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1. i’ve been reading Stephen Donaldson’s recentish Fantasy novel, Fatal Revenant, volume 8 in the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, a series begun in the late 70s. Like a lot of Fantasy novels of this time, the first volume was clearly based on Tolkien, however it already had sufficient strangeness to set it apart (the hero is a leper who, Narnia-like, crosses from our world to “The Land”, a typical Fantasy world of magic and monsters etc., but he churlishly refuses to believe it or its inhabitants are real). The second book, The Illearth War, is one of my favourite novels, regardless of genre. The last 4 books, written a good 20 years after the series seemingly concluded, are weak – there’s a sense that Donaldson is recycling his basic obsessions (guilt, violence, betrayal, despair, madness redemption) without going deeper. i wouldn’t recommend any Fantasy book to anyone who loathes the genre, because even the best (Katherine Kerr’s first 4 Deverry books, Ursula le Guin’s original Earthsea trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, The Illearth War, The Dark is Rising Sequence) would arouse only disgust in the non-believer.
2. Every book makes suppositions about reality, excluding certain possibilities, emphasising others. i can’t imagine a Jane Austen character in a Dostoevsky novel; or vice versa. Genre draws, perhaps, certain explicitly artificial demarcations and if you don’t accept these as even metaphorically real, or if you just find them dull, then you won’t like the books. The only genres i like are Fantasy and spy thrillers. While i think Science Fiction can develop ideas which would not be possible in realist “literary fiction”, i don’t like technology and have no interest in the future so tend to find such books hard-going. i keep bobbing up back to the surface and thinking “my God, not more Zanatec 9 clusters”. i can watch films – for example Gattaca, Blade Runner, Looper, Inception, Terminators 1 & 2, Aliens 1 & 2, 2001, The Matrix, the original Star Wars trilogy, Total Recall; with films, the director provides me with visuals i couldn’t imagine myself.
i suppose i like Fantasy because i’ve long been dissatisfied by a purely materialist view of reality, find the mundane world of traffic jams, supermarkets, and soap operas not merely tedious but somehow implausible, and have always found magic easy to credit. i was surprised to find i liked spy thrillers but i think they tap into my sense of being alone and more or less powerless in a hostile world; a world where i can only survive by being extremely careful, like an agent behind enemy lines (one could say that this entire world is enemy territory for me); that is, i read spy thrillers as gnostic parables.
3. Fantasy is well suited to considerations of good and evil; because they are often semi-allegorically embodied. In Donaldson’s books, the interplay of good and evil is complex and almost impossible to disentangle. His heroes are often corrupted not by gold or ambition but by their own despairing love, into madness. In this latest book, the old hero Thomas Covenant somehow returns from the dead, as a half-spectral being, allegedly manifesting within time from the eternity of his habitation. The new Covenant is self-important, cold, with no patience for human flaws – he is almost as one might imagine an angel, perhaps the angel of Inferno, Canto 9. As i’m only 100 pages into the book i’m not sure if he is actually the old hero from the earlier volumes, or some kind of demonic imposter. However, i’m toying with the idea that he has simply been damagingly refined by eternity; that he has gained vision and power, but lost understanding and humanity. He antagonises everyone else, especially his old friend Linden – who is very much a living human within time, with all her flaws:
“Wisdom indeed,” the Theomach remarked to the forlorn multitude of the stars. Then he told Linden. “You have been well chosen, lady.”
“Hell and blood,” Covenant muttered at her back. “How did the two of you become such buddies? I’m the one who’s trying to save the damn world.”
“There is your error,” replied the Theomach over his shoulder. “You aim too high. The Earth is too wide and rife with mystery to be saved or damned by such as you.”
Donaldson often has characters of considerable vision and power, who overreach themselves and bring about disaster and woe. By contrast, his more ordinary characters are often decent, because they don’t attempt to extrapolate their limited knowledge to encompass the universe. It is those who believe they can (and should) save the world who nearly destroy it. Such lunacies are common to those with some intelligence and power, but without wisdom, self-doubt, or irony; they mistake flat sarcasm for irony, mechanical intelligence for wisdom. i think Donaldson is right that one stands more chance of doing good by living from day to day and responding to things as they happen, than with crusades and sword-waving epic struggles and whatnot. The mistake, i think, is to take what one understands as an absolute verity and to then suppose one has unlimited vision; it is a natural mistake, for we do not see an eyeball-shaped optical field: we seem to see the world as it is. One needs constant attention to as it were see the frame of the perceiving and thinking mind. If there is a use for philosophy it is to become aware of our simultaneous involvement with, and distance from, the world; that we seem to perceive things just as they are, and that our intelligence is (somehow) able to hold commerce with the world; and yet that we constantly beguile ourselves, because we are selves. As the Theomach character later says:
“My lord, I have no reply that will readily content you. The questing of those who seek for knowledge is by necessity oblique, instinctive, and indefinite. They themselves cannot name their object until it is discovered.”
i posted this quote on Facebook and a friend immediately commented “Losers”, explaining that those who seek for knowledge etc. are all losers. It’s true that to the hard-headedly practical any kind of oblique intelligence must seem worthless and ridiculous. For myself, i more and more feel that it’s impossible to assemble a coherent system of knowledge – knowledge i care about, anyway – that one can only collect fragmentary certainties and possibilities, and let connections emerge as they will. This would seem foolishly wishy-washy to most people; however, those who assembled vast systems of thought in the past now seem deluded and risibly confident. By contrast, Heraclitus is still worth reading – perhaps more because all that survives are fragments.
4. In The Power That Preserves, the third book in the Covenant series, a magician attempts to summon Covenant from our world to The Land, to save it from imminent destruction. Covenant is at this point hiking and has come across a child bitten by a poisonous snake; he has tried to drain the venom and is carrying the child through the woods to the nearest town. He resists the call, knowing that if he loses consciousness for a few hours in our world, as normally happens during these summonings, the child will die. The magician does not attempt to compel him and later says that it would have been wrong to force Covenant to come, even though the life of one child seems of no account weighed against an entire world. i feel that both Covenant and the magician made the right decision; and that once one ignores the present moment, once one rather privileges a vast abstraction over what is real, it is hard not to take the first steps into corruption. In Donaldson’s books this corruption leads to insanity and evil. In our ordinary, non-Fantasy world it leads to enormous self-importance, increasingly habitual rage, and profound dishonesty. i am grateful that some people i know have no political power for i have no doubt they would soon convince themselves of the need for re-education camps, gulags, executions and i would be a prime candidate for re-education, being as i am so ignorant and wrong-headed. They aren’t even bad people, as such – not sadistic or psychopathic, just absolutely free of irony or doubt, with enough intelligence to suppose themselves wise, and not enough wisdom to realise their folly.
So, there it is.
