Wednesday, December 13, 1995

Trust

WHEN the Sex Pistols, with Malcolm McLaren's help, fold their followers "Never trust a hippy" the snotty motto had a double impact. It spotlighted the punks' darkest foe, while at same time pointing out that those who had screeched "Never trust anyone over 30" from the barricades were now, by their own definition, untrustworthy. What is interesting is that these two radical youth movements, the hippies and the punks, although apparently poles apart, both defined themselves by what they did not trust.

The middle English "trust" originated in the old Norse for strong or firm. These qualities are, of course, easier to assess in a sword than in a person's degree of resolve. In the late Sixties, however, psychologists became interested in the possibility of creating and calibrating trust through "trust games", instituting what has become a tug of war between trust as a naive ideal and as a potent method of crowd control.

By the time punk had collapsed into new wave, and new wave sunk to The Knack the territory of "trust" was all but left to Elvis Costello. The narrator of Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, suffered badly from a disease prevalent in American at this time an incurable belief that Elvis Costello was deep. This conviction led him to read the decline of the West into a poster of the singer's 1981 album on which could be seen "The word 'Trust' hovering over his head, and his sunglasses, one lens red, the other blue, pushed down past the ridge of his nose so that you can see his eyes. . . The eyes don't look at me, though." Wooh! Scary!

As "trust" slid out of popular culture, through psychology and into industrial relations, the word was converted into a tool for the pursuit of competitiveness. "Any shortcoming in trust can trigger uncertainty and fear, blocking the flexibility, needed for keeping up with changes in technology and markets," the US magazine, Industry. Week told its readers in an article entitled "15 Ways To Win People's Trust" way back in 1993. Those who still think trust must be earned have lost their purchase on reality trust can now be manufactured in industrial quantities, although regional distribution can still be a problem.

By 1995, trust had become a science. Perhaps think tank kingpin Francis Fukuyama is simply being realistic when, in his Trust The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, he describes trust in economic terms. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that the author of The End of History and The Last Man, was not aware of the depressing quality of his assertion that trust has "a large and measurable economic value".

Fukuyama's cry may be heard in the high temple of the Pounds 25 management hardback, but it is still spoken in the language of the covered wagon the miracle cure medicine man still waves a magic potion in the air You can trust me, the pitch goes, "I'm an analyst with the RAND corporation.

Sunday, December 10, 1995

Club

THE word "club" shares a common root with clump and lump, as all three come from Northern European terms describing something that has been pressed tightly together, something that is dense a mass, a block, though not necessarily a worse than senseless thing. By extension, the word comes to represent a heavy stick, and humankind being what they are this heavy stick is soon looked upon as a weapon. Meanwhile, back with the peacemakers, (the Scandinavians) the same root comes to suggest a clump of people

Quick off off the blocks, William Thackery was alert in using up all the available tolerance for humour based on the two senses of the word "club". In his novel, George de Barnwell, he suggested that in Pall Mall there existed dismal and enormous Mansions of Silence" referred to as "clubs" because "they knock you down with their dullness.

The airline industry's use of the word crops up in the mid 1970s. With a surge in the number of people flying for business purposes it became expedient to offer special facilities to make people feel part of a comforting, manly club, even when views of Mayfair were obscured by clouds. In the event of a mishap, members of these exclusive clubs would bravely become a clump of people significant seconds before those in economy.

Despite the best efforts of airlines everywhere, for many people the word "club" less frequently conjures a vision of champagne inspired airborne conviviality, than a very different sense of bonhomie apparently fuelled entirely by non sparkling mineral water. But as "dance" took over from "gentleman" as the adjective most often seen in the company of "club", the idea that "clubbers" are by definition those who frequent clubs became increasingly anachronistic.

Alongside the creation of a number of British "super clubs", such as Liverpool's Cream, Manchester's The Hacienda and London's Ministry of Sound, the 1990s have seen the switch of "clubs" from the service to the manufacturing sector. Recently "clubs" have begun producing their own product ranges, running from items of branded clothing to dj sequenced compilation CDs of popular "club" music.

It all, of course, makes good financial sense. By releasing, for example, a CD of dance tunes dandily arrayed in the club's signature graphic style, the management can capitalise on a good brand name in very much the way that Mars did when they introduced the ice cream version of their products.

The discordant note is that the market for these records is hardly centred on those who have visited the venue. This is just as well, since such a restriction would apparently confine sales to footballers and younger cast members of Brookside and Coronation Street.

All the others who want to take part in these clubs must satisfy themselves with reading about them, normally in that other burgeoning arena of virtual clubbing, club magazines.

So finally equipped with a copy of the Mixmag or Musik in your hand, and a Dave Morales mixed Cream CD in your Disc man, you can at last join the club, while remaining at home, alone.