All Touch And No Contact

All Touch And No Contact

Cliff Richard sang a song once, 20 years ago, It’s so funny, how we don’t talk anymore. At the time, it seemed to me as just another love song, although maybe a cut above the rest as it was Cliffy. Now I’m not so sure. Not because I’ve become less of a Cliff Richard fan. If anything these days I’m more. The other day I even enjoyed listening to a Barry Manilow CD. Reaching your 30s does funny things to a person apparently.

But it’s not just me. The fellow downstairs from me does the same thing as me and he is a fashionable young man who couldn’t be past his mid-20s. He listens to an ‘oldies’ radio station at high volume; just like me in my car. What’s more, I know that the young listenership of these kind of programs is growing. Why? There is, after all, a wealth of super pop music out there and other youth related styles. It’s not for lack of new music that these young people are listening to the music of their parents and grandparents.

The reason is this: Content. Everyone I have spoken to on this issue raises the same point. A lot of new music is more about the marketing potential than the expression of a genuine idea or emotion. This is nothing new as every generation accuses the following generation of having lost the plot.

Now why does it matter who listens to which songs? Surely I’m just wasting your time here; you could be reading a magazine, watching a movie, surfing the net or taking part in a host of other pastimes available to you. I choose music to approach this subject because it is my passion and pop music and culture are a sure indication of how a society is meeting the need of its participants.

Back to the song: It’s so funny, how we don’t talk anymore. We don’t, do we? There was another song from around the same time by Rough Trade that went, All touch and no contact. This, if anything, is more appropriate to my point. Everything we do these days sees us being touched in many ways by messages. Many of these messages are obvious, the billboard that says drink this or smoke that, but there are many messages that are more hidden or insidious like the T-shirt that has a picture of a particular sports star wearing a brand of shoes.

Now here’s one you probably never thought of: the movie with the star and the people who have that certain ‘look’. This film is no more than an advert for itself. The script for this movie is not written by someone with something to say. It is written by an investment corporation. Movies are big money; invest so many million to get a return of so many more million – if the pitch is right and the pitch must be right because investors hate to lose. A marketing exercise pure and simple, all touch and no contact, we don’t talk anymore.

As well as being a Disc Jockey, I do film reviews for a local radio station. This means that I go see at least one new release a week, sometimes many more. I have traditionally been a fan of the Hollywood movie. It’s good entertainment pure and simple. I like pop music for the same reasons. Right now though, I’m not so happy. A great many of the films that I go to see and the songs that kids are asking me to play are contentless displays of self-affirmation as part of a particular lifestyle or image (I’m doing my level best not to be a stick in-the-mud here). Their message, if there is one at all, is a very poor second to image. But these are the touches that are being clamored for more and more.

It’s a drug of sorts, partaking of the contactless touch. The thrill has no lasting hold on the soul so you need more and bigger touches to feel that you still belong. This is the very thing that pleases the corporate investors. You want more and so you will see more, do more, pay more. When we buy these things, we send the message: novelty sells and content is unnecessary to the whole experience. Corporations, of course, oblige. If movies and pop songs were all there was to this then maybe things wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re not. Remember, they are an indicator of our deeper lives.

Americans have long been the butt of jokes about having a therapist or support group for everything. And this is, in itself, sad. But why do people need these therapists and support groups? Simple. They feel that in some way their lives are empty. This is not a thing to be laughed at or brushed aside lightly. It used to be that the dispossessed were a small group of people who were easy to marginalize and forget. Now, I believe that it is the whole of society that has become dispossessed. We are all in the margins of a few investor’s ledgers.

All of our lives are full of touch with no contact and we most certainly don’t talk anymore. Stop and think; when was the last time that you had a real conversation with a friend or loved-one (therapists and support groups don’t count here), not about passing issues but told the stories of who you really are and what is happening to your heart and soul. If I’m right here, your answer won’t be good. Almost all of our relationships are becoming corrupted, and we are letting them, for a reason invariably more economic than anything else.

There is a major gap in our social needs that is only getting wider as more and more of us fall for the corporate line that we are being spoon fed. It’s all image and no content. People feel as if they must be perfect in every way before they step out the door to connect with others. I don’t know how long this can go on before there is a kind of revolution. The stirrings are already there in the violence at those summit meetings – not to mention rabid gunmen. We, as a society of individuals, are coming unglued. All of these anti-social behaviours are a result of the lives that we lead.

The business owner who believes that he has no investment in the people he employs and the employees who allow (or are forced to allow) their needs to be whittled away. The man who finds sport or his car more interesting than what his wife, kids and friends feel. The woman who feels that there is greater solace in a glossy magazine or tv talk show than meeting a new person. These are now much more the norm than the exception.

So what is the solution. Many a therapist, religious leader and self-help expert have presented their ideas, and some of them are good. But what I suggest is perhaps more grass roots. Talk to your neighbor. Ask how he or she is, really is, not just politeness. Use the telephone and call someone who you haven’t rung for a while. Write some of your stories down and let others read them (or even better send them to Tintota). Be prepared to face who you really are and how you feel, and here’s the tougher bit but where the rewards are to be found – share these things.

Make changes in your life so that the things that you have and do are supporting you, not just reinforcing a certain image or financial need. Leave a boss who refuses to value you as a human being. Boycott products and companies that are profiting from contentless products or other forms of human misery. Teach your children to do the same, to choose products and services that have a lasting message and value rather than novelty that will fade in moments. This is the only way to send the message to the corporate investors that peddling rubbish is not a healthy thing to do for the future of society (or in this case their pockets).

Most people feel that leaving an unsupportive employer or displaying their feelings is a weakness that is tantamount to suicide in our society/economy. Yes, this is an issue. But not nurturing yourself is surer suicide, not just for you but for your children. Bosses who don’t value you don’t know the meaning of the word loyalty. They will downsize, overwork and make you redundant to suit their short-term profit desires. People who bottle things up explode in anger or collapse in illness and depression. Do you want to be living an unhappy, unfulfilling life, one that requires you to spend time and money on therapists, support groups and divorce lawyers? As a society, the revolution cannot be far round the corner. People can only lead pointless empty lives for so long before they bust out. Maybe we can make this revolution easier by starting it earlier in our own genuine ways.

Don’t make the mistake of taking the easy road. I recently watched a documentary on tv about a family who had to go without packaged food for a month. It was most fascinating and scary. These people just couldn’t cope without frozen meals. They had to learn how to cook and eat as a family. They hated it and seemed disturbed when the diet of ‘real food’ made them lose weight – something that they plainly needed to do. We are all to blame for the way our society is. Society is not something that gets passed down from on high. It happens as a result of the everyday choices that we make. Launch your own revolution right now. The more that you let others package your life for you, the more you let them profit from you. MSG is a flavor enhancer not flavor. Life arises from living not consuming.

Gill Scott Heron once said that “The revolution will not be televised.” This time I think that he might be wrong. As soon as there is a new trend, the marketing men will take it up, gut it and sell it back to us as they have done since at least the 1950s. We must be very careful that, this time, we don’t let this happen. Don’t let your new leaders be paid massive salaries. Even better, shun the new self-proclaimed leader. Ask yourself what it is that you want and need and how you can help provide for the needs of others around you. I think that you will find that this will require little to no real financial expenditure, just a bit of time, honesty and caring that will repay itself amply.

Let’s make Cliff Richard’s song just that again, a nice love song, as we get to talking together more.

– Benedict Roff-Marsh
Kangaroo Point, Queensland, Australia.

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