Thursday, 29 October 2009

The impotence of being earnest

I hate being right sometimes. I hate it. Hate it.

Almost everyone in the intelligentsia (you know: those brilliant people who’ve been in charge of the unprecedented successes of our glittering education, welfare and criminal justice systems over the past forty years) believes that traditionalist conservatives such as me are unimaginative, petty and petit-bourgeois: joyless souls slavishly dedicated to the proposition that all men are created evil and whose chief concern is the vindictive suppression of spontaneity, sexuality, personal flair and freedom of expression (especially when freedom of speech takes the form of the sexual taunting of the non-intelligentsia, republicanism, or blasphemy). They imagine that our idea of an evening’s entertainment is staying at home and listening to a recording of Winston Churchill’s collected speeches over a background track of Elgar - all the while obsessively polishing our porcelain farmyard animal figurines on tables covered with pages from The Daily Mail. This is absurd; I never do anything like that. Why, last night it was Enoch Powell, Holst and horse-brasses. And I loosened my tie later on when it got especially exciting. The Daily Mail; natch.

Dreamy is a nice woman and a good person.

She’s a loyal friend and a loving mother to her fatherless children; both of whom are growing up to be well-behaved, imaginative, polite, patient and intelligent people. Our kids played together when our friends and neighbours got together socially or for tree hugging or picnics, and after my divorce we had continued till quite recently to babysit for the other or to ride shotgun on a gaggle of children including our own. I trusted her with my offspring and she would trust me with hers, and I would trust her again without question. But this is not about easy divorce: and especially not mine.

Dreamy moved heaven and earth for her kids’ pretty useless fathers to visit and spend time with them, and she made every effort to make such occasions compatible with their limited paternal instincts. They weren’t much interested, and as far as I’m aware they never paid their offspring much heed in the past. But this isn’t about perennially absentee fathers.

We’d lost touch until recently but at the time we last met she’d been doing part-time self-employed work whilst maintaining her home (which she was buying with help from her family). Tax Credits and Income Support and Child Benefit would make this lifestyle make sense. Till very recently, she could scarcely expect to work much as her children were pre-school age. A husband might have changed that, but somehow the thought never seems to have come up. Why not? Who knows? But this isn’t about welfare benefits.

I met her on the very day that I posted this intemperate and more-in-apoplectic-outrage-than-in-anger rant and learned that she is now A) married, and B) expecting another baby. Her children; named after a mediaeval noblewoman and a fashionable mass-murderer played politely around us in that dreary public space, and took part from time to time in the Mummy’s having a baby conversation with only the younger one moderately eager to point out especially attractive consumer goods to her that her straitened circumstances might never permit her to buy. But this isn’t about material poverty.

Dreamy and her new man did it right this time. First came the marriage and then came the baby. She was very proud of that and I was able to cheer her and her husband in the great Dance of Life and Generating and Connubial Conviviality and all that stuff.

There’s a snag about the marriage and baby thing, though: Mister Dreamy isn’t allowed into Britain.

He was born, and dwells to this day in a non-EU country: one furthermore with no historic ties with Britain. The sun never set on anything jolly, ripping or stalwart there; the colonial power’s troops and missionaries never taught his ancestors to play cricket or sing passages from The Gondoliers, and there was never (even during the customary pre- coup month of Independence celebrations) anything like a Westminster Parliament presiding over the land’s newfound statehood and sovereignty. But this is not about the retreat of the West and the subsequent corruption of its former colonies and provinces.

Dreamy thinks that the Immigration people are being naughty in that they won’t let Mister D come to join her amid fair Alba’s green pastures and join her in her multicultural travels and lifestyle experiments. Despite having a job already lined up - and for a countryman of his, at that, who will therefore be able to speak truth to power for him – the ‘crats are concerned that he speaks no English yet. Dreamy points out that he doesn’t need any English for the job on offer which is of the transporting hot, cheese-covered snack food products around Castle City late at night variety. But this isn’t about any value to the economy of adult human beings being able to speak to each other.

