We're ruined; and it's Oprah's fault!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Most readers in the conservative blogosphere will be familiar with Theodore Dalrymple's critiques of how the British welfare state has created a dependent underclass totally devoid of moral values. In a review of Dalrymple's recent book, Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses, Richard Davenport-Hines argues that Dalrymple, "confronts so many bullies and demolishes so much delusive thinking in this brave, emphatic and undeniably important book; but the greatest ogre of all he will not even name."

Davenport-Hines agrees that Britain is indeed fallen, but Dalrymple, in playing to American neocons, cannot name the cause. This ogre is supposedly American popular culture. Britain was civilized into the 1970s, argues Davenport-Hines, so it was less the welfare state (built up in various stages over the last century, perhaps the most important being in the 1940s) than the spread of American television, fast food, and, more recently, political correctness that are to blame for the present moral crisis.

I tend to think that the font of delusive thinking is the desire to pinpoint blame for our universally fallen condition, to scapegoat while dressed in the respectable veneer of historiographical debate over fundamental causes. The real question is less what has gone wrong and who caused it? - things always go wrong, we are fallen - as why are people in a certain place or time without the creativity to save themselves once they come to recognize the problem?

Some are presently writing off France, as if the death of certain societies were a historical inevitability. Predicting her death is no doubt the safer bet, but in history there are no inevitabilities because humans are free. Will Britain save itself? The answer may depend on people finding the proper understanding of freedom, a freedom that is not understood in terms of the many romantic myths and lies that trap "individuals" in anthropologically false ideas of "their" personal freedom, but in terms of the recognition that we are free to act because at times we must act (lead and follow) to save ourselves. Once this recognition is sufficiently widespread a people can indeed do whatever it takes to get out of deep holes.

Reading Davenport-Hines, I was reminded of this quote that I picked up from Gil Bailie's Cornerstone Forum. I'm not a serious follower of Catholic debates on "the culture of death". But it strikes me that these words are as good as any for summing up our present moral crisis:
The culture of death is thus not the result of hedonistic excess. We lack the souls to be hedonists, which, in present circumstances, would be a moral achievement. Rather, in both its normative and exceptional guises, the culture of death is the poison fruit of excessive despair, born of a world made boring by our ‘freedom’ and a freedom made deadly by our boredom. – Michel Hanby


UPDATE:
BRITAIN'S first black Archbishop has made a powerful attack on multiculturalism, urging English people to reclaim their national identity.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said that too many people were embarrassed about being English. "Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains," he said.

The failure of England to rediscover its culture afresh would lead only to greater political extremism, he said.
English urged to reclaim identity

51 comments:

Syl said...

Let me just state for the record that if conservatives think we are 'fallen' because they don't like current American popular culture then I know for sure I am not a conservative and hope never to be one.

All this posturing about 'moral values' show you all to be just as snobbish as you think those 'elites' on the 'other side' are.

I'm tired of it.

Yesterday's crap about narcissism really ticked me off as well.

Knucklehead said...

Davenport-Hines lays it on pretty thickly:

[Dalrymple's book] seldom mentions the United States, scarcely acknowledges the impact of American popular culture on Europe, says nothing of the overwhelming impact on the television-dependent British underclass of the vulgarity, violence and emotional puerility of American programmes which have inundated this country since the 1970s.

How did this British underclass get so hopelessly "television-dependent"? However it happened can there be little doubt that the UK's football-hooligans are the direct result of "the vulgarity, violence and emotional puerility of American programmes"?

Surely they'd be doing tea and crumpets parties and spouting Shakespeare if it weren't for all that Beatles... errr... Roling Stones.... errr... Moody Blues.... errr.... Kinks.... (never mind, you know what I mean!) and eating all those Blimpie.... errr... Aurthur Treachers.... errr... (never mind, you know what I mean!).

Ah, and why resist a hardy rant at some neo-cons and "the Iraq invasion" and "American triumphalism"...

