Saturday, March 19, 2011

ONCE UPON A TIME





There was a time, quite recently, when more or less everything was perfectly okay on these islands of ours. Everyone worked hard, everyone played cricket, everyone went to church and everyone listened to the wireless. There was no crime and all the children were well behaved. You could still use the word "gay" in its proper context. There were one of two Bleck Piple and Hoh Moh Sexuals, but they knew their place. There may even have been on or two bad people, but they had their bottoms spanked and their necks broken and lived happily ever after, or not, as the case may be.

Then, quite recently, everything on these islands became awful. Really awful. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, excrementally awful the Daily Mail believes that modern Britain really is. Children cannot read or write; teachers are imprisoned for subtly reprimanding them; middle-class women have no higher aspiration than to become prostitutes; parts of the North of England are under Al Quaeda control. When the Chinese government donated two Pandas to London Zoo, Mac submitted a cartoon in which the animals threatened to commit suicide.

"But Andrew: haven't all people at all times looked back with nostalgia on the olden days? Hasn't everyone over 30 always thought that in their day, the summers were better behaved and the children were hotter and the women were braver and the soldiers were prettier? Don't you yourself think that the children's TV and the comic books were better when you were growing up, even if the pop music was much, much worse?"

Indeed. But the Daily Mail is not just telling the story of how the world used to be wonderful and how it recently became shitty. It tells the story of a world in which Somebody Is Responsible.

We didn't merely go to hell in a handcart. Someone sent us there. Deliberately.

It is the propagation of this story which makes the Daily Mail so pernicious. Daily Mail Woman may be bright enough to realise that there is no such thing as Winterval, that the dark skinned family next door are not actively working towards the establishment of a European caliphate and the two elderly spinsters next door but one are not part of a lobby hellbent on the destruction of civilisation. 

But when the individual lies are forgotten, the meta-narrative remains. Everything was lovely. Everything is shitty. Someone is responsible. Blacks? Gays? The Political Correctness Brigade? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds? But it would be relatively easy to change it back. Bring back hanging. Bring back the cane. Abolish immigration. Ban veils. Then everything in the garden will be lovely.

And this meta-narrative haa poisoned political discourse. Politicians on both sides believe in it, or pretend to believe in it. You can't have a sensible discussion about border controls, or running schools, or how to help people who don't have jobs: because discussion about IMMIGRANTS, DISCIPLINE and WELFARE SCOUNGERS are predicated on the theory that everything used to be fine and everything recently became awful.

During the election, David Cameron made the expression Broken Britain something of a mantra. Disgraced former Prime Minister Tony Blair said, explicitly, that before he came to power society had pretty much ceased to exist and been replaced with a maelstrom in which children murdered children in every shopping mall. It was his moral duty to restore civilisation through ASBOs, identity cards, literacy hours, war with Iraq etc.  

There is nothing wrong with hyperbole. I myself have used hyperbole on millions of occasions. We shouldn't hold a demagogue to account for the literal truth of everything she says during a full blown rant. If I say that in the entire history of the universe, no Scotchsman has ever left a tip in a restaurant, then it is not very helpful to say that in 1968, your friend Tavish McHamish said "Jings! What fine haggis" and left a threepenny bit under his napkin. I probably didn't expect you take me literally. But I probably did expect you to infer that I thought that Scottish people were a bit mean with money.

I don't know to what extent Melanie Phillips literally believes that the singing of hymns in Civil Partnership ceremonies will bring about the end of civilisation as we know it. I don't know the extent to which the Campaign Against Political Correctness and all the other rentaquotes believe that Political Correctness was invented by t he Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxists with the specific objective of bringing down western civilisation.

I don't even know to what extent any anti-semite ever really believed that a committee of evil Rabbis, operating out of a secret bunker under the Mount of Olives, was issuing edicts that, at 9.30PM on Channel 4, during a changing room scene in Footballers Wives, a man's penis should briefly hove into view. ("That will inflame the passions of goy women, cause them to leave their husband, bring down their society and hastern the coming of the Messiah. Oy! This roast baby is awfully good, isn't it?") Many of them really did, and really do, believe that the Media and especially Hollywood, is controlled by "Jews" and that this explains why the telly and the pictures are so rude and violent nowadays. 

Have you noticed, by the way, that no-one ever complains about shadowy Fenian puppet masters manipulating history from behind the scenes, or implies that the government of the State of Israel is like a thick, drunken navvy?