1. As i become increasingly parodically English (i.e. as i approach perfection) my students more & more suppose i can answer questions like “what’s the difference between a marquis and an earl”, “should I tip the doorman at Harrods” and “what do you think about Margaret Thatcher?” Despite reading an essay on her in Paul Johnson’s Heroes, i cannot feel more than ambivalent admiration; admiration because she at least her some character, even if it was bad character. As Theodore Dalrymple wrote:
[…] it is unlikely that she will ever be considered a mere machine politician, dull and grey as John Major, Gordon Brown or David Cameron, or shallow and meretricious as Anthony Blair. Whether you agree with them or not, it would be easy to put forward a reasonably coherent set of views in which she believed; by contrast formulating the political philosophy of the others would be like trying to catch a cloud with a butterfly net.
One of my JobCentre students, an Italian philosopher & art critic, asked, with a genial smile, if i was sad that Thatcher had died. “I think you are conservative?” he added (i often do roleplays where the Turkish, Italian, and Russian students are thieves or terrorists and the Germans are the brutal interrogators who have to grammatically beat the truth out of them). In truth, her demise was surprisingly stirring; for though she more or less got to power by chance she was then a striking symbol for the changes in British culture.
Cultures tend to swing violently from one extreme to another; so she represented the violent opposite of the moustachioed socialist 70s; while i was too young and privileged to remember the 70s i gather it was a time of hairy miners eating fried eggs & baked beans when they should have been down the pit:
i feel ambivalent about Thatcher; but not because she was so primly middle-class: while i feel more comfortable with beret-clad bohemians, wild barons, sinister fascists, and vile peasants, the increasingly-defunct respectable middle class was as valid a part of England as the toffs and the horny-handed sons of the soil. It’s typical of shouty socialists that they hate the middle-classes, regardless of their own provenance. i haven’t yet met a single shouty socialist from a genuinely working-class background, i.e. someone who grew up in a council house, left school at 16, and went to work down the mines. Perhaps for this reason they like to romanticise working men as proud honest cannon fodder for their crusade against the hated middle & upper classes.
2. When i was younger i thought the machinery of politics and finance was so inexorable and complex that no single individual could make any difference. However, now i think that human society resembles a bee hive with its queen; the person in charge does exercise an influence, usually disastrous. Perhaps it is that, at the back of our minds, we take the person in charge to represent the ideal, or the inner essence of the country. Having worked in so many different places, i’ve come to see the immediate boss as the decisive influence.
Whereas i would say Tony Blair’s influence was wholly malign, Thatcher’s was mixed. She slapped down the shouty socialists – an undeniably benign act. However, she opposed their vile, self-interested, meretricious ideology with the disinterested pursuit of money. As my Communist enemy put it, she had the soul of a chemist: someone for whom the world is nothing but data, purely quantitative; for the chemist, aesthetics, spirituality, morality, culture, are qualitative and so don’t exist.
Socialism and unrestrained capitalism are both abominations. English socialists are driven by a hatred of Englishness (they regard any kind of genuine English or even European culture as Nazism); übercapitalists don’t care about culture, only money: they can live in Tokyo or New York or London, it’s all the same to them.
3. i’m largely uninterested in finance though i understand its importance; i just find it dull. So when people argue about protectionism and the free market and tariffs and what have you, my eyes glaze over and i reach for my pipe. i’m more interested in symbols and small daily actions, as i believe they determine our cultural identity and behaviour. In this respect, Thatcher was a disaster.
She transformed the public sector into a giant Stalinist bureaucracy, corrupting the values of public service. i don’t believe that the Army, police, doctors, and teachers were ever even close to perfect; but i think it has changed for the worse. My paper of choice, the Daily Mail, has recently featured a handful of stories about doctors (both white & Asian, before some socialist once more accuses me of being Adolf Hitler) sexually assaulting their patients. i’m sure this happened before; but just from anecdotal evidence i think the public sector has become increasingly self-interested, corrupt. (The police are a special case as they were always exposed to temptation and their work means they need to use force and largely encounter only the dregs of society). i believe this is due to Thatcher and, in turn, Nu Labour.
4. When i was child, i was entranced that my father, a doctor, received letters headed On Her Majesty’s Service. Naturally, i thought of the greatest Bond film ever made:
i also always respected the monarch. By a happy chance, Elizabeth II is, i think, a decent human being and so easy to respect. i never found knock-off Monty Python sneering interesting; in the 60s there was at least something mildly edgy about attacking the Royal Family; it’s now on a par with comparing people to Hitler – extremely old hat, like angry socialists ranting about “the Establishment” when the real Establishment in fact comprises the BBC and Guardian.
Every nation has its symbols. They (subtly) order and determine the nation’s idea of itself. In 21st Century England it seems mainly to be football and Big Brother. There will always be symbols so as politics becomes increasingly meaningless the new icons are Jade Goody, John Terry, Wayne Rooney. Growing up in the early 80s, the Queen was still significant.
Just as the monarch is an ordering symbol, so are her servants. In his private life my father was mostly intemperate, belligerent, feckless, petty, maniacal, domineering, violent, deranged; as a doctor he was something different. He took the job seriously as, i’ve noticed, many Indians do; by “Indian” i mean they were raised in India; genetics is, for me, useless as a guide to character or worth: one of the most (and best) English people i’ve met was an Indian girl i temped with in 2005. An example: my father was in a car accident in the 70s; an off-duty Army officer, drunk, crashed into his car; the police wanted him to press charges and he refused, saying that he was a public servant as was the Army officer and he therefore did not wish to prosecute. This is the old ethic. In that time taking the King’s shilling meant you accepted higher human responsibilities (my father considered becoming a Jesuit in the 40s but felt they were too worldly). As i have said, i’m sure many just relished the power without accepting the responsibility; but i think this was less common before Thatcher; after Thatcher, meretricious self-interest became the norm.
The effect of Thatcher’s bureaucratization of the public sector was wholly deleterious. Every time a patient dies and the press find out about it, there is an “inquiry” and new processes, and new highly-paid socialist managers to implement the processes. And yet the hospitals keep getting worse and worse. My view – informed merely by working in a hospital for 2 years and by having a doctor as father – is that bad doctors will inevitably kill or damage patients, and the socialist “processes” and “initiatives” and vast body of hugely overpaid managers will do nothing to prevent this; they will in fact only hamper the real doctors from doing their job. They will do nothing because they aren’t actually interested in the patients, only in meeting their quotas and in Public Relations. From the Telegraph:
However ‘New’ Labour wanted to describe itself, the legacy of its reforms of the NHS are now sadly characterised by imposing system after system, and target after target. And it was sadly predictable that this emphasis on devising the perfect system, including targets and a complex universe of different bodies and different tick-boxes, would do what history has shown societies based on someone’s idea of perfect system tend to do: erode the autonomy and identity of those who work and live in that system.