Indeed Our Culture, What's Left of It is written at times (it is painful to say) in the ingratiating tones of a sidling courtier in the household of an opinionated neocon potentate. The gentle little jibes against France are not as crude as Richard Perle's denunciations at the time of the Iraq invasion, but they reinforce the same triumphal message of American invincibility. Dalrymple's essay "When Islam Breaks Down" -- written explicitly for "American readers", though it contains interesting descriptions of Muslim criminals in English prisons -- promises and flatters Americans that "the fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle". Similarly, his magnificently vivid essay on Castro's Havana, which makes the poverty and despotism palpable on every page, comforts American readers with the assurance that official Cuban harping on the "horrible social breakdown . . . in the United States" bores even hardline Communists.

before returning to "it's all the fault of those horrid Yanks and their telly programmes!"

Nowhere does Dalrymple hint that the vices, the ugliness, the emotional infantilism of contemporary Europe might be inspired by American cultural infiltration. He complains -- and it is a crucial insight into the unpleasantness of contemporary Britain -- that "adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent". Does he really think columnists on the Observer are more to blame for this than the incessant message of American prime-time serials so excessively broadcast in Britain for thirty years?

Is somebody supposed to take this bloomin' Davenport-Hines moron seriously? I have some more American pop-culture for him - he's a maroon.

Knucklehead said...

Umm... Syl, what did I miss?

Let me just state for the record that if conservatives think we are 'fallen' because they don't like current American popular culture then I know for sure I am not a conservative and hope never to be one.

Could you elaborate?

truepeers said...

Just for the record, Syl, I don't think we are fallen because of American popular culture. My title is ironic.

Popular culture can help save us from our inevitable crises, because it is capable of articulating "high" moral or ethical values. And even when it doesn't, some culture, however hateful or crass, is better than having no culture at all.

It is snobbery not to see this. And Dalyrmple is no doubt guilty of this to some degree. But it is also arch snobbery for the elites to portray the underclass as victims in need of liberation from conservative values.

terrye said...

I know what Syl means.

Enough with the melodrama.

'I remember the good old days' my Grandad said 'and they were not all that good'.

Only their problems were not a result of popular culture, but poverty, starvation, illiteracy, racism, etc.

And I could say our popular culture was derived from the British. What was Charles Dickens if not popular culture?

So why bitch? and besides if they don't like it they can always turn it off.

truepeers said...

High culture is pretty much dead anyway. That's why popular culture is increasingly incorporating the old "high" values, to the extent it can. And to the extent it can't we have to bring the limits of all culture into debate.

Syl said...

Could I elaborate?

No. Not really. I just stated for the record what my position is. Or is not. As the case may be.

To me this is all over-analyzing and over-generalizing. Attaching labels to half of western society does no more for me than the labeling done by the 'other' side.

And just what are these great lost moral values that have plunged our culture into the depths of whatever?

In the back-and-forth of cultural issues, I do think it's your guys turn and is one of the reasons I'm here. Not to condemn what is happening to us culturally, just to slow it down a bit. But I find some of the arguments just as extreme on this side as the other.

ex-democrat said...

Oh really? "Thirty years ago," I regularly saw people being stabbed and beaten up in and outside pubs and clubs all over merrye olde englande.
Not the best evidence of the "civic virtues, good manners, ingrained personal habits of self-control and moderation," that stuck up twits like Davenport-Hines fondly "remember."
Seems to me that TV series such as Hill Street Blues, MASH, Cheers etc were morally uplifting rather than the opposite.
If I want to get a rise out of my english friends and relatives, there's no more surefire way to do it than to state - asa matter of fact - that i have felt far safer going about my daily life ever since i moved to the big bad USA.
drives em crazy.

Syl said...

I don't see what 'high' moral or ethical values have to do with it.

Self defense is self defense.

Some just don't see Iraq as part of the self-defense. Nor see the separateness of the muslim culture from the mainstream in Europe as a real problem.

Ethical and moral values have little to do with that. Half the West simply believes in different methods for solving problems.

ex-democrat said...

.. and some, like D-H, see the US as "the greatest ogre of all."
syl, do you not think that mindset has political ramifications?

Syl said...

political ramifications?

Everything has political ramifications.

