Passionate intensity…the age of offence…and no leader in sight.

16 Nov

It has been hard to think of something to say. ‘Events, dear boy, events,’ said Harold Macmillan when asked about the greatest challenges which faced a statesman. Well it’s been a similar story for anyone who wants to write in a measured (perhaps humorous) way about almost anything that has been going on these last five years. Today I have been listening to Azeem Rafiq speaking to the Digital, culture, Media and Sport select committee about racism at Yorkshire C.C.C. and in the wider game. I was expecting to sigh periodically but I was impressed. Impressed too by Roger Hutton, the ex chairman who fell on his sword recently.

It is hard to distinguish one frictional issue from another these days. And to prioritise. I could start a list beginning with climate change -and the intransigence of the really big players – continuing with what the Russians and Belarussians are doing for the migrant crisis and world stability and finishing, much later with Female Genital Mutilation. Following the catastrophe that has been Brexit, we at home (I mean the UK of course) have seen the public discourse become increasingly toxic. Racism and its history, all things to do with sex and gender identity, the febrile rise of social media and the probity of our politicians have, amongst other things, been bloody battlegrounds. Not debating grounds. Battlegrounds.

Cancel culture (CC) is the shutting down of all debate with those whose views are found to be contrary to the groupthink. It’s the heads must roll, my way or the highway treatment of inconvenient opposition. Kathleen Stock, most recently has become the CC’s latest scalp. It appears that minority groups hold greater sway in this new world. That’s not to say that they’re wrong but if discussion and process (and the law) are dismissed, too many stay silent until the ballot boxes become available. As an old git, I do wonder if students at Sussex University (just hypothetically) sit around agreeing that an unthinking text sent a decade ago is more outrageous than Russian troops massing on the borders of the Ukraine.

It’s sad that the air needed for the balloon of debate has been sucked out. What has crept into the flaccid vacuum is corruption, distortion, extremism. In such circumstances totalitarianism and corrupt leadership flourishes. We are so desperate for some moral integrity, a genuine example of inspiring leadership. I care not the political colours my readers but surely can’t we agree that the man who sits at the head of our nation is an embarrassing, amoral shambles? It is at times like these, these last five years, when our nation has needed direction, courage, moral authority, collaboration and compromise, togetherness, understanding, tolerance of all views, open debate and all the rest of it – and what have we had? Almost the opposite of it all. Those who have promoted a better future and a more enlightened discourse have too rarely been politicians. Recent self-interested sleaze stories make me bury my head. I had to turn off Rees-Mogg defending Owen Paterson. I don’t vote Labour but I have time for Starmer. At least he seems honest, if grey. I’d accept grey, I have to say.

I’m reading Sally Rooney’s latest and revisiting W.B. Yeats’s selected poems. One of Rooney’s characters, a thirty year old, in Beautiful World, Where Are You, says ‘…I’m out of step with the cultural discourse…adrift from the world of ideas, alienated, no intellectual home. Maybe it’s about our specific historical moment or maybe it’s just about getting older and disillusioned.’

Yeats, of course, was fired up in The Second Coming. ‘…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.’

3 Responses to “Passionate intensity…the age of offence…and no leader in sight.”

  1. rocket1101 November 16, 2021 at 3:28 pm #

    Great read, Paul, and I have no problem agreeing with all of it. I am working out though, from small forays into political / cultural debate with people I come into contact with on a daily basis, that not as many as I thought, think the way I (and presumably you) do…who knew?

    • simplysorro November 16, 2021 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks Clive. I agree. I can’t fathom some of the visceral and offhand opinions that I hear from ‘reasonable’ people. I’m caught between DailyMailthink and wokethink. And I’m not sure if enough real thinking is being done at either end of the spectrum.

  2. stewiekeir November 16, 2021 at 3:42 pm #

    Nicely put Sorro. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m not sure I can summon a sigh deep enough to reflect my current disillusion with such things – and in particular our nation’s ‘leadership’.

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