Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spending time with the little people and little minds ...

Was it only Monday that Brendan O'Neill was advising Amanda Vanstone that lovers of fascism and Mussolini were just ordinary people who should be allowed to go about their business undisturbed by cruel elitists pointing at them and mocking them?

And never mind the authoritarian urge to herd the sheep embedded deep within fascism ...

Well as surely as the wheel turns and the sand runs through the hourglasses of our lives, he's baaaack, once more in The Australian, denouncing anyone who denounces Thatcher and Thatcherism - once admired for her forthright authoritarian stance - as somehow exhibiting an authoritarian urge to lower the little people's horizons (here it is, but why not grab the text below and google? You do know how to google ...)

Uh huh.

Now it so happens the pond spent last night falling in love all over again with Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, blessed with fine performances, a clever Brueghelian script, a good DOP, a good location, and a tremendous Carter Burwell score. Along with Fargo, it is one of the few latter-day films that can be called a film noir masterpiece, and while the reference to Orson Welles' Touch of Evil within it is a tad too self-serving and slick, if you walk the film noir walk, anything can be forgiven.

One of the running gags within the film is how to address the "little people" - Colin Farrell's character tends to favour midgets, while the dwarf in the Brueghlian dream-film within the film unsurprisingly favours dwarf.

Now it turns out that O'Neill isn't actually talking about that sort of "little people" and their lowered horizons (there's a cruel visual jest in In Bruges as the dwarf tries to pick up a couple of drinks to share with his pretty hooker).

No, O'Neill's talking about your ordinary average Joe or Josephine Blow, a category the undistinguished pond finds itself in on a daily basis.

Now if someone came up to the pond and said, "I say, little person, do you think that radical Thatcher-bashers have lowered your horizons", there could be only one sensible response.

Fuck off, you tremendously supercilious arrogant Pommy git, and shove that talk of little people up your pompous Tory Pommy arse.

Of course if the pond was in Irish Colin Farrell mode, perhaps discharging a blank into the eye might be a more forceful physical response, but the pond has never been inclined to violence.

Now O'Neill is a remarkably tortured individual, where perversity and contradiction, for the sake of perversity and contradiction, are a wonder to behold.

His favourite way of defending people is to drag in others.

Thatcher and the coal mines? What about Harold Wilson and the coal mines? Trade unions? What about James Callaghan's Labor government? War? What about that adventurist Tony Blair?

Well indeed, what about Tony Blair?

While Blair is proving belatedly unpopular among his former fawners, he isn't loathed with the same demented fury as Thatcher.

Actually the pond was never a fawner over Blair, and proudly loathed him with the same demented fury the pond sometimes musters when contemplating Thatcher's arrogant, demented, divisive and ultimately self-defeating path through life.

As one of the "little people" you tend to get that way, especially when it concerns useless politicians leading countries into useless wars. Or useless politicians telling little people they can live on less while shovelling the cash and the breaks down the throats of the rich because somehow mystically it'll all trickle down to the herd.

At the same time, O'Neill's rhetorical tricks - typically Jesuitical, or British if you like - means you can't have a sensible discussion or debate with someone like him. It's like trying to explain that while the British might think they spread civilisation around the globe, why didn't they just bugger off and try to work out how to run their own unhappy country.

You see O'Neill's intent on covering all the bases, and shutting down all the arguments. He's not really interested in any mealy-mouthed, "yes, on the one hand, but on the other" observations about Thatcher or the implications of Thatcherism.

He's just feral and rabid, and instead he wants to use Thatcher to clobber his very own enemies, personal demons, leftists, way worse than Satanist.

It's a bit like the dwarf in In Bruges ranting about the impending war between whites and blacks, with leftists the O'Neill equivalent:

The ferocious loathing leftists have for Thatcher is directly proportional to the paucity of their influence over people.

Indeed. But if they have no influence, if they are irrelevant, if they are full to overflowing with their paucity, why does O'Neill bang on about them on what seems to be a daily basis, while celebrating the right of Mussolini-lovers to go about their authoritarian business?

It truly is bizarre:

As their intellectual and electoral fortunes declined, and their aloofness increased, so their fantasy of Thatcher as the omnipotent warper of the little people's minds and destroyer of traditions intensified. They project their own failures on to Thatcher and her soul-remoulding superpowers. The word itself, "Thatcher", always said with disdain, has become the Left's catch-all explanation for why it isn't taken seriously by the masses anymore.

There it is again, talk of the little people's minds and the masses. Is he being post-ironic, post-modernist, post-reflexive? Or is he merely a stupid condescending pommy git?

And why does he want to drive the stake into the heart of alternatives to Thatcher over and over again?

Doesn't he fancy himself as some kind of post-modernist Marxist? Does he have the first clue about Marxism and Thatcherism?

Of course it turns out that it's just another re-hash of the never-ending class wars that are a feature of queue-laden British life (along with baked beans, oh enough already with the baked beans, greasy egg, sausage and bacon for breakfast).

