Thursday, April 22, 2010

I saw this and thought of Decency...

I've been discussing the meaning of 'Decency' (if any; I am at best agnostic about whether there any underlying credo exists) with Flying Rodent. I was looking for something else (the 1983 broadcast; the above is the 1987 one) but found this. Transcript from 1:25 for about a minute follows:

The good thing about extremism is that it makes you feel good! because it provides you with enemies.
Let me explain.
The great thing about having enemies is that you can pretend that all the badness in the whole world is in your enemies, and all the goodness in the whole world is in you.
Attractive isn't it?
If you have a lot of anger and resentment anyway and you therefore enjoy abusing people, you can pretend that you're only doing it because these enemies of yours are such very bad persons. And if it wasn't for them, you'd actually be good natured and courteous and rational all the time.
So if you want to feel good, become an extremist.

Prescient, I call that. Discuss.


Blogger ejh said...

I don't call it prescient, I call it projection. Inventing a category called "extremist" is essentially the very same thing the passage complains about.

I'd perhaps add that if you wanted to identify a group of people in favour of liberal interventionalism and against giving a fair hearing to its leftwing opponents, the SDP wouldn't be the last place you'd look. Come to that, Tony Blair's coterie wouldn't be the last place you'd look for SDP people.

This was Cleese in his all-hail-my-psychologist phase, wasn't it? I recall him saying something about how he was watching Dennis Skinner speaking and thought "what a nutter" (not using that terminology, I should say). I preferred the workplace safety videos.

4/24/2010 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gang of Four were a very odd gang. Williams and Jenkins were liberals. Rodgers and Owen were machine politicians who didn't think that the Labour machine was working for them. As it says in Wikipedia, William Rodgers was an effective organiser for right-wing causes when he was in the Labour Party. His main problem with the Labour party was that there was still a strong following there for nuclear disarmament.

In the last few years Shirley Williams has written some effective criticisms of Blair and his lack of respect for civil liberties and international law. Yet Blair had at times claimed that he was doing to the Labour Party what the SDP was trying to do, pull it to the right, and tried to claim Jenkins as his mentor. The political landscape is different now because Balir pulled the Labour Party so far to the right that the LibDems have become left-wing by standng still, and I'm not sure that Cleese's broadcasts from 20 years ago are really relevant.


4/24/2010 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@Guano, I'm not claiming that they're politically relevant, I'm just saying that I thought that passage - the bit I typed out - fitted Decency particularly well. But I also agree with Justin that it's possible to call that projection (both on JC's part and mine). The only relevance is Nick Clegg's 2002 Guardian article Don't mention the war which the Mail called a Nazi slur. Clegg's a Nazi? That's the Daily Mail vote sorted then. Hurrah for the Blackshirts.

Yes, the Gang of Four were an odd bunch. I never really got into them. I thought 'At home she's a tourist' was a pretty catchy song, but otherwise not all that keen. Oh, you mean the political lot, once supported by Polly Toynbee. Well, I was quite keen on Roy Jenkins, a bit less so on Shirley Williams, and not at all on the other two.

Cleese's "all-hail-my-psychologist phase" did coincide with his best writing ('Fawlty Towers' 'Life of Brian'), but good writing and good politics don't have any relation to each other in my opinion.

4/24/2010 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

the LibDems have become left-wing by standng still

They haven't though: they've moved quite a long way to the right, economically, and they've done so specifically because they thought their previous policies were putting off possible Tory defectors.

4/24/2010 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous gastro george said...

Quite right, ejh, Clegg is a fully paid up member of neo-liberalism, and his timing in taking the Lib Dems in that direction just when it's credibility is so low is remarkable. His statements about reducing taxes further and swingeing public sectors cuts should be taken more seriously than they are.

Fortunately for him, he's profiting from massive public disillusion with both main parties, and Cameron's "vote for change" campaign plays into his hands, while his economic position is disguised by Cable's popularity.

4/24/2010 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CC - I know why you saw that clip and thought of Decency; Decency has some of the aspects of a Manichean worldview. But wasn't this discussed here many years ago? On this topic, I have always liked this article: "Calling Bush's Views Manichean Is an Insult to the Manicheans".

It's worth reading to the end.

I went off on a tangent about the Gang of Four in response to ejh's first comment. There were some people in the SDP who I really didn't like, which makes Cleese's clip ironic for me. When I met Rodgers during the 70s, when he was Minister of Transport, I used to think that he represented all that was wrong with the Labour Party. The descendents of that tendency would appear to be the Blairites rather than the LibDems (though I won't be voting LibDem either).


4/24/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Yes, Guano, that's pretty much it. I think the word 'ontological' should be rationed to about 1 use per person per decade, but otherwise, good link.

It was the patron philosopher of the Nazi party, Carl Schmitt, who suggested that the state has one essential function: distinguishing friends from enemies.

I really think one could replace 'the state' with "Harry's Place" in that sentence.

It was this pluralism that Schmitt blamed for the weakening of the German state in the 1930s.

I think pluralism is good in itself; if it weakens the state too, even better.

4/24/2010 06:40:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home