England: The Banana Monarchy

Several rungs below banana republics on the roster of government types, one might find “banana monarchy”. This is post-Brexit Britain.

British monarchy cartoon, Queen of England, Goya, satire, funny, dark, Brexit, Marxist, Nairn, enchanted glass, trident, nuclear bomb, atomic, surveillance state, corgis, dragon, fat cats, capitalism, the city, rot, morlocks, ogres, rats, culture, Oscar Wilde, aristocracy, clergy, C of E, parrots, Goya, Richard Carlile, Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, Orwell, 1984, soldier, officer, military cuts, Kipling, Byron

 

Monarchy

Some apologists of monarchy would have you believe that Britain’s first family is actually its worst off. They, like Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, or O’Brien of the 1984‘s Inner Circle, suffer a burden so great – all so that the thousands of millions may maintain their authoritarian consolations. A self-selected few keeping big, bad Freedom from our doors.

But do they let the mask slip? Do they let on that, behind the enchanted glass, sits nothing more than a troop of hairless apes (with just as many, if not greater, foibles than the rest)? Do they heck. They trudge along through opening ceremonies, and palace balls, and horse shows, waving and granting this and that, trailing past glories. This, they do for us. Or, more pointedly, they do it for you. Why would you – and why do you – inflict such existences? Upon they, who by accident of birth have to lord it over you. Isn’t it about time we end this protracted farce?

I suggest so. It’s time we got together, take the Windsors to one side and say, “you can pack it in dears, we can see through you”.

 

Military

The one industry prevented from collapse by Maggie Thatcher and her heirs is the arms. This broader trend – one you might call military protectionism – mimics another. As revealed in Curtis’ The Mayfair Set, under David Sterling the SAS evolved from being a band of Lawrences into the world’s premier mercenary force. Of course, like private physicians, they do a bit of “national service” (the raid on the Iranian Embassy) but the bulk of their work is the propping of Arab princes and African despots, so that they may, in turn, fulfill the Foreign Office’s need for “forces of stability”.

So vital, to take one salient example, is Saudi Arabia as a lynchpin (putting solidarity between kings to one side), that we routinely overlook this hub and exporter of Wahhabism – the greatest ideological foe to British values found offshore.

This relationship almost guarantees perpetual war. Wars, we were told, nuclear weapons had made redundant. Trident, in its titanium skin, with its terrible luminous eyes trained on its equals on what we call Russia and China – perhaps even on those currently irradiating American soil. I say ‘perhaps’ because the Keepers, as Martin Amis named nukes in his essay Thinkability, are incomprehensible. Their purposes are beyond the scope of human imagination, Their intentions surpass the confines of theory. And to Them, the spawn of Rutherford and Oppenheimer: we are nothing. Mere fetuses of the post-civilisation age – the age of Atom.

 

Culture

As the Empire folded, leaving cartographers with the headache of endless partition, Yemen’s last British governor hosted a dinner party before heading home. As the meal came to a close, he turned to the Minister of Defense and honoured guest Denis Healy (an aside: never trust a man with eyebrows like that), and said, “do you know, Minister, I believe that in the long view of history, the British Empire will be remembered only for two things… The game of football, and the expression ‘fuck off’.”

The British don’t really help competing visions. (One such bid see Brits as the greying wise old Greeks to the new Rome, situated in Maryland. Personally, as you can probably already tell, I find Athenian allusions a little strained.)

But beyond the endless football, shit TV, imported bluster and petite bourgeoisie tedium, there’s plenty to respect: see Blake’s dragon, Darwin’s finches, Byron’s portrait (author of the stunningly brilliant line, “[in England] Cant is so much stronger than Cunt“), books by Orwell, Paine, Mill and Kipling, the works of Milton, Hazlitt, E.P. Thompson and Auden. There’s also the great British dissidents: Richard Carlile, whose bravery in the fight for free expression should be known to all liberals and libertarians; and John Ball who, along with Wat Tyler, led the Peasants’ Revolt and met a tragic end.

Equally worthy of mention are Bertrand Russell, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charles Dickens, George Elliot, John M. Keynes, Richard Dawkins, Eric Hobsbawm and Shelley.

