Monday, 6 December 2010

Winner takes it all?

It was just one of those co-incidences I guess, that yesterday evening's TV, after our family trip to watch 'Mamma Mia' included an ITV programme about ABBA's most popular songs. Top of the list, 'The winner takes it all' - something that's happened several times in other popularity polls here and elsewhere. It is a well crafted and powerful song, a popular music standard, no doubt. Meryl Streep's rendition in the 'Mamma Mia' movie is both powerful and moving against a glossy romantic Greek backdrop.

The song speaks in a very personal and intimate way about coming to terms with the breakup of a love affair. It about disappointment, betrayal and moving on, but it's not a song of despair or ill will, but rather of resignation, dignified acceptance of sad reality. Its appeal is so enduring, it clearly touches deep feelings for a great many people. So what does this say about today's world?

The experience of broken relationships seems to have supplanted hope, trust and intimacy in what features most strongly in people's lives. What part, I wonder, has been played by the decline in shared faith and the dominance of reason and/or the passions that has contrived to make people more reluctant to work hard to sustain commitments and promises made to each other at a personal level. What part has been played in de-stabilising personal relationship by shfting ideas of the meaning of 'happiness' and 'fulfilment'? Behind the title of the song, used with great irony - 'The winner takes it all' lies a selfish and greedy vision of life sadly taken too much for granted nowadays. No amount of political posturing about the ideal of 'Big Society' is going to change that either.

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