Anyway, enough of that, the reason for my ramblings is a character called Boyd, who gets the best lines and is an amazing orator. So much so that he has been a white supremacist, a religious leader and is currently rallying the locals in a political election. His speeches are quite spectacular and I am certain that, were I a resident of Harlan County, I would be falling over myself to do his bidding.
It would seem then that being in possession of good oratory skills will pretty much assure you great success in life and I find this just a little bit depressing. As a person who is an inarticulate buffoon for a good 90% of the time, I have never put much store by public speaking. I always enjoyed the quote by Bertrand Russell, "The fundemental trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." It seems though that I could have been burying my head in the sand.
In the past British people were renowned for being reserved and bumbling and so there was no pressure to hold court. There was little emphasis placed on public speaking within the education system. When I was at school, students were encouraged to get on quietly or face the wrath of the teacher. This practice continued through college and university; I remember the first class I attended in the USA, I almost passed out in horror when I realised that your ideas and essays had to be discussed openly.
In a way I have continued the trend, allowing shy, socially reticent students to survive by never putting any pressure on them to speak publically. I wonder now though if I have done them a disservice. A massive difference between young people in the USA and the UK is a confidence and willingness to speak in public and these are skills, like any other, that have to be learned. We have a new breed of people over here, who no longer see self-promotion as showing off but as a way of selling yourself in an increasingly demanding market. However, when you actually really listen, very few of them speak well. They just emit a string of words in a confident, brash way, ignoring the fact that most of them don't make any sense.
I actually think that, as it stands, Bertrand Russell was right but we need to somehow change this. We can't continue to have a society where only stupid people are confident enough to grab the mantle and move things forward or, as some would argue, backward. How can we do it then? How can we convince people that oratory skills are just as important as reading and writing?
I think a massive barrier to confidence in the UK is the class system, which sadly is still alive and well. As someone with a pronounced northern accent, I never endured any stigma working and living in the south but, as soon as I returned north, it became more of an issue. It's as though some insiduous self-hatred makes people want to deny their roots. I have one friend who, as soon as she moved south, had elecution lessons to rid her of her accent and all traces of where she was from. Another, who went to Oxford, was looked down upon so much that by the end of her first year, all traces of her accent were gone as a matter of survival.
Maybe I am being naive but I have never found accents to be an issue in the USA, where there are less social restrictions and more social mobility. We need to take a leaf from our American cousin's book and make public speaking more inclusive. Take the emphasis of the idea that posher is better. After all, we have enough stupid posh people, who have blagged their way into positions of power. Do we really need any more?