These are the literary and political traditions I admire, and hope to draw attention to in some small way. They, and, more generally, the cause of Liberty, are cultural handrails far more deserving of respect and celebration than anything the Hanoverians ever forced upon us.

 

(Edit: An irony at whose expense? Britain has just passed the “Snoopers Charter” – allowing a score of government agencies to monitor all citizen’s internet browsing history. The European Court of Human Rights rose strong concerns about its tyrannical spirit.)

 

Paddy

 

Brexiteers: No, Your Opinions Aren’t Just as Valid

  1. Economy = downgraded to that of a “developing” country.
  2. Society = ridden by fear and abuse.
  3. Our politics = seized by cynicism, opportunism and mutually assured destruction.
Et tu, Watson? The Blairite Revenge

This, all of it, our country chose.

We, those on the Remain side of the argument, seriously misjudged our neighbours and compatriots: many of them really are that stupid. And, no – they cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. Figures from the left, right and centre warned them, the economic institutions and trade unions warned them, the professors and cultural figures warned them, NATO, USA (Trump excluded), Norway’s PM warned them. Warned them what our country would become.

Gone are the As: Sterling plunges

And, nay again, they themselves cannot suddenly pretend that their political analysis is just as deep and deserving of respect as the above.

(In fact, the only figures of note which supported Brexit appeared to be Putin – a long and bitter hater of the EU – and ISIS. The latter has since praised Britain’s move.)

As much as I cannot abide the cult which has slivered up upon and about the grave of that vicious fat dog, Churchill’s words are playing on repeat in my inner ear,

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter

This may help you make sense of Michael Gove’s insight:

…People in this country have had enough of experts

You really have met a cultural incline when expert has become a dirty word, sewn into our porch alongside those other faux-pas (excuse my French) “‘ealth and safety” and “political correctness”.

Of course I’m being unfair: 52% is barely a majority of the voting population, and fairly meaningless of the whole. But it is demonstrative of that cultural strain, long nurtured by demagogues and flustered Cameroons, in this United Kingdom: anti-Brussels, anti-immigrant, anti-Other – becoming something more than a nuance. A new and dangerous voting block that Westminster has no idea of how to counter-act (and may soon not wish to).

A good number of those who put a cross next to Leave seem to have sincerely thought their choice meant, “send the Poles, Pakis and… uh, Polynesians home” (whatever that means). Taking “their” country back so they can set it back on course to backwaterdom, which Britain momentarily detoured from post-WWII. There in the swamp that results they can fester and congeal, filling the pungent air with their pungent thoughts.

Byron, Blake, Paine… are these the heroes of the Britain Firsters?

And it’s this demographic which knows the least about the history and culture of Britain. When they talk of defending its culture they are almost certainly referring to football hooliganism, shit larger and trash TV – and not the domains of Tolkien, verses of Auden, those skyscapes of Turner. Nor do they acknowledge the Levelers, Chartists and the heroes of the Enlightenment, without which their suffrage would be denied.

(I mean really, just take a look at Britain First’s take on the Peasant’s Revolt here)

Ezra Pound may have been writing of his country of birth, but there is something in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley which does apply here and now, in this Blighted realm where the 52ers reign:

No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait
 

Paddy

Beyond Reason: Where Neo-Conservatives Are Born

Irving Kristol pointed out that Lionel Trilling believed, “the liberal state of mind is reformist and humanitarian; a state of mind whose basis is snobbery, self-satisfaction, unimaginativeness. . . . The liberal flatters himself upon his intentions, ‘and prefers not to know that the good will generate its own problems, that the love of humanity has its own vices and the love of truth its own insensibilities.’ [Italics mine]

Honesty from a leading Neoconservative

The Neoconservative Journey – Hoover Institute

 

Contrary to the title, this debate had nothing to do with Western values. Those on stage (and political) right succeeded in twisting the debate parameters into a battle between all which is good – the burden of which they took on – versus all that’s bad. Defending Enlightenment values against the depravity of cultural relativism, of which radical Islam – with all the chauvinism, hanging, stoning and sadism that goes along with it – is the greatest benefactor. A disingenuous tactic, but a shift that the audience accepted.

