Letterbox - writing the New Sensibility

SECESSION

LETTERS to the EDITRIX

Your Editrix - firm but ah, so fair

Return to the Dales

Madam

 
I am delighted that you printed my letter about 'Mrs Dale's Diary', and I hope it will strike a chord with some of the readers.
 
Two points I should like to make.  The biography of Jessie Matthews by Michael Thornton is well written, balanced and not hagiographical, even though Miss Matthews was alive when it was published in 1974.
 
The phrase 'clumsily idealized' is my own;  not a very elegant one - but having searched Roget, I cannot find a better description.  Surely that it was slightly idealized was what made it so palatable with the listeners, who included the Queen, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.  That it was clumsy is my own opinion.  The series was not well written, and, as you say, certainly not great literature.  The fact that the BBC now ignore it is an illustration of their prejudice against the style of life which Mrs Dale epitomized.  I certainly do not sneer at it, in fact, I loved it. 
 
It is interesting to note that the series was replaced in 1969 by 'Waggoners' Walk', about three girls sharing a flat in Hampstead.
 

Yours sincerely

D.R.

Please let me assure you that I intended no criticism of you. I was merely taking your letter as an opportunity to discuss certain points of general significance.

In saying "that is what comes of reading bongo biographies" I was not meaning to imply that the phrase in question came from that particular book - or from any source in particular. I was referring in a more general way to the fact that an entire suite, as it were, of attitudes comes supplied with modern literary and journalistic commentaries on these things.

The reason we do not read any post-Eclipse books is precisely this; and journals, whatever their political stance, invariably partake of the cultural corruption of the period because there is no other form of culture current. That is what we are here to change, at least among a small elite. It is therefore necessary to criticise the underlying assumptions behind the things that get said in these circles.

Let us take the word "hagiographical" used in your letter. I am not suggesting that you are using it in this way, merely noting its provenance, when I state that it has become a quasi-technical term in bongo criticism of biography, meaning "not dirt-dishing enough". It implies the values of the cynical bongo style of biography and journalism. Unless there are serious errors to be exposed, why should biography not present its subjects in the best possible light?

Recently I read a book called Londoners, written in the early '60s by the journalist who had been writing the Evening Standard's "London Diary" for the past fifteen or so years. What struck one was the kindness of the book. All the people spoken of were treated pleasantly, and accepted - unless there was any good reason to do otherwise - on their own terms, without the sneering and backbiting cynicism which is the stock-in-trade of the equivalent bongo journalism.

No doubt Johnny Bongo would consider this sort of journalism "naïve". Frithjof Schuon, writing of the supposed naïvete of earlier societies (a broader question than the one we are discussing, but fundamentally related), remarked that to the sharper and the habitual criminal, the honesty of the ordinary person always seems naïve.

On the question of bongo biography (the general question - it goes without saying that I am not applying these remarks to Mr. Thornton's book), I should like to quote, with permission, a passage from an unfinished novel by Miss Regina Snow, the authoress of Children of the Void:

"Have you seen the new biography of Oscar Wilde?" asked another.

"Whenever I hear of a new biography of some one I admire," said the Raven, "I rush out and buy an old one. A modern biography is like the sack of a great city by uncomprehending barbarians."

"But surely modern biography tells the truths that older writers swept under the carpet."

"They were very wrong to sweep them under the carpet, if that is what they did. They should have taken them out and burned them. Most of these 'truths', in fact are mere slanderous conjectures invented by minds that cannot rise above the sewers or imagine that any one else ever did. But grant them to be true, or half-true. Of what value are they? We live in a fallen world. Even the highest lives are compounded of sublimity and vulgarity. Our job is to pursue the sublimity and eschew the vulgarity; not to wallow in the vulgarity and destroy the sublimity with grubby, half-baked cynicism.

"The sublimity of a great life is what is true about it. Its various ensnarements in the squalor and difficulty of material existence, mere accidents devoid of either importance, or, for the superior maid, interest. How very characteristic of the modern world to invert this simple truth. Commonplace vulgarities we may find on every street corner at ten a penny. Sublimity we must search the earth for, and when we find it, should treasure and protect."

