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I HAVE been worried for some weeks about the television commercials for Sega, which seem to be full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Why is the presenter in a caravan park in Potsdam? Why is he so vile? How come they couldn't manage the lip-synch? Why, when they come on, do I want to have an epileptic fit?

A man from Collett Dickinson Pearce, an advertising agency (although not Sega's) helpfully answered some of these questions last week. Douglas Atkin has compiled research which has implications not only for people bewildered by Sega ads, but also, and alarmingly, for the Labour Party. His report, Things Fall Apart, posits the emergence of a new generation (aged between 17 and their early 30s) into a world of chaos. Families have broken down; young people have lost faith in teachers, the police, the Church, politicians, and any idea that hard work guarantees a job. Thatcherite dismantling of the Welfare State has left them convinced that they are out on their own.

A minority respond to all this with glee, congratulating themselves on developing new models of the family, taking short-term service industry 'McJobs' to pay for their fun. But 75 per cent are 'covertly very scared', and respond by banding together in groups and acting tough. Half of this lot, whom Mr Atkins calls the vigilantes after their heroes - Sly and Arnie and Harrison Ford in Falling Down - don't sound very pleasant at all. Asked which dogs they like best they all say Rottweilers; their favourite cars are 'throbbing Ford Mustangs'. The remainder are weedier, settle for Sierra Cosworths 'and don't express a view about anything'.

Sega ads are aimed at the gleeful group (I fear my antipathy probably means I am not one of these). Apparently they recognise the chaos, and decoding the ads 'gives them permission to enjoy them'. Yeah, yeah, you are probably thinking, all very interesting if you believe it, but what does it have to do with the Labour Party? Well, the forward-looking gleefuls say they aren't going to vote at the next election, while the vigilantes definitely are. The vigilantes are predictably keen on the far right.

This generation gives politicians a mere 13 per cent trust rating, against 85 per cent for Marks & Spencer. (Mr Atkins doesn't, incidentally, think they interpret the Tories' back-to-basics message as anything more than cynical posturing.) Perhaps if the Labour Party wants to offer a real alternative, it should start thinking St Michael. Or perhaps the M & S board should go straight ahead and take over the country. If Stanley Kalms of Dixons can set up schools for disadvantaged youths (and he reckons he can), why not? They have brought us lovely croissants and great knickers, why not foreign policy?

I AM very confused about what Darcus Howe, the black activist turned TV presenter, actually meant when he told the Voice that West Indians were violent and promiscuous. He tells me he was 'just taking the piss out of those daft people', and his sentiments were at least as applicable to white West Indians: 'Look at all the mulattos, not to mention their sexual peccadilloes with goats and sheep.' He also muttered something about the effects of the sun.

Howe claims the Voice lifted some of their quotes from a profile in the Observer. I consulted this, and in context the sayings of Darcus do indeed seem rather funnier and more self-parodying. What does being a West Indian mean? he was asked. 'It means I make children all the time. Why? Because I climb up on top of them (this is women, I think) and make sex. They didn't mind and I didn't mind and when I see the results I am pleased I didn't mind.'

I do hope Darcus isn't silenced by the disapproval of the new left moralists, those po-faced people who think that without two natural parents children invariably slide towards moral collapse, and who can't acknowledge cultural differences for fear of seeming improper. I hope for more mischievous, and not always entirely considered, Thoughts of Darcus.

I HAVE found it very wearisome constantly to be told how cool and groovy and brilliant David Letterman's show is - partly because I have never seen it and so feel uncool, partly because of the sad effect this American show has had on British television, spawning several imitations, of which the incoherent Danny Baker After All is merely the latest. So I am extremely pleased that Letterman has revealed he's not so groovy and hip after all, by bumping comedian Bill Hicks off the show for being too iconoclastic. Hicks, who was in London last week, told me scathingly that 'they're afraid one wackadoo in a trailer park in West Virgina might complain'.

Hicks's allegedly offensive jokes included one about the weirdness of Christians wearing crosses round their necks: 'Nice sentiment, but do you think when Jesus comes back he's really going to want to look at a cross?'; and another about pro-lifers: 'Boy, they look it, don't they? They just exude joie de vivre. You just want to hang out with them and play Trivial Pursuit . . .' I am sure it is entirely coincidental that a pro-life commercial ran during the Letterman show the following week.

IN THE week that the chief executive of the Consumers Association referred to high street banks' 'ineptitude compounded by complacency,' a friend took pounds 35 in 5p and 20p coins, nobly collected for Action Aid, to his local branch of the Midland. It charged pounds 2 for the onerous task of changing the coins into notes, and Action Aid's pounds 35 promptly became pounds 33. A Midland spokesman says this shouldn't have happened; my friend was 'probably mistaken for a business customer of another bank'. Other big banks suggests things are little better elsewhere. Barclays says its branches have the discretion to refuse this sort of transaction, and recommends its new coin-counting machine in Euston (useful if you live in Newcastle). NatWest charges non-customers pounds 2, and Lloyds can charge up to pounds 5 'if the branch is busy, with long queues'. What are banks for, I wonder?

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