Fascism & Families

At least this time of the year, TV nuclear families are a little more extended. There could be up to 12 people round the table noshing into some unfortunate fowl. That’s three times the usual number because, as we know, the usual number of family members is four. Three of these have blonde hair, one has black hair, all four are White and nominally Christian and preferably Protestant (even if evidently Jewish). We know this because this is how things have always been. Always and in every place. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel; Abraham (and everybody else); Jesus, Mary and Joseph; all royal families and our own family. The one we all grew up in. It’s reassuring.

There are, it has to be admitted, certain types who have other ‘arrangements’. These people are usually foreigners, not nice, heretics, and noisy. Trains don’t run on time where they come from. In our TV town, neighbours greet each other and everyone leaves the door open. Even though they immediately plonk keys into a wee bowl on the wee table right next to the unlocked door. Well, we can’t expect TV to mirror reality exactly.

So where does this black haired White man with his Nordic spouse and offspring hail from? The answer’s in the question. The clues are an adjective and a verb. The verb relates to a greeting that was originally pronounced ave and in more modern times salve and heil. The adjective describes the location of this fascist fantasy.

Mediterranean fascists (normalised as black haired White men) fantasised about ‘raising the colour’ – that dreadful expression familiar to anyone with experience of colonial racism. Have you ever wondered why so many White women, as distinct from White men, feel the urge to dye their hair blonde? The black haired White husband with the blonde White wife and two Nordic children has become so normalised on TV portrayals of generic families that it’s now unremarkable.

Umberto Eco, in The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, an archaeology of fascist family memory, shows just how explicit was the erasure of multicultural Mediterranean identity in children’s and adult literature sanctioned by church and state in Italy and Spain during the reigns of Mussolini and Franco.

This erasure continues today. Extended families are like unexpected gifts of puppy dogs. Just for Christmas. They have no place in today’s TV nuclear family. Fascist dictators may have initially encouraged large families, with the connivance of the Catholic Church, but family size can always be altered at the convenience of the state. ‘Two will do’ is a eugenic command that TV has obeyed.

So when you see a Mediterranean patriarch with his peachy Uberwife and a pair of apple cheeked children, think about all the households you know, with all their other arrangements. Think about how this TV fascist family makes them feel.

It’s not all tutti frutti, is it?

family-outing-vintage-painting

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing ‘public domain vintage painting of a family outing’ into the public domain.

How to survive Christmas

(Contains blatant advertising, sage advice, bleeding hearts, stereotypes, humbug, nuts)

I don’t have the stats, but I imagine the number of Americans shooting family members goes up during the festive season. We can hardly blame them. This post focuses on that annual family horror called Christmas but some parts may be applicable to other feasts involving relentless and compulsory goodwill; the forced proximity of adult siblings, in-laws and outlaws; sleet; treacherous pavements; overindulgence in stodge, sugar and alcohol; and the worst TV.

So how can you survive Christmas?