Sigh.

ex-democrat said...

it's not just "different methods for solving problems," it's a whole different conception of what is and isn't the problem.
Apparently to some, we are the problem, not the jihadis.

truepeers said...

I should clarify what I mean by high moral and ethical values. Before postmodern times, high culture was exemplified by the lessons of tragedy. The student of tragedy was meant to identify with the victim of the story and gain some sense of how human desire can lead to tragic death. Restraint of desire, in most situations, was thus considered a high moral value, in opposition to the stereotypically popular values that flattered our desires for excesses in consumption, sex, etc., and for the crude scapegoating of our victims.

In various ways, for various reasons, the postmodern world confounds these traditional high-low oppositions, which is why this debate is so interesting. We may all agree that Davenport-Hines sounds like a silly nob whose doom and gloom language is an anachronism. Maybe that's because he can't find a narrative framework that is really suited to what is going on. Both traditional high and popular instincts fail him and everyone else to some degree. And so we remain unsure about the reality on the ground. Societies always have problems. But how can we know how serious are Europe's if we are no longer satisfied with our traditional stories and ways of representing decline or resurrection?

The reason these issues must somehow relate to the problem with the Muslim populations is that Europe has a demographic problem, high unemployment, and a welfare state it can no longer afford. It cannot find any solution to its religious or racial divide without reworking the present ethics (i.e. organization) of the society as a whole. And changing the ethics by which society organizes itself has traditionally required moral leadership. But is this still the case? Do we still need people, leaders, to stand out from among us and represent or incorporate higher values, whatever these may be today? Or can all our problems be now mediated with little political brouhaha by the forces of the marketplace, the bureaucrats, the Oprahs, etc.?

In other words, is Bush just a pragmatic leader in our self-defense? Or is he a leader in some larger cultural shift?

Morgan said...

Syl, you seem to be suffering from an advanced case of PRB - Political Rhetoric Burnout. I went through the same thing a while back, and I'm still recovering. It can be devestating, to be sure.

Pastorius said...

I don't agree with True Peers that high culture has been replaced by pop culture. Contemporary Classical composers like Arvo Part, and John Taverner enjoy huge audiences, and they are still alive. The works of living painters and sculptors command hundreds of thousands of dollars. The pie has increased exponentially across the spectrum from high to pop. And, the reason for this is ...

Popular Culture and the communications technology which facilitates it.

We live in a wondrous time. Now, as for pop culture putting out decadent filth. Well yeah, some of it. Video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series hardly contribute in a positive manner, but much of pop culture is surprisingly artistic and constructive. For instance, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or, how about Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. The music of Radiohead, or REM, or Wilco, or Lauryn Hill.

I love pop culture, and I would say we're living in the best time in history, if it weren't for a little thing that happened a few Septembers ago.

Pastorius said...

True Peers,
You wrote your clarification, while I was writing my comment. Ok, so now that I understand your point better, I must say, I still don't think pop culture is devoid of the tragic element or the lessons that lie therein.

As to your question of whether we still need moral leadership, yes, it would seem to me, we do. Is Bush such a leader? It seemed that he was until about a year ago. He has lost his way, in my opinion.


Both America and Europe are up against problems (in Muslim immigration, and the welfare state)
which will require us to see the world with new eyes. In other words our paradigm will have to shift.

Now, how do people change? Well, either through fear of pain, or through the hope of something better.

Now, is the time to act out of hope. If we don't, then the pain will come.

Either way, I don't count Europe or America as inevitably doomed. I believe even France will wake up.

Peter UK said...

High culture never has been of mass interest,it has always been an expensive luxury,firstly for the aristocracy then the affluent middle classes.
Popular culture has always been crass,purely unpretentious amusement to while away the hours.
The only difference now, is the global reach of the media which transmits that culture,and the huge entertainment industry which manufactures it.

truepeers said...

Pastorius, you're right, pop culture is not devoid of the tragic element, especially today. But this is less so traditionally, where focus on the folk or popular culture's victims was limited by an emphasis on demonizing the person responsible for the victim's death. Today we take the demonizing less seriously, howevermuch we enjoy it as part of the story, and so are able to focus more on the underlying issues.

