Collectivism and the Hills Thursday March 17, 2016

Karl Marx postulated the basic framework which lies at the heart of the left. You have the owners of the means of production, workers who sell their labour, and exploitative relations in the middle. This is the dialectic basis of capitalism which follows slave society and feudalism.

What then happens is a victim position is established, where your only power lies with collective organisation. This is very different from the right – if you consider the aristocracy and business magnates as a crude example – who do not ‘organise’ in any comparable way. They obviously circulate around each other at Eton, Oxbridge, Westminster, and Islington. They fill the executive offices of top newspapers and television: not with a sense of stick together but because of mutual success, marriage, friends, business interests, restaurant habits, and shared power. Whatever you might think about that (and it’s a crude sketch) it’s not the same as organised grievance tribalism which characterises the collectivist left. Cameron, Boris Johnson, Piers Morgan, Camilla Parker-Bowles and their kind do not sit around talking about stick together strategies. I understand the latter does, however, have social relations with at least one newspaper editor.

The other part of this is the vicious resentment if people escape the tribal conditions or have the potential to do so. I experienced this myself. I was hated at school because I was good with words, called posh when I wasn’t, mocked as I played football badly and didn’t know who was the manager of England. On one occasion, a boy kicked a football hard, deliberately, and accurately at my face. It would probably have broken my nose, and would have injured my eyes. On another occasion, I broke my wrist stopping a football when I was in goal. With poignant symbolism, I was then required to undertake a school test for secondary school progression. I did it while supporting my left writing hand with my right. I don’t remember it, but obviously felt no one cared at that school. Certainly the boys didn’t, who pulled my arm around jeering at the pain they caused. The next day my arm was in plaster and I felt a small sense of triumph. I’m not a fake, this is what happened, here is the evidence. They didn’t care. A few years later one of them broke my front teeth.

It’s only now, as an adult, I can locate and understand those conflicts and what they signified. In my teens I first heard the phrase, the personal is political. A few years later a girlfriend made a remark about an intimate matter between us – in political terms. Both scenarios were bewildering. Why, in particular, the hatred at school? The political is personal. The opposite is like the Mafia movies when they say “it’s not personal, it’s business.” You know when they say that it is intensely personal. They are using Machiavellian tactics to express it, which usually conclude with violence and murder.

It is this which creates the toxic class consciousness of British society. The personal gets political all the time. You must be part of the oppressed tribe in terms of dress, talk, manners, interests and outlook. I wasn’t. I was bewildered by these experiences: the bitterness I encountered, where it came from, why it was transformed into aggression and a celebration of the mediocre. The bitterness traditionally came from the abuse of masters and factory-owners. That is mostly consigned to the past, replaced by post industrial displacement.

The problem with collectivism is the extent to which it cements your victimhood. I listen to Jeremy Corbyn and almost everything he says traces back to a Marxist exploitation model, while exploiting the emotions of anyone who disagrees. You’re a bad person, an unkind person, a demon, a bully, a this-ist, a that-ist if you disagree with his template. You’re cast into a label. In personal terms – actually – my wrist was broken, my teeth smashed and then, I forgot to say, my disfigurement laughed at. I didn’t fit, because I liked reading. Books are important for so many reasons, one of which is how they are located outside the system. The fluidity of a novel nourishes you because it cannot be defined. Your interpretation is what matters. So called politics does the opposite. So too with religion.

The left postures as a morally superior force, the facts of which are complex and doubtful, the challenging of which is supposed to be false consciousness like saying you must believe, have faith, then you will be saved. By external forces which have nothing to do with you. You are trapped as we say you are and you will be delivered unto a new life as we describe it. The leaders of the left – Owen Jones, Len McCluskey, Jeremy Corbyn – invariably have comfortable lives. They escape their conditions by politicising their conditions, making a career of it which others don’t have.

There must be some rationality in social (so called) political models in regard to what’s reasonable and accurate. Compassion is fine but not when it maintains counterproductive concerns: if it benefits a few but not the middle ground majority; if it enables victimhood. There’s a religious-like tone to the left, waiting perpetually for Equality Heaven according to the Gospel of Marx and the hatred and abuse you attract, as an unbeliever, is considerable. The blasphemy outrage was on Manchester streets at last year’s Conservative conference. Massive steel cordons, armed police patrols and rooftop snipers are going too far. We understand that you disagree: but that’s what the voting system is for. Corrupt thought control and terrible aggression is knee-jerk associated with Hitler. We say Hitler and everyone knows what we mean. We say Stalin, and it falls flat. People don’t know what that means.

Years later at university I felt I’d made a desperate mistake. I should have gone to Cambridge, I thought, as I was increasingly ill because of lack of sleep as every night, students rioted up and down the corridors with drink, occasional drugs, and their crazy new freedom. I never considered the Oxbridge entrance exam because I felt it was for another class of person I didn’t want to be part of. I didn’t like the idea of class based or class influenced education. I still don’t. Nor, however, did I like having my teeth broken by a class mate thug or currently like being subjected to left based labelling theory: you are this, you are that, it’s bad, I am not, I am your moral superior. So called politics is about the crudest and most stupid form of discourse there is. I’m compelled to say I don’t like the right either, to escape the discourse. You can’t pin me down and box me up in your wrestling hold.

The right is to some extent individualist within the above, and that has to be (separately) correct insofar as it recognises human agency and dignity. This is part of the benefit of hill walking. You recover you. You’re not allowed this in communist and religious systems where some books for example are banned. You are told what to read. That in itself is enormously revealing. It means they don’t trust your intelligence to read anything, anywhere, if you so wish, forming your own ideas. We know about this from both history and current world facts. You draw a cartoon and you might be killed. You serve the Party, never question, never think, wear a uniform if not literally then psychologically. You suck the Big Brother state like a hungry puppy and, comrade, you are never weaned.

How can you be so obtuse in the film Shawshank Redemption is more than a logical retort against a sadistic prison governor. The governor is everywhere. It’s a prison you don’t see. Those words are echoed in Winston Smith, Socrates, Thomas Anderson, Morpheus, Carl Jung, Jean Baudrillard, Neil Postman, John “the savage,” Edward Abbey, and me.

This is part of the meaning of Abbey’s powerful statement concerning hill walking and the human spirit: wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit. There’s no Marx in the wilderness. But there is you.

Or on a slight tangent, as Noel Gallagher once said, everything’s choreographed now, it’s fucking rubbish. There’s no choreography in the Pyrenees. Nor Scotland Munros, Snowdonia hills, or Lake District fells. Or as Joe Strummer said with melodic anger, we will teach our twisted speech to the young believers.

Which is essentially, in turn, the same twisted speech William Shakespeare describes as that glib and oily art of so called politics.