steel city scribblings
I don’t know if the following musing is entirely relevant here but I think it has some bearing on what you say.
One thing I’ve noticed is the collapse of the “middle ground” – which is potentially catastrophic for the entire Western paradigm. It was this notion of “balance”, of a “restrained capitalism” which fuelled the Western self-image. The Right and Left could comfortably be denounced as “nutters” or “a bit unhinged” (and become figures of fun) but the media traditionally held on to the idea of “the sensible folk in the middle”. Basically this paradigm was built around an image of the “liberal” or “left liberal” point of view.
That this “liberal” notion was always bogus – or at least severely limited – was shown by the late Clive James. When I was a lad I stumbled on one of his books of TV criticism and I couldn’t put it down mainly because he was discussing programmes familiar to me. He always adopted an entertaining tone of detached bemusement even when talking about Margaret Thatcher. But at one point the mask slipped. He mentioned Tony Benn and became staggeringly vicious. It was very odd to read this: I felt as if my favourite uncle had suddenly thrown acid in my face. That was an educational experience.
Yesterday I looked through possibly James’s last book “Play All” – about the phenomenon of binge watching DVD box sets. The attractive wit was on display. But when he “got serious”, it was again an odd matter. This “left liberal” suddenly started spouting Tory, if not neo-con, rhetoric. There was the assumption of a phony populist position as he denounced “intellectuals”. And there was a hint of that fearmongering “West against the rest” mentality.
On surfing the net, I found him to be a militant supporter of the “war on terror” and of the invasion of Iraq. There is an interview from 2007 where he says this:
“Right now in Darfur, the really British papers who have been opposing the Iraq — what they call the Iraq War although the war only lasted a few days. What they really objected to was the mess that’s been made with the Iraq peace.”
Note the glib wording that tries to pass off an obscene point of view i.e. as if this invasion was just a little bit of a jog round the area to “liberate” the population (650,000 of which died according to the last permitted count). I daresay the bomb on Hiroshima didn’t explode for very long either. That too led to “peace” i.e. the final peace.
Bear in mind that this vile twaddle comes from a “centrist”. And I suspect that more and more “left liberals” will be showing their true colours. (Armando Iannucci and David Baddiel have jumped on the “Labour/anti-Semitism” bandwagon.)
When a crisis looms into sight, the mask slips and those phony fence sitters reveal their true selves. And the “left liberals” like James and Francis Wheen turn out to be indistinguishable from the hard right that they try to keep a distance from. There are passages in Clive James that could have come from Mark Steyn or Roger Scruton.
George, on your ‘middle ground’ we could both write screeds. Since the fall of the USSR – dovetailing with the end of Thatcher’s and Reagan’s useful shelf life – Tariq Ali’s “Extreme Centre” has had thirty years of dominance in the West. I see it as temporary. Capital’s dwindling ability to make concessions (with Macron’s assault on pensions showing the rulers of once dirigiste economies playing catch-up with the Anglo-Saxon model) is one milestone, I fear, on the road to more naked class rule in the advanced capitalisms.
And all the infrastructure is in place. CCTV everywhere … drift to a cashless economy, making every last hour and minute of our whereabouts chartable … the stuff we know thanks to the courage of Chelsea, Ed and Julian … all combine to enable a level of state control beyond the wildest dreams of a Hitler or Stalin.
As I often say, we are sleepwalking into totalitarianism. Michael Rosen’s prose poem captures some of this truth.
Yes, Clive James was a highly intelligent, urbane, humane and witty man. Ditto John Cleese and, more recently, those progressive cheerleaders – Clooney, Streep et al – for HRC in 2016. All show IMO that intelligence and basic decency are easily coopted for imperial agendas if not accompanied by readiness to penetrate the surface chimera of ‘liberal democracy’ to grasp the full extent – the chillingly logical extent – of capital’s laws of motion in the age of imperialism.
I used to be fearful of saying such things on this blog. I thought a softly softly approach the best tactic. In some ways I still do but, as the thief says to the joker in The Bard‘s All Along the Watchtower, this is no time for talking falsely – the hour is getting late!
That Dylan line has often gone through my head as perfectly appropriate for our times. There are another two such lines and they not only come from the same writer but even from the same song: Neil Young’s Ohio:
“We’re finally on our own”
“How can you run now you know”
(It’s actually “when you know” but my version sounds more urgent!)
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