5. The pillars of society forsooth. It sounds ridiculous now, especially now, but i think there was a time – up to the early 90s – when the police, doctors, teachers, priests, soldiers, were simultaneously human beings and symbols. Doctors and teachers, especially, could act as something like priests: for example, one of my father’s patients said she wanted to get an abortion; he is Roman Catholic and told her what the procedure means and asked her to think about it for a week and then come back and decide; she came back and said she wanted to keep the baby, who grew up to be a Premier League footballer. My father, now nearly 82, still takes the bus to the shops; when i advised him to take a taxi he said he meets old patients on the bus and they talk and sometimes alight early to help him carry his bags. A couple of years ago a mid-20s woman exclaimed, happily: “you’re Dr Elberry Senior!”; he couldn’t remember her but had treated her when she was a child, and she remembered. When i met his old patients they would always enthuse about what a great man he was and i just nodded with a frozen smile, remembering his demented aggression and bellowings. What they experienced was real; but it was only possible in his professional capacity (luckily, he worked almost every waking hour).
In our machine age, the only measure of human happiness is GDP (one could say that both socialism and capitalism are functions of the machine mind). The true powers are subtler, which means they cannot make a case for themselves in terms of quotas, profit, etc. The real powers are symbolic, imaginative – which is why i think Peter Hitchens is right to argue for the return of police foot patrols, as a visible symbol. The old professions – doctors, nurses, teachers, cops, priests – acted as ordering symbols for society; they were supposedly disinterested servants of the Crown, and so of the nation; and i think they were, often enough; and they influenced society. They were an ideal, a rebuke, a possibility at the back of the mind. Even when most of my teachers disliked me, either because i was half-Indian or half-asleep or fully stupid, they had an “aura” to them; we felt that regardless of their gross personal defects, they somehow embodied an ideal of correct behaviour, and their presence checked our juvenile savageries. This could be one reason why socialists always hate any kind of authority figure – as Saruman hates Gandalf and Denethor hates Faramir, because they represent an ideal of virtue. Not that socialists are wholly averse to authority; it’s just that they can only take it if they are the highest authority (as Tolkien demonstrates with Saruman, or Milton with his Satan).
6. As far as i can gather, the mining industry was making a heavy loss and only survived because the government subsidized it. Thatcher withdrew this support and allowed it to collapse. From a purely capitalist point of view, this was the right thing to do – survival of the GDP fittest. i saw the consequences in my 4 years at Durham: the locals are all unemployed and when they were born their fathers were already unemployed and would remain so. The only jobs are in McDonald’s, bargain and betting shops, chain drinking bars “where they sweep up the eyeballs after closing“, or in the public sector (the JobCentre, police, the prison). Drug addiction and violence is the norm. One of my fellow students lived in one of the satellite villages and said an ice cream van would come around, selling crack, ecstasy, weed, coke, etc.
Should Thatcher have continued to subsidize the more or less useless coal industry? Yes, i think so. In the 2008/9 crisis, many German companies only paid their workers half wages, and the Government paid the rest. When i asked one of my students how the Government could afford this, he said “if they don’t, they have to pay unemployment money”. Thus, the German economy recovered quickly, as the workers were in place to deal with the sudden uplift. Given how much money the British Government wastes on managers and gay dwarven awareness outreach officers, not to mention stealing taxpayer’s money to bail out criminally negligent banks, i think a few billion a year is a reasonable price, to give people meaningful work. When i tell my students about the North East, where seemingly everyone is unemployed and those who aren’t work for the JobCentre, they ask “doesn’t the Government do anything for the infrastructure?” i’m no expert but it seems to me that Thatcher pretty much set the tone: just leave people to sink or swim and if they sink it’s their own fault. i don’t like governments, or indeed any large institution, but if there is one thing they could and should do, it is to encourage work.
In Germany, companies get tax incentives to set up in East Germany (which is more or less like the North East of England or the south of Italy). In England, you can work in McDonald’s, a call centre, or be a Senior Sales Director in London. There are no jobs for the salt of the earth, Sean Bean working class louts, the proles as Orwell called them. i’ve always liked the Sean Beans and unlike Orwell i’ve never faked an accent to get in with them; they just took me as i was and that was that. They can’t smile and wear a stupid clown uniform; they can’t fake good humour; they don’t do office politics; they are the exact opposite of the plummy-voices champagne socialists, the Senior Sales Directors and hobnobbing Southrons. i only met people like this after leaving my school (which was full of Hitler Youth types and Muslim fundamentalists): one worked in a furniture factory in Huddersfield and told me he can’t read novels but liked Nietzsche; another worked as an electrician and kickboxing coach and had foiled an armed robbery by kicking the robber in the head; my stepfather is such another – i found them all to be gruff, sardonic, thoroughly decent, potentially violent, witty, proud. They made me understand Orwell’s “If there is hope, it lies with the proles”. They are unpolitical; they remain unaffected by political currents, by trends, shouting, rhetoric. Without work – physical, unbullshitty work – they despair. In a society offering only bullshit jobs (McDonald’s, call centres, Senior Sales Director) they would prefer to hustle, and if they can’t hustle they will go on the dole and spend their time drunk and high. Chavs are a gross corruption of Sean Bean.
7. i talked about this with a friend, saying: “i don’t like socialism but i think the government should take care of some things.” He chuckled evilly: “Yes, you want National Socialism.”
i distrust any kind of large-scale human organisation; which means i would be, like Alan Furst’s characters, as ill at ease in Soviet Russia as Nazi Germany – both murderous deformations of human society. i value human to human contact, organic communities, the easy acceptance of imperfection and irregularity. i don’t want Guardianistas to be rounded up and shot; a really vibrant (as opposed to Nu Labour “vibrant”) society would have room for all kinds of nutters, as long as they mind their own business. i just don’t want these nutters to be in control, as they more or less are in England today; they are the most intolerant, steel-hammer-minded totalitarians, who believe their intellectual opponents should be silenced because they are not merely wrong but apparently evil and monstrous – because anyone who disagrees with the socialists is, naturally, inhuman.
Thus my Communist enemy could not abide that i read the Daily Mail and tried to bully me into submission, then accused me of being Hitler and a racist – just for reading the wrong newspaper. He was untroubled by the fact that i never once attacked his daily links to the BBC; apparently, you can be Hitler and still just let people go about their own lives and let them hold different opinions.
8. So i’m uninterested in either Thatcher’s capitalism or Stalinist/Guardianista socialism. Both are products of the machine age: thorough-going materialists who believe human beings approach perfection the more nearly they resemble the machine. Hence Thatcher’s bureaucratization of the public sector; hence the gulag.
i would wish for a limited and imaginative “socialism”, acknowledging the real, symbolic powers: recognising that people need work and that most men are too honest to do smiling office/McDonald’s work; that the public servants should be highly technically trained then allowed to do their work without bureaucracy; that education is vitally important and cannot be bought with money, only with trust, trust both in the individual and in the tradition of Western culture. This will not, i think, ever come to pass.It would require great sensitivity, to avoid plunging into gross USSR-style socialism; to leave human beings the freedom they require.
The human imperfections of the old days are unacceptable to the bureaucrat. Thus the grubby, insect-like bureaucrat will continue to flourish, even as he parasitically destroys the host. The face of the future is David Nicholson, the Communist on 211,000 pounds a year.
