Many thanks for all the good feedback on my drawing.
When I said I undertook it to take my mind off the political situation I didn’t express myself very clearly. What I meant to say was that in the past few weeks I have formulated and even begun to write quite a few posts, but all of them have been abandoned, partly because I’ve seen the same things said better elsewhere and partly because, well, savage indignation and the great morass of cant, lies and bullshit known as contemporary political discourse are draining materials to work with.
I find it interesting that now the political class and Labour government’s mistakes are piling up thick and fast it seems to have a deadening effect on all our moral imaginations, by which I mean we are being worn down by living in the logjam; what would once have shocked me now provokes nothing more than a disgusted sigh: responding freshly to a situation of permanent chicanery, incompetence, arrogance, hypocrisy and moral nullity is hard work for the human brain. As Orwell said, sometimes the hardest things to see are right under your nose.
However, these are a few unpolished thoughts provoked by the past month’s events.
The present government, political class and contemporary culture represent the full flowering of the baby-boomer generation. It is the received opinion of forty years of liberal thought made civil and constitutional reality. In many important areas it has been an utter failure, disguising rather than solving many of the old social problems, while creating many new pathologies and problems, which it often refuses to admit exist and always refuses to take the blame for.
Although socially speaking there has been a welcome easing up of the old class boundaries and social snobberies, these boundaries still exist in education and many of the boomers’ remedies have simply turned out to be wishful thinking: levelling gestures that have punished talent emerging from the lower social spectrum, while leaving the moneyed middle classes to carry on as they were.
To write the above is to generally invite a chorus of sneering retorts along the lines of ‘what, would you rather live in the 50s?’ To which the answer is most certainly not. I simply turn the boomers’ triumphal view of history around a little bit: we know the bad things that have disappeared, but let’s consider what was worthwhile. Sometimes it is worth considering the baby and not the bathwater.
When you consider the burning social injustices that drove most boomers to righteous decaffeinated Marxism – having to wear short trousers until the age of 14; having old men tell them to stand when they played the national anthem; being told to get their haircuts and take their feet of the seats on trains – you have to laugh when you compare them to the injustices these grammar/public school boys eventually thrust on the subsequent generations: the rights of passage now are knives, drug delirium, absent fathers, a landscape of strong and casual violence, gang rapes, feral behaviour, legitimized ignorance, unpunished violence, unexplored potential, low paid work or a life of welfare.
Even the boomer complaint that in their youth difference was severely frowned on – John Osborne’s comment about not being able to walk through a provincial town wearing a yellow cardigan comes to mind – has to be digested in the knowledge that anyone these days who doesn’t conform to manufactured reality of television (the boomers’ superhighway of liberal babel) is liable to be singled out for belittlement: pre-cultural revolution, people were not jeered to self-immolation for having long hair or wearing yellow cardigans. If they were attacked repeatedly the law would do something about it. Now, thanks to boomer government, the police will only act if it is a ‘hate crime’. Anyone who decides this is an exaggeration had better study the recent Fiona Pilkington case in detail.
I wondered what had made the boomers the way they are. I can understand a lot of it: I was a wayward youth and adult, embraced rebellion, sex, drugs and rock and roll plus left wing politics. I still believe that two of the most repellent sights in British politics are young conservatives and old socialists.
But you grow up, you notice the hypocrisies of the new boss, same, as The Who sang, as the old boss – but in the case of the boomers often a deal worse (put Blair next to, say, Macmillan).
That is not to say you suddenly believe that Britain should be run by Mark Thatcher types and that greed and the corporations are good, far from it; but you come to realise that the same problems keep coming up, and that there are, perhaps, reasons for certain attitudes. That standards are there for a reason and that without authority there can be no justice.
But a social democrat boomer would tell you that there has never been more justice – a ministry of justice here, supra-national ministries of justice on the continent; a mantra of social justice running through the media and academe like letters through a stick of rock. But this brave new world keeps producing more and more inversions of justice. While the EU creates a legal framework which protects Islamic terrorists, it simultaneously bans Italian schoolchildren from wearing crucifixes to school.
While we are on the subject of Islam it is always worth repeating that the rise of radical Islam in Britain, while in part was allowed to flourish by the security services, was largely a result of the boomer class's vanity: they considered themselves so non-judgemental (of non-white groups anyway) that even when an organised far-Right death cult began to gain influence all the boomer class did was make excuses for it and give it money (recent example: Hizb ut tahrir - the far Right Islamic group that Tony Blair boasted he would ban - has just received a large grant to run its own schools) This is institutional folly on a grand scale.
The boomer left claims to hate elites and yet it has given its weight to creating and sustaining an anti-democratic elite in Brussels.
Multiculturalism, mass-immigration, the curtailing of freedom of speech – all things that were decided in a wholly undemocratic way by noisy social democratic boomers. The effect? A flagging civil infrastructure, overburdened schools and services and a growing urban tension. A demoralized, low-paid workforce struggling with crippling accommodation bills – the privileged boomers, however, got the cheap au pairs and Polish plumbers. Now fascism is on the rise. Before 13 years of boomer government the BNP was a tiny, fringe organisation with less than 2,000 members. Now it has 20 per cent of the population considering whether to vote for it, two MEPs in Brussels and a regular spot on Question Time to look forward to.
And still Jack Straw (a textbook boomer) would not connect his government and its policies with this alarming rise of support for a fascist party.
The principal of free speech replaced by political license: in the bad old days homosexuality was illegal. This was wrong. It achieved legal toleration. This was right. Now it has become virtually illegal to disagree with it. You are no longer allowed to disagree with the state orthodoxies. Is this the liberty that boomers shouted about? I don’t recognize it as liberty.
Sure, there is more liberty than there was in some respects and what is worthwhile I enjoy. But the boomers’ relativism and hatred of their parents’ manners has dovetailed perfectly with consumer capitalism to create the blank-eyed, ignorant, utterly selfish, burger-stuffing iPodista we sit next to every day on the train. For such people, independent thought means what crap am I going to buy next. Does saying this really make me a soulless fogey? I don't feel like one. I feel young, actually, with a soul. (I'm listening to Otis Redding as I write this - but I do listen to the more melodically pleasing Elgar now and again...)
But why did the boomers become as they were? I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an inferiority complex about the Second World War. They had to grow up in the shadow of it and the achievements and resilience of the people who lived through it and this pushed many of them into a kind of permanent adolescence, rejecting on principal – not reason – anything that reminded them of their parents’ and grandparents’ attitudes (I am not saying that all their attitudes were right and proper).
But it is a good irony that what the boomers’ destroy they eventually need again: hence after years of decrying the suburban archetype of ‘the nosy neighbour’, the government is now planning to have local snoopers, paid by the state. They do exactly the same in the failed Communist state of Cuba, where each block of flats has a party snooper on the look out for any seditious comment or behaviour. Our local snoopers will soon find their list of trangressions to look out for widened to take in the political manias of the boomers.
There is one silver lining, I suppose: the boomers will all retire soon, most of them on fat pensions – they had the good times and queered the pitch for many of those that followed.