Alice clapped her hands together in involuntary rapture. "Oh, played, miss," she said.


The answer lies in the soya

Madam

Following V.S.s Pub experience, may I relate another illustrating the extraordinary degeneration of English pronunciation. In a Chinese restaurant I heard a type-three ordering toffee.

This puzzled me, as it seemed a strange thing to order and in any case there was no toffee on the menu, not even toffee banana.

She mentioned this "toffee" several times. Finally I realised that what she was ordering was bean curd.

A.R.N.


A Foreign Tongue

Madam,

The Vixen's comment about the Queen's English being unknown to many younger people is less of an exaggeration than many might care to think. I was recently in a public house where I was served by a young man with a scouse accent.

He remarked in a friendly way "Where are you from?"

The question puzzled me - I replied "From London - just down the road, in fact."

"No, but originally," he said.

I told him I was born in london, whereupon he looked extremely puzzled and said - but you've got such a funny accent - I just can't place it."

I believe he genuinely did not recognise the Queen's English or have any idea what it was.

A.R.


French not such a farce?

I was recently speaking to an educated and sound Frenchman who has been in England for many years. I was interested to hear what he had to say about the corruption - or otherwise - of spoken French as it confirmed a suspicion I have had for some time that this wsas by no means so great in Europe as it is in Britain.

He spoke of the almost exclusive use of common and regional accents on British television and said this was not at all the case on French Television and would not be tolerated there.

He also said, speaking of the region from which he came that in his young days they spoke with a patois but these days that had mostly disappeared and they spoke Received French. This they equated with being educated and considered it offensive for any one to adopt their former regional mannerisms.

This is interesting because it equates exactly with what was happening in England before the Eclipse, when the use of Received English by the broadcasting services and in education was noticeably raising the level of vocabulary and pronunciation among the population as a whole and the speaking of Received English was permeating downward quite rapidly.

As we all know the attack on Received English by the mass media and education system has long since reversed the situation, so that among young people the Queen's English is virtually unknown and is spoken by no class.

Possibly the issue of proletarianisation has not manifested itself in quite the same form in European countries.

Certainly, I believe the Language Barrier has been as useful to them as the English Channel once was to us. I can hardly believe they would remain so uncorrupt if they could fully partake of bongo British and American television and films - surely the Grand Sluice of the world's mind-sewage.

Vixen


Ills and Dales

Madam

Still am I much enjoying the Secessionist site.  The degenerating state of Britain was one of several reasons for my decision to live in Thailand.
 
I wonder if any of your readers share my interest in 'Mrs Dale's Diary', the daily serial which ran from 1948 to 1969? 'Mrs Dale, the doctor's wife, records the daily happenings in the life of her family,' said the 'Radio Times.'  Unashamedly middle-class, Mrs Dale lived at Virginia Lodge, Parkwood Hill, in Middlesex (said to be based on Pinner) had a daily woman called Mrs Morgan, a gardener called Monument and a milkman called Tompkins.  She also had a dog called Bo'sun and her mother a cat called Captain. 
 
It appears that the BBC are quite ashamed of this series, as they seldom mention it.  Many books and tapes are available which deal with 'The Archers', but Mrs Dale is virtually lost.
 
Recently I read a biography of Jessie Matthews, who took the eponymous part in 1963. In it the author, Michael Thornton, says: -  
 
'But "The Dales" represented that great unknown and faceless multitude, the English middle classes, and all levels of society - from the Queen Mother, tuning in over tea at Clarence House, to elderly widowed pensioners living alone in one room with their cats - were within reach of identification with the family...This, then, was Mrs Dale, superstar [sic] of suburbia and successor to Samuel Pepys as the diarist of the British nation....(she) belonged completely and essentially to England.'
 
I grew up listening to this programme.  It has become part of my childhood.  Since purchasing the Jessie Matthews biography I have ordered some special books on this serial.  But what I should really like is to hear some of the episodes again.  Is anyone who 'tunes in' to your site the possessor of old recordings?  Do other people share my nostalgia for the clumsily idealized and vanished life depicted in this serial?
 

I'm worried about Jim.

D.R.

I do not know where such recordings may be found - but I shall enquire whether ORCA has any. For myself, I confess I have never heard the series, though I should like to, being a famm of Miss Matthews in her musical days.

