“There is, moreover, a paradox of Western societies opposite and equivalent to that of communism: though they present all the signs of more developed and open societies, at the same time they have one eye on the past as though it were a void they created behind them, while absorbing the future.”
— Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End
For people of a certain age the Granada Television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, represents a high-water mark for what television is capable of, when the accountants and marketing goons leave the talent alone.
Today the series would be an HBO event, or a Netflix limited original series.
Decades ago it was the natural evolution of Masterpiece Theater and a specifically British style and sensibility.
What gets lost amid the nostalgia, and the great acting, brilliant musical score (itself a kind of additional member of the cast) the sumptuous locations and equally sumptuous design, the languid pace, the dialogue which even at its most arch still manages to succeed in the service of the totality, is that the story was and remains, a celebration of the reactionary, imperialist, decadent, depraved, sadomasochistic English ruling class.
That these are the people who brought you the empire, and trench warfare, and the Cliveden Set, the neo-Nazis and assorted fascists from the royal family to street thugs like Oswald Mosley and made Neville Chamberlain both inevitable and possible; made Churchill both criminal and the master of England’s redemption, is all washed away because the series is just so damn good.
In a sense it is the other side of another very English institution, the charming but lethal super spy.
The original or beta version was laid down by Conan Doyle and Somerset Maugham. Doyle, an original and a genius, invented an archetype in Holmes where Maugham both greater than his critics will allow, and less able than his diminishing fans can admit, based Ashenden on the (in)famous Sidney Riley – who came within a few inches of becoming supreme warlord of Russia instead of Lenin-Stalin, etc.
There’s a commercial from a few years ago in which a set of famous British actors look into the camera and ask – have you noticed the increase in British movie villains? They then rattle off, amid car chases and mayhem, the qualities that matter: Suave but deadly, charming but dangerous, cool under pressure but precise in dealing out punishment.
They are of course cartoon villains but behind the special effects there is an echo of something authentic.
England’s wars, they used to say, were won on the playing fields of Eton.
The schools were factories and industrial scale if cloistered fraternities, where sucks to your assmar and a conch shell were tattooed on your soul, and being beaten and buggered were as much a part of the curricula as Latin and knowing the names of all the kings and queens – even the queens who worked in Whitehall or ran nightclubs.
National identities are a hall of mirrors in the fun house style. Even in distortion they reveal the truth.
England has an idea of itself and even amid the wreckage caused by that idea certain truths remain.
We said some time ago that anyone who has really listened to John Mellencamp’s masterpiece, Scarecrow, would not have been surprised by Timothy McVeigh.
We still believe that and in considering the English iteration we would add that anyone who has paid attention to Waugh and Brideshead, would not be surprised by Brexit.
Of course we are living in the basement of Plato’s ideal city state where the poets have been exiled.
No one in the government or its whore house, the media, is going to devote three seconds let alone an hour of prime time television real-estate to using Waugh and Brideshead as a prism through which one might contextualize Brexit or the gang of decadent, depraved, reactionary, neo-imperialists and neo-fascists who support it.
Obviously this is down to the fact that most members of the media are functional illiterates, their audience is no better and the goons, reprobates, gangsters, and assorted old ladies of both sexes who fill up parliament and the Congress, are to nuanced cultural excavation as fast food is to a Michelin star. As a wit put it years ago, you could follow a fine Bordeaux with a ding dong but, why would you want to.
Besides, in the traditional English style Waugh includes a fair amount of buggery and god knows no one in the government or the media wants to really talk about that as it would tell you something about the ruling class. Worse it might make the horses run in the street.
And consider the title – Brideshead – the idea of the virgin, who no doubt, closes her eyes and thinks of England.
As a result the epic clusterfuck that is Brexit goes on and on with a sense that it’s all somehow a surprise.
That is also true of most “coverage” and “analysis” of events.
The truth is, like McVeigh, it was not only predictable but was predicted.
Waugh was by all accounts an asshole. However being obnoxious does not preclude being observant, or talented or even intelligent.
