Accentuate the negative

25 Jun

I like gardening. It just goes to show that if you hold reality in sufficient contempt, it will go away. And that isn’t true for many things in life.

I’ll try to expand on what I mean by that. No doubt the waters will get muddier along the way, but here we go.

A few years back, I was an active member of the Socialist Party, better known under their previous name of the Militant Tendency. Unlike back then, I don’t do sensible politics anymore, (politics has got nothing to do with common sense. Common sense is for Tories. I sometimes use common sense when i’m putting a shelf up or mending a puncture) but I think I will always have a soft spot for those who have an idea of where they want to be but little idea of how to get there. By contrast, Marx was alone, as least amongst his contemporaries, insofar as he explained exactly how and why revolution is supposed to happen.

Well, call me decadent, but now I am no longer politically active, I am especially fascinated by the other thinkers: the ones that don’t trouble themselves with the whys and wherefores. The ones who are quite happy to decouple what is the case from what ought to be the case. Marx and all good Bolsheviks have a number of technical terms to cover such thinkers, everyone from Charles Fourier right through to Antonio Negri, calling them ultra-leftists, utopian Socialists or what have you. These terms are all ways of exposing these people as more or less useless posers. Dreamers.
Here are a couple of examples of said dreamers. . .

Try this, a communiqué from the Angry Brigade –
Capitalism cannot be reformed. Just KICK IT UNTIL IT BREAKS
I mean, there’s no arguing with that. It’s like a pop song: either you get it or you don’t. Then again, it’s not like a pop song; not many pop songs explicitly speak of capitalism. Even fewer speak of capitalism – a mode of social and economic organisation that has been gathering pace for the past eight hundred years – as if it were a malfunctioning toaster.

Or this heavenly slice of bathos afflicting Guy Debord, legendary Situationist –
In an idle moment, Chris boasted he could call on at least 30 trained and combat-hardened street-fighters in the Ladbroke Grove area alone. Hearing of this exciting development, Guy Debord rushed across the Channel to inspect the troops. He was directed by an embarrassed Chris to the home of one Dave Wise and bursting in discovered Dave lying on the sofa watching ‘Match of the Day’ with a can of McEwan’s Special Export. Such idle truck with the state’s one-way communication system (i.e. Dave’s 6 inch telly) annoyed Debord who became furious when Dave informed him that the guerilla combat unit was him and his brother Stuart.
Doesn’t work, this urban guerilla lark, does it? It’s not supposed to be funny, but it is. It’s funny because it doesn’t work.

Sedition is one way of trying to make reality go away. Pop music is another. Aged fifteen and into a couple of grunge bands, I picked up Jon Savage’s book on Punk England’s Dreaming and so read about a lot of music before I had heard it. I suppose this is typical of those who read the music press. But my emotional reaction to reading about this stuff was such that it didn’t really matter what the music sounded like. Thinking about it in retrospect, all I knew was that most music speaks the vernacular but this music spoke ABOUT the vernacular. So I liked it. This is typical of me. Ideas first, reality second.

I like ideas, but I like extreme ideas better, so the dogma of Punk as presented in that book appealed to me very much. Likewise, when I started much later to impose my will on what grows around the house, I didn’t let a near total ignorance of plants and their cultivation get in the way of my ambitions. Most gardeners want a garden that they feel to be appropriate for the space they have. This is not for me. A friend once proffered the view that a space can rightly be called a park if you can’t see its edges. That can be used to explain either an eighteenth century country landowner constructing a Ha-ha or me growing a jungle in my back garden.

So perhaps you can see a little of how my experience of life has made me a gardener: it’s a creative way of expressing my frustrations. That’s the only way it makes any sense at all.

Epistle over.


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