It’s disingenuous because:

  1. Tolerance, liberty and civil protections are not Western values, they’re human values. See the United Nations’ Charter
  2. When, can it be said, did the West honestly export these values?

There’s something about the jingoism of the middle-class that niggles at me more than the common, tad more raucous kind. It takes work: the liberal-interventionists/neo-conservatives (this political labeling could do with a bit of a clean-up) of the Baby Boomer generation have to first suppress the knowledge of 1 and 2. (A mental prerequisite that the rank and ranker of the EDL need not bother themselves with.) Pretend they never attended those rallies against British complicity in Indochina’s incineration, the formation of Latin American death squads and African apartheid, before they embark the Patriot bus.

 

Over Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pinot

Did I just conflate a metropolitan state of mind with that gutter impulse? You must forgive me. No, the militant middle-class is not merely nationalistic, it constitutes a broad bulwark against barbaric hoards the world over. This war, championed by armchair generals Middle England over, recognises no borders.

With the way these neo-libs and neo-cons and neo-atheists proudly state their alignment with “Civilisation” against the savages, you’d think they hooked this herring all by themselves. But in fact it’s the oldest lie in the book, holding back even the God myth in consequential misery.

Doctors Without Borders Hospital, Kunduz. Bombed by US Airforce

While lambasting cultural relativists they themselves commit the logical sin of cultural determinism. Believing that religious texts (which in the next breath they claim the sheep fuckers can’t read) modify the brain, replacing empathy with a fetish for suicide-murder, and reasoned deliberation with screeching Ackbars.

If they do wrong, well what do you expect? That’s what they are. If we do it (a word employed by both sides in the debate linked above and difficult to abandon) those for the motion would plea good, enlightened intentions. “Oh, we blew up your school, sending little arms and little legs up to the Heavens? Well, rest assured, we like Galileo.”

This is almost certainly against the point but this sort of thing,  but this profaning of that most profaning of projects – the Enlightenment – bothers me. The brilliance of Hume, Paine, Humboldt and the first scientists worthy of the name, is lessened, muddied, in the speeches of them, Kipling’s heirs. (It pains me to compare this sorry lot to the author of the Jungle Book and Recessional, the old reactionary at least had some panache – and compassion.)

 

Iraq – Laboratory of Neo-Cons

 

When their parallel Universe merges:

The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington’s role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America’s anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.

From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem’s harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington’s Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s against the common foe of Iran.

But by 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel’s arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country’s old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East. All steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form. Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.

According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup [against Kassem] was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq’s educated elite. Killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.

The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad. For American firms, this was their first major involvement in Iraq.

But it wasn’t long before there was infighting among Iraq’s new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960’s, I often heard C.I.A. officers including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time, speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.

Roger Morris of the NYT

I remind readers of the neo-conservative’s long and fraught love affair with the harsher side of Ba’athism not to exonerate Saddam nor his gang. Only to say that the Arab appears to have a better recall of “our” recent misdeeds in Mesopotamia than we allow ourselves. How could anyone blame them for shooting a skeptical eye westward – toward a people so blinded by the glow emitted by long-gone epochs? (A gaze which the Arab has been trained to steer clear of Islam.)

And this is the crux. We, “the West”, can certainly talk the talk when needed. We point to the examples of Thomas Paine, of Bertrand Russell and George Orwell – great men all – while, during the very same exertion, pissing on their legacy. Civilian slaughter, torture and mass deception are the evils they fought against when they raised the pool of Western thought. But, we’re told by Nick Cohen, Douglas Murray, Christopher Hitchens and David Aaronovitch, these are temporary hiccups, required in the short-term so that we may maintain our lofty principles to History’s terminus. They may not be philosophers but, don’t be fooled, these men know that principles can’t take a day – or decade – off. They’re either held aloft persistently and consistently, a la Lady Liberty’s torch, or not at all.

So what are they really for?

Paddy

BREAKING: Woman Has Birthday

That hideous hag who occupies the country’s largest council house is 90 today. This is the leading story.

queen-elizabeth-II_2796645b

Costly, anti-democratic to its core, archaic and masochistic. There’s more anti-monarchical arguments than I care to rub in your grimy proletarian faces, preoccupied, as they are, by all that pompsense. Thomas Paine managed to succinctly diagnose our national sickness, and that’s what you’ll get.