Anyway, is Tolkien, Taverner, high or pop? that is the question, though perhaps not as interesting as exploring how they are both.

The most popular "classical" musicians of today are those like Tavener and Part who develop a vision of spirituality or religion that is much more accessible than what the more academic, experimental, "avant-garde" composers put out - that's the high culture that is dying. Those who still have most institutional say about what it is to be high brow still tend to be secular, "progressive" and anti-religious and probably say they don't care much for the Taverners. But they are elitists given less and less attention.

Rick Ballard said...

Interesting. Were Shakespeare, Melville and Tolkien high or low culture? It depends on who answers of course.

Moby Dick is still a whale of a tale of a whale even if it is something else entirely.

Pastorius said...

True Peers,
Yes, it is true that the academy probably does not approve of the Taverners and Part's. However, I would assert that 20th century as a whole was a wandering into a cul de sac, and most of it will look small and pathetic in the scale of history.

Taverner and Part, in my opinion, represent a new renaisance (sp?). (As I said, I would assert that we live in the best of times, if it weren't for the Islamofascists among us, and the fact that they could soon get their hands on WMD's.)

Think about the extraordinary things we are seeing happen. The birth of the blogosphere truly is, as Hewitt says, the Information Reformation. Moore's Law, and advances in connectivity will soon bring about a level of human intellectual capacity that we never before dreamed of. Research into DNA is heralding in an age which might be virtually disease-free.

There is even a way in which we can think of the War on Islamofascist Terror as one of the best things that has happened to us; because it is forcing us to reevaluate the Western Tradition, and what it means to us.

In the interest of avoiding cliche, I will refrain from using that intro line from Dickens.

Pastorius said...

By the way, I have a hard time with the idea that Tolkien is high culture.

Call me a snob.

;-)

Melville and Shakespeare, on the other hand, clearly seem to be in the realm of high culture. If we were to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then we are no better than the Postmodernists. (There's a bit of intended humor in that statement).

Anyway, on the subject of literature, I agree with Harold Bloom: There really is a set of criteria for whether a work belongs in the literary canon. And, I think that goes for music as well. And, I think that as time goes by, the art and music of the 20th century, for the most part, will be proven to be devoid of any of the qualities by which we measure greatness. It doesn't speak of beauty. It doesn't seek Truth. It doesn't speak coherently, or originally of the Human Condition. It doesn't create an encompassing metaphorical reality. The reality it does create has tenuous connection to the reality that we, as humans, live in.

Many classics of 20th Century film, on the other hand, really did meet these criteria.

I guess we could say that we live in a time where the rewards of being a popular artist are so great that even great artists have migrated into pop culture. Therefore, we do sometimes see great art arise from a pop culture structure.

Rick Ballard said...

Pastorius,

All three wrote on at least two distinct levels with a good idea of what each level was capable of understanding. Sakespeare and Melville liked cashing in as much as anyone ever has and Tolkien didn't mind going to the bank either.

Shakespeare can no longer be understood on the low side but he was certainly understood in the penny seats of his time. Tolkien's higher reach requires an understanding of the combination of Norse and Christian mythos that leaves all but a very few out standing in the cold. I include myself among those standing out there but I know that it is within his work. The Inklings weren't exactly low brow.

terrye said...

I don't think Bush has lost his way.

I really do not see a change in him, except that he is older like the rest of us.

I think maybe the country has changed, not Bush.

As the president he has a job to do but he is just a man.

I am sure that he is disappointed the ownership society initiative did not take off, but when the other party is out there telling people that all this silly talk about reforming the entitlement systems is silly and refuse to even debate the subject there is only so much any president can do.

Someday when the system is on the verge of implosion I suppose they will have to do something about it.

Our expectations are such that no president can serve without taking a beating.

terrye said...

Rick:

Tolkien created a whole world and as far as that is concerned an entire language. His characters and symbolism were complex. When I read him I get the same feeling I get reading Greek fables.

I have always read alot. In school I had a double major, American history and Literature. In fact I had read the complete works of Shakespeare before I was out of jr. Highschool and you are right, in his time he was entertainment.

