Monday, March 14, 2011

Come and keep your comrade warm

Psmith is a somewhat selfish young man; however, he is generous towards those he likes. In a typical example from Leave it to Psmith, he perceives Eve, trapped by the rain under an awning, and decides, chivalrous gentleman that he is, to get her an umbrella. Unfortunately for Psmith, he does not, in point of fact, possess an umbrella. He solves this problem by appropriating another man's umbrella; when confronted by the umbrella's owner, Psmith attempts to comfort him by saying it is for a good cause, and, later, when relating the story, says, "Merely practical Socialism. Other people are content to talk about the Redistribution of Property. I go out and do it."[5] (Another of Psmith's quirks is his penchant for nominal socialism, observed mostly in his casual use of "Comrade" as a substitute for "Mister.")

From the Wikipedia entry on Psmith.

O my gospodata, o my droogs, when language does not shape thought, thoughts shape language, and what base thoughts we think. There are no terms of respect which are not malleable by irony. 'Sir' can be misshapen by a waiterly sneer. 'Comrade', one imagines, was given the pretzel treatment in the days of the Iron Curtain, and became its opposite, as, say, chum has in English. Though of course, 'comrade' is know here too.

'Oh, comrade,' she began in a dreary, whining sort of voice, 'I thought I heard you come in. Do you think you could come across and have a look at our kitchen sink? It's got blocked up and----'

It was Mrs Parsons, the wife of a neighbour on the same floor. ('Mrs' was a word somewhat discountenanced by the Party--you were supposed to call everyone 'comrade'--but with some women one used it instinctively.) She was a woman of about thirty, but looking much older.

It is never used at face value nowadays. Well, almost never.

The Arab revolutionaries have found a new comrade.

The rest is Nick at his most generalising and impenetrable. He says nasty things about almost everyone, and if you think nasty things need to be said, you may enjoy it. His targets are pretty much "everyone but me and my friends".

Nothing can shake Europe's racism of low expectations, which holds that for an undefined reason – Arab culture, Islam, something in the water – hundreds of millions of people do not want the same rights as us.

Belle le Triste left a splendid comment and as did organic cheeseboard. Nick clearly believes there is a right side of history, and he also seems to believe that rights are the same across the West. But they're not: the right to smoke in public or the right not have your air polluted by someone's cigarette are not universal. Many states in the USA still execute people (or can legally do so, even if they haven't for years); the EU things adult life is sacred. And whether foetuses have rights is debated continuously in the US, again. Is there a right to marry whomever one wishes, or should that be restricted only to members of the opposite sex? The right to vote is happily ignored by a consistent third of the population. I not only think that we're not at the end of history, but there isn't an end. I can't remember Nick's views on education, but I know that many of his Spectator colleagues think the education guaranteed by right is this country is not actually a very good education at all (and as people still leave school unable to read, may not merit being called an education at all). Et cetera, et cetera.

To be clear, my take on universal rights is broadly the same as the EU's, but I've met enough people in this country who disagree (I believe there should be a right not to be killed by the state; many don't: I believe in a woman's choice to bring a baby to term or not; again there are plenty who think that abrogates the baby's right to life) for me not to make sweeping generalisations about people I've never met.

Over to you. Title from Lennon and McCartney who splendidly rhymed 'south' with 'out' and 'farm' with 'warm'. Now, that's writing!


Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Nice quotes, nice 1st para too.
I thought the 'chum' link was going to be Craig Brown in the Eye, who memorably used that splendidly cod-sinister term in a pastiche of the v. poem linked to. Spose he must of known about the LRB letter.

3/14/2011 09:30:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home