Not much to say about this week's
; opinions differ (see comments below), but I find it hard to read it other than as a missive from Dave to his younger, more hot-headed protege and erstwhile deskmate, Nick. Sort of like Luke and Obi-Wan in the Decent version of "The Empire Strikes Back". Exhibit One would obviously be "good, sensible people are beginning to say stupid things about Islam
" (which NC backed up with this
slightly incoherent outburst, directed at one of the bruschettaboys), although it is hardly the only example of the genre. Exhibit Two is that no sane man could refer to Rod Liddle as someone "who I esteem as a companion"; either the Times
subs have misspelt "cunt" or this is a coded reference to Nick. Dave has noticed that the Spectator is heading damnably close to outright fascism with respect to nos ami
s les Muslims; Nick is approvingly quoting Theodore Dalrymple. While it might be possible to argue that Nick's vision (in the Handsworth article linked above) of a Britain divided into warring ethnic camps by the Blair/Liberuls axis of "faith schools", is saner than Bat Ye'Or's Eurabia, it isn't and Dave is clever enough to see that it isn't. All in all I think that the circumstantial evidence is quite strong here.
But that isn't what struck me. I ended up taking most note of one of the asides, toward the end, after Dave had written his column, made his point and had nothing else to do for 100 words than to hang around like a chav in a hoodie, throwing bits of litter at passing liberals. So we have:
the relativism of sections of the intelligentsia on the one hand, who cannot say the words “Western democracy” without a sneer
"Cannot say the words 'Western democracy' without a sneer". It's a lift from Orwell of course; I can't be bothered to do the heavy work of finding the exact reference, and maybe those exact words don't appear in that exact order in any of Saint George's pubished output, but the sentiment is definitely from that source, so it's a lift just like "play it again, Sam" is a lift from Casablanca. I'm sure any reasonably well-educated reader will have picked up the reference and it's a nice turn of phrase, except ...
... except that it's not really representative at all. As we know, Aaro came to Orwell late in life
, and thus almost certainly through the Penguin Collected Essays
. Which is not a criticism of Aaro; how the hell else would one read Orwell these days? Except that ...
Well except that, because of long hours in a reference library with a copy of the unabridged complete works by my elbow to break the tedium, I happen to know that the Penguin edition is really very unrepresentative of Orwell's politics. The most famous collection of Orwell's writings, it contains two or three references to the kind of people who can't say "western democracy" without a sneer. If it was all you read, you'd find it hard to understand why Orwell was, actually a Communist. In actual fact, he spent a lot more of his time, effort and written work talking about the much greater danger posed by the kind of people who can't say "Western democracy" with
a sneer. By chance (or rather, not by chance; this sort of thing kept happening to Orwell and he complained about it throughout his life and of course, it's the main theme of 1984
), these bits didn't end up in the mass market paperback that got sold to American schools.
It just makes me think, what will history make of us? If someone puts together a Collected Columns of David Aaronovitch
in fifty years time, will any of us recognise the Aaro of 2005 in it? Or conversely, if we were operating George Orwell Watch
back in the 1930s and 40s, what kind of a Watch would it be?
.... anyway, enough of that. Did anyone manage to listen to Aaro on Resonance FM? Did he mention our blog? I was planning to listen, but they were playing Morton Feldman's string quartet and I nodded off during the quiet bit before the interval (joke).