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14 May 1998 Edition

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Television: Way back when

by Sean O Donaile

The years go Pop! (RTE Radio One)
Aborigine - A Collision of Conscience (BBC 2)
Political Ambitions (Channel 4)
Hosted by Joe Jackson, the series takes a look at music of times gone by with a healthy dose of politics.

1970 was the morning after the party that was the 60s and in the words of Dennis Hopper ``the only safe place was the hills where you could see the enemy approaching and blow your mind with ten tabs of acid''.

in Jackson's view this was indicative of the failure of the counter culture, running to their little communes and shirking their responsiblities to society.

Bob Dylan, who was seen as the voice of counter culture, ``sold out'' with his romanticisation of the family unit and a backing of the dominant ideology.

Even Van the Man who produced the excellent ``Moondance'' was too busy seking the light, that he avoided addressing the darkness that was developing around his home town.

The music of 1970 was also more sensitive, with no place for Robert Plant's ``I want to give every inch of my love'' and women themselves were becoming music icons.

In the North ``the IRA was armed and defended the Short Strand and British soldiers murdered five civilians on the Falls Road.

Bernadette Devlin was jailed for six months and the battle lines were drawn.

This was followed by John Lenon's classic ``Working Class Hero'': They keep you doped with sex, religion and TV..''

Michael Jackson and Elvis, both allegedly abused as children, produced the breathtaking ``Who's Leaving Who?'' and popularised the tacky white jump suit, later adopted by Gary Glitter.

Tune in for whatever year you had long hair, and a red star, and hadn't sold out, on Wednesday's at 8pm.

Aborigines were never given the chance to have such a good time and ``A Collision of Conscience' portrayed the 200 year attempt by white settlers to ``move the nigger into eternal darkness, where they belong''.

From the start there was conflict between the European concept of private property and ther Aborigine hunting grounds.

Settlers were given permission to shoot these ``treacherous barbarians'' on sight and many more were exterminated by contracting chickenpox and other European diseases.

This frontier genocide was only challenged as late as 1840 by the Evangelicals who saw the consequences of British Imperialism - ``I am horrified by the wickedness of of the proceedings of our nation in the nations we occupy...the rape, plunder and murder of natives''.

This quote could be readily applied to our situation and Aborigines were portrayed in the same racist manner as the Irish of the time, featuring in cartoons as orangutangs and degenerates.

The same arguments were used as an excuse for savagery, with the Whites being portrayed as racially superior and by the 20th century Aborigines were herded into reservations and reduced to ``unspeakable degradation''.

Thousands of children were also taken from their parents who weren't seen fit to rear them and it was from the 1960s that Aborigines were able to fight their corner, leading to the landmark ruling in 1992, when they were given rights over some lands.

Unfortunately Aborigines are still ``treated as dogs'' and racism is as rife as ever down under.

New Labour were exposed in all their shallownes on ``Political Ambitions' on Sunday last. I watched it as I sat home babysitting, missing out on the euphoria of the appearance of Harry Duggan and comrades at the Ard Fheis.

My self pity was compounded when my daughter inserted a sausage in the video , but one couldn't forget one of the classic qoutes of one of the four New Labour candidates, who claimed, ``I know nothing of Karl Marx or any of that socialist stuff'' .

She was more concerned with appearing at fashion shows and the like in her efforts to woo the all-important middle classes.

Tom, the most''political'' of the quartet, was delighted with the snapshot of him with Tony Blair - ``Now I'm taller than Tony Blair in that one and it will look good in the local paper''.

This comment is indicative of the progress of politics in Britain, where a smiley face on TV is deemed to be more important than any silly thing such as policies or ideologies.

With the cutbacks in welfare one couldn't blame the irritated motorist who labelled New Labour as ``lying gits''.

One could argue that these media friendly middle class candidates were the only ones who could unseat John Major, but I smell Tories in suits.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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