Little Duchess and tiny Hermann are chattering excitedly about Christmas by now and I’m able to hide my inner bigot’s frothy-mouthed psychic tarantella at the importation of tainted DNA into the innocent wombs and wholesome bloodlines of my dear countrywomen. I swap perfectly heartfelt smiles and banter with the children about the appearance or otherwise of Santa. But this is not about what the United Left accuses the cultural Right of secretly believing in our pedigree-obsessed, pitch black and whiter-than-white hearts.

Dreamy suggests that in a world suddenly without borders Mister D would be able to join her in domestic bliss; albeit on a shift system - she looking after the children between conventional and hippy schools and their bedtimes, and then he’d perform his nocturnal duties to our economy using native wit and high-fat semaphore. Melted mozzarella: the international language of the soul. She doesn’t seem to care that if he does come to live with her in her family-subsidised home, that if Mister D ever loses his job, everybody else in the country will foot the benefits bill including the locals who might have wished (or should have been strongly invited) to move certain margheritas around the North West themselves. There’s no question that he’ll fit right in and go along with the way we do things here, and it’s axiomatic that he’ll be a perfect gentlemen to all and sundry whom he meets in this our very different land. He probably will be gentle to her: I’m reasonably sure that she’s lost the will to breed with men unwilling to take part in her and her children’s lives by now. Someone who names her children after a mediaeval aristocrat on the one hand and a well-known and equally foreign but republican brutal killer on the other isn’t going to be all that on the ball where national cohesion is concerned. But this isn’t about patriotism or any other sense of loyalty to familiar people, culture and institutions.

Dreamy is, I should say, in many ways a model citizen. She’s gentle and friendly and willing to help her fellow creatures and she quite literally wouldn’t hurt a fly. She seeks to support herself to some degree within the bounds of New Labour’s Britain, and once the kids are properly at mainstream schools I have little doubt that she’ll find work of some sort. She’ll be picky : it’ll have to be ‘ethical,’ so don’t spend your lower taxes yet. Of course that’ll be six or so years off now, assuming that she puts the Expected D into part-day sessions at the local hippy school for a couple of years. This is to protect the child from what she considers to be excessively early development of literacy. It could be worse: it’s all too easy to live off others nearly lifelong, and she has pride and integrity in spades. She’s a good person, I repeat; and treats other folk and indeed the rest of the world as worthy of respect and consideration. Her day-to-day morality is of a very high order. In an honestly governed country she’d be - bar some of the welfare costs - pretty much the sort of person for whose protection we traditionalist conservatives do our thing. The squawk of alarm that is The Daily Mail concerns itself mostly with the threats to safety and peace – conditions in which women and children should live safe from acts of violence and other crimes. Quite why she thought it was okay to hitch up with and have a child by someone who was not assured an entry to Britain, I don’t know. I’ve done some fairly daft things for love myself, and you’d have to be pretty heartless to actually say it to her face that a more careful choice of husband might have been more sensible for almost all concerned. It’s blasphemy these days to point out too that a wiser decision would be much, much better for the strangers who she’ll never meet but who’ll be obliged to fund Mister D’s medical care and possibly his subsistence for many years to come if Pisa Express goes bust and there’s nothing to replace it. She’s sweet and friendly, and doesn’t need to listen to any preaching of obviously imperfect me on how to live her life. But this isn’t about personal morality and its effects of self and others.

Is Dreamy the vanguard of the invading Marxist counter-culture or its victim? Does her casual acceptance of the system’s function of exporting the consequences of individuals’ choices to everyone else mean that she’s knowingly subverting what remains of a culture that once extolled free will to such an extent that it actually held individuals themselves to be responsible for those choices, and which held folk to account for them? Or is she a robotic slave: trapped between the exclusive tramlines of strictly limited imagination that consider that the original ‘Hermann’ was ‘inspirational’ - rather than the blood-soaked kill-crazy pervert that he in fact was? (You never really believed that his name was anything at all like Hermann, did you, Dear Reader?)

So: subversive agent or collateral damage?

I don’t think she’s either. I think she’s the product.

