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Changing Times

David Flin

An evil Socialist, apparently.
I love the image at the top. I've seen similar with the Easter Day Parade in New York, which shows dramatic changes every decade since 1900.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
My favourite "changing times" was to read Spike Milligan's memoirs of WW2, so you get a man from the 70s looking back at the 40s going "weren't some of the things we did/said/thought a bit silly?". Casual racism and sexism from both eras abound, and this in a broad comedy that thinks it's only its past a reader might wince at.

Also in there, a few casual comedic references to soldiers scamming goodies out of POWs in the broad comedy about him & his old mates aimed at a mainstream audience. It's only a minor little thing but I doubt a similar memoir done now would put that in as a mild joke (or at least you'd exaggerate the scammed man as a total bastard who has it coming).
 

Thande

BidenHarris, vaccine, England's got the same Queen
Published by SLP
I wasn't aware it was a repeated myth nowadays that British colonial officers didn't learn the local language - as David says here, the reality was quite the opposite, partly because it was felt it would be dangerous if the locals learned English. I knew that from an early age because of Roald Dahl talking about it in East Africa, and it also repeatedly appears in Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River stories set in West Africa.
 

David Flin

An evil Socialist, apparently.
I wasn't aware it was a repeated myth nowadays that British colonial officers didn't learn the local language - as David says here, the reality was quite the opposite, partly because it was felt it would be dangerous if the locals learned English.
I'm less familiar with modern views on it, but a couple of decades ago, you couldn't move for all the times the myth did the rounds (usually in the format of: "I was out there for twenty years, and they still couldn't speak English when I left."
 

Alex Richards

She needs an artificial Mountain, not AV
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
I feel like that one must have intersected with the more modern attitudes of 'going to Europe and speaking English v e r y s l o w l y a n d l o u d l y' rather than learning the local language, at least in the 'well obviously this is where that comes from' mythologising.
 

AndyF

Shadow Under-Secretary for Treacle & Jam Mining
Patreon supporter
An excellent article, @David Flin.
"Perhaps less well understood is how deeply the class system in various countries was embedded."
This is an outstanding point, particularly for those writing about Britain prior to 1939.
My eyes were opened to this when visiting my maternal grandparents at a teenager; my Grandad helped me solve fractional equations as part of my 'O' level Maths homework one visit, and claimed he'd never seen it before but it had just been obvious to him whilst reading the textbook. While I sat there with my jaw dropping, my Nan informed me that Grandad had been so good at Maths as a boy that he was offered the chance to go to Grammar School on a scholarship if he passed the entrance exam.
Grandad then claimed that he had thrown the exam on purpose because he thought going to Grammar School would make him less working-class. This, to a boy born in the late 60's, was mind-blowing; not only the sheer difficulty of getting a quality education for most children in the 1920's, but also that a relative would give up the only avenue open to better oneself in life because it breached class barriers.
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
I'm less familiar with modern views on it, but a couple of decades ago, you couldn't move for all the times the myth did the rounds (usually in the format of: "I was out there for twenty years, and they still couldn't speak English when I left."
Which is complete and utter bullshit, considering that it's one of the things that holds the entire country together. One of my more humorous (and true) stories from working retail is the sight of two very stereotypical Indian families- heavyset, dark skin, red dot on the forehead from services, all three generations of the family together (I would hazard a guess and say both were Tamil)- who met each other in my store, and began an animated discussion with each other in English. After about a minute, both sides attempted to switch back into whatever their language of preference from India was, and quickly found out that they were mutually unintelligible in it. Without skipping a beat, they went back to English and finished the conversation. Just because their accent is thick and tricky to understand, does not mean it's not English.

Grandad then claimed that he had thrown the exam on purpose because he thought going to Grammar School would make him less working-class. This, to a boy born in the late 60's, was mind-blowing; not only the sheer difficulty of getting a quality education for most children in the 1920's, but also that a relative would give up the only avenue open to better oneself in life because it breached class barriers.
My family has similar stories from back in the day, except they would always end with "we needed to come back and help out". Considering my father's family is largely American Indian and poor to boot, it's not hard to believe that there would be more important things than moving up in the world considering the cost of what they'd be leaving behind.
 

Redolegna

Champagne Socialist
Moderator
Published by SLP
Location
Paris
Pronouns
he/him
There's a scene in a book which I've just finished, set in 1919-20 in Paris. In it, the last known companion of a soldier who died in the trenches on the last day but two of the war to talk about his time with the deceased son of the family. He's worried sick that he's currently so poor he'll not be able to buy shoes that at least won't stain the carpets of this huge mansion, he's well accustomed to being sneered at by butlers, etc. He even considers not going, because he's afraid to meet an old officer who murdered several of his fellow soldiers. But once he commits to it, the idea of going by the backdoor, or not conversing freely with the owners of the house just doesn't enter his mind and he's a man who'll fret about anything.

Arguably, this comes after the great disruption of WWI, but to me it symbolised quite well the difference in the class divide between Britain and France.
 

Indicus

<insert title here>
Location
Trawno
Pronouns
he/him
A very interesting article. In particular, I liked how you pointed out Gandhi’s racism, though I will note that it wasn’t just Gandhi who was racist among his group. Few Indian nationalists would have used “kaffir”, as that’s a South African term he picked up from his time there, but there was a consistent racist streak among Indian nationalists who viewed themselves as superior to blacks or Native Americans or Australian Aboriginals and thus mandated them to a special home rule or independence. This racism also existed within India - multiple nationalists and liberals derided “tribal” groups within India for their “uncivilized” ways and for following a “tribal” religion unlike the “civilization” of Hinduism or Islam.

Just because their accent is thick and tricky to understand,
For outsiders. I didn’t know that my parents had any sort of distinctive “Indian accent” until some of my friends and acquaintances talked about it when I was a kid.
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
For outsiders. I didn’t know that my parents had any sort of distinctive “Indian accent” until some of my friends and acquaintances talked about it when I was a kid.
Nobody can really judge their own accent, so I understand the confusion. I only started learning anything about variations within a language after spending a month in rural South Carolina figuring out why my relatives sounded so different from everyone else down there. You'll always understand what you grow up with, but other stuff is where things get interesting.
 
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