Opinion

Paul McNamee: We can see our future in black and white

The world will look different in black and white because it harks back to a different world

I don’t know anybody who owns a black-and-white television. Maybe you do. Maybe you are one of the 7,000 people registered as having one in Britain. It’s both a curiously high and a curiously low number. And fascinating.

It can’t be because of some hipster retro desire to go old school on everything – putting down a craft beer to wander over and turn the dial that will skip to one of the three channels you receive.bAnd while I know that fewer and fewer under-25s have an actual TV at all, they are unlikely to be among the 7,000.

The cost for a black-and-white licence is £49. It’s £145.50 for a colour one. Maybe there is an element of money-saving for some, but for all?

The world will look different in black and white because it harks back to a different world.

America is an increasingly confusing place. What was once the great hope in the West, the nation that protected, that called us all, that offered a new life if yours (especially in Europe) was lost, is now almost impossible to recognise. At the time of writing this, there have been 307 mass shootings there this year. The seat of government is doctoring video evidence to support what it says is true when we can see the opposite with our own eyes.

The president says he’d consider shooting at immigrants who come to his border and throw stones. If English wasn’t the first language and our old ties so strong, it’s not a leap to see America as a nation we’d be warned about.

In black and white, in the black and white period, America was still the land of hope. (I recognise this may not have been the case for minorities actually there). Back in Britain, we have Dominic Raab, the man in charge of extricating us from the EU who admits he “hadn’t quite understood the full extent” of Britain’s dependence on the movement of goods between Dover and Calais. Oh Dominic…

In black and white, there is no Brexit. In fact, there may be no EU to leave.

With the old black and white you may well switch off more readily and pick up a book. And then, you’re really in the good stuff

The black-and-white TV is a time machine. It’s a nod to how things used to be, to whatever imagined past suits you best. This has a certain appeal. No flicking, no short attention span, no energy-sapping, night-long binge watching.

However, the one thing it doesn’t have is a lot of great TV. And who isn’t susceptible to some Killing Eve? Or Lovejoy repeats on the odd corner of a digital channel. And maybe this is the heart of it for our 7,000.

With the old black and white you may well switch off more readily and pick up a book. And then, you’re really in the good stuff. You dig into fiction that invites time and a deeper understanding of how we live now. Or non-fiction that fills in the reservoirs and allows us to know what we’re talking about and make decisions based on knowledge and not just gut.

Our 7,000 are the outliers for a better future. They’re not, in fact, clinging to an old world long gone, they’re making us deal properly with the world we’re in now. They’re recruiting agents for a knowledge-based tomorrow. They want to encourage us to read.

Turn up the contrast, brothers and sisters, I’m marching with you! And saving £96.50!

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