Leading Article: A week is a long time in public relations

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WE LIVE in the Year of the Dolphin, perhaps a surprise to Chinese astrologers but no doubt auspicious for some. Dolphin Awareness Week, decreed by the same lobby, will soon be upon us. There is a growing tendency to select a cause and then to specify a day, a week or a year for it. Although there are only 52 weeks in a year, there are at least 180 causes each claiming their seven days in the sun. This has got out of hand. Dolphins are amiable creatures, but are we expected to nourish the same reserves of tender concern upon learning that this is also London Cabbie Year? What next? Love London Underground Week?

Of course, some events represent fine motives. No one could dissent from the United Nations Year of the Child or the week devoted to the Royal National Institute for the Blind. But the public relations industry cannot resist a lazy promotional exercise; thus we are invited during various weeks of the year to celebrate the chip, the Bramley apple, ice cream, the prune or the condom. Mercifully, not all these festivities are simultaneous.

Some campaigners prefer to confront the public head-on with grim reality. That is the case with weeks devoted to Aids, epilepsy or transplants. But the sensitivities of advertising require that on occasion the week dare not speak its name. Therefore National Fertility Week and National Continence Week are in reality devoted to the opposites of those happy conditions. And where would Britain be without animals to adorn the sentiments of the nation during National Pet Week, National Dormouse Week, the week allotted to bats and the seven days proposed by a group of people in Hackney to mark National Rottweiler Week?

It is all part of the relentless pressure of secular consumerism on an old order built around the religious calendar, the rhythm of the seasons and a whole inherited fabric of ceremony from regimental anniversaries to royal birthdays. This may be the solemn period of Holy Week - but it is also National Tie Week. It could be that the proliferation of spurious occasions mirrors society's fragmentation. Here, as in so many matters, perhaps His Holiness the Pope might restore a sense of proportion. The Roman Catholic Church observes its Holy Years only every quarter century. That is a proper period for reflection.