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Saturday, June 22, 2024
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EditorialsUp Front 8/20

Up Front 8/20

Growing up in a pub, when my father was also the village undertaker, gave me a unique opportunity to listen to people speak when they had let their guard down. As we all know, a couple of drinks or an emotional experience can often make people more relaxed about speaking their mind. Most of us have an in-built tendency to be slightly careful about how much we give away about our deepest thoughts, and although some cultures and societies are more open, in this country there is a tendency to hold back. However, after a few drinks in the pub, and also, oddly, after a funeral, those directly affected tend to be a bit more open. So in my youth, I had many occasions where people confided in me or happily passed on stories they might not otherwise have disclosed. I don’t fully know why. It’s easy to understand the alcohol effect but why we let our guard down at highly emotional moments or times of crisis is hard to fathom. I’m told it’s caused by a chemical reaction in the brain—which doesn’t really explain much if you’re not a scientist. I remember once in the late 70s getting beaten up after a concert for wearing a Rock against Racism T-shirt. The kicking didn’t bother me much—thanks to a couple of fellow concert-goers I escaped the worst of it—but the embarrassment of how I blathered away to a friendly policeman afterwards has never left me. I think I may have bored the poor man near to death with a breathlessly extended life story, which I liberally laced with pop psychology and an abundance of intense youthful philosophy. In that case, my outburst was explained as adrenaline rather than alcohol, but I still cringe when I think of it. The coronavirus pandemic seems to have had a similar effect. This same honesty and need to open up about the state of the world we live in appears to have affected many people. Families with long-held conflicts—often based on nothing more than misunderstanding and jealousy—have found themselves talking to each other in a way that they never could have before. The same goes for friendships. Long-held grievances, again based on not much, have often been forgiven. And many friendships have been rekindled across the globe. One of my daughters explained that it is because of the collective experience—as we’re all going through it, we are all likely to be more open. It’s surely something to be encouraged. It would be nice to add politics to this list of outpourings of honesty but we seem to have run out of space…

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