Sunday, 1 April 2012

From Emma Alberici's Interview Of Melvyn Bragg...

Emma Alberici is a reporter for ABC (the Australian version of the BBC) and I was fascinated to watch her in this interview with Melvyn Bragg. In the video which accompanies that link, she gives a post-hoc introduction to the interview herself and the first thing I noticed was the difference in her appearance: for the regular show where she gives the introduction she seems to have only the requisite TV makeup and her facial expression as she speaks is studiously neutral, yet in her interview with Bragg she is dolled up with lipstick and a recurrent smile that is difficult to place: more "professional affection" than rictus, but as the interview goes on, and Bragg gives her a bit of an intellectual bum-spanking, that weird "professional affection" instantly returns as if he had answered her with the conventional prejudices she seems to have been trying to elicit (e.g. that wealth inequalities evince the continuing existence of the class system, or that Rupert Murdoch is some sort of right-wing criminal, or that Bragg's appreciation of the King James Bible is just his own personal eccentricity).

My guess is that, having been pained at witnessing again her own intellectual over-exposure in that interview, she must have been determined not to show any trace of shame, anger or remorse in her post-hoc introduction. But one or all of those emotions must surely have been bubbling away underneath just waiting to burst out. She could curl back up into her little glass shell of standard-issue lefty assumptions, or she might start to regard her "friends" at ABC with concealed bitterness - why didn't anyone help her prepare properly?

It's a really ugly thing to see - especially because she is pretty, which alone almost makes me feel sorry for her.

And there is a real worry here: what is going to happen to these people when the monetary system begins to collapse? It will surely be easier for them to retreat back under the moldy old security blankets the Left gave them (the anti-semitic conspiracy theories about Ben Bernanke and his "banksters"; the global warming "denialists" and so on) than to stand the light long enough to eviscerate their ideo-illogical cocoons. How much time are we going to have before the new lepidoptera emerge?

Anyway, on Melvyn Bragg... his "In Our Time" was always, unquestionably, the best thing on BBC Radio 4 when I was a student in Edinburgh (I used to record it). It may have even been the only good thing on Radio 4, although I remember there were bits of Andrew Marr's "Start The Week" that were occassionally worth listening to.

Bragg's defense of the King James Bible in that interview with Emma Alberici is very good (a "body of knowledge" - although I would have phrased it as a "body of thought" in order to avoid an over-bearing connotation of certainty - which is the salient aspect of his point), but one thing he probably should have followed through on was the rise of "militant" atheism in inverse proportion to the decline of Christianity (at least in Britain). I never took much interest in those atheism-vs-religion debates over the last decade, because to me they were always relatively trivial*. Yet my view of Dawkins, Hitchens and others was - and is - that they picked that fight partly because they were unwilling to face the bigger, more important fight, which is against the unlimited growth of the State. Of course, the case against religion is the big fight in places like Lebanon and the broader Middle East. And in some respects, that criticism still has some bite in the West (e.g. the importance of not defending individual rights on theistic premises, which seems to be typical among U.S. conservatives), but not much and it has been used so often as a crude instrument by the Left that even some of their apparently more intelligent members are seemingly conditioned to presume that the basis of any critic's insistence on individual rights must be theistic and ought therefore to be dismissed.

On Bragg's point about class, and the apparent disappearance of the class system in Britain... I'd be interested to read more. Obviously it's true that the explicit forms of the class system are not what they were in 1911. But I sometimes had the feeling, living in Britain (and still even in one or two online interactions sometimes), that something like class differentiation was still there, although in sublimated forms, aided and abetted perhaps by the promulgation of the sub-Marxian confusion of income with class such as, for instance, in the phrase "socio-economic status". But it's difficult for me to be objective about this because I am doing nothing more than speculating on the basis of my own anecdotal experience; one of my occassional/frequent frustrations as a student, for example, was being spurned without anything like a satisfactory answer after having articulated some question or argument with a care over my choice of words to include both manner and clarity. And it was always done by the Brits and the Europeans - never by the Americans, scarlet "progressives" though they may have been. Although I had been aware of it whilst at Durham, it may be true that I became more aware of it whilst at Edinburgh and certainly that contrast between the Europeans and Americans often struck me in Edinburgh, particularly in the build-up to and eventual invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was disgusted - not with the opinion that the 2003 invasion was unwise - but with the way it was so often expressed, which was either through the Bush=Hitler cartoonish obscenities of the Left's little bum-fluff orcs, or through the squinting grimaces and reticent hints of counter-argument made by those in occupation of polite society's good seats. That was why, in a brief conversation with an American couple outside the church while I was sweeping up the steps one night, I insisted on making the pre-emptive and explicit point of announcing my support for President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Momentarily, from the way the guy looked at me, I thought I'd just incurred Olberman-like opprobium, but instead he shook my hand and appreciated the forthright declaration - if I remember correctly, he and his wife had seen some of the protests that were going on around that time and smelled the virulent anti-American flavour. So... does "class" still exist in Britain? Certainly not in the way it used to exist, that's for sure, but I can't rid myself of the suspicion that the psychological habits of class differentiation were merely sublimated into other forms of expression - such as intellectual coyness, or perhaps the ability to smile as if certain things had not been said.

I could be wrong.

*And I say that as someone who used to read Nietzsche's books in my local church in Edinburgh where I worked part-time as a caretaker. Lots of good memories from that time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation is now in place, as of April 2012. Rules:

1) Be aware that your right to say what you want is circumscribed by my right of ownership here.

2) Make your comments relevant to the post to which they are attached.

3) Be careful what you presume: always be prepared to evince your point with logic and/or facts.

4) Do not transgress Blogger's rules regarding content, i.e. do not express hatred for other people on account of their ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or nationality.

5) Remember that only the best are prepared to concede, and only the worst are prepared to smear.