You can’t hurt Dreamy. You wouldn’t want to: she’s sweet and nice, and now in my second (and actually happy) middle-aged marriage I feel mostly avuncular about her gamine though currently bulging good looks. I don’t think that she ever dreamed that Duchess and Hermann were disposable inconveniences, and so they made it out alive; cute as buttons and adding to the fun and colour of life. I’m grateful for that.

But as she goes about her life spreading the warmth that most people feel in her company and gracing Castle CityBritain. I hope she’s not on the Tube when their faith goes expansively physical. And she’ll regard any restraint on who dwells here or how they get their kicks with as much fear as previous generations dreaded having their lives changed by invading armies. And she’s never, ever going to desire the reduction of corporation tax or the higher personal rate, because she knows in her heart of hearts that the rich in general and the corporations in particular put mercury into tuna and want to melt the Arctic. So scratch many of the jobs that her kids might otherwise be able to get. with her smile and happiness she will, through other choices, take part in the further burial of Christendom. The very Christendom that taught much humanity - eventually - to treat individuals as children of God, and therefore worthy of respect and decent treatment irrespective of their status or nationality or sex. She’ll elect politicians who’ll encourage judges to put vicious hooligans onto the streets, and some of them back into the mainstream schools, where they will bully and assault little Duchess and tiny Hermann as they grow up. Somehow, someone else will get the blame as they come crying home from school, because punishment is cruel; as much an abomination as sodomy was once held to be. She won’t even think that people survive together in polities by living according to long-established rules and by sharing common expectations about life, and so can understand and recognise their neighbours’ rights to do quite a lot of things as they please without asking for permission. She’s never heard such notions articulated by anyone she hasn’t bee n taught to distrust. Thus, Dreamy will let every neophile crackpot wreck any and every remaining traditional right in the name of abstract Freedom. She’ll recoil aghast from any suggestion that Mister D’s compatriots should not settle here in droves for fear of their bringing their folksy, traditional, and sometimes barbaric customs into

Many of her major decisions in life would have sent family and friends in earlier generations into angry tirades and eventually (perhaps) gentler offers of help in getting back onto the strait and narrow. Should anyone try to offer such advice now then she’d view such suggestions as somehow obscene and unnatural. So she won’t be providing quite the comfort for her children as many of their classmates enjoy; certain as she is in the belief that her love for them is more valuable than material things (which is true), and also sure that living without selling out to ‘the system’ - by which she means recognizing that the economy runs according to rules which it is almost always bloody and disastrous to break - is worth nearly as much as her love (which is not true.) Our earnest attempts to persuade her that there are other, better ways to understand and protect the good life than hers won’t get past her carefully nurtured lack of historical knowledge. Thus she’ll never know how we got here from a Europe where Duchess’s namesakes were savage and remorseless killers who conquered the continent on horseback and who ruled it at sword point for centuries - because her ears can only hear what she’s allowed to hear, which is that those of us with the different ideas from hers want to kill all the polar bears and concrete over every field and forest in these islands for a few quid. We are powerless in the short term to persuade her and millions like her that, for example, human rights grow out of specific historical circumstances and institutions, and that if they are to survive if at all it is likely to be only amongst the remains or continuance of those circumstances and institutions. Dreamy is what you get when the culture war is all but won by the other side.

This, as much as the silence of the conservatives, is what Burke was alluding to when he said that evil needs good people to do nothing in order to triumph, because Dreamy is one of the good people.

But this isn’t about cultural beliefs and how their consequences effect the lives of people in outer, material world as well as the inner world of the imagination and emotions.

Well, I can’t sit here all night gossiping about my life. The new carriages for The Flying Scotsman have arrived, and my diamond-pattern knit tank tops won’t alphabetize themselves, you know. Rock and roll.


Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

Great post NNW! So very true for so many people.

James Higham said...

Very uneasy about a lot of it in the way she goes about things, as a small c traditional conservative. I don't think we should ever come to terms with Labour's dole lifestyle and we should be aware that decisions have consequences.

North Northwester said...

Thanks, and welcome back GBGs.
You and James H and me and others - how are we to deal with people we like - whom we are so socialized to wish well, but who are busy sawing away at the branch of civilisation on which we all perch over a river full of crocodiles?

I still have no answer; not one, that doesn't involve some kind of very nasty preaching.


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