UBIQUITOUS, insidious; uplifting or invidious – whatever your take on the doctrine of the Zen Master of the high street gift shop you can’t deny the quiet power of the message or its ability to delight and infuriate in equal measure. It’s a bona fide phenomenon that harks back to a simpler time when the Ministry of Information originated posters shone torches of moral restraint into our darkest wartime hour.
Despite cherished freedoms, the English – for all their castle/island mentality – still love to be told what to do: so much better than actually thinking for themselves. From the cult of the strong leader – whose policy shortcomings are conveniently excused by broad sweeps of bold action – to the NannyState; to err, Nanny… self-proclaimed experts and men in suits exert a grim throat hold on a credulous nation.
Keep Calm and Carry On: Cups of tea; knowing glances; arms gently patted in consolation (none of the hysterical emotional carry ons of Johnny Foreigner) understated discipline, in-bred acceptance; a matronly Hattie Jacques confronting Sid James; and subtle character- building osmosis; all permeate this slow-burner of finger-pointing – Your country needs you to behave – officialdom masquerading as folk wisdom.
The regal crown that tops it off reaffirms heritage and historical clout; as if the man from the ministry has gently tapped you – yes you – on the shoulder with his rolled-up umbrella. The directive – it is far more that than just mere hint or suggestion – taps into that stiff upper lip, roll your sleeves up and take what life gives you stoicism that the English so love about themselves and express so warmly as a defining national characteristic. Although here it’s more about mugs, trays and tea towels than toughing out rationing and Luftwaffe raids. Still; mustn’t grumble…
It’s the people’s choice for some quiet defiance against the pressures of the recession – a bolster against the external influences we can do nothing about – as opposed to those two abortive clunkers made up on the back of an election card: We’re all in it together and The Big Society. See Dave, all you needed to do was go into the Crown archives and dig out an old poster – quickly reapply Crown copyright – and the national debt would have been wiped in the last couple of years for the price of a few cushions. Not only that but we’d all have something tangible to grasp – or sit on – of our part in the economic miracle: unlike the anonymous drain of taxation. Result? We’re all happy.
Got to be careful though – the Keep Calm tsunami could give him ideas. Expect a rush of other war time posters from a man who has never had an original thought in his life…
Meanwhile – somewhere in a dusty Westminster vault:
Be Like Dad – Keep Mum: “Just think George… the way we’re shrinking women’s options for work and independence we could go right back to the 40s – miss out the 50s altogether!”
Dig For Victory: “Hey George – how about the Dig Society? We could incorporate community work with dietary advice and exercise initiatives for obesity as well! Mind you; sounds like one of those awful permissive liberal thingies from the 60s; do ya dig man? Harrumph: that’s when everything started to go wrong with our country… and look where we’ve ended up: coalitions with Liberals and Clegg in every damn picture!”
Careless Talk Costs Lives: “This one is just plain stupid George… If it was true we’d all be dead by now; ha! What’s that? Elections are like daughters. Once lost never forgotten? Damned if I can see that one anywhere? George? George?!
And for some more personalised alternatives in the burgeoning Keep Calm industry…
Keep Calm! Who You Telling To Keep Calm?! One for wannabe Travis Bickles; proud owners of ASBOs; shopping arcade tumbleweed; estate ferals and Night Bus psychos everwhere.
Keep Calm And Corrie’s On: Look the European Championships are only every four years. (Same frequency as Ken Barlow’s affairs) Yeh; I know there’s the World Cup as well… Alright Champions’ League every year… Not forgetting the Olympics: yeh okay – but blanket coverage of that is a once in a lifetime event and…
Keep Calm And Cash In: Marketer’s dream. If we actualise the broad fiscal metrics of this multi-platform window of opportunity then the capacity to repurpose and refranchise gives vent to a complex synergy allowing maximum optimisation to drive associated market position. Which roughly means it’s got great legs and will sell any old tat!