I do sympathise with all that you say. I am still in England, but wonder how much longer it can be borne! But really - "clumsily idealised" indeed. That is what comes of reading bongo biographies I fear. The trouble with books from the Pit is that however "sympathetic" they may be, they always come ready-packed with attitudes of this sort seeping through the very pores of the paper. The tendentious false assumptions behind this single two-word phrase are really too great to go into here.

To begin with, idealisation is not only allowable, but necessary. Every age has its ideals and most ages that are not hopelessly corrupt have broadly the same ones. To embody the ideals of a society is part of the proper function of any literature. The Pit's campaign against idealsd notwithstanding, every piece of pit-literature necessarily embodies the anti-ideals of a corrupt society.

And, does it do so any less "clumsily" than a series of this sort? I think not. The pseudo-sophistication which allows the Pit to sneer at this sort of thing (and initimidates even those who admire such a series into half-sneering lest they be thought naïve) is not in fact genuinely intelligent or sophisticated at all. Standing aside from Mrs. Dale its attitudes may seem a little obvious. Standing aside from the Pit, as secessionists do, the Pit's attitudes seem equally obvious, equally clumsy and a great deal less worthwhile.

Mrs. Dale and its kind are not great literature. They are ephemera, quickly produced to a formula. As such they are not less, and probably are more, sophisticated that the equivalent productions of the Pit, unless one falls into the Pit's own trap of equating "rotten to the core" with "sophisticated.

One hesitates to quote a passage found elsewhere on this site but I think we may profitably do so at this juncture. What is said about "idealisation" in films (and like "hypocrisy", "idealisation" is the insult that vice gives to virtue - or bad fiction to good), of course applies to other forms of production:

We shall no doubt hear the weary old argument that the Art-Neo film is an unrealistic and idealised representation of the society in which it is set. In reply we should say that we are not, for our present purposes, interested in social realities, but in images. And we are very happy to compare like with like -- that is, Rajasic films with Tamasic films, in which the Tamasic world has every opportunity to depict its image of itself rather than the social reality. We would say that the image is, if anything, rather nastier than the reality, which at least is modified by some remaining resistance from human goodness. Indeed, this is the salient point about the two types of society. One sets up an image above its present attainment-- more beautiful, more stylish, more kindly-with which it saturates its image-sphere and to which it aspires. The other sets up an image below its present attainment-- darker, more chaotic, more violent and atomised-- with which it saturates its image-sphere, and to which, whether it admit it or not, it aspires, and certainly grows continually closer. In fact, far from constituting an objection, if Rajasic films represent Ideals, surely that is precisely what we want, since we are using them to 'stock' our image-sphere and the more 'ideal' the material with which we stock it the better. Indeed, the Art-Neo film could profitably be a great deal more idealised than it is.


And they gave them a stone

Madam,

I read today in the Sunday Telegraph that Radio 4 (known as the Home Service in more wholesome times) is to reintroduce Children's Hour. However the new "Children's Hour" will be known as Go 4 It. This ghastly new name is yet a further confirmation of the deracination prevalent today. Yours sincerely,

Dr. M.A.S

But this is the point of secession, learned Doctor. All broadcasting and public communication in the Pit is corrupt. Without exception. It goes without saying that any "revival" of Children's Hour or anything else decent will be a skull-grinning parody. That is why we reject and withdraw from the lot. Without exception.

There is no point in saying, "Look! do you see what they are up to now?" We see what they have been up to for the past thirty years. It hasn't changed and it isn't going to change in the forseeable future.

Unplug today.


 

Of Many Things

Madam,

May I pass on some suggestions in the spirit of your Wireless correspondent?

1. Given the general ghastliness of our standard TV services, one might be loath to invest in an ugly satellite dish which promises more of the same. There is, however, a non-terrestrial channel called Turner Classic Movies which is, alone, worth the subscription cost. It shows nothing but films from a better age of movie-making, all hours of the day and night. The only challenge is not to watch it to the exclusion of any other activity!

2. If you would like to make your computer sound like a real typewriter, there is a delightful and free piece of software named Tappy Type. It is simple to install, at least on Macintosh machines, and brings you the reassuring click-clack, swish and bell of traditional keys and carriage returns.