  • Get the good food in first. That’s the basic advice of Body-Logic, so you don’t need to buy it now (but if you do, it’s available as an eBook). You’re less likely to nibble if you’ve feasted first. And let’s face it, it’s the one and only time of the year where anything as sickeningly nutritious as Brussels sprouts makes you feel sentimental.
  • Plan your TV/DVD/online watching. It can actually be enjoyable to watch a film all the way through with selected family or friends. It is even possible to do so without addictively checking your phone for such urgent texts as: wotcha doin am wachtin fillum sborin? This countercultural practice may even increase the attention span of your hyperactive progeny to a length marginally greater than that of goldfish.
  • Retreat to your room/ broom cupboard with a good book. Some discerning readers have decided to catch up on the Bruno Benedetti inclusive mystery series (in print or eBook). And who am I to stop them? The benefits of reading an up-and-coming author is that it’s dead cool and you can shame your friends who have never even imagined that a mystery series could be inclusive. This will then activate FOMO. So you can be quietly smug.
  • Announce to the festive fiends frequenting your living-room and drinking all your sherry that, unfortunately, you have a paper/report on [anything but try Education, Philosophy, Alchemy, Sports Science, Social Work, Renaissance Studies, Quantum Mechanics, Music, Art, Motorcycle Maintenance, Zen] to hand in at the start of the new year. So you just have to read Alchemy at the Chalkface: Pirsig, Pedagogy and the Metaphysics of Quality from cover to cover (in print or eBook). In the airing cupboard, the only place that’s warm.
  • Dance. Seriously. Relocate the coffee table, push back the chairs, forcibly remove all the headphones from all the teenyboppers under 50 and elect yourself DJ Dictator. Command the stereo/ space-age musical docking device and get the tunes on. Jumping up and down, even gently, is THE BEST THING for lymphatic drainage. It’s the new blood pressure. It sorts everything. Google it. Ask your doctor. Get with the programme.
  • Walk. Take the dog. Take the neighbour’s dog, if you don’t have one. Believe me, this is a very welcome gesture. Yes I know old Mrs Biddy next door has taken the trouble to clear the pavement outside her prefab and hasn’t put down salt so it’s now a popular neighbourhood slide. But (hu/wo)man up [told you I was inclusive] and cross the road where the pavement’s less treacherous. That’s sidewalk for our North American readers. You can even seasonally greet your neighbours. This is compulsory all over Scotland after midnight (AND NOT BEFORE!) on New Year’s Eve and voluntary during the year. It provides a nice alternative to shooting them.
  • Limit the time you spend together. Less is far, far more. Don’t say “come for Xmas”, say “come for Xmas dinner, we’re at church in the morning and out in the evening so we have the whole afternoon to spend with you”. Relief on the other end of the phone. Even the most trigger-happy relation should be able to keep it together for four hours. That includes time taken to unwrap presents and visitors and bundle them back into the car. God will forgive you for lying about church-going. She’s like that. And if you do do church, do one that preaches love, not hate.
  • Watch White Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life if you must. Once you realise that one’s US military recruitment propaganda and the other a hymn to that oxymoron ‘compassionate capitalism’ it rather takes the sheen off the screen. I much prefer The Muppets’ Christmas Carol or The Bishop’s Wife for nostalgia. If anyone suggests The Grinch ask them, seriously, whether they would like to be trapped in a lift (elevator) with Jim Carrey. The correct answer is “no”. Don’t, whatever you do, make snow angels. This unbearably middleclass act of kinderkitsch is only allowable under coercion of a loaded firearm – and even then needs a careful weighing up of the pros and cons.
  • Act out your own murder mystery. Use one of those DVD & flashcard boxes if you wish, or use this wee festive freebie HERE. It may serve to sublimate those homicidal tendencies.
  • Give thanks. Use it as an alternative grace, sat round the table eyeing the fair-trade veggie feast (no harm to no fowl). Introduce it with “let’s all mention just one thing we’re grateful for this year. 10 seconds each. Clockwise. I’ll start”. If there’s 10 of you that’s already more than a minute and a half.
  • It’s only once a year.
  • Put these numbers on speed dial: 999/ 911; Childline; RSPCA; The Samaritans.

Good Luck.

christmas-crackers-13551354239vo

Thanks to George Hodan who has released his photo ‘Christmas Crackers‘ into the Public Domain.

Murder at the Manor

 Murder at the Manor

A Festive Murder Mystery in 1 Act

By Alan McManus

Murder at the Manor was first produced by my friends and family, at home in Paisley, on Mother’s Day, 2012. These several pages containing the play, Murder at the Manor, and list of publications may be distributed online or in print form, together but not separately. The play may be edited. No charge or voluntary donation may be requested for any copy or performance of this play – unless the whole sum is donated to the Dr Hadwen Trust (drhadwentrust.org)

COPYRIGHT Alan McManus 2012

Dramatis Personae

Miss Marple          Acute Observer                       Older lady

Olga Volgavitch    International Jewel Thief      Younger lady

Brigitte                   Movie Star                                Younger lady

Hank                       Film Producer                          Younger gentleman

Mrs Bantry            Lady of the Manor                   Middle-aged lady

Col Bantry             Lord of the Manor                   Middle-aged gentleman

Buttons                  Butler                                         Younger gentleman

Andrea                   Police Photographer               Younger lady

Inspector Japp     CID                                              Middle-aged gentleman

Revd Green           Vicar                                            Middle-aged gentleman

(roles may be doubled)

The action of the play takes place over 24 hours, in Bantry Manor.

