Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hitchcock

And so the process will be complete. All three parties will be exactly the same. It began with the putsch against Margaret Thatcher in the autumn of 1990 and continued with the putsch against Iain Duncan Smith in 2003 and the skilful destruction of David Davis in 2005.

Most significant changes in modern British politics do not happen at General Elections, which are more or less rigged in advance by pollsters and the media. They happen in internal party struggles over which we have no control at all. An alliance of liberal, pro-EU political and media figures has worked relentlessly to remove everything that was conservative from the Tory Party.

That party’s only function is to be a safety valve for the anger of the remaining voters who have not been reconciled to Left-wing rule. Every few years they can go through the motions of protesting. Eventually, wholly deprived of a voice in Parliament, excluded from the BBC, they will be browbeaten into silence and total defeat.

I am sorry. I wish it were not true. But those who ignored my warnings against Mr Cameron, and foolishly voted Tory in 2010, have only themselves to blame for what is now happening.
Classic Peter Hitchens, fulminating over Dave's enthusiasm for gay marriage at you know where. Hitchens is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, if only because I find him so unbearably poignant. He's an outstanding exponent of an idea shared by idealogues of both Right and Left; the notion that all the ills of contemporary Britain lie in a conspiracy of the elites. The only difference between the two political wings is that one of them calls this conspiracy "neoliberalism" and the other one calls it "cultural Marxism". Hitchens Minor, famously a former member of the SWP, hasn't had to change his mindset during his political journey to the Right; all he has had to change is his terminology. Not satisfied with this evisceration of the Tories, he fixes his gimlet eye on Alfred Hitchcock:

What a strange film they have made about Alfred Hitchcock. It manages to make the late Fifties look rather wonderful, by spending a lot of money on clothes, cars and furniture, and dolling up Scarlett Johansson as a siren from that era, which suits her.

But it also rejoices in Hitchcock’s determination to destroy the calm of that age by smashing taboos about sex and violence, in his creepy film Psycho, based on an extraordinarily nasty book about a nauseating criminal.

Audiences were scared, thrilled and shocked by it, which made Hitchcock rich and proud, but poison of this kind, once it gets into the public mind, is hard to get out again.
What both these conspiracies ultimately pivot on is, of course, a collection of dupes better known as the British public, or rather sub-groups thereof. Depending on who is proposing the theory, either the middle or working classes are framed as the essentially decent but misled victims of the elite predators, and all and any perverse behaviours enacted by them are explained as a kind of "false consciousness" that only confirms their victimhood. The idea that the British public may, from top to bottom, be a pretty selfish and irresponsible bunch, that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm, is, I suspect, one of the greatest taboos of our age.

There is a tremendous nostalgia for the 1950's here as well, most prominent in conservative critiques, but never entirely absent from those of the Left, either. I think it's a nostalgia that goes beyond the Right's wistful longing for the social conservatism of that era, or the Left's memory of a time when organised labour had at least some negotiating rights on the drawing of the social contract; it's a nostalgia for a time when politics worked. The reason British politics has simply become a game of charades, in which we pretend to vote for them, and they pretend to govern us, is that almost every aspect of the British state has achieved what Robert Bellah called "path dependency".

Economic stagnation through resource depletion and global over-production, the knotweed growth of the legal-bureaucratic complex, abetted by the EU's utopian theology of salvation-through-regulation, mega-banks sitting on teetering piles of weapons-grade financial "instruments", are not "problems" that can be solved by "politics". They are simply unstoppable one-way processes that have to reach their own (disastrous) conclusions. Once that is done, then politics can perhaps re-grow out of the wasteland. For the most part the British people have been perfectly happy for these processes to promulgate themselves, as long as the value of their houses has been rising and/or they can still afford their subscriptions to Sky TV. The sad truth that "true believers" like Hitchens cannot acknowledge is that there never was a chance of an alternative Britain, whether socialist or traditionally conservative. Our society and culture accurately reflect the kind of people we are: money-conscious, feckless and opportunistic.

How could it be otherwise?

2 comments:

Julian Bond said...

'teetering piles of weapons-grade financial "instruments"' Nice! Should that be "weaponised" or "weapons-grade"? I guess that depends on which side of the Atlantic you live.

seeAlso http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/02/political-failure-modes-and-th.html at least for the blog writing if not for the comments.

Greyhoos said...

Well, since you mention the other side of the Atlantic...

I'm reading this from those shores, and help but be struck by how cannily familiar much of it sounds.