On the 1960s, and progress
To the V&A for the You Say You Want A Revolution exhibition on the
years 1966 to 1970. There is a strict ban on photography. Which in the
spirit of the age I ignore, surreptitiously.
It is surprisingly moving. I was 10 in 1967 and have no excuse not to
remember it. Hair (actually 1968), Magical Mystery Tour… I remember
them. The 60s are a decade much derided, and there was a lot of
silliness about, well documented in the exhibition. I recall it all.
And does one really need to see the frock coat worn by Jimi Hendrix’s
drummer? More than one actually.
It was quite revealing, though. A lot of things that made an awful lot
of people’s lives an awful lot better started there. Women’s rights,
gay rights, black people’s rights, environmentalism.
You walk around the exhibition with the headphones on playing the
appropriate music. Which is then available in a 3 CD set. And there’s
a souvenir book.
The revolution will not be televised. It will be available in the gift
shop after your visit.
A punch-up at a crack den. A headbutt outside a downmarket teenage nightclub. An alleged sexual assault in a public lavatory.
I have been on jury service, yet again, another unedifying trawl through the lower depths of our society. We know these people exist, leading lives of moral squalor, addiction, poverty, random inexplicable acts of violence. You are lucky if you are required to convict a defendant you don’t feel sorry for. That at least gives a degree of peace of mind, that someone is being punished who deserves it.
The eventual sentences often reflect the pathetic background of those convicted, people to whom life has dealt such a poor hand that any further punishment seems unnecessary. You can’t fine them, they haven’t any money. Their crimes aren’t worth the cost to the public purse of a jail sentence – though I certainly hope one of those we tried sees the inside of a cell before too long.
I am always struck by the diligence with which the vast majority of jurors approach the task. No one can enjoy it – the evidence is boringly repetitive, and the cases are conducted at the pace of the slowest juror. In between, there is endless waiting around at what looks like a huge doctors’ waiting room, overheated and stuffy, until your name is called. And constant unexplained interruptions while legal counsel argue and you sit in a small room outside.
If you expect, should you be accused of a serious criminal offence, that your case will be heard by a cross-section of people much like you, then you have to be prepared to contribute when asked. It is part of the social contract. And if I am ever wrongly accused of anything, I want my case to be heard by some of the people I have spent the past fortnight with. Not by some faceless, unaccountable lawyer.
And should you be rightly accused, guilty as sin, opt for a jury trial. The dice may well fall in your favour.