“One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.”

I’m x and Mad as Hell: A Brief Critique of Identity Politics

“Identity politics” has become an irritating fixture in the culture war, its most notable advocates being the moderate left. Liberals.

The belief that all members of said group share a common interest or political goal is, in most cases, bogus. (Don’t worry Marx fans, I’m not going near class interest, an economic partition with some grounding.) If asked to describe moi, some stoic soul may respond with “Irish” or “white male”. But the fact is, these labels say very little about me. I feel no particular affinity with those men and women who also own a green passport, or with my white brothers for that matter, or with the male half of the species in general. This may seem obvious – in which case you probably won’t vote Clinton.

Whether one accepts their club membership or not aside, categories of identity are frequently found to clash. Listen again to Morrissey’s song Irish Blood, English Heart. It highlights one such clash many occupying the island which gave the world Cromwell and TOWIE experience (present writer included). Simply put, the passions of a rebel combined with the deference of a subject. In identity political terms, how can one be expected to show admiration to a Queen whose head it’s presumed you would like to see atop a pike?

And that’s just a relatively straight-forward case of nation-hood – where does the overweight transgender black disabled Cherokee lesbian even begin?

I see little point in feeling common cause with millions of others who also happen to share the same accident of birth, and certainly no reason to derive my political stances from it (and even I did, which accident would I choose?). To do so seems is so obviously illogical and – importantly – illiberal.

Liberalism, as envisioned by its fathers, was quite different to what is bandied around today by the moderate Left. Individualism, free inquiry and universality in law, both moral and legalistic, were central to the arguments of John Locke, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine. In opposing the absolute rule of Kings and the stupidity of inherited rule, these figures sought to demolish the psychological barriers to progress: caste-thinking, institutionalised nepotism and, although, they themselves wouldn’t have put it this way, groupthink.

I would fully expect having to defend these truisms against conservatives but, more often than not, I am finding that I have to defend the principles of liberalism against those who claim to be its bearers. Black Lives Matter is just the most recent iteration of this. To think that uttering the line “all lives matter” could make one a target of scorn and abuse ought to make all leftists shudder. Internationalism and equality, I shouldn’t have to remind you, is what we’re about.  (“All mankind is my brethren.“)

And wasn’t Martin Luther King who said

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Not their melanin count, nor what they were, but what they thought and did.

Unsurprisingly to anyone who can see the sorry state of affairs identity politics has brought us, it was an invention of the Right. A tool employed in order to provide some sort of united front against the tide of revolutionary spirit consuming America.

The Cultural Revolution was a vast movement which carried the hopes, aspirations and antagonisms of the African Americans, the Native and Hispanic, the poor, women, the young – practically everyone who became known as “special interests” in the in the Lippman-esque Crisis of Democracy.

In order to have a fighting chance against this groundswell which was rapidly speaking for anyone not frequenting the wine bars of D.C. or treating hangovers in Manhattan’s boardrooms, the Right conjured up an identity anyone should have been proud of: the WASP. Although this concept has its origins in the so-called Nativist Movement of the 19th century (moccasins and protruding copper cheekbones were notably absent) it was only in the 1960s that it really took off. White Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, this pointed declaration needed brains to back it up. The not quite canine William F. Buckley saw to that, while Wall Street supplied the brawn. Ronald Reagan, quite a bit later, supplied the, um well, “charm“.

A powerful electoral force was established. White working Christians were led to believe that they were the last line of defense in an existential battle with the ungodly forces of socialist agitation. A pretext which convinced WASPs to excuse the very worst excesses of American force. The sponsoring of brutal, occasionally genocidal dictators abroad and political assassination and mass-surveillance at home. All, they lied, were in defense of all-American values.

The white working class were conned into thinking their interests aligned with the elite’s interest, and this block is now a permanent obstacle fixture of American politics. That’s the origin of identity politics as we know it: born in the deceit and the backwards thinking of conservatism, and that’s where it ought to stay.

Paddy