Ugh. Some days, no matter how many nice or exciting things happening in my personal and professional life, I just feel that we are all, quite simply, fucked.
As a mini-reward for getting a small work thing into my outbox by 0900, I read Russell Brand’s take on his recent adventure award-ceremony-land, when he reminded GQ that its main sponsor, Hugo Boss, used to do a nice line in Nazi uniforms. What’s that trick fiction writers are supposed to do, to make the day to day seem unfamiliar so you look at it with new eyes? Brand’s description of how it actually feels to be the male mega-star walking through a corridor of identically dressed and posed women-as-ornaments shows how messed up it is that anyone could ever think it normal. And it’s not even cool, just “a vision of what squares imagine cool people might do set on a spaceship”. In this instance, Brand is how you might like to imagine yourself if you were fabulously successful, clear-eyed about exactly how, and both brave and talented enough to write beautifully about it. And honest enough to see it’s not even all that brave to give the two fingers to the suits; it’s just somewhat unusual.
“I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won’t tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.”
Walking up Oxford Street around noon, I saw an angry white man trying to pick a fight with a woman in hijab, and a white woman getting onto him for it. At least that’s how I interpreted the scene. A couple of minutes later, as I sat at my bus stop, the white woman came up to check which buses went from it, and the man followed, abusing her with various disgusting and shouted remarks about her appearance and how she shouldn’t dare to be out. I glared at him and made to get up and intervene, and he walked away. But with today’s Sun newspaper’s front page launching its campaign to ban Muslim women from wearing veils in schools, courts, hospitals, banks, airports and other ‘secure places’, but offering to ‘let’ them continue to be veiled in parks and on streets, I’m not surprised this particular bully feels he has a license to abuse and threaten women on Britain’s biggest shopping street.
On the bus home, I cracked open Colin Crouch’s Post-Democracy, feeling sick at the thought that it’s a long and useless decade ago that he wrote:
“… in most of the industrialized world (that), whatever the party identity of the government, there was steady, consistent pressure for state policy to favour the interests of the wealthy – those who benefited from the unrestricted operation of the capitalist economy rather than those who needed some protection from it.”
The book is about how politics is no longer shaped in pro-democratic ways by an organised and engaged working class, among other factors, but is returning to its pre-twentieth century norm of being “something to serve the interests of various sections of the privileged.”
Having just witnessed what I’d guess from his accent was a working class Glaswegian man using a public space to target his presumed enemy, a woman from a minority religion, I couldn’t help feeling that we – the leftists, the progressives, or anyone who gives a political damn about more than their own venal and narrow economic interests – we’ve lost, we’ll continue losing in ever more – and then ever less – outrageous ways, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
But at least it will be entertaining, eh?
Back home, I spotted Cory Doctorow’s take on the Sultan of Brunei’s little brother who has blown almost fifteen billion dollars on tat. (Why, by the way, do the .1% have such awful taste in music? If you could rent almost any musician for a private show, would you really pick Rod Stewart?) Lest anyone think oiligarchs have absolutely anything to offer the rest of us, politically or culturally, we are reminded that;
“It’s a kind of pornography of capitalism, a Southeast Asian version of the Beverly Hillbillies, a proof that oil fortunes demand no thought, no innovation, no sense of shared national destiny: just a hole the ground, surrounded by guns, enriching an elite of oafs and wastrels.”
I’m not saying our crowd don’t have the best songs. And we for sure have the best writers and comedians. But we’re still losing and we will keep losing, while amusing ourselves to death.