07 September 2008

Pod People

Is the mediocracy concept just a catch-all for the things I dislike about modern society, as someone once suggested? Certainly not. (I shall elaborate in a future post.) And does the Mediocracy book have "an unfinished feel", as an otherwise complimentary reviewer on Amazon alleged? Possibly. It is an original theory, and in some ways I was still working through the ideas of it when I wrote the book. It may not be structured in terms of Proposition 1.2003, Corollary B4 etc, but not everything is suited to a Tractatus-style delivery. (Arguably nothing, not even philosophy, is suited to the style of the Tractatus, except perhaps modern pseudo-economics.)

Shame on the British intelligentsia for not giving the book a hearing, considering the miles of column space devoted to something as facile and predictable as The God Delusion.* Regardless of whether or not one is impressed by my mildly tongue-in-cheek theory, it might at least have been shown polite interest. Is it too satirical to be considered as bona fide cultural analysis? But plenty of books with the words s**t or c**p in the title receive serious literary attention these days.

Brickbats go in particular to the right-wing intelligentsia — what there is of it — in view of the fact that the book's critique of the dominant il-liberal ideology seems to put it in a right-wing pigeonhole as far as most people are concerned. Even if my book were (for the sake of argument) merely mediocre, there are plenty of mediocre books of the 'right-wing' variety which do get review space. Damian Thompson's Counterknowledge — which seemed to say precious little of substance that hadn't been said before — comes to mind.

Of course, the failure of the intellectual Right to take on board the work of figures outside the establishment is symptomatic of a larger malaise. The Right has lost the culture war, as a blog (now defunct) associated with the Dale blogocracy used to assert. This means the political Right has two credible options: (1) fight the cultural elite, as the Thatcherites did (this is likely to have only short term success at best, particularly by now, since the cultural elite can easily launch a successful counteroffensive for hearts and minds) or (2) be prepared to embrace ideological dissidents. The latter, after fifty years of 'liberal' hegemony, are likely to be socially positioned well away from the centres of cultural power. So it's not much good scratching around for support from the one or two established economics, philosophy or education professors who are still prepared to express scepticism about state intervention. That's a bit like looking for pop stars willing to openly back conservatism. You have to accept you are cultural outsiders and work with that — after all, the Left had to do it for several decades in the first half of the twentieth century. This, however, the Right seems unwilling to do.

The only other option, and the one currently being pursued, is the Pod People strategy:

“They ['Conservatism'] would replace the dominant species [socialism] by spawning emotionless replicas; the original bodies [Labour politicians] would then disintegrate into dust once the duplication process was completed.”
Even assuming this strategy could be successful, it is not very attractive to voters who have no great affection for the state. Unless there is some kind of reverse metamorphosis after the acquisition of power — which would make the Tories seem dishonest and untrustworthy — we are going to end up with a situation that is worse, not better. There will no longer be any anti-statist rhetoric, except perhaps from parties which currently take no more than 5% of the national vote and which are thoroughly marginalised by the mainstream media.

Note 1
As in the case of The Lord of the Rings, a lot of nonsense has been written about the supposed symbolism underlying the Invasion movie. LOTR is supposed to be about Christianity, Invasion about Cold War paranoia and/or McCarthyism. This has always struck me as false. Lead actor Kevin McCarthy agrees, saying in an interview on the DVD that no political allegory was intended. (Yes I know he is an actor, but even Hollywood stars were less dumbed down in the 50s.) Personally, I have always felt the movie to be a reflection on conformity, and on the way many people will adapt their views to fit with whatever will get them on most comfortably, even when their new views appear incompatible with what they previously professed to believe in.

Note 2
You may observe I am breaking a social taboo in daring to complain about being ignored. However, modesty is a privilege reserved for those with established careers. I would love to be able to exercise it, but regretfully cannot. To misquote Bette Davis: dissidence is not a place for sissies.

* I believe I am not the only one to have such sentiments.
** Still from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956) via InfiniteCoolness.com.