was huge, often necessitating a move to a different locale. This is upsetting, not just to conservative but to everybody. We’d like to see the old blacksmith at his forge, even the same guy, 60 years later or at least his son. (I intend going back to my little hometown where I used to stand next to the forge and watch the smith forge items for the repair of John Deere tractors can you imagine OSHA approving that?) The old pastor, the old barber, the old doctor, all that is swept away.
Of course, it has always been swept away as things change. Is the change now faster? I would tentatively say yes, making the adjustment to it trickier. What should we accept and what should we fight? (Common Core?). Who should we form a tight relationship with and who should we keep at arm’s length? (the latest wife, adopted kids?) Where are our gods? or god? At one time that was pretty much forced on us, but even by the Middle Ages, questions arose (they are called heresies, for those not in the know).
And that is the issue, isn’t it? Change, change, change. Do we stop and evaluate it or, like the Buddhists, accept and move with it?

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