1. Statue of Dante Alighieri in Florence. It reminds me of these:
“Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings!” cried Aragorn. “We shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold the middle of the stream!”
As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening.
Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and they still preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn.
Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown.
Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. Even Boromir bowed his head as the boats whirled by, frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Númenor. So they passed into the dark chasm of the Gates. […]
“Fear not!” said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weather-worn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.
“Fear not!” he said. “Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old.”
2. A culture cannot survive if it has no sense of a deep inner essence, against which it protects itself from destructive, non-assimilable influence. Influence is not the problem; the problem is influence which consumes the host culture. The Germans and Italians have both weathered the storm of modernity (Yeats’ “roof-levelling wind, bred on the Atlantic”) to some degree, because they retain a strong sense of what it is to be Italian or German.
The English seem to have lost any anchoring sense of Englishness, perhaps because we share a language with the Americans (who are necessarily multicultural, having exterminated the original inhabitants). i’m unsure why Germany should be still fairly safe, with largely stable families and some kind of work ethic, while England has become a nest of apple polishers and base chavscum. There seems no clear, worldly explanation.
3. Cultures develop in a specific time and place; influenced by the terrain and weather. Likewise, i am a product of England – specifically the North – in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Contrary to the Communists’s supposition (that i hate the English because some of them are racist, and that i now want to avenge myself on them all, but i am myself too racist to join hands with the Muslims so just infuriatingly read the Daily Mail and inexplicable fail to go on strike and protest), i don’t hate England; i hate chavs and apple polishers and shouty socialists, and i discriminate between chavs, apple polishers, shouty socialists, and decent folk. Chavs and apple polishers are rife in cities like Leeds, though in shitholes like Huddersfield or Bradford the chav:polisher ratio is higher as polishers naturally gravitate towards money and the possibility of personal advancement (as do shouty socialists).
In Germany i feel strangely more English, though i suppose it makes sense – since the Bosche all stare at me in amazement, my foreignness is daily reinforced; which may be why British Muslims seem more prone to fundamentalism than in the Middle East. And just as Muslims may become more Muslim under such conditions, i become more English, thus:
In my case, my imaginative capacity allows me to subtly adjust to living for 3.5 years in a foreign culture. So i’m actually becoming more Germanic at the same time: blunter, more orderly, fatter, with more expensive shoes, more brutal & insane. But it’s not actually good for people to be permanently transplanted to a foreign culture, if they lack the imaginative resources to make sense of it. At least Germany is not wholly dissimilar to England; in many ways, what i’ve seen of Germany – in Kiel, Kassel, and Munich – is what i liked in England.
4. i) A parallel between individuals and cultures – just as individuals require boundaries, their own space, so do cultures. i’ve now had four quasi-friends who i eventually had to cut, or who cut me after i stood up for myself. Two approached me out of the blue: one thought he was Jesus, the other was merely a socialist. Of the other two, one was a repulsive music journalist and the other my original Tai Chi tutor (another self-righteous bully). In all four cases it followed the same pattern: i was initially open and friendly, found them interesting; then after a period they became increasingly intrusive. The Jesus person at least never tried to bully me, he just had no sense for my private boundaries and seemed to think i was writing my blog for him personally and no one else (because he was Jesus). The other three all hectored me for deviating from their divine blueprint (the journalist hectored me for liking any music he didn’t like; the Tai Chi guru hectored me for absolutely everything he could think of; the Communist hectored me for not sharing his UN functionary worldview); they all became progressively more unbearable until i stopped trying to mollify and humour them, whereupon they all responded with wounded rage.
Most interesting people are crazy, of course, and everyone has the occasional tantrum. i don’t want to just cut people as soon as they seem nuts or bolshy; if i did, i wouldn’t have any friends. While i personally won’t leave aggressive comments on other people’s blogs or Facebook walls, i accept that most people do from time to time, and that one should tolerate it to a degree. i disabled blog comments because i attract nutters but at least on Facebook i can create a private blog and only invite those i trust; and if they violate that trust i can unfriend them (so far i’ve only done this once).
ii) Likewise with cultures – a closed culture would be peculiar and in the 21st Century would only be possible with a totalitarian state such as we see in the great Workers’ Paradises of the USSR, North Korea, etc; but as in one’s private life open doors will result in burglary, graffiti, dead dogs under the bed, and hippies smoking crack and telling you, “hey man, this is our place now, what are you, some kind of racist? Property is theft, man. Get out and don’t buzz our high. Go and buy us some beer and crisps.”
i can’t formulate a rule, at which point i don’t want someone in my house. It varies from person to person and at different points in my life i have different tolerances. For a nation it is harder. One could draw up some basic rules: that if you don’t learn the language to a certain level in 6 months you have to leave; that if you don’t have any useful skills or education you have to quickly acquire them or get out; and so on. The real cultural issue is harder to define. Probably most British citizens would fail the citizenship test as they come out of school knowing nothing about their own history or culture and will continue in that vein (and most Germans, to judge from the brainless apprentices i taught in Kassel).
5. The great achievements of a culture should be preserved and venerated and studied; they have an influence: subtle, extensive, nearly invisible but, in the end, decisive. Perhaps it is that, growing up in a cultureless house (i was the only reader) my father nonetheless had Shakespeare’s plays still in their cellophane wrapping, and never-played vinyls of Handel’s Messiah, and while i naturally had no interest in such things i nonetheless felt this in the background, as the then-inaccessible frame within which English culture had its life; and i wouldn’t have thought our racist apple polisher neighbours were the intended product of that culture – merely a corrupt emission. In England, the left dismisses all that is great in our culture as imperialism, fascism, dead white male racism; hence, perhaps, the sense that there is no longer a frame, no longer something great against which life may be lived and understood; because for socialists the past must be destroyed so they may create a new world, a world in which they can take their places as philosopher-kings bearing total rule over the masses.
i take heart that even the most vociferous and bullying socialist cannot destroy the works of Shakespeare, the music of Wagner or Handel. They can ban them, they can vilify and bowlderise them, as is in fact done, but they cannot totally exterminate them from human history. They can browbeat and hector but the original texts remain, like Dante’s statue.
Most Italians have no interest in Dante, but the statue remains and they see it and know it is there, in the background of their daily life; a symbol of the highest reaches of that culture; and the day to day life finds its place within that arch. It is there; you know that your culture reached so high, that your ordinary life is a part of this, that this greatness frames and orders the present. Without this extraordinary frame the ordinary lacks volition and coherence and purpose; it is then simply a Darwinian struggle for more material goods. The extraordinary guarantees the sanity of the ordinary.