Time: The Present

 

Scene 1 – Diningroom. Dawn.

Everyone (apart from Inspector Japp, Buttons and Andrea) sits round the table, at breakfast.

Buttons                (knocks on door, comes in) Excuse me, Sir.

Col Bantry            (surprised) Well speak up Buttons, my breakfast kippers are getting cold!

Buttons                (coughs) There’s some body in the Library, ma’am.

Mrs Bantry          (annoyed) Well bring them in, Buttons!

Buttons                (grimaces) Can’t, Ma’am. She’s been murdered.

Brigitte                 (screams) Murdered!

Hank                     (pats Brigitte’s hand) It’s fine, baby. I’ll handle it!

Miss Marple        (looks at Mrs Bantry) Perhaps, Dolly, we should call the police.

Mrs Bantry          (sighs) Oh, very well. Murder! At breakfast! With guests!

Revd Green          (hopefully) Is there any more tea?

Olga Volgavitch   (frozen in the act of getting more food) I vosss here all ze time, eatink ze kipper, niet?

Everyone looks at Olga Volgavitch, suspiciously.

 

Scene 2 – Lounge. That Morning.

Everyone is present, having tea. Miss Marple is knitting. Andrea snaps snaps, snappily.

Japp                        (stands at fireplace, hands behind back) The name of the deceased is…

Miss Marple         Inspector, I don’t think we should say the name of the body in the Library just yet, you know.

Japp                        Miss Marple, who is in charge of this investigation?

Miss Marple         You are, Inspector, naturally. I just wondered if you had considered the begonias.

Japp                       (shakes head, ignores Miss Marple) The name of the body in the Library is… (chokes, falls to ground)

Andrea                  (screams, snaps a snap of the Inspector) Someone do something!

Miss Marple        (looks up) Has he turned blue, dear? (Andrea nods) Well I expect it’s cyanide. He’ll have about three minutes.

Col Bantry           (looking round wildly) The police photographer’s right! Someone do something! He’s only got three minutes!

Buttons                (helpfully) I could boil him an egg?

Brigitte                (screams) Murdered!

Hank                    (pats Brigitte’s hand) It’s fine, baby. I’ll handle it!

Olga Volgavitch   Izz too late! Heez goose is cooked!

Brigitte                (stops screaming) Goose? I thought it was an egg!

Buttons               (to Mrs Bantry) What, eggactly, would you like me to do with this one, Ma’am?

Mrs Bantry         Oh shove it in the library with the other one. Honestly! What will we do now?

Revd Green        (clearing throat) We could always have more tea?

Hank                   There’s more tea in that pot.

Miss Marple      (looks up from her knitting) How do you know that, dear? Who was the last to touch that teapot?

Everyone looks at Hank, suspiciously.

 

Scene 3 – Diningroom. That afternoon.

Everyone (except for Inspector Japp, Andrea, and Buttons) is present.

Brigitte                 So we’re all trapped here in this haunted house with a maniac running round murdering people in their beds till the police get here!

Hank                     (pats Brigitte’s hand) It’s fine, baby. I’ll handle it!

Col Bantry           No one has ever been murdered in Bantry beds! That unknown woman who had the cheek to turn up uninvited and get murdered has nothing to do with any of us!

Miss Marple        Are you sure, Colonel? Are you forgetting that incident in India?

Mrs Bantry           Not Bombay Lil, Arthur, surely! I thought all that was in your dim and distant youth!