Now you see if you talk like that about breakfast, you're an impossible snob, and that's when O'Neill trots out all the standard class warfare jargon. Cope a dose of this:

Throughout the 80s, as chunks of Britain's working-class voters abandoned the decrepit Labour Party and annoyed the hell out of the bien pensant classes by being vulgarly materialistic, it became fashionable to argue that these plebs must have been brainwashed by that mistress of might.

Do you like the tossing off of "bien pensant" classes? How about vulgar materialism? Is that different to ordinary materialism? Or rich people materialism?

There's more, but let's just do it in short-hand, because long-hand would be a completely tedious trawl.

England's tastemakers, academics, the Left set, cocking a snoot at chattering class-decency, cultural elite, patronising media and academia, furious liberal elite, naked disgust for "ordinary people", shallow, shabby, blame-shifting anti-Thatcherism the political glue that holds Britian's chattering classes together, and so on and so forth.

Those two old O'Neill favourites, repeated like some of the dumber sheep chanting the rules in Animal Farm: elites and chattering classes.

Talk about chattering. The bugger never shuts up.

The rant reveals much more about O'Neill than it does about Britain, or Thatcher, or even his perceived class enemies, whom he smites so mightily, while managing to sound like the Black Knight heading for his third stump.

Now the pond hopes that these outpourings, these regular open therapy sessions in newspapers and radio stations in Australia are working for O'Neill. It seems to the pond that there's a lot of pent-up rage, class rage, hostility, anger and envy bundled up in every outburst, along with a fearsome dose of foaming fear and loathing.

It scares the pants off this little person, it's so terribly reminiscent of the anger bottled up inside Harry in In Bruges, in the form of Ralph Fiennes playing Harry, as he smashes up a telephone. Harry! It's an inanimate fucking object, says Harry's wife, to which he responds You're an inanimate fucking object.

When what Harry probably should have said is that you're one of those fucking chattering class elitist little people ...

Oh sure, it wouldn't make any sense, but when has O'Neill ever made any sense?

The only question that intrigues the pond is why people in Australia feel the need to pay for O'Neill's therapy sessions.

Yes, as noted above, there's a gold bar attached to his column, which means you have to pay to play, at least in the theoretical world of The Australian's bizarre porous paywall ...

Yes, you have to pay to get to column's end, unless you google it, though you really got it all in the splash at the top of the digital page: they believe it falls to them to socially re-engineer the little people away from what The Guardian calls Thatcher's irrational "cult of greed" and back towards Labour-backing, materialism-eschewing docility. They are at the forefront of the new political-cum-academic mission to depict material desire as a cause of mental illness and economic growth as a harbinger of eco-catastrophe, and to promote eco-thriftiness and state-organised "happiness". 
Behind supposedly radical Thatcher-bashing, there lurks a truly authoritarian urge to lower the little people's horizons and make cocky workers re-conform to the "right" way of thinking.

There it is again. The little people re-engineerd.

The little people's horizons!

And it is without irony. It isn't reflexive or post-modern, it's just a fucking namby-pamby English git indulging in a bit of class warfare ...

Of course the one thing O'Neill never answers is whether Thatcher did believe greed is good. Did she celebrate the good Samaritan because he was filthy rich? Did she believe in de-regulation, and did she set up the situation where eventually the City would run rampant and out of control and fuck over the "little people" and get away with it scot free? Did she or didn't she say there's no such thing as society, with all that implies?

Strangely, O'Neill spends an enormous amount of energy demolishing Thatcher's enemies, but curiously and remarkably spends almost no time with the Iron Lady herself, as if uncomfortable at the company he might then be keeping. There's barely a hint or a mention of what she might have achieved, except make it hard for elites and the chattering classes. As if somehow that's the main point of political life.

Is there any statistical data showing how life improved for the "little people" during and immediately after Thatcher's reign? What about the balance of wealth? How much did trickle down? Have the "little people" turned into world-shattering entrepreneurs able to look after themselves and to hell with society?

It truly is a most bizarre effort.

The pond wishes O'Neill all the best and a speedy recovery, but buggered if this little person is going to pay for the pleasure of being called a little person, not when on a daily basis little people suffer all sorts of issues, and the Thatchers and the O'Neills of the world couldn't give a toss about them ...

Ray: A lot of midgets tend to kill themselves. A disproportionate amount, actually. Hervé Villechaize off of Fantasy Island. I think somebody from the Time Bandits did. I suppose they must get really sad about like... being really little and that... people looking at them, laughing at them, calling them names. You know, "short arse". There's another famous midget. I miss him but I can't remember. It's not the R2D2 man; no, he's still going. I hope your midget doesn't kill himself. Your dream sequence will be fucked. 
Chloë: He doesn't like being called a midget. He prefers dwarf. 
Ray: This is exactly my point! People going around calling you a midget when you want to be called a dwarf. Of course you're going to blow your head off.

Yes, and people go around calling you little people when you just want to be a human bean. No wonder little people take a view about being called little people.

(Below: Colin Farrell's final Brueghel run. Remember, if you watch this film, likely enough you might think you're an average cinema popcorn muncher, but chances are you're a member of a swinish repressive chattering class elite, or even a reader of The Australian, which means you're totally up yourself).

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