That Brideshead Revisited is royalist, reactionary, and a love letter to the haphazard tyranny of the aristocracy, that it is a message in a bottle to the uses of fascism, cast out like an orphan of the storm hoping that it will reach the shore of god’s blessings and the crushing under an iron boot of the peasants and the working class, that it reverses the truth and creates an England weary but determined to defeat fascism but ignoring its part in inventing the devil, is all true but doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate.
Jacob Rees-Mogg fell out of Waugh’s back pocket. Defined by a caustic observer as the right honorable representative of the 18th century, Mogg is, in many respects, or at least the ones that matter, an English version of America’s William F. Buckley about whom it was said, he had the finest mind ever produced by the 11th century.
Mogg is the poster boy for Brexit alongside the Oswald Mosley 2.0 Nigel Farage. There is a swarm of other thugs and fools, from human turd Mark Francois to the sadistic Colonel Blimp Boris Johnson and the closest thing to Neville Chamberlain since Neville himself, in Theresa May-bot.
Being both rigid and feckless, both ethically flexible but morally anally retentive is not an easy thing to manage. But like a moral hermaphrodite or a political contortionist, or both, May has proven herself the Grande dame of political catastrophe.
Which is not to say she isn’t a political pathogen and thus dangerous.
No one of any sense is of course surprised that the Tories are essentially a gang of drunk lords and incompetent but, at the same time everyone seems to be surprised by the fact that they are a gang of incompetent drunk lords pushing each other trough vast puddles of their own vomit.
Not to be left out or outdone in this escapade of malfeasance one must spare a brief word for Jeremy Corbyn who is essentially the mirror image of May; and the embodiment of a political Uriah Heep but less interesting.
He is a moral prig, with the smug self-righteous manner of a closeted Anglican Bishop and none of the imagination, and the luck of a man who has never won a single bet in his life but can be found every weekend at the track muttering that this time, for sure, his number is going to win it all.
An accidental bigot, versus the very deliberate bigotry of the Tories, Corbyn is a sock puppet being run by a gang of senile British Trotskyists who haven’t had a new idea since Lev told Vlad in 1903, you know pal, you substitute the party for the people and the leadership of the party for the party itself then you guarantee a strong man from the right will come in and backed by the army, kill everyone.
Needless to say Lenin didn’t listen and Corbyn is to Lenin as a pickpocket is to your average hedge fund manager. They’re both dangerous but the difference in scale is both laughable and cause for keeping an eye on the nearest exit.
But as bad as all of that is, as much awfulness as it reveals, the looming shadow, the true disaster right around the corner, is Ireland.
When Brexit was first brought into the world like the alien exploding out of John Hurt’s gut, the response should have been anything that risks reigniting the Irish civil war, is to be defined as terrorism.
The inability to define a solution for Brexit and the Good Friday Accord, and the cynical disregard for that inability not only speaks to the systemic bigotry of England’s ruling class but to their colossal mendacity, depravity and rank stupidity.
The key facts are that if they could not comprehend the potential for disaster, they are too stupid to be in power.
If they did understand and went ahead all the same then they are potentially guilty of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and being de facto sponsors of state supported terrorism.
Make no mistake, they knew what they were doing.
The government has already set up a subcommittee that has the power to rule by decree and the power to use the police, the military and the not so secret services to crush any and all unrest – and of course the disastrous non-existent post Brexit “plan” is a guarantee for massive civil unrest.
Only a moron could look at all of that and conclude that Mogg, Johnson and the gang aren’t all dreaming of exactly that opportunity.
They want a disaster so they can be the children on the island fighting for the conch shell.
They want to send the army back into Ireland and they want to shut down the press (or at least rags like The Guardian and The Observer) and they want to lock up their opponents and they want to crack the European Union and establish a Mad Max meets The Empire Strikes Back, V for Vendetta, perpetual state of emergency.
They are fascists.
They are elegant, relatively speaking, thugs who have belched themselves up and out of the Arcadian splendor of Brideshead.
Amid the decadence in Waugh’s blowjob to stylish tyranny, there is a moment when, in 1925, confronted by a general strike, the Brideshead smart set of toffs go into the city to bust heads. Boy Mulcaster, Sebastian and, Chhharles, all do their bit for King, country, and their right to be in charge.