From Man of Steel: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble, they will fall, but in time, they will join you in the sun.”
i’ve been feeling quite chipper of late, because i have writing to do, because the weather has improved, and the rest will be to do with the recent McLingua pay rise – quite significant, from a near-beastly 13 € a 45-minute unit to a near-princely 17 €. It makes a sizeable difference; i generally work about 80 units a month for McLingua which means an extra 300 €. In addition to undreamt-of-wealth, weather, and writing, i’ve had some amusing conversations of late, as follow:
1. i have a late evening group with 2 girls and 2 men; one of the men works for the German military, one of the girls works in a bank but wants to quit and if possible get a job in sports training as this is her Germanic obsession. The girl is very hot, a 6 foot blonde valkyrie. The army man was complaining about the poor level of fitness in the military and –
me to Valkyrie: You could get a job working for the army, training these disgusting slobs. You could whip them and call them slaves, send them on forced marches over the mountains and chase them in a jeep, whipping and screaming at them.
Valkyrie: And I could have a personalized jeep, a pink jeep. And I could wear pink hotpants and have a pink whip!
me: Ahh, yes. You could, indeed you could.
Valkyrie [smiles blissfully]: I am imagining it now.
2. i took over a new group from a California surfer dude teacher, after i substituted once and the students asked to keep me forever as their precious. They work for a private bank so come suited and grim of face but are actually quite amusing in class and two of them are hot babes. When i asked what they’d done over Easter one student looked thoughtful then said: “I ate a lot of Easter chocolate…rabbits?”
bunny-eater: I like the chocolate. I eat Easter bunnies every year.
cynic student: You know they are just melted Santas.
cynic: They melt all the Christmas chocolate no one wants and use it for the bunnies. So you are eating melted angels and melted Santa. [cruel banker laugh, bunny-eater looks appalled]
3. i briefly substituted at a JobCentre class. i did grammar drills with the Present Perfect: one of the students, an amusing Das Boot-looking German called Rainer, responded to every grammar question with combinations of 20 and wild dogs, e.g.:
me: Rainer, how many cups of coffee did you drink yesterday, and how many have you drunk today?
Rainer: Yesterday I have –
me: Yesterday I drank.
Rainer: Ah yes. Yesterday, I ate 20 wild dogs and today I have eaten 20 wild dogs.
me: Rainer, how long have you had your shoes?
Rainer: I have had my wild dogs for 20 days.
4. My Communist friend wrote to tell me he’s not actually a Communist and that no investment bankers live in his village. He continued in fine form:
You remind me – I hope you will forgive this – of Adolf Hitler, fuming in the library in Vienna writing Mein Kampf while researching runes and Indian mythology, complaining about the mongrelization of Germany and the cultural decadence of the left.
I suspect that the racism you suffered growing up in England is behind what looks like your desire for revenge on the bastards. That would be understandable. But then you would have to enter into some kind of victim status, and your pride does not allow it, especially if it means being identified alongside a bunch of Pakistanis.
(This is in response to my last blog post). i was especially tickled to be compared to Hitler and more or less accused of racism. One of my left-wing friends in England, let’s call him david since that’s his name, claims chavs don’t exist and believes there should be no prisons or nationalities or schools or jobs or money; he angrily compares me to Hitler or “the Nazis” every time i see him. The last time, i told him something like “chavs can be very dangerous, you may change your mind if you actually get in an altercation with them.” He replied: “The Nazis said exactly the same thing about the Jews, elberry. You are using exactly the same language as the Nazis. They talked about the Jews exactly the same way you talk about these non-existent chavs.” Every time i see him it’s the same. Incidentally, david is a vegetarian non-smoker who owns a dog, read Nietzsche, and speaks excellent German.
5. i bought one of these beauties yesterday, a Corona Old Boy:
i then went to McLingua to wait for my evening class, two nice women with whom i have wholly jettisoned the McLingua materials in favour of hardcore Dogme ELT. As i was waiting, Toddball appeared, looking as ever like a fat shambling Chicago John McClane, a particularly sleep-deprived one as he became a father a few weeks ago:
i told him the Communist had compared me to Hitler and he said “yeah you’re just like Hitler” and then i said “he also told me i hate Pakistanis.” Toddball chuckled evilly and said: “You are pretty racist.”
me: What? What makes you say that?
Toddball: You posted that story on Facebook about women being raped in India.
me: And that’s racist? Even though i also post stories about white chav scum and fat stupid American slobs from Chicago? There’s a difference between disliking a culture, and disliking someone’s genetics. i don’t judge people by their genetics; i judge them by their behaviour. So if –
By way of refutation, Toddball pulled out an extremely cool and dangerous-looking lighter he stole from someone in a bar and tried to burn it into my face; however i pulled away and he said: “Made ya flinch. Look at ya, flinching.” He then toyed with mine. He flipped the top lid off and tried to melt it in the flame.
me: i just spent a day’s wages on that. Please don’t destroy it.
Toddball: I want to make it real hot and then burn a hole between your eyes so you got one of them Hindu dots.
6. Later, my evening group came with 3 big glasses of Aperol Spritz (bought from the cafe below McL), and we talked about horses, sexual perversions, pipes, violins, Django Reinhardt, and Yeats. When i think back to my 5 years (or 4.5 to be exact) of office hell, life is quite fine:
1. At school, a fascist bearded history teacher used to bellow “Is it the Daily Mail?” upon sighting a newspaper or magazine of any description. It’s now the only newspaper i bother to read every day though i rarely read any of the articles to the end. i lack the patience to read any newspaper as they are all badly and boringly written, and focus on politics, sport, and finance. The Daily Mail, while very badly written, focuses principally on murder, rape, mutilation, and torture – subjects of interest. Most of the DM stories are also covered in the other newspapers, but one has to first wade through tedium about the stock market and Ronaldo and the Bank of England and the latest speech given by such-and-such a political non-entity.
In part, i like the Daily Mail because its bias is so clear i can filter it out without trouble; i also don’t really read it, i just pluck a few grisly facts out for my own delectation. The BBC and Guardian, by contrast, are slippery and i don’t have the time or patience to re-read everything trying to disentangle truth from propaganda. i’m only interested in what’s happening at street level in England – the latest speech by the Junior Under-Secretary for Outreach Resolution is of no interest to me. i want to know who was murdered in Manchester, who was savagely beaten by bearded Muslims, who was raped and eaten by tattooed cannibals. i found it strange, living in England, how often i saw or heard of savage street beatdowns and yet the newspapers were full only of stories about the latest iphone, politics, Jade Goodie, as if the actual danger of walking through the city after 9 pm was of no consequence. In my hospital job, when my colleagues moaned about how violent the streets were, i asked them when they thought it began; they all said it was in the late 90s (or rather in 2007 they said “it was about ten years ago”). The Daily Mail at least reflects my own experience of living in England between 1976 and 2009:
2. From time to time, my Facebook friends would privately remark quizzically on my repeated links to the Daily Mail, usually to do with murder/rape/torture stories. Living in the wealthiest & safest city in Germany, i don’t want to forget that civilisation is precarious; that in England most of the people i know report that things are getting worse and worse, on the street level. The 1% who confidently assert that England has never been better all have cushy managerial positions and live an enviably pampered life of ease and gilded magnificence.
