Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Towards a Homogenised Society?

Yesterday, in Waitrose, I chanced across a bottle marked "traditional" milk. Could it be? Yes! The label confirmed it. Unhomogenised. What joy.

I have always thought of homogenised milk as one of the scourges of modern life, depriving us of such simple pleasures as top of the milk on your breakfast cereal. I remember with fondness the breakfast times of my youth, racing my siblings to see who could get to the bottle first; berating any adult thoughtless enough to invert the bottle before opening it.

I grabbed the bottle (not too harshly, don't want to shake it) and nestled it into my trolley. This morning, once more, I was able to delight in my simple childhood pleasure. As I did so, though, I started to ponder on the parallels between milk and other aspects of life. Has society itself become too homogenised?

These days, it seems, we fear and discourage the exceptional and celebrate the mundane - the "norm". The education system is the worst culprit and has slowly been promoting the cult of the mediocrity for years. Even as long ago as when my children were at school, the different sets of kids were not labelled A, B, C but using successive letters in the school's name, because they didn't want any children to think of themselves as, say, an E and therefore a failure. I suspect you had to be in the bottom ten percent of the E set for that subterfuge actually to work but the idea behind it was an early symptom of the desease of homogenisation.

Today, inter-school sports competitions are considered subversive as they may be disheartening for the losers. So called celebrity TV reality shows abound with celebrities whose only claim to fame, that I can discern, is that they are famous. The media world rejoices in the number of channels now available through digital TV without, apparently, the slightest concern about the quality of programmes broadcast by those channels. Everywhere you look, mediocrity abounds and society is gradually turning a homogenised shade of grey.

Cream always rises to the top, they say. That hasn't applied to milk for many years. How long before it ceases to apply in the figurative sense too?

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