Post on The world won’t stop to let Britain get off
will be along in a bit. Talk amongst yourselves. If anyone's read 'Ill Fares the Land' by Tony Judt, please fill me in, because I haven't. (Look, I liked the title, and I didn't want to forget it.)Update Fri 19:30 (ish, it'll be later by the time I finish)
Thanks to everyone who commented so far. I decided to write a post (or, going by the above, not write) on this, when I often leave Aaro to D2, because I saw Sarah Ditum and David Aaronovitch exchanging pleasantries on Twitter while slagging off Blond. That's interesting, I thought, well, Aaro isn't afraid of pissing off his readers, and neither am I. Blond has been gone over, from the left, by Jonathan Raban
, and the right, especially at the Torygraph
has something of a feud with him: see James Delingpole
and I can't find a link to Simon Heffer, but Madeleine Bunting
sums his position up.
It was his [Blond's] ideas which peppered Cameron's speech at Davos; Simon Heffer was apoplectic with fury last week as he lambasted it as terrifying, meaningless, obtuse and infantile. Yes, all four adjectives were necessary.
(Link mine.) I suspect that Simon Heffer has been advised by a (presumably BUPA) doctor not to type the name 'Phillip Blond' if he wants to celebrate another Christmas. The mere mention of the oxymoronic 'red toryism' turns the fury up to 11. Naming the Blond Beast may result in apoplexy. With so many enemies, I'm tempted to like Phillip Blond, but what I've read is typical think tank bullshit. To call it hand-waving is to offend semaphorers. So, no love for Blond from me. (See also Sarah Ditum
on Blond.) I can't believe that Cameron takes him seriously, but Cameron takes George Osbourne
seriously, so who knows? On the other hand, what I've read of Tony Judt, I like, and though he's an ill man and close to death, I still can't picture him standing athwart history, yelling Stop
His [David Cameron's] speech, taken in full, suggested that the economic crisis represented an opportunity to change away from a bad BWOL, with the idea of what the better BWOL might consist of left to be inferred entirely from his negatives.
This is, of course, what I both like and dislike about our Dave. It's percipient and as the silly cliche has it, double-edged - because "what the better [society] might consist of [is] inferred entirely from ... negatives" also applies to most political programmes. At least, I've always understood the Labour Party project to be working toward the removal of inequality, after which various positive benefits would follow; the same goes for my interpretation of feminism, and so on. Not being a serious journalist or think tanker, I suppose my idea of the good society is something like this one, but with fewer bad things.
Of course, and I suppose I do have to say this, like Dave, I don't have any time for the "Britain is broken" thing. Apart from the fact that most people I know are actually quite happy, the only attraction of the metaphor is its alliteration. I don't believe that Britain (or society) is a machine, so the 'broken' concept simply doesn't work. Yes, there are things I would change, and society could be better - more free, more equal - IMO. So full agreement with Dave from me there. (As Sarah Ditum said somewhere, can't think where, at the moment, she'd like DA "more in opposition". Well, that goes for me too.)
Ah, but Judt. I like John Mearsheimer
Righteous Jews have a powerful attachment to core liberal values. They believe that individual rights matter greatly and that they are universal, which means they apply equally to Jews and Palestinians. They could never support an apartheid Israel. ...
To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few.
Which reads like a Harry's Place hit list. However, I've found the introduction (?) to Judt's Ill Fares the Land
online, and I'm not that impressed.
Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose.
I think hardened readers will guess what's coming. Thirty years?
That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
My emphasis. George Mason
. OTOH, Judt continues (with my approval):
The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears “natural” today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth.
This is both a straightforward attack on Thatcherism/Reaganomics and yet somehow wrong. Cults are, by definition, restricted to minorities, are they not? And there is always rhetoric - the rhetoric he's talking about has been around for a lot longer, see Hayek, Rand, etc. At the moment, I'm on the fence regarding Judt. I think the conflation with Blond is unfair; one of the "Judty Blonds" is smart. I agree with Judt's principles and worldview; I just don't buy the tabescence thing. I meant, when I came up with the title, to work in Nick Cohen
Mike Godwin held in 1990 that the longer a discussion continues on the web the greater the likelihood that some fool invoking the Nazis would reduce it to absurdity. Today, reduction to Zionism has replaced reductio ad Hitlerum.
For NC, pejorism is a given. Recently, things were OK at least; now they're worse, pretty bad, in fact, and heading toward disaster. Like Blond, Nick sees happy highways shining plain.
Aaro is pro-immigration which is a huge plus for me. But his anti-Judt bias (and his failing to acknowledge judt's really horrible personal circumstances - and I do realise that doing so may seem patronising), makes this a score draw.