Sunday, 13 July 2014

Emperors large and small

Two weeks' holiday is supposed to re-calibrate the senses, get perspectives sorted and re-prioritise important features in one’s life. Sure. ’Hope you come back with a short story’, one supportive writer said; there were many short stories on that holiday but few were written down and even fewer made the cut into possibilities, which seems a failure.
However renewed strength came from removal from many of the external social and artistic structures that govern one’s life, many of which are supposed to generate creativity. And this despite some creatively strategic middle-class posts on Facebook depicting the best of the holiday. In fact all of the two weeks was good simply because those awful dominant structures were absent. Good,except for the constant philosophic revision that played over and over in my head; the conclusion being much the same as my thoughts at the holiday’s commencement: that it’s all so bloody pointless.  That competition is divisive and futile.
Watching early relationships flourish, celebrating processional success, admiring the indomitable re-enactment of a misguided heroic culture, I was able to observe my own part in the stupid machine.
The past twelve months have been full and wonderful with trips to international galleries, theatre and concerts, local engagement with creativity and the arts and the realisation that I had acquired a volume of skills that could be converted into useful currency. But only if I chose to convert them. There’s the problem. I don’t wish to join anyone’s travelling circus. Or even sell my own brand of snake oil.  If a recent trip to New York taught me anything, it confirmed that everyone’s hustling all the time. I’m exhausted to the point of boredom with incessant Tweets, Blogs and Facebook posts about ’writing’; how to write, how agents view writers’ blogs, the cost of self-publishing, writers’ festivals, writing cvs.  The seemingly endless babble gives a sense of an industry that perpetuates itself by constant re-invention. The eighteenth-century explosion of print culture was only different, it seems, in its use of technology. For crowd-funding read publication by subscription, vanity publishing - no change there; personal connections, read north London networking.  
While on the subject of simulacrum, I don’t want to lose the enlightening connection that emerged this morning reading Saturday Guardian’s Review. David Hare commenting on Dan Davies’ biography: ’In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile’ describes how this individual (who I believe was the embodiment of deep cultural misogyny) got away with it. He says, 
[Savile’s] ’technique for dealing with his victims was always to keep on the move. “If anyone makes demands, they don’t make them twice, pal, because they get the sack after the first time.”’ 
This was a reference to Savile’s avoidance of the type of simple human relationships I was part of on a family holiday. In the absence of the usual displacement activities that accompany my life, and other party members, there was no keeping on the move; the world was moving around us and we were adapting ourselves to it, establishing and maintaining a pleasurable existence. No more than that. No politicians, writers, celebrities, bishops, priests or professors at our table. Just us and our simple love of a simple family structure, which if it could talk, would shout, ’them emperors are naked, we don’t need them, we got one of our own.’
In juxtaposition to the David Hare review, is Gaby Hinsliff’s on Laurie Penny’s ’Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution’. Despite Penny’s primitivism and short cuts, Hinsliff finds much to commend in her ’raw, bright, urgent voice’. Notably, in the concluding paragraph:
“Deep down, I know if I choose not to play the good-girl game, I might not get as many kisses as I want. And that’s so much more terrifying,” she writes. Women don’t edit themselves, starve themselves and worry endlessly about getting it right because they’re stupid but because they “fear loss of love”.
If only boy culture could teach that wanting to be loved is not a weakness and girl culture could teach that equality, companionship and communication leads to the best kisses then the ridiculously contrived importance placed on prescriptive sexual allure and material status might start to fade. Narcissus why, oh why, did you look at yourself when you should have been looking at others?
As usual, this blogpost ends where it should begin but that’s another story for another day.