3. My only genuinely Communist FB friend, a champagne socialist who left England 30 years ago and lives in a village for extremely rich people outside Geneva, used to leave abusive jeers to every Daily Mail post, and indeed many others when he was in the mood. The jeers were predictable: “Not the Daily Grail again” or “It’s in the Daily Grail so it must be true”. When he insinuated that the whole story was invented and that i was, therefore, a gullible idiot i took the time to Google and find the story covered on several other newspapers, some left-wing (though typically it wouldn’t appear anywhere in the Guardian); and to ascertain that the Mail hadn’t in any way falsified the story. i then posted this after his trollish comment; he would always ignore this, only to return with another “Daily Grail” comment a few days later.
The last time, i linked to an article about the Office of National Statistics report, regarding the rise of chavvery; the Communist commented: “Oh no, not more Daily Grail ‘statistics'”. i laboriously found the original report and provided a link so he could check that, in fact, the Mail hadn’t fabricated them; then realised he wouldn’t bother since as a Communist he already knows what’s true and the facts need not concern him; so i just unfriended him instead.
He then emailed to tell me he’s pissed off that someone with my so-called intelligence and so-called education should waste his time on “propaganda written for the hard of thinking”. He told me i should spend my time attacking Judith Butler and modern academia, this being “a far worse crime than anything in the Daily Mail.” i do feel that the left-wing destruction of academia has caused enormous damage to the country, but i personally wouldn’t say it’s “a far worse crime” than, for example, torture or murder or rape. But then, living in a village for investment bankers, perhaps things appear so to him.
4. Back when i enabled comments on this blog i often received comments which more or less ran: “Normally I like your blog but I don’t like this post. Never write anything like this again. Only write the things I like.” Being a nice elberry i tried to give these comments some thought; eventually, i realised that if i did as my readers said i would have no blog left at all: a cashier at Tesco’s told me i shouldn’t write about my shitty job because i earned 50 pence an hour more than she did; a Speech Therapist told me off for reporting wearily on the atrocious written English of the therapists for whom i worked; every time i wrote about a band or film or book i didn’t like someone would tell me i was a fucking idiot and should die; when i wrote about the weirdness of standing at the bus stop for 10 minutes and hearing 3 conversations, not a single one in English, i received a series of enraged comments from white people calling me a racist; and so on. If i had excised all the objectionable material there would have been nothing left except reports on the weather, and i guess sooner or later someone would have taken umbrage at that and told me i was a stupid weatherist cunt.
5. The trollish comments, on FB and my blog, were almost always from left-wingers. i don’t recall a single trollish comment from a conservative, and like Joyce i am a “collector of injustices” and hoard my bad memories like love letters.
Perhaps it is to do with the nature of the left/right-wing divide. To some degree, the divide is meaningless – the Nazis were National Socialists, and the actual methods of control in the USSR and Nazi Germany were very similar. In the 21st Century, “the right” seems to mean capitalist, conservative, opposed to an authoritarian State and a bloated public sector. i don’t know anyone on the right, even people who are very right, who would be happy with the Nazi model; but the lefties always have a soft spot for Stalin, for gulags, pogroms, beatings, the Lubyanka, special shops and privileges for KGB and senior Party members, caviar for the bosses, tree bark soup for everyone else. For example, George Galloway praising North Korea.
6. The left feeds on the myth of the underdog. Yesterday i posted this Daily Mail link on Facebook, about the supposed architect of the so-called plot to disrupt Margaret Thatcher’s funeral: an Oxford student whose parents live in a 700,000 pound house in Tunbridge Wells. The essential details, incidentally, are also to be found in the Telegraph. My friend Bonehead commented:
Typical socialist – someone who has much and yet somehow believes themselves to be part of a band of threadbare brothers living hand to mouth on the scraps the cruel state tosses them from its table.
Bonehead is from a slum in Bradford, his mother is black, his father Irish/Polish, and he’s worked since leaving university, at a series of temp jobs, never signing on. He has no interest at all in English traditions but believes, as i do, that it’s better to work – even at shit jobs on low pay – than to take money from the State. i have some respect for socialists who actually work in McDonald’s and live in Bradford, not that any such exist; but they all seem to live in 700,000 pound mansions in Tunbridge Wells.
7. i sometimes call myself right-wing but in truth i’m just anti-left-wing, if by left-wing one means George Galloway, Polly Toynbee, Tony Blair, Stalin, Beria, Decca Aitkenhead, Laurie Penny, Judith Butler, etc. i have no real interest in politics. i’m interested in the national culture, what happens in daily life; in whether the streets become safer or more dangerous; in how vile or polite people become; and so on. Political men and women always seem hollow and clamorous to me; in Buddhism, there is a “hell of hungry ghosts”: an appropriate name for those interested in politics.
i remember reading an American academic somewhere writing that he was asked to appear on a university committee, as a token rightist. When he asked how they knew his politics, since he never talked about them, the students said “we know you must be right-wing because you never talk about politics.” Likewise, i only got talking about politics with the painter in our last session, a good 18 months after we first met; and found he’s as “right-wing” as me, meaning he distrusts an intrusive State run by power-hungry manager trash, their ideology woven by self-righteous retards like Judith Butler and Laurie Penny. Here is Boris Johnson on a conversation with the queen of champagne socialists, Polly Toynbee:
At the end of a harrowing conversation, she said: “You don’t understand. You think this is all some game, some debating forum for civilised adults. But this is serious. You are on one side and I am on the other.” Shortly afterwards, she vented a volcanic piece, accusing everyone at the Spectator of being effete, slimy, bullying creeps. The article was illustrated by a picture of Auberon Waugh as a human turd about to be flushed down the pan – and the poor chap had only just died.
This makes me think that there is an interesting psychological difference between left-wingers and right-wingers. On the whole, right-wingers are prepared to indulge left-wingers on the grounds that they may be wrong and misguided but are still perfectly nice. Lefties, on the other hand, are much more likely to think right-wingers are genuinely evil.
i’m not right-wing; i just don’t care about politics and don’t want to be harangued by champagne socialists, anymore than i want to be harangued by conservatives – the difference is that only socialists harangue and bully; because they are convinced they are right, and that they are fighting the good fight, they feel no interest in logic, discussion, civilised debate, or leaving people alone: they want to win the argument by whatever means (slander, abuse, threats); they want to re-educate their opponents; i’m sure that if my Communist friend had the political power, he would ban the Daily Mail and anything right of the BBC and Guardian; he would have me taken away and re-educated, and it would be for my own good. And he isn’t a bad man – just a communist, a true believer.
8. One can draw up a preliminary sketch of character by asking, Which Russian writer do you identify with? i love Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad but withdraw from his polemics and arrogance. Dostoevsky describes my more lunatic youth. Chekhov is my ideal. Consider this, courtesy of Patrick Kurp:
“The students were different from Anton Pavlovich. They loved to argue, and they were in some peculiar way opposed to just about everything.
“`If you have no convictions,’ said one student turning to Chekhov, `you can’t be a writer.’
“No one can say, `I have no convictions,’ said another. `I can’t understand how anyone could not have convictions.’