3. On a more elevated level, perhaps, London correspondents might consider a visit to the 11 o'clock Sunday Mass at Brompton Oratory, in South Kensington, which honours the beautiful Latin liturgy discarded by most Catholic churches since the second Vatican Council. The service is sung, by an excellent choir, in a fine old building built to resound to Palestrina, Tallis and Mozart. If music and beautiful language are routes towards a sense of God, then it's to be wondered that more churches do not follow the Oratory's example.

Rather a random list, I fear. But perhaps there may be something of interest. I was prompted to write by your essay on The Image Sphere. Having now ordered my copy of The Feminine Universe, I hope to find the book as stimulating as the extracts published on your site.

P.D.N.

Oh bother! Apologies for such an un-editorial outburst, but while I was using a Macintosh ordinator I always wanted something just like Tappy Type, now here it is and I no longer use a Macintosh. Ah me!


The Truth about Fur and Foxes

I appreciated the Silver Vixen's comments about fur-faddism (Secession in Vienna). Much fur is produced by means that are certainly no more inhumane than the production of meat. However some fur is produced by very cruel methods, and I am quite sure that our kind-hearted Vixen would not approve of such things.

We should surely support humane methods of fur production, just as we should support humane treatment of animals in all cases. But this, of course is precisely what the faddists do not and will never do. Where in the Pit have you ever heard of any sort of campaign for the humane production of fur? Nowhere, and you never will.

Why is this? Because the faddists and their allies in the mass media have no intertest whatever in the humane treatment of animals. They oppose fur because they oppose femininity and superiority, as the Silver Vixen so rightly says. They do not want humane fur production. They prefer inhumane fur production because it gives them an excuse to oppose fur. It is fur per se that they oppose, not cruelty to animals.

In the same way proposals to ban fox hunting are purely attacks on hunting, not on cruelty. If it is banned foxes will need to be killed by other methods which will all be perfectly legal. They will be caught in traps where they will die in agony with broken legs. They will be poisoned and left to a lingering and horrible death. They will be shot and often escape to die slowly of their wounds. Only hunting where death, if not instantaneous (as I believe it usually is), cannot possibly take more than a few minutes, will be outlawed.

These people have no concern for the suffering of animals. They are only concerned with attacking the superior classes, femininity, tradition and anything else decent.

That is why the mass media are on their side.

Veritas


Which First Language?

Forgive me if I seem a bit dim, but the thought on your main page says that most modern English people would benefit from learning a first language. Does this mean that English people need to learn English?

P.R.

Miss Prism replies: Most English people, yes. Especially television announcers. It would not have to be English. Any language in which they could make themselves articulate would do. English might be a good idea as they would have some rudimentary vocabulary to begin with. They would have to learn grammar from scratch, of course, and might never master truly idiomatic English, having started a little late in life for that. As for pronunciation - oh dear. Perhaps it would be better to start afresh with another language after all.


Wireless

Does anyone mind my just popping in to chat about my wireless experiences? I have been listening to Elektraspatial wireless for some weeks now and find it very enjoyable. It is much better than just re-playing one's own collection. One just switches on and there are new things - many one has heard before - lots one has not. It has a casualness and a currency about it. It is very like existing in the Real World.

I have found many stations to be unreliable, but I have quite a few so I can always find one that is working. Mostly I listen to music. A way to find more stations is to go to www.live365.com and do some searching from there. You don't need to register by the way. Just play a station you like and it will appear in Winamp and you can bookmark it there for future use.

Two stations to consider are the 78 decades and Ultimate SciFi. The latter is full of up-to-date science fiction like Vixy's X Minus One and Superman. Curious how bongos like that word ultimate, isn't it? Perhaps they feel they are near the end.

Oh, and does anyone know where one might listen-in to the Ovaltineys?

Sincerely

V.S.

Always feel free to drop in and chat about things. That is what the Letterbox is here for.


 

More Political Impotence

Reverting again to the perhaps somwewhat dreary subject of the Primacy of Politics, an interesting example of the fallacy of the Political View came to me by way of an American conservative Web site which I stumbled on quite by accident. It was discussing proposals by the German Socialist government to illegalise the spanking of children by their parents.

