Wednesday 3 October 2012

The Past Is Another Country

It has long been a principle that I prefer to stick to, that you should not speak ill of the dead.  Probably, it is an ancient instinct relating to a pre Christian era.  Or it might me John Donne’s view that no man is an island, each mans death diminishes me, and for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

If we are all flawed, all fools in some way or another or in religious terms all sinners great and small we should be careful of using the death of another to protest against them.

But seeing all the unqualified praise in certain quarters being given to the memory of Eric Hobsbawm it is very difficult to avoid asking whether this man was the acme of intellectual perfection that is suggested.

It was only on Sunday 23 September that I posted an item on Brunel which was contemporary with his death linking to a warts and all 1877 obituary in “The Engineer” of all things which you might have expected to be laudatory

In the narrow high intellectual circles of the London Oxbridge Left in the mid and later 20th Centuries, the sort of academic bandit territory inhabited by the Miliband Gang and others he was certainly a formidable networker and brain picker.

Like a composer of the 18th Century employed by members of the Courts and High aristocracy he knew exactly which compositions to write and how and where to play them to satisfy their demands for both elevation and amusement.  Like them, you did not find him doing the rounds for more popular acclaim.

The trouble is that he had little or no understanding of the Atlantic Isles and notably its many peoples outside this narrow quasi elite circle and the reading he did from which he drew his work bore little or no relation to the realities of either the past or his present.  It was all a lot more complicated.

He could write clearly and incisively and was certainly persuasive but to elevate him to the status of supreme thinker of politics, like any others of that ilk was dangerous. 

He was a man of his time and of a particular breed of historical commentator, albeit of the Left, no more, no less.  That so many of our media and left wing follow his ideas explains much of the mess we are all in.

There is wrong use of the word “traitor”.  He was never British nor ever wanted to be, our political left and London simply was the platform he preferred, just as much as anyone in the theatre of affairs prefers to perform to a sympathetic audience.  He was useful to the Soviets and this was always clear.

It was always my joke in the past that the Soviets did not need to pay any of our leading Left much other than incidental expenses.  Indeed, had the Kremlin founded groups like Friends of the Lubyanka or Friends of the Gulags, they would have all rushed to subscribe.

It was probably down to Hobsbawm that the Left believed that capitalism could always be made to pay for their fantasies.  We know what that has led to and is leading to, the deliverance of the people to the financial oligarchies of whom our Left and others are now the servants and we the slaves.

1 comment:

  1. "our political left and London simply was the platform he preferred, just as much as anyone in the theatre of affairs prefers to perform to a sympathetic audience."

    A neat way of putting it, and of course it still goes on today with a different cast.