Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I haven’t been in the UK for about 2 months now and left more or less just as the student protests were kicking off. What I’m suspecting is that a whole swathe of people who even three or four months ago were broadly dismissive of leftist-y rhetoric and positions, cleaving to well-worn Late Capitalist orthodoxies of dismissing class-based grievances and struggles as relics of the past and congratulating themselves that they were smarter and more modern, cooler, than all that earnest, shouty and angry political stuff are now, sensing that maybe the fashionable, the “cutting edge” thing to be in 2011, is committed and anti-apolitical are, with varying degrees of success no doubt, now trying to reposition themselves as “he/she who knows” and doubtless with the same ego-salving, loftily dismissive air: “yes of course I was always of the Left, but at the time we all quite reasonably believed..” will be one strategy, another will be to broadly approve, with several “mature” objections so that you don’t seem to be too desperately reversing your position just because like, it now seems kind of unhip to be saying that stuff…

These people will scrabble after the authoritative discourse and try to cloak their essential emptiness in a little of its glory every single time there is some kind of shift, cultural, political, economic, whether to the left or the right, depending on where they feel they need to be situated in regard to power or the thrill of the underground. Prior to the financial crisis they dismissed predictions as scaremongering and racked up debt: straight after it they were telling you of course it couldn’t go on that way and were into bargain hunting, boasting how they had an i-phone app that let them compare the price of onions on any British high street, austerity being breifly the clever-person's choice. There is a left inclined version too who will have gone from “progressive Left-liberal”, dismissing any critical talk of Neo Liberalism or redistribution or revolution as Old-thinking, to being excited by its shiny new, Twittered-up rebirth, quietly trying to bury that old self they used to take such pride in and desperately reading up on all the right names and notions to drop in blogposts, tweets and pub chat. Political principle is this year’s lifestyle choice! Irony is starting to look so Last Decade...

So maybe it's time to scrap that novel you were writing, designed to demonstrate the range of your classical erudition yet heavy with pop culture references, wacky incidents, multiple narratives, kooky characters and smartarsed riffing on the minutiae of Late Capitalist life (but with a kind of diffuse melancholy thrown in so that it has some like, gravitas, yeah?) and go for something angry about the New Disaffected. They look like what’s happening right now. Maybe something about a gang of mixed race Urban youths who get involved in a protest, all set over one day, that exposes the divisions in our society and the vested interests and state power, kind of Kidulthood meets Saturday, or a British La Haine. Of course that way you can also show off your ghetto-smarts with the street-speak and the Grime and dubstep refernces, but it'll be an act of sympathy and solidarity with the underclass! Yeah, maybe that’s how you’ll get to be the voice of your generation.


Hey! Maybe this post will get re-tweeted by exactly the kind of people it attacks as a way of helping them kid themselves/others that it's talking about someone else!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I detect the murmurings of a 'backlash' against those (I think) you refer to.

But from what I can gauge of the 'blogosphere', I suspect that it's very much a London thing. I may be a biased northerner, but since the 90s when I encounter London (or those from there) I've always been struck by how 'flexible' they are in terms of allegiances, lifestyles and political opinions (often determined by professional/personal associations). The pressure to live like a walking advert for yourself seems so much more pronounced there. Class 'identity' pretty much remained solid outside London, despite the maxims of the Blair years.

Also, it seems that a lot of 'em were employed (fairly comfortably) in education/the public sector (or private agencies requiring their patronage) and now they're seeing it rapidly wiped away. Stands to reason that this would 'politicize' so many. Tricky to call for revolution when you have a quango to schmooze.

However, for so many of us, there was no 'New Disaffected' - there was always an Old Disaffected, rarely as surprised by events, but no less outraged. And pretty much resigned to being invisible in public discussion, largely indifferent to media/academic (same thing) trends.

carl said...

biased northerner? shit, maybe that's my problem too..

there must be fairly substantial pockets of said cunts in places like manchester, tho...

Anonymous said...

Cunts is a bit strong!

Well Manchester is a wannabe London (if your not working in a supermarket, it seems you have to be a DJ/musician/filmaker/web designer/property developer/media luvvie or some other self-advertising cunt - which may be why it's a surprisingly right-wing city, considering its history).