Dickens wrote for money as well and was not considered a great writer in his day. I would compare him to Mark Twain. Neither were high culture.


Many of the artists of high culture were able to exists because of the patronage system that sustained them.

Pastorius said...

Rick,
To clarify, I am just not impressed with the Lord of The Rings. I am impressed with the world, but I thought Peter Jackson added depth to the works themselves.

The Silmarillion is another matter entirely. Although, I can't claim to have read the entire thing, I do believe that it is a great work of literature.

As for the Lord Of The Rings, it could be that I simply don't get it.

Syl said...

morgan

Syl, you seem to be suffering from an advanced case of PRB - Political Rhetoric Burnout.

Amen.

I know it's human nature to try to understand the 'big picture' but after a certain point it all sounds so silly and meaningless.

Anyway, nobody allows for Chaos Theory in societal changes, which to me is the equivalent of gene mutations in evolution.

------
as for 20th century composers, you'll have to pry Stravinsky out of my cold dead fingers.

truepeers said...

Pastorious, I like your optimistic spirit. The present war is indeed an opportunity: to fight for our freedom, or a greater degree of freedom, as those who have led our society are increasingly revealed to have been, unnecessarily, the accomplices of tyrants, in the name of stability, sovereignty, even human rights. They lose credibility and we all have a chance to grow new authorities and standards in their place.

I think the greatest composer of the twentieth century was Duke Ellington, perhaps because he saw that the future was in neither traditional high or popular culture but in some new, dare I say, "middlebrow" hybrid. I love middlebrow culture, that's my little secret.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Syl,

I like Stravinsky too. It does seem a bit silly to throw the whole of the Twentieth Century into the rubbish bin.

Buddy Larsen said...

This string is dense with fresh goodies. I came over to slap house Tudor Peter UK on the back for finally bringing an Archbishop 'round to see 'this scepter'd isle, this precious stone set in a silver sea,' as something worthy of deliberate preservation. On culture, Ellington is middlebrow, while someone like concept musician Philip Glass is highbrow...hmmm...I think the categories have a geography bias, NYC, downtown and uptown. Oh well, de gustibus. I'm sure Pastorius is right, there is an academic requirement for the higher place, and "affection" can't be it.

Pastorius said...

Syl and True Peers,

I agree with both of you; Ellington and Stravinsky are both pure genius.And, if you want to hear their synthesis, but not necessarily their equivalent, listen to Stan Kenton.

Of course, it's silly to throw out the 20th Century entirely. But, the "high brow" art of the 20th Century is, in general lacking the criteria I mentioned.

Stravinsky, clearly, speaks of the "human condition" circa the 20th Century, as does Picasso, Dali, Mahler, John Coltrane, and even, strangely enough, Andy Warhol (whose work I hate).

Buddy Larsen said...

Probably because the human condition in 70s Manhattan wasn't in very good condition. Who was the guy--Hockney?--the 'new Warhol' who made a point of publicizing that he didn't even paint his own paintings, just to show the world that the disclosure wouldn't hurt his market. What an electric jolt of hatred. Good riddance to that era.

terrye said...

I find the whole concept of high and low culture to be in itself silly.

There is something so snobbish and elistist about the subject.

The Rites of Spring caused a riot when it was first performed.

And as for the update, when the Colonists began to fight for their independence from the King the British were most certainly not afraid to let them know that the British would not tolerate the insult.

My, how times have changed.

Buddy Larsen said...

I had the same thought, Terrye--that the argument itself sorta buys into the idea of relative human value. As "high" artists are 'better' than the others. But then, if you're doing a subjective ranking--like, could Ali have whupped Dempsey--ya gotta have a top, middle and bottom. Or, lapse to PC, and rank by ranklessness.

Knucklehead said...

I haven't caught up with the comments and whatever tone or direction the thread has taken other than some discussion of high vs. low culture.

Way OT, I suppose, and purely anecdotal, but yesterday evening I spent some time wandering the nearest bookstore, a B&N, looking for some reading to occupy me during some travel I am about to embark on.