Olga Volgavitch   But Bombay Lil was hunged by ze mob in Zaint Peterzburg!

Miss Marple         Really? That was certainly the official story, but according to that nice Orthodox bishop down the road, she was rescued by her anarchist sister and died a sainted hermit in Siberia. And, according to Somerset House, you were that sister.

Hank                     (laughs) I’m not buying that! You haven’t had time to take do a roundtrip by train to London.

Miss Marple        No dear. But I did have time to check online.

Revd Green          Russians make great tea. They boil it up in a, whatssit…

Hank                    Samovar.

Everyone looks at Hank, suspiciously.

Hank                    Darn.

Brigitte                 (pats Hank’s hand) It’s fine, baby. I’ll handle it!

Miss Marple        (looks at Brigitte) The way you handled the begonias, my dear?

Everyone looks at Brigitte, suspiciously.

Buttons                 (knocks on door, comes in) Excuse me, Ma’am.

Mrs Bantry           Not more bodies, Buttons!

Buttons                 No, Ma’am. Not more. Less! It’s the Inspector’s body. It’s gone!

 

Scene 4 – Lounge. Early that evening.

Everyone (except for Inspector Japp) is present, having drinks.

Col Bantry            Well this is preposterous! One of us must have murdered both Bombay Lil and the Inspector and moved his body! And when I say ‘one of us’ I mean ‘one of you’! It’s definitely not either myself or Dolly!

Revd Green           The bridge across the river is down. We won’t get out of here till morning!

Hank                      And the telephone wires have been cut.

Miss Marple         Hank, dear, you really must get a mobile. How do you know the bridge across the river is down, vicar?

Olga Volgavitch   Because he vent out ziss mornink, early, before brekfasst.

Brigitte                 And how do you know that? Spying on people, eh?

Mrs Bantry           Actually I think she was stealing the silver. I was going to mention it but with all the murders I found I really didn’t care!

Olga Volgavitch   Ok, I giff eet bak. Da?

Mrs Bantry           Oh don’t worry. It was a wedding present and I never liked it. It’s all insured, naturally.

Buttons                Good. Now I don’t have to polish it.

Mrs Bantry          That will do, Buttons. Haven’t you got chores to do?

Andrea                  Chores! Silver! How can you, when my secret love the Inspector’s gone and been and got murdered and been and gone!

Miss Marple         (puts down knitting, slowly) Well. ‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things.’ Many things that people wanted to talk about but were afraid to air. There never was a body in the library, but now Dolly has found out who’s pinching her silver, and that Arthur’s past is really past. Brigitte and Hank know they can rely on each   other through thick and thin (as long as he gets a mobile). Olga realises that – apart from her dodgy accent and kleptomania – people are quite fond of her really. Buttons has discovered he’s a very good actor. The vicar now knows that he might be vegetarian but he’s a terrible old ham… and the Inspector…

Inspector Japp     (comes in the door) … has discovered that it’s in the midst of all the drama that you discover the constancy of love! (gives Andrea a wee peck on the cheek). And what better day to discover that, than today!

FINIS

 

Also by Alan McManus

FICTION

Plays

Mrs Atkins remembers

Redemption (Scots and English versions)

Novels

The Bruno Benedetti Mysteries

Tricks of the Mind

The Lovers

Shades of the Sun

Qismet

Tìr nam Bàn (forthcoming)

NON-FICTION

Ethnography

Dreaming Anarchy: a shut-eye view of a utopia

Inclusive Theology

Only Say the Word: Affirming Gay and Lesbian Love

Nutrition

Body-Logic: the little book that makes a BIG difference!

Philosophy of Education

Alchemy at the Chalkface: Pirsig, Pedagogy and the Metaphysics of Quality

Religious and Inclusive Education

Masculum et Feminam: ‘Time for Inclusive Education’ and the conservative Catholic

(All sold on various Amazon country sites, in print and Kindle formats. Most in other formats on Smashwords and distributers: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Nook etc.)

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