When Mel says that The Gay are plotting to bring about the end of civilisation as we know it, we may suspect her of going over the top for effect. But unless her typing is simply to be regarded as the newspaper equivalent of an idiot-boy going "burr-burr-burr", we have to assume that it is an exaggeration of something. Unless she believes that The Gay are, at some level, deliberately and intentionally doing harm, for politically motivated reasons, nothing she says makes the slightest sense. 

Mr Karl Marx believed that society had been dreadful and oppressive for most of human history, but that, real soon now, a fundamental change would occur and everything would be perfect and utopian for ever and ever, amen (although he didn't  believe in God). Mr Marx also believed that society was defined by its economic base -- one half of society controls the means of production, and the other half doesn't -- and that everything else grew out of that fundamental inequality. You can't fix the church or the schools or the family until you fix the economic basis: once the proletariat control the means of production, everything else will come right as surely as night follows day.

The Daily Mel, as we have seen, believe that society is defined  -- built on -- the privileged status afforded to heterosexuals and the inferior or subordinate status afforded to homosexuals. This is the core, the foundation, the bedrock the thing everything else was built on. As long as that bedrock of sexual inequality remained in place, society was good and perfect and idyllic. But someone has, or is just about to, overturn that fundamental base. We started regarding homosexuals as normal; now, we regard them as superior; pretty soon, heterosexuality will be forbidden. As a result, things have fallen apart and the centre is unable to hold  If mere anarchy were shortly to be loosed upon the world, I shouldn't be in the least bit surprised.

Everyone creates an enemy in their own image. The Daily Mel's fictional universe is a mirror image of the Marxism which she abominates As mythologies goes, it's neat, it's compelling, it could almost be true and it's completely barking mad.


9 comments:

culfy said...

Okay, explain the point of the clip please.

Helen Louise said...

That Generation game clip was one of the most delightfully camp things I've ever seen.

Andrew Rilstone said...

That everything was much better in the olden days, especially attitudes to gay people and black people. (Although I have to admit, once you get over the appallingness of black face minstrels, AND the silliness of people singing "in Dixie Land I take my stand" in Posh English, I think the Black and White Minstrels clip is a really nice bit of song and dance. Which is a bit like saying that Mr and Mrs Hitler are a charming couple if you annoy their politics, I admit.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

I just Godwinned my own thread, didn't I?

Helen Louise said...

You just Godwinned *yourself*, which deserves some prize or other.

Andrew Rilstone said...

"if you avoid their politics"

Albert said...

Ahhh, busy morning, a chance to relax and my favourite phrase of the week so far appears (St Paul and Jesus agree with Dave Sim...)
I believe there is no other writer on planet from whom I would expect to read this.
Thank you...

SK said...

(Oh, and I noticed you're arguing in the alternative, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth pointing out the problem with one of the alternatives).

Gavin Burrows said...

”Mr. Marx also believed that society was defined by its economic base -- one half of society controls the means of production, and the other half doesn't -- and that everything else grew out of that fundamental inequality. You can't fix the church or the schools or the family until you fix the economic basis: once the proletariat control the means of production, everything else will come right as surely as night follows day…

…Everyone creates an enemy in their own image. The Daily Mel's fictional universe is a mirror image of the Marxism which she abominates.”


Whereupon, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared!

Judging by past experience when you write “Mr. Marx” I am better off reading “those tub-thumping slogan-spouting Marxist fundamentalists”. (The type I tend to dub Tankies.) And certainly those people had a tendency to claim ‘revolution’ as a kind of magic cure-all which would automatically do away with all ills. (Including, among many of them well up to the Eighties, the “bourgeois deviation” of homosexuality.)

Nevertheless, there surely is a small group of people who have a disproportionate amount of wealth and property, and that ownership gives them a disproportionate amount of influence over society. They may be believing a sensible thing in a silly way, or at least in an un-nuanced sort of a way, but there’s still that nugget of sense beneath it all. Claiming the world to be run by a cabal of Gay Marxist German intellectuals, conversely, is like claiming the twelve foot lizards, Father Christmas is pulling the string or John Lennon was the walrus goo goo goo joob. It has zero material basis.

And the mirror image of the Tankies is surely not the Daily Mel but the free marketeers. “Privatisation” merely replaces “command economy” as the magic fix. Of course the Mel support free markets but it doesn’t tend to be a central plank for them, they prefer to depict themselves as defending British traditionalism.

I think the anti-Gay thing just comes from a middle class spendthrift Puritanism. Sex is permissible provided it’s for a set purpose (baby making), is conducted in the marital bed on Saturday night and no-one enjoys it much. Whereas those queer boys, their sole purpose can be none other than enjoying themselves…