“`I have no convictions,’ replied Chekhov.
“`You claim to be a man without convictions, but how can you write a work of literature without any ideology? Don’t you have an ideology?’
“`I have no ideology and no convictions,’ answered Chekhov.
“These students had an odd way of arguing. They were apparently displeased with Anton Pavlovich. It was clear that they could not fit him into the didactic turn of their outlook or into their moralizing ideology. They wanted to guide, to instruct, to lead, and to influence. They knew everything. They understood everything. And Anton Pavlovich was plainly bored by it all.
“`Who needs your stories? Where do they lead? They don’t oppose anything. They contain no ideas. The Russian Bulletin, say, would have no use for you. Your stories are entertaining and nothing else.’
“`Nothing else,’ answered Anton Pavlovich.”
1. Last week i finished the first draft of my temp memoir, 4.5.
The first 5000 words are by hand, the rest on manual typewriters. i now have two typewriters. A few weeks ago, taking a short cut through a company car park, Toddball & i sighted a skip and by the skip a battered black container. “I’m going to steal that box,” Toddball said in his Dillinger voice, and as we neared i saw it was a typewriter case. Without slowing he snatched it up and we walked purposefully, Michael Mann style, to the u-bahn station. There, we opened it to find this beauty:
“Do you want it?” i asked. “You know i already have one.”
“No, it’s for you,” he said. “I stole it for you.”
The previous user was a smoker and a blonde, as best i can judge. i used it to type the last few thousand words as it’s quieter than Monika and i was often writing after midnight. i love typewriters, though i will have to do a final version on the computer, if i want to Lulu that shit. 4.5 is structurally sound so unlike The Better Maker i can (i hope) get a good print version done before winter. i have no intention (or desire) of selling any copies but i want to have at least one old style book from all this temp misery.
2. i have bit by bit repaired all the things that broke at the start of the year; or most of them – the fob watch needs an entirely new mechanism, so i ordered a new. It gave me great satisfaction to sew a button back on my coat. i’ve also been smoking my new old pipes. Beguiled by pipe-smoking runefolk, i tried to smoke pipes back in 2007 but couldn’t work it out. Via youtube, i’ve learnt the art of packing and this makes all the difference. i am now quite the pipe smoker. As with sewing a button back on my coat (i’ve done it with shirts but it’s a bit different with thick coat fabric), there’s a distinct pleasure to learning a physical skill, the quiet engagement with physical things.
3. i don’t like computers because i’ve already lost a fair bit of writing to a corrupt data stick; because VDUs hurt my eyes; because i used them for 5 years at work. They don’t usefully resist. They lose data, act up, unscrupulously irritate – but they don’t bring me hard up against the actual difficulty of language. i type quickly so with a computer i am constantly editing and rewriting, so quickly i don’t even consciously realise it. With a typewriter i have to think. i can’t say i like thinking but it has its charm. Denken ist schwer. If you think too easily, too lightly, you are probably doing rhetoric instead of thinking.
4. There are two separate but interconnected worlds – the physical and the imaginative. When we feel anything, imagine anything, we create and access this other reality. It is veiled. Angels and UFOs, demons, gods are a way of apprehending this reality. Ideas have their own imaginative substance and persist after they are expressed. An idea – Roman Catholicism, for example – has its own independent reality; in the imaginative reality, it actually exists and would continue to exist for a while even if everyone who had heard of it died. Likewise Hell, angels, the Virgin, the Sacrament. And likewise Pallas Athena and Odin, for example.
Odysseus gives blood to summon the shade of Achilles. That is a good image for the relation between the physical and imaginative. It (seems) to begin in the physical and requires mortal sustenance. One could see it as akin to the AIDS virus, requiring human body temperature to survive – though with this difference, that Athena still exists. Perhaps this is why the old deities underwent so many transformations, with the hundreds (thousands) of Zeuses, not to mention the myriads versions of Christ.
5. i use my Kindle a great deal – for convenience and because i can’t afford or store some works, and others i already own but the book is in my ex-MILF’s garage and i don’t want to buy another. i’ve grown to prefer physical books, despite the convenience. i sometimes enjoy just looking at my books, smiling and patting my belly like a paedophile by the school railings:
i think that every physical object takes on an imaginative form, that is to say it has its own existence. It is especially vivid when it’s been imbued with emotion. Thus we sometimes feel that a house or car or weapon or whatnot has an “aura” to it; it absorbs emotion and thought. Sometimes it’s better to get something brand new. But there is a pleasure to 2nd-hand books: i have, in my ex-MILF’s garage, a 3-volume copy of Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, belonging to someone i knew in my last life (i bought it in 2001, long before i knew anything of this life, or even the name of the previous owner). i don’t remember seeing this book in my last life but it’s entirely possible i was in the same room as this book, or that my acquaintance mentioned it to me, perhaps mockingly, perhaps not.
i dare say my Kindle has some kind of imaginative form but it’s for me too general and vague. i’ve used it to read the Bible, Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the Zohar, Thomas Bernhard, Byron, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, HG Wells, Richard Mitchell, GK Chesterton, Christopher Isherwood, Tom Brown’s School Days, Lovecraft, Dion Fortune, Colin Wilson. Perhaps it now has a right-wing, occult and tweedily English tinge to it but for me it’s so general as to have no “essence”; by contrast, when i pick up my copy of Dante’s Inferno, bought in 2009 to replace one that fell apart, i feel its distinct quality, its character and history.
6. i’m becoming steadily more analog as i age. i consider the technocratic fantasies of physical dissolution, leaving the body wholly behind:
the body slumped before the screen, all corporeality reduced to a darkness given shape only by light from the gnostic pleroma, that realm of transcendence from which bodies are exiled: — the heaven of glass
this does not excite me. It’s not so much that i’m old-fashioned as that i sense the power of physical things, that the imaginative reality in some way requires the physical. Each spiritual force desires physical incarnation in physical form; each physical artefact has its corresponding spiritual force. i don’t want to live as an imaginatively etiolated, stunted creature, solely reliant on the non-physical for my imagination. It would be better to be wholly non-physical, with the range and perception of the truly incorporeal, than to be a physical being denying the physical with computers. Without physicality – and by that i don’t mean what minimal physicality there is to electronic data – the imaginative is skewed and frantic and enfeebled. We bring our spiritual force into being through physical engagement.
1. In March i went to the Dachau concentration camp with Yoiks, the owner of Bones. It was a good day for it, temperature a bit below zero, snow, which in mid-March gives you the feeling winter will never end. Outside:
and the altar for the Catholic prisoners:
It was overwhelmingly grim. Many of the visitors were foreign, for example Yoiks and i traipsed through the exhibition halls with a Spanish-speaking couple. At one point, as we were gloomily progressing through the pictures of death and torture, three pretty teenage German girls ran excitedly down the length of the hall, giggling and shouting: “Ja, das ist so geil!”, yes, that is so cool! i stood in their path and gave them a filthy look but they swerved around me, laughing delightedly, without even seeming to see me. i guess they were on a school trip and had started talking about Justin Bieber and then decided to liven things up by running through a museum to Nazi atrocities, laughing gaily.
