Heard of Spectator? Perhaps not. This is a famous English weekly magazine I have been reading, almost all my life. This magazine is not available in India, I read it regularly in the British Council library whenever I visit it, be it in Chennai or in Bangalore or wherever I find myself. Even when I go to Delhi or Trivandrum or Hyderabad, it was long time ago, not now, I used to search for the British library. Such was my enthusiasm for the British media in those days.
In fact, the Spectator magazine, some 150 years of a great reputation, is the Right media and a champion of establishment values. Conservative values. But the magazine became famous for its symbolising some of the typical British qualities and virtues. In true journalistic traditions, Spectator is always edited by some of the outstanding individualistic persons. Often the editor is also in the dominant political party, often a sitting Member of the House of Commons as the present one, Mr. Boris Johnson is. The provocation for this month’s letter is the fact that Mr. Johnson had just left the job and he had written a farewell editorial that reads like a national Anthem! Only a true blueblood Brit could writer or lament for the values he leaves behind. In true style Mr. Johnson has done just that!
Apart from the particular Secpator style of writing the English language, always full of verve and unexpected play of a word or a phrase, here is what Johnson writes: “Before you (the new editor)have time to recover, your hugely efficient PA will be patching you through Downing Street, because the Prime Minister wants to congratulate you in persons. You leave immediately, and have half an hour in the sofa room with Tony(Tony Blair), during which he will extol the magazine and (quite properly) the genius of Paul Johnson”. Then comes the catch, the very stuff of a job that makes the Spectator editor much feared and fete3d,by enemies and friends alike!
“If you do the job in the way that we all hope, that will be the last friendly contact you have with the regime” Why? Because the magazine would have surely offended the ruling party and the government!
So, says Mr. Johnson and then says to the new editor: “Your story turns out to be 100 per cent right, you will have to keep your nerve. Old chums would turn up in your office, urging you to capitulate. Don’t.
Then comes the famous line. “The Spectator surrenders to no one. The Spectator is always right”. Yes this self confidence is what makes Spectator a special moral voice, a moral forces for the rest of the journalistic fraternity.
“You will be told that the magazine is elitist, and you should take that as a compliment. Every society that we know of has been run by an elite and every elite needs elucidation”.
Yes, this is the crux of this elitist magazine which has a fanatical following. With some modesty I can claim I belong to this fraternity.
In our own way, we at the School magazine, try to imbibe these values which we consider is as important to India Of course, the School magazine is not as old and ancient as the old great magazine is nor our muscle is as strong as this one.
We have a modest goal and that is to introduce an elitist culture in our otherwise drab and dull mass education world and the mass world of general readers. We don’t know how influential we are but certainly we seem to be having long followings in some long distant quarters. We are read at the Indo-Pak border in one Central school as we are read in remote corners of Arunachal Pradesh and down South in all public libraries and established institutions.
What drives us with this experiment? Sheer belief! Belief in doing certain things for their own sake. As Bible and Homer is far more important than the price of oil, we believe that cultivating the minds is far more important than buying stocks and shares in blue chip companies or collecting big donations and running education establishments as shameless commercial ventures. Nor are we impressed by the establishment, the politicians and the industrialists leave us cold. They don’t cultivate the higher reaches of the minds. In fact, men grow. They grow in age but not in their minds. Men grow. But they don’t grow in wisdom.
These are all the thoughts when we close this column with the assertion that it is the elites who matter to us. We wish more of our elites read the great thoughts, great ideas of the day.
It is the elites who constitute the stuff of the culture and civilisation that any society live by or profess by.
India is still far behid such lofty thoughts. Not to be worried. We have to worry about our survival. Fine. But in the long run, it is the elites, it is the ideas-men who would set the agenda and the parameters of a culture and a civilisation. Spectator, my favourite English magazine