Thursday, 6 January 2011
Throwing the Fight
The always excellent Neil Clark writes about Auberon Waugh, and stimulates some interesting comments about an alliance between the paleo-cons and left wingers.
My own view, however, is that the old right in Britain really WANTS to lose in a strange way, and in their opposition to neo-cons/ neo-liberals, there is actually a profound agreement to disagree.
During the reign of Charles I, which saw a great growth in architecture and aesthetics, people commonly observed that those who supported High Church Episcopalianism were lukewarm whilst those who hated it were passionate. This seems a certain paradox of British culture: that there is a kind of ferociously proselytising ugliness combined with an esoteric hoarding of beauty. In Scotland itself, much of the Reformation era vandalism was actually carried out by Catholic nobility, hoping to line their pockets in a time of chaos.
And today in Scotland, there are many palladian estates huddled behind conifer groves and sandstone walls, whilst brash plutocrats want their phallic brutalist eyesores to be as prominent as possible.
And indeed, it is the same with politics. The paleo-cons failed very spectacularly throughout the 20th Century to try and develop a universalist alternative from the Graco-Roman world to either Marxism or market fanaticism. Surely through having near hegemony of the classics departments they could have come up with something more than timid conservatism?
Just look by contrast at the drivelling of the historically ignorant neo-cons and neo-liberals who are entirely certain that there is no alternative to concrete malls. There are many for whom fried cow's rectum is as great an affirmation of modern Western progress as the basillica was for the Romans or the railways were for the British Empire. Adoring ugliness, being profoundly vulgar and lacking imagination are not obstacles to messianic zeal, but more likely preconditions.
Even in faith, the Church of England has been dismal at reaching out the to the people. Whilst it becomes increasingly decrepit, fundamentalist Christianity grows in tandem with white conversion to Islam.
And in art, the free market has free reign to revel in the ugly. The utter rubbish that changes hands is all we ever hear about. Whilst paleo-cons (in common with some old leftists) might enjoy huffing and puffing over how utterly crap it is, the truth is that there seems little drive to make great works of art more accessible to people through broadcasting.
It is unfortunate that the modern left generally speaking is no more Fabian than the right. The teachings of William Morris should be of interest both to genuine conservatives and genuine leftists. But instead they are neglected by both.
Just as gold and diamonds partially owe their value to their very scarcity, I doubt if the British old right really wants to share beauty, ethos or culture. If you see the scarcity of these things as a part of their value, then I suspect you could do worse than join forces with the Thatcherites.