It's been a while since I wandered around a B&N just looking for whatever caught my eye. The thing that caught my attention was the astonishing amount of sheer nonsense on the shelves in the "current events" and various history sections. The volume of crap and conspiracy nonsense is nothing short of astonishing.

Just observing.

Pastorius said...

You want to tell me Mahler's Sixth doesn't kick ass all over even a great piece of pop culture like Led Zeppelin' Rain Song?

C'mon.

Truth is, most days, I'd rather listen to Led Zep, because Mahler requires too much of me. And, that is one of the differences. As I said, if we find ourselves unable to make distinctions like these, then we are no better than the Postmodernists. (This time I say it with less intended humor)

;-)

Buddy Larsen said...

Knuck, re your comment, go over and read Peggy Noonan's new post. She has ancillary--and as usual warm--thoughts on the same topic.

Pastorius--I agree--to listen to favorite classicals--in the high-volume total-attention way--is to rob yourself of the best thrill, the re-discovery feeling that comes with making something of an event of the listening. Beethoven, for example, who can cope with the 5th Symphony while puttering around with the mundane chores? It don't feel right, i tells ya!

Peter UK said...

Buddy,
I wpould agree as to appropriatenes,who wants to be listening to "Born to be Wild" whilst mopping up a puppy accident.

Peter UK said...

This however seems to be the prevailing Anglican thinking.

"One Anglican bishop said that he did not believe in the survival of individual “souls” after death. The bishop did admit, however, to the possibility of a non-specific “life force” energising everyone on Earth."
From Harry's Place.

Not to worry the English have never given a toss about religion and we care less for the opinions of Bishops.

Buddy Larsen said...

Well, it always tickled me, who could imagine an English bishop. or an English person, NOT "arch"?

The puppy post is the funniest thing I've read/heard since I can remember--which ain't that long, alas.

truepeers said...

Not to worry the English have never given a toss about religion and we care less for the opinions of Bishops.

-Peter, your statement is most interesting since it depends on there being a long history of both a national church and a people and culture defined in reaction to/with it. Maybe this suggests that England is (was) your true religion. It's interesting that before England was united politically, it was united ecclesiastically for several centuries. The Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English (c.730) is seen as a founding document of English nationhood. Maybe the new Archbishop of York is on to something in thinking England will rediscover itself - as it first did - through/against the church (and the language that owes much to Bible translation).

But as you suggest, the church and bishops have never been enough. In my studies, I came to think a quintessential expression of the British culture took a non-church but nonetheless somewhat religious form: Freemasonry, the lodge, club, etc. I say this knowing that Masons often deny they are a religion. But they are at least something religious. I consider the Anglican minister sneaking out the back door at night to go to lodge and perform god knows what rites, to be a quintessential expression of English character. Male character to be sure, but there have been similar forms for women.

Syl said...

Buddy

who can cope with the 5th Symphony while puttering around with the mundane chores? It don't feel right, i tells ya!

The 5th can only be listened to once a decade!

The 7th, however, is great when you're cleaning house. Apotheosis of the Dance...it's so much easier to dust and dance than just dust.

And I'm not joking!

truepeers said...

Buddy, yes to Peggy Noonan:

Why did you write your book?

Because the great deserve our loyalty. Because those who have added to life, who have inspired us and pointed to a better way, should be lauded and learned from. I think the inspiration to be gotten from a life well lived--spectacularly lived--is more important than ever these days. It's important that we dwell on the good and, just as important, maybe more so, try to understand it. This makes us stronger rather than sapping us, as so much of the ebb and flow of news and argument tends to do. We need to be looking to good things.

truepeers said...

Yes to Stravinsky, Beethoven, Kenton, and maybe even Zeppelin (you'll have to await confirmation on that one, Mr. P.)

Peter UK said...