2. Germans are all force-fed Third Reich history at school and seem to come out with typical juvenile cynicism about the whole thing. There are essentially four types:
i. Juniper, my MILF, who refused to watch the monumental Heimat with me, because “I am not interested in films about the Hitler time” (i said it was set in a small village and has almost nothing to say about the Third Reich or the war, but she just repeated that she has no interest in Hitler and that it is bad and boring and she has no interest in these Nazi films; she also said she hates Rammstein because it is “Nazi music”, and when i pointed out that the band are all left-wingers and anti-Nazis, she just repeated that it is Nazi music and bad and evil;
ii. Young Germans who “did” Nazism at school and find it all boring and have no imaginative or empathic capacity (most likely the girls at Dachau, and most of the apprentices i’ve taught);
iii. Violently left-wing, self-righteous hipsters who will probably grow up to be corporate lawyers, or crackheads with 10 neglected crackhead children;
iv. Germans who acknowledge it happened and go to visit a camp and don’t take the Juniper approach of pretending it never happened, but don’t run around shouting about fascism and The System and Capitalism. There are also real neo-Nazis, usually ignorant smalltown types or criminal thugs, but i don’t think there are so many of these – it’s not fashionable.
3. Afterwards, Yoiks and i talked it over. On Facebook, i often post Daily Mail articles about rapists and murderers and assorted scum, many of whom are Muslim; and Yoiks, i guess, feels i am close to being a Nazi. He is strongly opposed to making any generalisations about religion or race, perhaps because of his origin (Macedonia) and i think he worked with the army in the Balkans. His view is that if someone is a bad person they will express their wickedness through whatever culture they have, so a Muslim will burn his daughter to death if she won’t marry her first cousin, or a Catholic will rape boys. i agree to some extent – i see how people express their essential nature through the forms of each life, though there is often some influence from past lives.
Yoiks seems to think culture is irrelevant, indeed he says it makes absolutely no difference if you are a Muslim or a Christian or atheist, and that his best friend is a Turkish Muslim. However, he then added that his friend eats pork, drinks, has no contact with Islam – and so i would say he’s not actually a Muslim, anymore than i could be said to be a Roman Catholic just because i was baptised in the faith. For myself, i feel that the force of one’s essential nature is very strong, and a bad person will find a way to be bad, in even the best of worlds – and a good person in a bad world too – but i think it’s wrong to say that the culture makes no difference. For if it doesn’t, why did millions of Germans gladly support the Third Reich, and gladly hate other races. Living in Germany now, i would say there are perhaps a few thousand people like this alive today – perhaps tens of thousands – but most of them would be criminal brutes, latent psychopaths, whereas 70 years ago many perfectly normal bourgeois people were glad to see Jews taken away and exterminated.
i believe the difference is culture – that the culture encouraged all that is worst in humanity in the 30s. Nazism succeeded through a peculiar combination of German self-righteousness (most Germans are insanely self-righteous), the humiliation of Versailles, and discipline and order. If the Germans weren’t so extremely self-righteous, and didn’t feel so keenly their loss of eminence and prosperity, it would have been harder to whip them up to a bellicose frenzy, or to take their Jewish neighbours’ property with the sense that, after all, they deserve it. If the Germans weren’t so disciplined, the process of genocide wouldn’t have been quite so extensive and efficient. And so on.
If, as Yoiks maintains, culture makes no difference at all, i don’t see why children should learn anything about the Third Reich at all – if it doesn’t matter what you know or believe, if you are born good or bad and culture is insignificant, then we should just throw our hands up and accept that there is absolutely nothing to do about evil, that it is totally random and reveals no aetiology. And this i don’t believe. i think the “good Germans” were good in part because their culture offered nourishment for their original good, and that if it offered nothing they wouldn’t have sheltered Jews, because their essential nature would have remained stunted and minimal. i speak from my own case, for my nature only developed when i began to read “literature” 17 years ago; before that, i was sentient but in a strange, almost senseless way – i would say like an animal but that this is (or was) normal for animals; for human beings, it is abnormal. i simply encountered very little soil in which the seeds of my being could grow, and so remained mentally and emotionally stunted (physically too: i grew 2 inches between age 19 and 21, and put on a lot of muscle).
4. i thought more about Yoiks’ opposition to viewing people as members of a group, as Muslims or Christians or what have you. i don’t see how it’s possible not to first see the group – it’s how human perception works, that you don’t for example see a tree as a long thin vertical brownish structure with horizontally branching protruberances, you see a tree and only then see the detail (Sartre’s Nausea describes the experience of no longer being able to relate new experiences to old categories – the result, which i experienced myself for a few weeks when i was 21, is of vertiginous confusion). You don’t see a strange human being purely as they are; you see a woman, for example, then that she looks German; then that she’s about such and such an age. Without categories, the experience would be a raw tumult. i doubt many have had the experience of Sartre’s Nausea but it isn’t a delightful clarity – it’s a maddening chaos as your mind can’t make sense of stimuli; i remember even staring at the sky in horror, because i didn’t know what it was.
5. Yoiks himself feels free to make sweeping generalisations about Germans (typically to the effect that most of them are crypto-Nazis). It’s not possible to avoid generalisations and dangerous to pretend you can: Yoiks really seems to feel that most Germans are Nazis, whereas i’m aware that there are probably decent Muslims (i haven’t met any British Muslims who seemed other than barbaric and in some way retarded, but i met two from the Jordan, who were both hospitable, intelligent, humorous, and likeable). The natural activity of the mind should be to relate new experience to old categories, and adjust the categories: so one’s categories should be subtle and have many, many sub-categories, and exceptions – things which just don’t fit. If i met any British Muslims who didn’t tell me white women are all whores and thieves, that blacks and Jews are the children of Satan, and so on, i would reconsider.
6. i would guess that British Muslims don’t feel part of British culture – understandable given the racism (to which my family were subjected, the rich white kids writing PAKI BROWN SHIT etc. on the pavement outside our house), and the systematic, left-wing destruction of native British culture and education – so there is no culture to belong to. My ex-Muslim schoolmate, Shrekh, used to shoplift, and his sisters too. i wondered why, since i doubt his parents taught him to do it and they weren’t poor; perhaps it was because, having fundamentalist Muslim parents, living in an ugly area, receiving no real cultural influence, because the Left had successfully destroyed the native English culture, they felt no attachment whatsoever to anyone else. Culture is the glue that holds us together; it creates an atmosphere of mutual habitation, that you share certain beliefs, knowledge, likes, dislikes, ways of looking at the world. When deep and vital, it is fluid enough to maintain considerable individual difference (as in the military, a shared uniform and group identity allows the individuals to be quite different while being nonetheless comrades in arms). The stronger the culture, the more individual difference it can sustain and absorb. A culture first corrupted and then destroyed offers only alienation, distrust, insincerity, violence, and fear.