Thursday, June 04, 2009

Rivers of blah

A long while back, probably around the time I was writing strongly worded letters to The Independent about their reviewers’ abysmal taste in sturdy footwear, I worked for the PUSH University Guides. One of my bright ideas was to write to hundreds of famous people (this was before celebrities were invented) to ask if they had any anecdotes, advice or sardonic one-liners about their time in higher education.

For some reason, one of the people I contacted was Enoch Powell. Why I thought that yer average A-level student might be interested in the reminiscences of a right-wing politician whose greatest (in)fame had arisen a quarter-century before, I’m not sure. But in due course, a communication was forthcoming from his Eaton Square eyrie, manual typewriter, notepaper not A4, pale blue to match his scary eyes. He let it be known that looking back at his time at Cambridge in the early 1930s, he regretted not having availed himself more of the social life; and he wished me to pass this on to our readers.

I immediately fashioned an image of the young Powell, an awkward, provincial, lower-middle-class youth, thrust into the lush, louche decadence of Cambridge; on a Saturday night, in his room, ploughing through Thucyides and Pliny while beautiful, confident, gilded aristocrats drink and flirt and smoke and cavort in the quads and fountains, their joys filtering through his window. And he wanted to join them, even for half an hour, but he knew he never could. For all the harm he’d done to race relations and social cohesion, from then on, I felt rather sorry for him. Even as I read the text of his notorious Rivers of Blood speech, he seemed less like a wannabe dictator, more like the butler in Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, fatally unable to make that crucial human connection; hugely intelligent, but entirely lacking in understanding.

And on vaguely related matters, however cheesed off you are with the gimps and chancers who pretend to run this country, please don’t vote for the BNP today. The reason they can’t make a human connection is that they’re subhuman.


patroclus said...

And for that matter, let's not be voting for a party that says that 'no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age.', either.

emordino said...

> The reason they can’t make a human connection is that they’re subhuman.

I would humbly submit that this kind of back-in-your-box sentiment is only going to make the BNP more popular.

Tim F said...

Patroclus: Indeed. Only employ them *before* puberty, when they're still small enough to get up the chimneys and under the looms.

Difficult one, emordino. Perhaps I should have made a distinction between people who *vote* for the BNP, who may do so out of an entirely justified frustration at the corruption of the current political set-up (although anyone who votes BNP and yet claims not to be a racist displays a lack of critical curiosity that suggests we've all forgotten about the connection between rights - to vote - and responsibilities - to find out what you're voting for); and members/candidates of said party, who presumably know exactly what's on offer - see this analysis of the BNP's education policy, for example. To the first lot, I might grudgingly extend the benefit of the doubt; the second lot deserve all that gets thrown at them, frankly.

Annie said...

It's okay Patroclus, Glenys Kinnock is keeping an eye on him - I wouldn't mess with Glenys.

Enoch Powell was a very puzzling human being.

garfer said...

Powell may been flawed, but he had a damn sight more moral fibre than the ex Polytechnic Lecturer/Toon Cooncilor numpties we have to tolerate these days.

Billy said...

Yup, Mr Powell was an odd one. Wasn't he one of about five Conversatives who voted for decriminalising homosexuality and reforming the divorce laws?

Also, what racialists today quote Latin poetry?

ian said...

"hugely intelligent, but entirely lacking in understanding" ... That is the best seven word summation of Enoch Powell I have ever read.

Tim F said...

Annie: Maybe Glenys should come back and kick Gordon's arse?

True, Garfer, and a certain intellectual consistency. Which makes for a great philosopher and a bloody awful politician.

And the death penalty, Billy. Modern racists can't even quote coherent sentences, let alone make them rhyme. That's what we need - a better class of bigot!

Thank you, Ian.

Incidentally, if anyone still thinks I was a bit harsh on the BNP, I refer you to the example of Steve Batkin, who spoke precisely twice in his first two years as a Stoke councillor (and one of those was to ask what abstain meant); and this picture.

Boz said...

I think you're probably preaching to the choir about the BNP.

Although it's never been the same since the merger with Paribas, in my opinion.

Hedgie said...

Looking for the fave button - ergh Twitter and flickr have utterly addled my brain.

No to BNP

Beautifully written tribute to Enoch Powell, and I really enjoy photo og him in Eaton Square too.