The Socialist Fogey October 1, 2008Posted by guestposter in Culture, The Left.
A post from ejh of these parts and here [I'd strongly advise a visit]…
We are nothing
We have fallen
Into the dark and shall be destroyed.
Think though, that in this darkness
We hold the secret hub of an idea
Whose living sunlit wheel revolves in future years outside.
(from Spender, Trial of a Judge, quoted in Orwell, Inside the Whale.)
Many, many years ago – before the free market liberated us all from the tiresome requirement to pretend we cared about people poorer than ourselves – there was a small group of rightwingers who made it their business to ponce about it Oxbridge colleges calling themselves young fogeys”.
Studied in mannerisms and style of dress, their views and their self-image were predicated on two assumptions. The first – more of a conceit than an assumption – was that rightwingers were a tiny minority among a vast horde of socialists. This assumption was, regrettably, false. The second was that if young and clever rightwingers publically ponced about for long enough in the right Oxbridge colleges, they would end up being paid a lot of money by rightwing periodicals to do much the same in their pages. This assumption, regrettably, was true. We knew it. Still, we laughed at them all the same.
A generation or so passed by. Most of the young fogeys ended up rich and editing the same periodicals to whom they had appealed for succour in the darkest days of trades unionism and free school milk. Their socialist opponents, by contrast, find themselves speaking almost entirely to one another, in constantly reducing numbers, shuffling around like the figures at the end of Fahrenheit 451, mumbling the great socialist texts to ourselves – for only we remember them.
Yet, like those figures, we remain. Defenders and preservers of civilisation, remembering better days than these and better futures than the one which we are facing. Socialist fogeys we are, defenders of civilisation, rooted in the past, remembering social provision and the days before mass homelessness, seeing no contradiction between equality and excellence, considering culture and socialism two aspects of a single view. We carry on for no other reason than this: because we still are what we are.
Few, becoming fewer: but we are still here, and like endangered birds, occasionally glimpsed, perhaps at long distance, yet easily identifiable from a few shared characteristics. You may recognise us from the list below. You may even recognise yourself.
Do you like and admire most or all of the following:
• the Welfare State?
• public services and social provision in general?
• Radios 3 and 4?
• classical music?
• comprehensive education?
• the use of ‘an’ before ‘hotel’ and ‘historian’?
• knowledge of other languages, especially Ancient Greek and Latin?
• Orwell’s Politics And The English Language?
Do you dislike and deplore most or all of the following:
• crassness, ignorance and philistinism?
• people on the make?
• controversial columnists?
• teenage internet libertarians?
• tax cuts and whining about taxes?
• vulgar celebrity culture?
• text messaging and internet posting in poor English?
If your answers in both groups are all, or mostly, or even predominantly “yes”, you may be a socialist fogey yourself. Mumble, shuffle, remember and memorise. We hold the secret hub of an idea, whose living sunlit whel revolves in future years outside.
[A previous version of this routine appeared on the website Urban75.]