Punk heroine swallowed by gravity well

If anything tells me 1977 is a long time ago, it’s this headline:

Dame Vivienne Westwood leads tributes to Malcolm McLaren

Before I comment on that, let me remind you of McLaren’s own take on things:

Yeah, you heard it right:

God save the Queen and the fascist regime.

Dame Vivienne of Punk – who’d of thunk? She’s come a long way from the shop in the Kings Road. Don’t get me wrong, Westwood is a heroine of mine and the recognition is richly deserved.  What does interest me though is how her attitudes must have changed between the release of God Save The Queen (“she ain’t no human being”) in 1977 and her acceptance of her OBE in 1992.

Gravity Well - Wikimedia Commons

Gravity Well - Wikimedia Commons

The illustration above  shows how very large or dense objects stretch and change space-time around themselves. It’s called a Gravity Well, and the larger the object the greater the distortion. The gravity well around a black hole is bottomless.

Money, recognition and success have changed Vivienne Westwood, and the establishment’s attitude towards her, as inevitably as mass distorts space-time. Of course, it’s not just money, recognition and success that distort individuals and how the world responds to them. As Lord Acton put it:

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It’s obvious that power makes things much easier – people argue with you less and things you want done happen more quickly. Which is one reason why we need the teenage children of politicians to be stroppy little bleeders like the Sex Pistols, to take their complacent parents down a peg or two.  What is less obvious is that from the position of power, the centre of the gravity well if you like, things appear entirely normal and unchanged.

It’s not just power.  Pretty girls live in a world where people smile and help them. The real shock for women of a certain age is that they lose their pulling power, and the gravity well that has drawn good-will towards them since they were gap-toothed bundles of cuteness is suddenly shallower. Of course they want botox.  Men too: one young Dr Kildare of my acquaintance finds all nurses are basically helpful because his world is softened by the charm of his smile.

Since I’m reading Anathem at the moment, where all sorts of things are mapped numerically, it occurred to me you could probably model the distortion in a person’s world-view so that we could derive the “corruption-quotient” of specific jobs, ranging from night-club bouncer through MPs and film stars and on to billionaires. In effect, you could model the size, shape and depth of each job’s gravity well.

No-one would give you the funding of course, but if I were that kind of mathematician, I’d be tempted to do it for fun.

If you want more on gravity wells, and who wouldn’t, here’s another video. Quieter this time.

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5 responses to “Punk heroine swallowed by gravity well

  1. You should already have seen this. However:

    http://xkcd.com/681/

  2. I think you start your post with possibly the most important point.

    “1977 is a long time ago”

    While I agree that money, recognition and success impact on an individual’s outlook, I would suggest that the passage of time has more of an effect. Partly because I’m not the person I was five minutes ago, one minute ago, thirty seconds ago – I’ve had new things experiences which have changed (albeit potentially in a very small way) what I understand of the world. In 1992 (and I have photographic evidence to prove this) I was playing with a Smurf figurine in a sandpit. A lot’s happened to me since then and that’s not now how I spend the majority of my days. Equally, the world around me has changed. The Internet happened, for one thing, and our British culture is generally more liberal and accepting of diversity.

    Even people who haven’t experienced huge turnarounds in their lifestyle change their opinions over a period of time. To quote an old dead man:

    “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.” (Winston Churchill)

  3. Well, yes you are right, Jon, but then what happens to my lovely metaphor? 🙂

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