The commentator said that the aim of such legislation was to dissolve parental authority, to make children the property of the State and reduce parents to the status of child-minders. Now I do not deny that there is a good deal of truth in this, but the real point is somewhat obfuscated by putting the matter in political terms and seeing it in terms of old-fashioned Socialist/Capitalist, Left/Right ideology.

Certainly the whole impetus of the Pit is to reduce parents to the status of child-minders and to make children the property of something outside the family. But to call that something the State is grossly to underestimate the scale of the problem by reducing it to its merely political dimension. It is true that in the rather dated political thinking of "Europe" this old Socialist totalitarianism does still exist and plays its part within the larger scheme. But the "entity" which claims the ownership of all children is something bigger, grosser and far more amorphous than any State. It is the Pit as a whole - the Octopus as it is sometimes called - the many-tentacled beast that while it may have no real centre, operates in practice to one goal, like the individual stones in an avalanche.

The advertising agencies, the mass media, the schools, the "music" industry, the State: capitalism and socialism alike and intertwined; various interests, but all united in their organic drive to create a deracinated creature stripped of its tradition and history, seeing only the present with its passing fads, ideologies, slogans and mass-products.

This is the "entity" which claims the ownership of our children and, in a hundred ways, denies the right of the natural parent to stand between it and its prey. It is in a sense not an entity at all, yet for all its internal oppositions and conflicting interests all the tentacles co-operate to broadly the same end. Or to put it another way, while the various interests may disagree on what they are creating, they are united on what they are destroying: and therefore, from the point of view of those being destroyed, are part of the same threat.

No State could be anything like as formidable; and to continue to see the problem in antiquated political terms is to misunderstand the problem entirely and to make even the theoretical aspect of a solution impossible.

A.S.N.


Is it Changing?

Madam,

Whilst I agreed with most of what was said in Is English Changing? I am uneasy about the suggestion that the degeneration of current English is comparable to the idiomatic errors common before the war which have since disappeared. Partridge himself, who documented these errors, clearly believed that something far more radical was happening to the language by 1965 as your own quotation from him shows. I should love to share the writer's optimism about the recovery of our language, but take the pronunciation question alone - a generation is growing up that is hardly aware that the Queen's English ever existed. Can we really recover?

C.N.

The authoress replies: I did not mean to imply that the present degeneration was on the same level as errors committed in the 1930s, only to demonstrate that widespread corruptions in the language do not necessarily - indeed rarely do - represent permanent changes. What is happening now is a degeneration in language which is merely a symptom of a much wider degeneration in the culture as a whole. I do not for a moment suggest that language can recover if the culture continues to degenerate, but I am quite certain that if the culture can recover, the various degenerations of the language will disappear like the morning dew, as they have in the past.

The pronunciation problem I agree is a tricky one. In my view "bourgeoik" continues to be an uneasy and selfconscious avoidance of correct English pronunciation, which hovers always in the background of the modernist mind - just as the cult of pseudo-rebellion requires the constant mental presence of a normal "reactionary" society which no longer actually exists, but without the ghost of which there would be nothing against which to rebel.

It is a whimsical thought, but perhaps a true one, to say that a psychotic society is forced to preserve the image of normality lest it lose its demons - and that those demons, being kept alive as a necsessity of its existence, must some day devour it.


The Feminine Universe

Dear Secession,

Many thanks for launching your site, which is quite the most stimulating and sane contribution to the Internet I have yet encountered.

I wondered if it were possible to order a copy of your book, The Feminine Universe, through the site? Please advise, at the return address. In the meanwhile I await your further postings with some impatience!

Yours sincerely P.D.N.

Thank you for your kind words. The Feminine Universe can be purchased here.


More Wonderful Wireless

In reply to The Silver Vixen's question in The Wonder of Wireless: yes, there are other wireless stations suitable for Secessionists. I fear I do not know any others that broadcast drama or spoken programmes, but there is a lot of delightful music available. Did you know that if you use Internet Explorer you can make a wireless tuner appear on your browser as a compact little bar? Just choose View > Toolbars > Radio and bingo! There it is.