I wouldn't say the same about Liverpool, Leeds, Scotland or Wales though (not quite as 'neoliberalised' as Manc/London - yet). But then, they were the kind of places accused of 'clinging to the past' not too long ago... because they had more time for wacky concepts like public spending, unions etc.

Anonymous said...

blimey, that was pretty near the mark....hopefully not as 'cuntish' as all that, but i reckon i'd certainly fall into that category of someone for whom the student protests kickstarted the feeling that tangible opposition to the neo-liberal hegemony might be possible after all. And while no doubt the majority of those you're (quite reasonably) ripping into here will no doubt fade away with cultural shifts, as you predict, if only 1% stay committed, that's something isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Sure. I wasn't exactly a commited revolutionary myself (and I probably had some aspiration to join the ranks of the above cunts), but it's nice to feel like protest (however half-arsed) isn't pissing in the wind. Well not as much as it did in, say, 2003...

Neo-liberal hegemony collapsed in 2008 anyway (it just keeps going as broken-record ideology), so maybe more people feel inclined to give it a kicking while it's down. We should keep in mind that every party lost last May.

Anonymous said...

http://blissout.blogspot.com/

?

W. Kasper said...

“People died at the Brixton riots in 1981," Ben mutters. "People might die today. We all know what's at stake." There is a resolved silence as they pad their jackets with protective cardboard and scribble lawyers' numbers on their arms.

Peters calls for silence as Techie Sam puts a YouTube clip on the projector. A well-known actor's voice floods the hall, reciting from Henry V: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;/For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother . . ." Ten hours later, many of these same teenagers will stagger back from the protest with blood running down their faces."


If der kidz are un-i-ted
Dey wil nevva be di-vi-ded!

... and tough shit about that winter fuel allowance, grandma... get yourself an iphone!


http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2011/01/student-protesters-young

carl said...

Ha.. is cunts a bit strong? maybe i use it too freely, tho i have to say when i lived in Leeds it was used quite liberally and had a pretty bland "dickhead" like quality...i do think there's a bit of a north/south divide, or maybe a class divide on the word...i once horrified two of my collegues when i lived in, of all places, Ramsgate by saying "he's a daft cunt though isn't he" who then rather patronisingly told me that here in the south one can't say such things....

and i wasn't talking about Reynolds or Laurie Pennie!! I haven't read that Laurie Pennie thing yet...

Anonymous said...

'Cunt' is freely with good cheer for all occasions in Scotland, but in southern England (and definitely America) it can be greeted with horror.

I thought Reynolds post might have been a response to yours?

The Penny piece was far to the wrong side of cheezy romanticism.

carl said...

yeah the formulation "daft cunt", said with a certain degree of affection seemed inoffensive enough "what you doing, daftcunt?"

reynolds may have been in response, who knows how the great man's mind works

i've now read that Penny piece...yeah i can understand why many might wince....my feeling is its not playing particularly well within the "movement" and unlikely to be persuasive to those outside it either.. i suppose it's also the self aggrandizing thing..you'd think it was the Somme from some of the descriptions...easy for me to say i suppose as i wasn't there...

on an entirely fatuous music relatd note this possibly bogus focus on aesexuality and extreme youth, ie the "purity" of the protesters reminds me of both of C86 and Riot Grrrl....so i think its infantalizing them...

W. Kasper said...

The never-ending search for the 'new punk' has been a serious liability to far too much critical thinking.

Working with (multiracial) groups of urban teenagers in the recent past, I have to say none them gave much of a shit about dubstep either (thirtysomethings hanging on to youth were a different matter).

London isn't the universe - whenever I go there, I think "so then - THIS is the way they want us all to live! Working 80 hours a week to live like a perpetually distracted sardine. Groovy!"

Phil Knight said...

Well, isn't the original punk itself something of a sacred cow?

And isn't it time its dairy products/car insurance salesmen were led to the slaughter?

Why are obvious twats like John Lydon and Iggy Pop still treated with exaggerated respect?

Do they owe us anything other than a decent advert for Suntory whisky?

W. Kasper said...

They're treated with exaggerated respect because (a) they're not dead, and (b) they made far more money in old age than they did in their prime. Giving hope to fifty/sixty-somethings everywhere.

The other side of the coin is Ian Curtis, who we love because he didn't live long enough to campaign for UKIP and do a duet with Kylie Minogue.