That their fascism in the 1920s helped make the fascism of the 30s and 40s possible is not on Waugh’s radar.
It certainly isn’t something a gang of morons like Mogg, Johnson and Farage would acknowledge and even if they reviewed the damning facts they’d conclude that left means right, up means down, and bugger off you multicultural, left, peasant – This is England. Our England.
Et in arcadia ego, wrote Waugh, quoting a line whose meaning speaks to the reactionary nostalgia of a soon to be dead ruling class.
But in throwing a handful of dirt on the grave of the aristocracy Waugh was seeding the soil.
Answering the question, as to what would happen in Ireland, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Vice-President of Sinn Fein, Michael O’Neill said :
“there would be “grave consequences’ if the British government imposed direct rule from London.”
Waugh, looking wistfully to the moment when in 1914, the lights had gone out across Europe, and bitterly to the years that followed, said:
“Other nations use ‘force’; we Britons alone use ‘Might’.”
Get your prayer rug, said the Jam and pray to the West, I’ll get mine and pray for myself.
Then, we would add, pray for the world because it’s standing on the edge of the abyss.
For a look at the looming catastrophe of a no deal Brexit Ireland, see the following:
“Asked whether he thought civil society was at risk over the failure to get Brexit through, he replied: “I think that our current political structures are at risk. I think that there would be a chasm of distrust that would open up between voters and the current political system.”
— Liam Fox, MP
See the full comment from Fox here:
Two scorpions in a bottle was how Jazz Poet Henry Kissinger described the nuclear stand off between the US and the Soviet Union.
We were remined of that after the latest vote non vote vote in the House of Commons.
While it is easy to fixate on the reactionary “Blitz culture” delusions of the Brexiters, and the neo-fascism of Farage it is worth considering the political elephant in the room – Momentum.
Jeremy Corbyn is a political sock puppet drained of anything resembling charisma or, apparently, anything one might confuse with leadership.
But that’s the point.
A gang of senile Trotskyists have seized control of Labour and are not only using Corbyn as a stalking horse, what seems likely is that they want a genuine, state of emergency crisis, because, that’s what Trotskyists always want.
An aspect of the recent anti-Brexit march was not just the pro-Brexit neo-fascists but the sheer size of the demonstration and the conspicuous absence of Corbyn.
The return from political exile of a sleazy former Labour Trotskyist right around the time of the split resulting in the formation of the Independent Group, points to a textbook case of traditional leftists looking for the opportunity to seize power either through a general election (which all polls indicate would be a disaster for the Tories) or through the chance on offer after May-bot & co cock up everything.
In Brusselles, they are planning for catastrophe:
The hinge of fate?
A significant crack forms on England’s political right. Despite a few sketchy historical analogies the Tory author drinks from the cup of common sence:
If anyone needed more evidence that Nancy Pelosi’s soul is a slithering crepuscular entity devoid of any sense of right or wrong, we offer the following in which, speaking to Ireland’s parliament she states that if Brexit undermines The Good Friday Accord, and it leads to violence, there will be no US-UK trade agreement.
The immediate response would be – why would we be critical of a decidedly anti-Breixt comment?
The answer is we’re not.
We’re against her waiting three fucking years to say it.
And no, sorry but the inevitable counter that she wasn’t Speaker of the House three years ago is irrelevant.
Given the stakes – the aid that Brexit has given to anti-EU forces, to fascists like Steve Bannon, to Trump and others, there is no exucse.
She is saying it now because she’s a swine; a moral hermaphrodite with an irradiated conscience. She is odd in every way possible and not one of those ways is even remotely good.
Brexit is all but dead and being a coward, Pelosi has come in at the last minute to kick it in the head.
Had she intervened even a year ago, like an actual leader, much chaos and anxiety could have been avoided.
From todays, The Guardian:
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the US will not make a trade deal with the UK if Brexit leads to new hostilities in Northern Ireland.
“Let me be clear: if the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday Accords, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement,” Pelosi said in a Wednesday address to the Irish parliament, the Hill reported.
The US currently has trade arrangements with the European Union, so a new agreement with the UK would be needed after Britain exits the bloc.”