Truepeers,
The High Anglican Church is virtually indistinguishable from the Roman Catholic Church,a few odd alterations to the service and the Monarch as Head instead of the Pope.
Most of us are nominally Christian of some lapsed denomination or other,but we don't identify ourselves by religion,except for the wars with the Spanish and the Puritan Parliamentarians,religion has never been much of an issue for ordinary people.
To give an example New Years day was the Traditional holiday,and we had to be bribed to accept Christmas Day when the festival was introduced in the 19th century.
Largely we never thought to have to identify ourselves as English,we just were,it has only been in recent years with the social engineering that has taken place,especially with this government and its re-branding,that there was any discussion,why should there be,worked OK for a couple of thousand years.
Incidentally,the EU map has erased England.
The Masons are a minority sport,much demonised by the left,but then the are afraid of any organisation that isn't them.
Sorry but organised religion has never been our thing,that isn't to say were are a godless bunch,just that churches are for hatching, matching and despatching

truepeers said...

The Masons are a minority sport

-exactly, a culture of minority sports; i think the Masons crystallized something quintessentially English, not that most joined them, though there have been so many other organizations that owe something to the model, from the Oddfellows to public schools to various products of pop. culture. What is it that was crystallized? It is a mix of the anti-institutional iconoclasm you are talking about within the context of a formal organization that is separated or abstracted from society at large, as if being a regular English eccentric paradoxically requires organization to give it a formal presence and in turn give society a certain abstract quality, such that one might joke about the church being only good for hatching, matching and despatching. Lol. (This might not make any sense, but I'm trying to pinpoint the qualities that make great Englishmen like Newton or Blake.)

Buddy Larsen said...

Peter has a hint in the 'we weren't English, we just 'were'. It's the same reason they win their wars. They just can't imagine losing. Our revolution being the only biggie (well there's the bit in 1066, but Harold was on his second major battle with a week's forced march in between, and the froggies--who were led by a Norseman, anyway, were fresh as truffles), and our Revolution was pretty much a family affair.

Buddy Larsen said...

Zep, like Cream. as clean as it ever got, three instruments, live as well as studio, doing about 100% of what Rock could ever possibly do, is certainly some sort of high point of something. Of the hard, hard, hard rock trios' ablums, my vote is Disraeli Gears--like Syl's 5th, maybe only every once in awhile ya haul it out, but, well, when you do, you're back there, look out for the contact high.

Peter UK said...

Truepeers,
Much of the culture you describe was a product of the Victorian era and the growth of the middle classes.Romanticism saw the Gothic revival,an interest in mysticism,more "mediaeval" churches and secret societies sprang up in this period than any other,all are falling into disuse now.
Interstingly the two ends of the social spectrum had almost identical interests.The aristocracy and the working classes both hunted,raced,drank and gambled,it was the middle classes,much as today,were for banning things and compelling the working class to improve itself,viz the Temperance Movement.There was though,a strong strand of working class self improvement,Working Mens Institutes,public libraries,night schools were commonplace.
There wasn't though the identity politics of today outside class structures,this was the gift of the newly arrived middle classes,they were never quite sure what they were and so created all the icons and myths to bolster their identity.
The hacking away at the fabric of English society,constant,attacks by the left via politics,deconstruction of heroes and myths by revisionist historians and writer has alienated vast sectors of what used to be the working class,a class destroyed by de-industrialisation which has now reverted to its old disengaged hedonistic culture.It is now called the underclass,their symbol is the Cross of St George,they are angry,God help us if somebody puts a gun in their hands.

Buddy Larsen said...

All is not lost, though, Peter. At least the left/statist prescription is now becoming more and more universally discredited--if not yet thankfully gone.

truepeers said...

It is now called the underclass,their symbol is the Cross of St George,they are angry,God help us if somebody puts a gun in their hands.

Peter, so not a good idea then to relieve the prison guards of their St. George cross pins? It's like it is the sensitive or politicizing Muslims, er Asians, who are the new manipulators of symbols, the newly arrived "middle classes"? in your narrative.

I'm wondering if people who identify with the St. George cross often think of it as a crusader symbol, or is it just English.

Buddy, Pastorius, forgive the blast at Zeppelin. I was just feeling a little sensitive about a misspent youth, or perhaps guilty pleasure in recalling certain lyrics.

Buddy Larsen said...

Misspent? I deficit-financed mine--and I don't mean money-wise--and THEN misspent that! (does Groucho eyebrows)....