It is very difficult to properly see the times you are living through, but it is made more difficult today by the insistence of politicians and commentators that there is no alternative to the present economic system. This almost hysterical mantra closes down other, different perspectives and makes it impossible to draw back and see what the present world is really like.
I’ve stumbled on a wonderful documentary film made in the 1960s that in an odd way does help give some kind of perspective on today. It’s about two brothers called Billy and George Walker. Billy was a boxer and George was a gangster who became Billy’s manager. The film is a beautiful record of the way two brilliant chancers were manipulating British society and the media at a moment in 1964.
Out of that moment would come a vast business empire – of property, leisure and films all run by George Walker, that rose up in the 1980s and then crashed spectacularly in 1991. If you follow the story of that empire it takes you on a behind-the-scenes journey that shows the truth behind many modern businesses in Britain – showy facades built on a mountain of debt.
But the story doesn’t just stop there – because the ghost of George Walker, his family, and his business practices have continued to haunt Britain in all sorts of odd ways. And the story suddenly brings into focus some of the attitudes underlying modern society. A world where many people have become chancers like Billy and George Walker, out to get something for nothing.