Now, press the Radio Stations button on the tuner and you should see something called Radio Station Guide select this (or if you can't find it go here). If you now search by keyword you can find various music stations.

One of my favourites is called Pre-Fab 60s. This specialises in the music that was popular just before the Eclipse and is full of girly groups and other delightful things that happened before the musical world was overrun by beatles and other creepy-crawlies.

Another one you might try is mediAmazing.com Nostalgia. Despite the dashed-silly name, I have listened to this recently and heard Ruth Etting singing Ten Cents a Dance, Bing Crosby singing Prisoner of Love (as popularised by Russ Columbo) and Marlene Dietrich singing Falling in Love Again. This station is a little wobbly as this sort of music seems to be interspersed with down-home American stuff, some of which I suspect to be grooshy late '60s and early '70s fakes. Still it is worth a shot because stations broadcasting from the 20s and 30s are hard to find.

If on the other hand Swing and Big Band music are your predilikker, you'll find more stations than you need - just search for those words. You'll also find that your tuner bar often displays the name, title and recording date of the piece being played, which is rather nifty.

The ones I have mentioned broadcast mostly a continuous stream of music with the very occasional brief advertisement. These advertisements tend to be conservative, inoffensive, and, of course American, which is a blessing, since the most inoffensive advertising from the Yeekay always offends because of the gosh-dreadful voices.

From the point of view of lack of intervention it is best to choose stations that are "net only" rather than elektraspatial transmissions of terrestrial stations. Also do try the foreign classical stations. If you like classical wireless but don't want to be talked at by Yeeks, they are the answer.

Do give it a try. It may not be such a momentous discovery as the Vixen's talking wireless, but it does again give a real wireless one can listen to, and unlike listening to one's own recordings one will never know what is coming next and will often hear things one has never heard before.

Now we need only await the deployment of bluetooth technics, when real wireless - truly wireless - will be available on a neat art-deco speaker in every room.

V.S.

Thank you so much. Has any one else any wireless information for us?


Get a What?

Whoever,

   Nothing I have read in the last 30 years has better typified the "idiocies of the present world" - to quote your "essay" than this site.  You are clearly depressed, but why try and disguise your state of mind  as a quasi-political philosophy.  You have clearly missed out on some  wonderful experiences and may even have had to endure some monumentally sad or bad experiences; if so you have my condolences.  But for goodness sake, how arrogant can you be to assume that your view can be so simply  expanded into a world view. It is so typical in this  modern age to read  or see such angst-ridden drivel transliterated into sociological  analysis.  If you have a problem it is your problem: not society's, or civilisations, or anyone else's.

  The "don't-blame-me-culture" has come  home to roost on the Internet, and it lives and breathes as your site.  I wish I knew who first said it so I could say I was quoting them, but : get a life.

[Unsigned]

  Your Editrix confesses to being a little confused. You refer in the course of a short letter to "the idiocies of the modern world", you criticise "this modern age" for its "angst-ridden drivel", you refer to the "don't-blame-me culture", yet you also seem to feel that all this is above criticism and that we are very bad to have written against the age. Is culture-criticism a private monopoly of your own?

  Your sympathy is well received, though we guiltily admit to being mildly amused by your conviction that every one involved with Secession is depressed and that we have had "bad experiences" (are these imagined to be several or communal?)

  The argumentum ad hominem is always a poor argument, even when the facts are correct - which, when one is making guesses about complete strangers, they almost never are. If you have any coherent criticisms of our actual ideas we shall be happy to publish them and reply to them.

  If not try one of the "alternative therapy" sites, which will be more responsive to your approach. A tip though: "something obviously happened in your childhood" may be a better line there.

  As to the gormless bongo cliché which you quote at the end of your letter, it is probably better that the name of the originator remain unexposed. Doubtless he is too far gone to be suitably mortified, but he may have family.


The Right Types

Madam Editrix,

Having read with interest the extract from Children of the Void in which the three types of modern person are defined, together with references to type-threes elsewhere on this site, I wish to raise a point which seems to me important. On the whole type-threes seem to be represented as people of left-wing persuasion. However, if the definition of a type-three is (as the extract states) someone who is very different from the sort of person he would have been before the Eclipse, then surely there are many examples among the politically conservative. One example which springs to mind is the cartoons in the conservative Spectator many of which show a sensibility (or lack thereof) that would have been impossible before the decline of civilisation in the 1960s. This sensibility is not type-two but type-three if the terms are to have any meaning at all. Would you not agree with me?

P.W.

Your Editrix agrees entirely. Being a type-three is a cultural, not a political phenomenon. While left-wing people may to some extent seem more congenial to cultural degeneration, many Pit-conservatives are hardly less affected - while conversely an old-fashioned socialist, or even communist, may easily be a type-one.


The Impotence of Politics

Madam,

I wish to second - perhaps from a slightly different point of view - your comments on the non-political nature of the site [in Introduction and Definitions].

The impotence of modern politics to shape or even influence modern culture is nowhere more clearly illustrated than in the experience of the 1980s.

For nearly the whole of that decade both Britain and America were ruled by conservative leaders who genuinely deplored the deracinated state of the Pit and wished to restore more traditional values. Yet during that decade, the decline of Western culture into deracinated chaos was arguably more precipitous than at any other time in the post-eclipse period.

Insofar as the political climate of the time had any influence at all on the culture, it was to increase deracination insofar as its rejection of collectivism merely gave a certain added impetus to the individualistic atomisation of the Pit.

This is not to say that politics, even in that, had any real influence on culture - only that the direction of cultural decline was so fixed and powerful that the only political influences that could touch it were those that (to personify it somewhat) it could select and use for its own purposes - just as a petroleum-soaked rag will add to the ferocity of a raging fire, but a water-soaked rag will do nothing to quell it.

It may be argued that the conservatism of that period is by no means the answer to the problem of deracination. I would agree, but such an argument misses the point entirely. The point is that the political will embodied in the governments of both leading English-speaking nations was opposed to the disintegration of the social fabric: and that political will had no influence whatever on that disintegration.

One may envision quite other political approaches to the problem; but they would be equally powerless to affect the process of cultural degeneration. Even if one were to envision a totalitarian regime which controlled broadcasting and the press, who would imagine for one moment that it could suppress the appeal of international pop-culture? The communist regimes tried exactly that, but they were powerless precisely because they had nothing to offer, no counter-charm to the appeal of the Void. And, as they were political entities this could not have been otherwise - whatever kind of political entities they had been.

Culture creates politics, not vice versa. Politics has no power to create cultural change. It may, up to a point, encourage or inhibit cultural developments when they exist, but it can rarely destroy them and never create them.

The creation of culture is outside the ambit of politics. If two cultural movements are warring with each other, it is possible, under certain circumstances, that the temporal power of politics may hold the casting vote between them. But when, as at present there is only one cultural (or rather anti-cultural) movement in the world, politics is utterly impotent to have the smallest influence.

To look to politics to change the world from one course to another is like looking to an aeroplane to take us to a city that does not exist. However fast or powerful the aeroplane, however much fuel it may carry, it cannot reach a destination until that destination has been built.

Building the destination is our present task. Anything else is not so much running before we can walk as running before there is any ground to walk on.

D.W.S


Signboards of the Times

Dear Madam,

I recently saw one of those dreadful advertising signboards (can one avoid them?) declaring "Street robbers are cowards". I was rather pleased to see that whatever committee or commune was responsible for the thing was using the term "street robbers" rather than the absurd Americanism "muggers" which seemed to be the universal term for these people and, mutatis mutandis, their activity in the Pit a few years ago. Do you think the place is improving a tiny bit?

T.R.

A word of warning. Looking for small improvements in the Pit can be a sign that one is taking it too seriously. In this case I am sure in any event there is no improvement. There have been minor improvements in some spheres of design in recent years. I make no conjecture as to what they portend. Probably nothing. But any sign of linguistic improvement would be a strange thing indeed. The language is in a state of rapidly advancing decomposition. Possibly the authors of the poster forgot their own jargon, but more likely there was some obscure ideological reason for rejecting the idiotic term. And if so it was undoubtedly a bad one. When these people do the right thing it is almost invariably for the wrong reasons.

Miss Prism

 

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